Chapter 17. Summer Camp
Ken Williams came to rely on people like John Harris, Third-Generation hackers influenced not so much by Robert Heinlein or Doc Smith as by Galaxian, Dungeons and Dragons, and Star Wars. A whole subculture of creative, game-designing hacker-programmers was blooming, beyond the reach of executive headhunters. They were mostly still in high school.
To lure young programmers to Coarsegold, Williams took out ads in the Los Angeles Times tempting programmers to “Boot into Yosemite.” Typical of the replies was a man who told Ken, “My son’s a great Apple programmer and would like working with you.” “Why don’t you let me talk to your son?” Ken asked. The man told him that his son didn’t come across well on the phone. At the job interview at Oakhurst, the man insisted on answering all the questions for his son, a small, round-eyed, sixteen-year-old blond who had peach-fuzz on his cheeks and seemed intimidated by the entire situation. None of this mattered when Ken discovered the kid was capable of grasping the intricacies of Apple assembly language. Ken hired him for three dollars an hour.
Slowly, Ken Williams began to fill up the house he bought in the Sierra Sky Ranch area, just beyond Oakhurst where Route 41 starts climbing to elevations of over five thousand feet. Besides free rent, there were Ken’s impromptu graphics tutorials. Ken was now known as a certified Apple wizard. He could turn on his hacker inquisitiveness almost on whim. He refused to accept what