The Startup Dream: Journeying into the heart of San Francisco pt. 2

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We all know about those hackers that are a few steps ahead of us.

They are aggregating massive amounts of data, setting up security implementations, and figuring out how systems work. They seem to be tapped into a mythical universe of connections that leaves the rest of us summing it up by saying, with a dash of envy: “They are rising hackers. They’ve got it all figured out.”

But how did they get there? What series of events led them here?

As a part of a recurring series, we follow the epic story of a hacker who has been travelling across the country zipping from one hackerspace to the next in search of the startup dream. He has opened up doors just to see what lies behind them. He has met several tech pioneers along the way.

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This week, we find ourselves just outside the infamous building space called Noisebridge ready to see what’s inside.

The door is locked. And there is a camera staring straight at us. Questions of whether to break inside or not occur. It’s mid-afternoon and tons of people are walking around. Will they notice, if a man wearing a black hat starts fidgeting with the lock? It’s better to press the buzzer instead.

Ring…Ring…

“Hello??

You there!
What is your purpose here?”

Good question. Perhaps, it started long ago, eons and eons away. Zillions of atoms plus molecules have spewed all over the universe. Slowly, they collect themselves forming objects of mass and energy like our journeyman who is standing on the street outside. Could this be his purpose? Is he here to unlock the door?

He speaks. He tells the silent man behind the microphone that he has traveled all the way from Florida to be here. Now, all he wants to do is rest inside.

Suddenly, the door opens; a Korean family vacates the premises at that exact moment…Perfect timing.

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As the adventurer moves upstairs, he runs his hands along the wall. Greetings are said while he casually sits down at an open table. Finally, time to do a little coding. His bag is unzipped, and contents are shown within. There are chargers, business cards, clothes, and a little bit of weed that was bought off the street. He needs energy.

But where are the outlets?

 

Zap! Power is gained from the wires manifesting into electricity pumping in from the grid. It completes an integrated circuit, and moments later, a NodeJS server initializes. A connection is made to an already constructed SQL database. There are no security implementations yet, but data starts streaming in anyways [containing information about every building in the city]. There are GPS locations, correlating addresses, and even kilowatt/hour usages for all the individual meters throughout the city.

 

And then, something goes horribly wrong. The system crashes causing the unstable infrastructure to vanish into the air like a subtle sandcastle being beaten down by hurricane force winds. All that’s left now is to pick up the pieces and fashion it together into something new…But what?

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Time flows by. Exhilarating ideas of intertwingularity focuses in. Stomachs grumble. Hunger wanes in.

There are hackers here. Perhaps they have answers. But who is here?

Questions of purpose are asked leading to the story of three people. Two of them drove all the way from Florida. From Miami in fact. Their car sped through I-10 encountering an immigration checkpoint along the way. Another vehicle wandered onto a higher freeway, with a tired driver who was avoiding unfamiliar stretches of territory to the South.

Each roadtrip varied wildly, yet for some, odd reason, both ended up in the same place at the same time.

There are more people here as well. One guy, code-named Pigeon, has acquired a box of vegetables from the street, tossing together a salad for the homeless. He starts the task all alone, but over time, more people gather to help.

Eventually rot was cut off, leaves were washed, and dressing was made.

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And then, out of the corner of the room, entered another hacker. He strolled in quietly under the cover of distraction while the rest pieced together parts from a nearby graveyard. The man was older, but not by much. He looked at the traveller and directly said, “You sir, look like a great leader.”

What? That makes no sense. These two have never met and already he is telling the traveller that he has power within.

“Okay. So what do you do?”

“A lot of things.”

That didn’t help much. The environment felt right though. It was worth a shot trusting him.

“Please, tell me more.”

“Well…I used to be in a secret Atari research group in the late 1980’s. We developed the Star Wars arcade game. I also worked for Robinton Products, Incorporated. Most people have never heard of them, but this company was the pioneer in digital power metering, early portable meter readers, time-of-day power use studies, load shed monitoring/management, all of which were networked together. At first, their meters were not so reliable. But by 1980, they had figured out how to build reliable meters. At this point they started partnering with large meter manufacturers.”

Jackpot. Finally, someone with energy industry experience.

“Cool dude. I also have worked with utility meters. More tracking, and less manufacturing.”

“Nice! You should swing by this accordion festival in Cotati tomorrow. It is where my band ‘Thee Hobo Gobbelins’ will be playing. Come party with us and stay the night. We got music, lovely ladies, and I can tell you more about the energy-intelligence industry.”

“Sounds good. Just have to stop by this other hackerspace called TechShop first and document all the heavy machines. Here’s my number. I’ll let you know when I’m on the way.”

tsNext week, we will learn how to fabricate unimaginably influential prototypes and eat hamburgers made by robots. Come hungry because there will be plenty of sustenance!

 

Article written by @industrychanger

This is a continuation from Journeying into the heart of Francisco pt. 1 (of the Startup Dream online series).

 

Links:

Noisebridge’s Website: https://www.noisebridge.net/

Atari Introduces Star Wars Game: http://www.atarimania.com/mags/pdf/atari-life-volume-2-number-14.pdf

Patents by Robinton Products, Inc: http://patents.justia.com/assignee/robinton-products-inc

Thee Hobo Gobbelins’ Website: http://www.hobogoblins.com/

Thee Hobo Gobbelins’ Twitter: https://twitter.com/HoboGobbelins

TechShop’s Website: http://techshop.ws/

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