While brushing up on TCP today, ancient synapses fired leading me to recall my first forays into network programming in 1992. While on permanent hiatus from CS education at FSU, I took a very long cross-country train trip from Jacksonville, FL through Chicago to L.A. and back to Jacksonville, FL via Pittsburgh, PA. Ideally, the goal was to get away cheaply to spend time figuring out just what the hell the next step might be. Along the way, I stayed with people I had met on social MUDs.
Steven Augart (‘swa’ as he was known to me online), then working at the USC Information Sciences Institute, gave me an assignment. Though I don’t recall the details, it was related to TCP/IP network programming (standard sockets API stuff), as that is what I had shown interest in. We had talked about it a little bit online before the trip, and for some reason he decided to guide me a little bit and help me out. What I minimally recall was that it was just something that needed to be written sometime by someone, and he threw it my way as a pseudo vetting process of sorts. Perhaps the plan was to get me working at ISI in a low position, but I really don’t recall. On my last day staying at his house, he again went out of his way suggesting that I come to work that day with him to meet others. It was an awkward situation, as I did not have any dress clothes with me. Then, with one of his dress shirts on me (he insisted), and a few blocks down the road in his small pickup truck, he caught wind of my unease at the formality of what we were doing. After a bit of an embarassing conversation where I acknowledged that I was really uncomfortable about the plan, he dropped me back off at his home. He was very understanding and had no problem with it. Perhaps he was disappointed, but did not show it.
Over the next few months in late 1992, it became clear that I did not really understand too well the Big Boys technical spec he had given me for the programming project. I wrote some C code. I got some parts working, but not much, and that was that. Thankfully, it was not something expected (or agreed) to be completed.
For no real reason, I don’t believe we ever really spoke again.
Steve and I were really only aquaintances so reflecting now (20 years further in maturity), I’m finally moved by the generosity he showed. He had nothing to gain by challenging me.
As I set out to email him a note of thanks 30 minutes ago, I learned that he has passed away at the early age of 46.
swa. Thank you.