December 2013’s EOF, titled “Mars Needs Women”, visited an interesting fact: that the male/female ratio among Linux Journal readers, and Linux kernel developers, is so lopsided (male high, female low) that graphing it would produce a near-vertical line.

I was hoping the piece would invite a Linux hacker on the female side of that graph to step up and move the conversation forward. And sure enough, here we have Susan Sons aka @HedgeMage. Read on.—Doc Searls

Yep, I said “girls”. Since men were once boys, but women sprang from the head of Zeus full-grown and fighting like modern-day Athenas, you can start flaming me now for using that nasty word…unless you’d like to see the industry through the eyes of a girl who grew up to be a woman in the midst of a loose collection of open-source communities.

Looking around at the hackers I know, the great ones started before puberty. Even if they lacked computers, they were taking apart alarm clocks, repairing pencil sharpeners or tinkering with ham radios. Some of them built pumpkin launchers or LEGO trains. I started coding when I was six years old, sitting in my father’s basement office, on the machine he used to track inventory for his repair service. After a summer of determined trial and error, I’d managed to make some gorillas throw things other than exploding bananas. It felt like victory!

When I was 12, I got my hands on a Slackware disk and installed it on my computer—a Christmas gift from my parents in an especially good year for my dad’s company—and I found a bug in a program. The program was in C, a language I’d never seen. I found my way onto IRC and explained the predicament: what was happening, how to reproduce it and where I thought I’d found the problem.

I was pretty clueless then—I hadn’t even realized that the reason I couldn’t read the code well was that there was more than one programming language in the world—but the channel denizens pointed me to the project’s issue tracker, explained its purpose and helped me file my first bug report.

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Written by Susan Sons

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