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Still, I don't see the area producing a bunch of female hackers.The poverty, urbanization and rising crime aside, girls aren't being raised to hack any more in my hometown than they are anywhere else.

What I didn't find out about until later was the following private message exchange between one of the veterans who'd been helping me and a channel denizen who recognized my nickname from a mailing list: coder0: That was a really well-asked question..why do I get the feeling he's a 16yo boy? As a little girl from farm country who'd repeatedly been excluded from intellectual activities because she wasn't wealthy or urban or old enough to be wanted, I could not believe how readily I'd been accepted and treated like anybody else in the channel, even though I'd been outed.

I was doubly floored when I found out that coder0 was none other than Eric S.

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.

Parents are warned to keep kids off the computer lest they get lured away by child molesters or worse—become fat!

That goes doubly for girls, who then grow up to be liberal arts majors.

I ingratiated myself to people who could help me learn by doing dull scutwork: triaging issues to keep the issue queues neat and orderly, writing documentation and fixing code comments.

I was the helpful kid, so when I needed help, the community was there.

When my son asked why he couldn't join, it was explained to him that girls need special help to become interested in technology, and that if there are boys around, the girls will be too scared to try. You see, he grew up with a mom who coded while she breastfed and brought him to his first LUG meeting at age seven weeks.

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