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As a single parent for nearly a decade-she and Richard's father, Daniel Stallman, were married in 1948, divorced in 1958, and split custody of their son afterwards-Lippman can attest to her son's aversion to authority. She can also attest to her son's lust for knowledge. It was during the times when the two forces intertwined, Lippman says, that she and her son experienced their biggest battles.

For the most part, Lippman recalls her son exhibiting the excitement, energy, and social skills of any normal boy. It wasn't until after a series of traumatic events battered the Stallman household, she says, that her son became introverted and emotionally distant.

Over time, however, Lippman says her son learned to adjust. By age seven, she says, her son had become fond of standing at the front window of subway trains, mapping out and memorizing the labyrinthian system of railroad tracks underneath the city. It was a hobby that relied on an ability to accommodate the loud noises that accompanied each train ride. "Only the initial noise seemed to bother him," says Lippman. "It was as if he got shocked by the sound but his nerves learned how to make the adjustment."

The belief in individual freedom over arbitrary authority extended to school as well. Two years ahead of his classmates by age 11, Stallman endured all the usual frustrations of a gifted public-school student. It wasn't long after the puzzle incident that his mother attended the first in what would become a long string of parent-teacher conferences.

The word "home" is a weighted term in the Stallman lexicon. In a pointed swipe at his parents, Stallman, to this day, refuses to acknowledge any home before Currier House, the dorm he lived in during his days at Harvard. He has also been known to describe leaving that home in tragicomic terms. Once, while describing his years at Harvard, Stallman said his only regret was getting kicked out. It wasn't until I asked Stallman what precipitated his ouster, that I realized I had walked into a classic Stallman setup line.

Such anecdotes offer early evidence of the intensity that would become Stallman's chief trademark throughout life. When other kids came to the table, Stallman stayed in his room and read. When other kids played Johnny Unitas, Stallman played Werner von Braun. "I was weird," Stallman says, summing up his early years succinctly in a 1999 interview. "After a certain age, the only friends I had were teachers."

Encouraging others to adopt the same licensing practices meant closing off the escape hatch that had allowed privately owned versions of Emacs to emerge. To close that escape hatch, Stallman and his free software colleagues came up with a solution: users would be free to modify GNU Emacs just so long as they published their modifications. In addition, the resulting "derivative" works would also have carry the same GNU Emacs License.

The dispute with UniPress had highlighted a flaw in the Emacs Commune social contract. Where users relied on Stallman's expert insight, the Commune's rules held. In areas where Stallman no longer held the position of alpha hacker-pre-1984 Unix systems, for example-individuals and companies were free to make their own rules.

Almost a quarter century after its publication, Stallman still bristles when hearing Weizenbaum's "computer bum" description, discussing it in the present tense as if Weizenbaum himself was still in the room. "He wants people to be just professionals, doing it for the money and wanting to get away from it and forget about it as soon as possible," Stallman says. "What he sees as a normal state of affairs, I see as a tragedy."

Gifted in anything that required analytical thinking, Stallman gravitated toward math and science at the expense of his other studies. What some teachers saw as single-mindedness, however, Lippman saw as impatience. Math and science offered simply too much opportunity to learn, especially in comparison to subjects and pursuits for which her son seemed less naturally inclined. Around age 10 or 11, when the boys in Stallman's class began playing a regular game of touch football, she remembers her son coming home in a rage.

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