Where the hackers roam

To wander the streets of Palo Alto is to walk in the footprints of techies of legend.  On our morning walk one day, we pass Steve Jobs’ house.  It’s a lovely home but so understated compared to the man’s legacy.  What did I expect?  I don’t know, a mansion, perhaps.  An altar of microchips in the shape of an apple in the front yard.

Along the main streets of downtown every other shop, it seems, is a start-up hovel.  I know this because of the ergonomic chairs and white boards.  I peer inside, wondering what magic is being conjured there, what wonders those white boards hold.

Dropping in Philz Coffee on Forest Avenue, I’ve never seen so many MacBooks outside an Apple store.  They’re like an invasive species.  Black screens blip with code.  The room is buzzing with strange conversations.  I’m sitting next to a couple of Stanford girls discussing some computing language in earnest.  I sip my “Ether” coffee (aptly named) and prop my netbook PC on my lap, a bit self-consciously.  Will they notice it’s already two years old?

I sign up for a writer’s group on meetup.com, and slip into Red Rock Coffee in Mountain View for my first meeting.  There are at least three other meetups going on.  One sign reads “Android Developers Casual Meetup”.  There are about a dozen at the table, mixed in age, gender, race, etc.  There’s no use trying to pin the hacker down to a type of person.  They’re everywhere, could be anybody.

As the day slips into evening, I drop into The Rose and Crown for a pint.  British-style with an authentic pub vibe – I can tell this is going to be my favorite spot.  Down the bar from me is a man in his 50s or so, wild, wiry hair, nerdcore glasses.  Having a rousing debate with the bartender over engineering or code or something.  I look down at the menu.  Curry chips and veggie burger and shepherd’s pie.

I’m so confused.

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