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Seated at the dining-room table of her second Manhattan apartment-the same spacious three-bedroom complex she and her son moved to following her 1967 marriage to Maurice Lippman, now deceased-Alice Lippman exudes a Jewish mother's mixture of pride and bemusement when recalling her son's early years. The nearby dining-room credenza offers an eight-by-ten photo of Stallman glowering in full beard and doctoral robes. The image dwarfs accompanying photos of Lippman's nieces and nephews, but before a visitor can make too much of it, Lippman makes sure to balance its prominent placement with an ironic wisecrack.

The programming session lasted 10 hours. Throughout that entire time, Steele says, neither he nor Stallman took a break or made any small talk. By the end of the session, they had managed to hack the pretty print source code to just under 100 lines. "My fingers were on the keyboard the whole time," Steele recalls, "but it felt like both of our ideas were flowing onto the screen. He told me what to type, and I typed it."

When he wasn't working on official projects such as Sussman's automated circuit-analysis program, Stallman devoted his time to pet projects. It was in a hacker's best interest to improve the lab's software infrastructure, and one of Stallman's biggest pet projects during this period was the lab's editor program TECO.

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.

Lippman, on the other hand, entertains the possibility. She recalls a few stories from her son's infancy, however, that provide fodder for speculation. A prominent symptom of autism is an oversensitivity to noises and colors, and Lippman recalls two anecdotes that stand out in this regard.

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."

"He used to be so conservative," she says, throwing up her hands in mock exasperation. "We used to have the worst arguments right here at this table. I was part of the first group of public city school teachers that struck to form a union, and Richard was very angry with me. He saw unions as corrupt. He was also very opposed to social security. He thought people could make much more money investing it on their own. Who knew that within 10 years he would become so idealistic? All I remember is his stepsister coming to me and saying, `What is he going to be when he grows up? A fascist?'"

As hacks go, the GPL stands as one of Stallman's best. It created a system of communal ownership within the normally proprietary confines of copyright law. More importantly, it demonstrated the intellectual similarity between legal code and software code. Implicit within the GPL's preamble was a profound message: instead of viewing copyright law with suspicion, hackers should view it as yet another system begging to be hacked.

To solve the problem, Stallman, Steele, and fellow hackers David Moon and Dan Weinreib limited their standardization effort to the WYSIWYG commands that controlled how text appeared on-screen. The rest of the Emacs effort would be devoted to retaining the program's Tinker Toy-style extensibility.

Another favorite maternal anecdote dates back to the early 1960s, shortly after the puzzle incident. Around age seven, two years after the divorce and relocation from Queens, Richard took up the hobby of launching model rockets in nearby Riverside Drive Park. What started as aimless fun soon took on an earnest edge as her son began recording the data from each launch. Like the interest in mathematical games, the pursuit drew little attention until one day, just before a major NASA launch, Lippman checked in on her son to see if he wanted to watch.

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