Such innovations would take another two decades to make their way into the commercial marketplace. Still, by the 1970s, video screens had started to replace teletypes as display terminals, creating the potential for full-screen-as opposed to line-by-line-editing capabilities.

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.

With no dorm and no dancing, Stallman's social universe imploded. Like an astronaut experiencing the aftereffects of zero-gravity, Stallman found that his ability to interact with nonhackers, especially female nonhackers, had atrophied significantly. After 16 weeks in the AI Lab, the self confidence he'd been quietly accumulating during his 4 years at Harvard was virtually gone.