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.

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.

The dispute with UniPress had highlighted a flaw in the Emacs Commune social contract. Where users relied on Stallman's expert insight, the Commune's rules held. In areas where Stallman no longer held the position of alpha hacker-pre-1984 Unix systems, for example-individuals and companies were free to make their own rules.

Outside the classroom, Stallman pursued his studies with even more diligence, rushing off to fulfill his laboratory-assistant duties at Rockefeller University during the week and dodging the Vietnam protesters on his way to Saturday school at Columbia. It was there, while the rest of the Science Honors Program students sat around discussing their college choices, that Stallman finally took a moment to participate in the preclass bull session.

From Stallman's perspective, the emotional withdrawal was merely an attempt to deal with the agony of adolescence. Labeling his teenage years a "pure horror," Stallman says he often felt like a deaf person amid a crowd of chattering music listeners.