Last week I took the opportunity to hang out for an evening with a guy named Emmanuel Goldstein (nee Eric Corley), the founder of the venerable 2600: The Hacker Quartely, a magazine written by and for hackers. He was in town for the technology portion of the local South By Southwest conference where a founder of Make Magazine, a friend of his, made a keynote address. Emmanuel was also slated to make a few presentations.
Two weeks ago in his radio show Off the Wall (broadcast in NYC) he mentioned that he was coming to Austin and that he would be interested in hanging out with any of his listeners here who would care to do so. My buddy John jumped on the chance and invited Emmanuel to join us at our usual friday night meeting. He accepted.
I was the first of our group to arrive; the big table where we usually meet was occupied by three guys I’d never seen before, so I set my stuff down at another table and made my way to the counter for coffee. As I passed the table, I overheard the three discussing when Austin 2600 meetings were held; one was under the impression that it was the 2nd friday of the month. This was the clue that told me these were the guys we were waiting for. I interjected and corrected them, saying they meet on the first friday. I turned to the older guy and asked if he was Emmanuel, he acknowledged, and I smiled and introduced myself by saying, “Ah, we’ve been expecting you.”
I got my coffee and settled in at their table; traded introductions with the other two guys. Within minutes, other people from my group were showing up and joining in. Emmanuel was asking us things, getting a feel for how life is in Austin, and he pulled out a digital audio recorder, asked us if it was ok to record us for his show, and we agreed. The final results can be found at the Off the Wall site.
He started by asking us where we were from, how long we’ve been living here in Austin; he wanted our opinion on how our hometowns and Austin represented life in Texas. Being a New Yorker, he likely has some notions of what Texans are like and he wanted some better depth to the image, hence the questions. I’m not sure how well we fleshed it out, but apparently he did leave Austin with an understanding of how laid-back it is here.
Emmanuel wrapped up his recorded segment by asking us about the local pirate radio scene. One of the things he does when he hits a new town is scan the dial and what he found was KPWR at 91.1MHz (they don’t do their own broadcasting; they’re of the new breed of pirates that essentially set up an internet-only music stream, and it’s up to volunteers to independently set up a transmitter and simulcast the stream). He dug into what we knew of them and the other “stations”, and he was blown away by how strong the scene is here. Later that weekend he got to take a tour of the KPWR studio and meet some of the volunteer staff there and was impressed.
It was nice to meet and hang out with Emmanuel. As unassuming as he is, you would never know by looking at or listening to him that this is a man who helped in the formation of an entire hacking subculture. He gave hackers one more voice, a touchstone, and a community in a dark time one decade before the public embrace of the embryonic Internet and the chat rooms, message boards, and document archives it enables. Well met.