The origin of Coiled, part 2.

By Peter

In 2005, I was teaching at the Yesler Terrace community center computer lab, and I would always arrive half an hour early to set up. Once I was set up, I would hang out and watch the room. Most of the people looked like they were from East Africa, and a few looked like they were from South East Asia. Adults were checking email or working on resumes. Kids were working on homework or playing computer games.

But there was one white guy who was sometimes there. He was in his fifties and wore large glasses, like the kind that were popular in the 1970s. I just couldn’t figure out what he was working on. His screen was filled with a series of brightly colored triangles, and he would slowly adjust their shape and size.

I began to speculate. What if he were doing computer research, right here in a public computer lab? It used to be that in order to do research, you needed a special high-tech lab. But that’s no longer true. You just need a computer, and it doesn’t even have to be your own.

What would drive a person to work on a high-tech research project in a public computer lab? Surely someone with that kind of experience would have enough money to buy his own computer. But maybe he’s hiding out from someone, and the last place someone would look would be in public housing. My imagination started to go a little wild.

Eventually I went over and talked to the guy. It turns out he was doing 3D, stereoscopic animation. It was pretty cool and unusual, but not exactly a technological breakthrough. Still, I had already begun to think of a story where a computer scientist would end up at the Yesler Terrace computer lab, working on technology that could change the world.