A Farewell to LWN (lwn.net)
Back at the beginning of 2020, it was predicted that retirements would increase during this decade. In 2021, the prediction was that retirements would increase over the next couple of years. It is happening and LWN is no exception. I am retiring at the end of this year after more than 20 years with LWN.
So who am I and how did I get here? To some, I'm a name at the bottom of some LWN page. To a few, I'm the one that reminds them when their LWN group subscription is about to expire. You might have even met me at a conference. Not that I have been to very many. Mostly I tend to be quietly in the background watching the LWN mailbox, looking for brief items and quotes of the week (sorry I haven't found much lately), proofreading articles, managing subscriptions, and more. But I'm older than most of you and this is my last LWN weekly edition. Getting here is a bit of story.
I got my first paying job in 1968 when I was in my late teens. It had nothing to do with computers. It was 10 years later when I decided to study computers and programming. After graduating from high school I had various, low-paying odd jobs, until finally I was ready for more education. I started going to Colorado Mountain College, located near Glenwood Springs, in the mid-1970s. I took a lot of math and physics classes, skied in the winter, and rafted the Colorado River in the summer. Just before I graduated in 1978, I had a class where one assignment was to write a program in BASIC. I forget what kind of computer it was; an early type of PC that belonged to one of the professors. It was my first encounter with programming a computer and I wanted to learn more; something that could lead to a real career.
I decided to take a year off and then go to the University of Colorado (CU) and study computers. If I had any doubts about that decision, they were quenched after spending the winter shoveling snow in the little ski resort town of Snowmass Village. One week the high temperature was -20 F. Another week it snowed so much that all I did was shovel the same staircase over and over and couldn't keep up. Cold and snow was replaced by spring cleanup, when the snow melts away and reveals lots of trash and lost items; the $100 bill was a nice find, but mostly it's picking up trash. Then the boss offered me a job as a manager and in the conversation that followed he told me "no woman in the world is worth $5/hour, ever". While the two summers spent working for the Snowmass Village golf course were more pleasant and I did get a raise to $5/hour before I left, I wanted a better paying office job for the future.
Thus, in fall 1979, I moved to Boulder and started at CU, where I met Jon Corbet in our first computer class. We used punch cards and programmed in Pascal on the school's CDC mainframe. A couple of years later, we met Liz Coolbaugh, LWN's other founder, in an assembly-language programming class, using the mainframe. By this time, Jon had a printer terminal and a modem, so we did our assignments with reams of printer paper. I also worked on a project where I got access to a VAX 11/780 running Berkeley Unix and learned some Fortran.
After graduation, it was the Fortran that got me my first computer job. They had an HP 1000 Minicompter and a lot of old Fortran code. Over the years that followed there were other jobs where I learned some C and worked on Unix systems. I was systems administrator for a variety of computers with different operating systems, but these computers were not networked. As a sysadmin, I applied updates, or did fresh installs of some OS, backups, not much else. As programmer, there was number crunching, of course. I also wrote things like text-based user interfaces which interacted with databases that someone else wrote. Nothing fancy and not any kind of systems programming.
Around 1994, I got a job that came with an office and a Sun Workstation running SunOS with the Motif Window Manager, fully connected to the internet. I thought that was the best computer environment ever. I didn't have root and I didn't really miss it. I liked the Unix environment and the internet access, but one job led to another, and while it still came with a Sun running Solaris, eventually I was maintaining Fortran code. By the late 1990s I was tired of maintaining Fortran code.
In the (northern hemisphere) spring of 1999, Liz offered me a part-time job as her assistant at LWN. Eklektix, LWN's parent company, was running Linux System Administration classes and I attended one of the last of those classes. They were hauling around workstations for the classes and I took one home after the class, installed Red Hat Linux 5, and started working for LWN. Within a year Eklektix was solely focused on LWN and I became a part owner of Eklektix and a full-time employee; just in time for LWN to become a wholly owned subsidiary of Tucows.
The company grew to several employees with Tucows paying salaries. That lasted a little over a year before Tucows decided they didn't want us after all. It was the dot-com boom and bust. It took some time for Eklektix to become a private company once again and we were without funding. We thought that was the end, but within a week donations from our readers poured in. Until the credit card clearing house decided that something fraudulent was going on and put a stop to that. There were several lean months before we began the transition to the subscription model. That worked and LWN is fully funded by subscribers now.
Different people have come and gone from LWN over the years. Liz, Dennis Tenney, Forrest Cook, and others worked for LWN at one time, but moved on some years ago. Jake Edge joined 14+ years ago and now he and Jon will be the only ones left to run LWN. I hear they will be hiring.
I have enjoyed working for LWN, learning about free-software development, without actually developing any software myself. I'm in awe of the kernel community and what it has accomplished. Once it was news if some company used Linux in some way. Now it's commonplace. Linux has taken over the computing world. It's in supercomputers, Android phones, the cloud, embedded devices; it is almost everywhere. Thanks to you subscribers, LWN has been there to cover it. Back in 2002, when subscribing to LWN first became possible, I don't think we imagined that some of the largest tech companies in the world would have LWN group subscriptions.
So what's next? That remains to be seen. Once I thought programming was my career of the future, but that turned out to be LWN instead. Now retirement is unlikely to be quite what I imagine, but I'm looking forward to the change in pace. I'll spend more time outdoors when the weather is nice, choosing when to spend time outside based on the weather forecast rather than LWN's publishing schedule. We'll see about all those "I'll do this when I have more time" projects.
Thanks again to all LWN subscribers who helped make LWN the success that it is and helped fund my retirement. Stay safe, have a good holiday season, and a prosperous New Year.