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Exclusive: Edward Snowden’s First Adventures in Cyberspace

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I was just shy of my ninth birthday when my family moved to Maryland. We lived in Crofton, halfway between Annapolis and Washington, DC, where the developments all have quaint names like Crofton Towne, Crofton Mews, The Ridings. Crofton itself is a planned community fitted around the curves of the Crofton Country Club. (The fact that a country club is at the center tells you everything.) Our street was Knights Bridge Turn, a broad, lazy loop of split-level housing, wide driveways, and two-car garages. I had a Huffy ten-speed bike and delivered The Capital, a venerable newspaper published in Annapolis, whose daily distribution became distressingly erratic, especially in the winter, especially between Crofton Parkway and Route 450, which, as it passed by our neighborhood, acquired a different name: Defense Highway.

For my parents this was an exciting time. It took my father just forty minutes to get to his new posting as a chief warrant officer in the Aeronautical Engineering Division at Coast Guard Headquarters, at the time located at Buzzard Point in southern Washington, DC. And it took my mother just twenty minutes to get to her new job at the National Security Agency, whose boxy futuristic headquarters, topped with radomes and sheathed in copper to seal in the communications signals, forms the heart of Fort Meade.

It was soon after we moved to Crofton that my father brought home our first computer, a Compaq Presario 425, list price $1,399 but purchased at his military discount, and initially set up—much to my mother’s chagrin—smack in the middle of the dining-room table. From the moment it appeared, the computer and I were inseparable. If previously I’d been loath to go outside and kick around a ball, now the very idea seemed ludicrous.

This Compaq became my constant companion—my third parent, second sibling, and first love. It came into my life just at the age when I was first discovering an independent self and the multiple worlds that can simultaneously exist within this world. That process of exploration was so exciting that it made me take for granted and even neglect, for a while at least, the family and life that I already had. Another way of saying this is I was just experiencing the early throes of puberty. But this was a technologized puberty, and the tremendous changes that it wrought in me were, in a way, being wrought everywhere, in everyone.

My parents would call me to get ready for school, but I wouldn’t hear them. They’d call me to wash up for dinner, but I’d pretend not to hear them. And whenever I was reminded that the computer was a shared computer and not my personal machine, I’d relinquish my seat with such reluctance that as my father, or mother, or sister took their turn, they’d have to order me out of the room entirely lest I hover moodily over their shoulders and offer advice.

I’d try to rush them through their tasks, so I could get back to mine, which were so much more important—like playing Loom. As technology had advanced, games involving Pong paddles and helicopters had lost ground to ones that realized that at the heart of every computer user was a book reader, a being with the desire not just for sensation but for story. The crude Nintendo, Atari, and Sega games of my childhood, with plots along the lines of (and this is a real example) rescuing the president of the United States from ninjas, now gave way to detailed reimaginings of the ancient tales that I’d paged through while lying on the carpet of my grandmother’s house.

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Thanks !

Thanks for sharing this, you are awesome !