In the days when Sussman was a novice, Minsky once came to him as he sat hacking at the PDP-6.
“What are you doing?”, asked Minsky.
“I am training a randomly wired neural net to play Tic-Tac-Toe” Sussman replied.
“Why is the net wired randomly?”, asked Minsky.
“I do not want it to have any preconceptions of how to play”, Sussman said.
Minsky then shut his eyes.
“Why do you close your eyes?”, Sussman asked his teacher.
“So that the room will be empty.”
At that moment, Sussman was enlightened.

The New Hacker’s Dictionary
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My Computers – The Early Years

One way or another, computers have been an important and near-omnipresent part of my life. These days it’s difficult to imagine life without the tiny computers we carry in our pockets, but long before smartphones became ubiquitous I had an opportunity that not many my age had: my own computer.

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The Layoff Fakeout

When I was first hired at NetApp, my first job out of college, they made a lot of noise about how they didn’t do layoffs and they were such a great place to work.

Then they had layoffs. It was a big deal. The CEO stood in front of the company and talked about how much he hated having to do layoffs and presented the business reasons for why they had to lay people off. It was hard, but we understood.

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The Unfair Project

When attending a university program in Computer Science, the fundamental unit of misery is the project. Courses were generally laid out such that students would learn a concept, technique, or technology and then would be assigned a programming project in order to demonstrate understanding and familiarity with what has just been taught. Virginia Tech was good at combining theory with praxis.

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The Fire Alarm

My Sophomore year at university, I lived in a dorm called West Eggleston Hall. There were many charming features of said dorm — for one, it was constructed back when dorms were segregated by gender, so there were no women’s bathrooms. When I stayed there the dorm was co-ed by floor in order to work around this problem. It also, as is required by law, had a fire alarm system.

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The Near Firing

When I first applied for the high school Summer job at Subway, I applied to the one very near my parents’ house. While I was hired there, that particular location didn’t really need new hires. I was trained there, but Subway were planning on opening three new stores in the Knoxville area and I was to work at one of those stores. Until the new stores opened, I was sent around wherever workers were most needed.

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