Jef Poskanzer's Auto-Biography
...Or, the N Different Times I've Been Slightly Famous
The initial impetus for writing this was that my
I wanted to write something more comprehensive, that someone else
could then use as a guide in expanding the wiki page.
However the project turned out to be kind of fun on its own merits.
I've done a lot of stuff!
I don't think I'm like "The Most Interesting Man In The World"
I've just been around for a while.
To put it bluntly: I'm old.
Old enough that I programmed with punch cards.
Old enough that I sent a telegram.
Old enough that I ate in an Automat.
Here's some other stuff I've done.
My first exposure to computers was via my dad's PDP-8 at
the Lawrence Berkeley Lab.
He used to take my sister and I into the lab on weekends
sometimes, basically as babysitting.
At first he would let us play with BNC connectors as
Tinkertoys, or try to make pretty Lissajous figures on
At some point around 1969 or so, when I was 10ish, he
sat me in front of the PDP-8's ASR-33 Teletype and taught
me FOCAL, which was sort of halfway between FORTRAN and BASIC.
Not a great language but I was hooked anyway.
In the 8th grade (1971-1972) at Martin Luther King Junior Junior
High School, I was lucky enough to get into Mrs. Russ's "math" class,
which was actually a free-form computer lab course.
She had managed to get two Teletypes with 110-Baud acoustic
modems, which we used to dial in to BUSD's HP-2000B timesharing
system, and we were encouraged to program whatever we wanted to.
The HP system ran BASIC and nothing else.
There were no commands for interacting with other users,
not even to see who else was logged on.
Despite this some of the other kids (I think it was Michael Mozer
and/or David Shirley) managed to write a program
to do real-time chat with another user, by using a disk file
to send and receive messages.
This impressed me greatly - it was my first exposure to
the idea that the purpose of computers is to facilitate
contact between people.
First job in computers - writing a character generator for the
Tektronix 611 storage scope, in PDP-8 assembler.
Co-created the first 3-D computer graphic to ever appear in
The version they used appeared to have been traced over by hand; still.
It was later adapted for use in the famous Halliday & Resnick
Human-nets mailing list, in which I basically was the first spammer.
1979 or 1980.
Conquest (begat xtrek, begat nettrek).
Releases through DECUS in
More early 3-D graphics in Robert Forward's book "Flight of the
Dragonfly", in 1984.
Again, they traced over the originals by hand. Weird.
WeLL, January 1986.
In 1991 I decided I needed my own domain name, so I'd have a permanent
email address and location for hosting free software.
My first choice was key.com so I could d.b.a. Key Systems, with a logo
similar to the old Key System interurban train system in
the San Francisco Bay Area.
Unfortunately key.com was already taken.
I settled for my second choice, acme.com d.b.a. ACME Laboratories.
First registered on 17apr1991.
The article on me and xphoon, printed in basically
every small-town newspaper in the USA.
Some time around 1991.
A chapter about me in "Berkeley Hackers" by Zackary Margulis and
Carol Palecki, 1991, ISBN 4-938704-03-X.
Mostly read in Japan.
Usenet FAQs (alt.graphics.pixutils and alt.hackers).
Releases in 1991 and 1999.
"Jef's Nude of the Month" page on the WeLL, where I became
one of the web's first pornographers to prove a point.
Two Usenix Lifetime Achievement Awards - shared - in 1993 for
Berkeley Unix and in 1996 for the Software Tools project.
My first web presense, on Netcom in 1994.
acme.com joined the internet for real on 03nov1995;
prior to that it was email/usenet-only.
This first incarnation was hosted at best.com.
First release 1995.
My second web server, and the second Java web server ever.
First release 1996.
Sun had not yet published the servlet.* interfaces so I
reverse-engineered them by dumping the method signatures from
their .class files and writing new .java files that were
January 2000, thttpd updated to support IPv6 out of the box, the first
web server ever to do this.
In 2001, years before Google Maps, I started producing map pages,
Nike Missile Sites
In 2003, Steve Martin played me in a movie.
Well, sort of.
The ads described his character as "the evil head of the
Warner Brothers actually got me to sign a release saying it was
ok for them to use an acme.com URL in the movie.
2005 - Most spammed person in the world (comparison to Bill Gates).
2008 - The ChuMaker.
2009 - The AdSense incident.
Back to Jef's Web Page.