That Moment When RMS Walks Into Your Hackathon

* Editor’s note: This actually happened, but I was not standing super close to the subject during the exchange.  Conversation paraphrased from eyewitness account.

There I was at Boston Music Hack Day, rapping with Brendan Baker of public radio fame, when in walks Richard M. Stallman.  Beard matted into a bizarre pizza crust flapping off the end of his chin, he strolled casually past a small army of Ruby developers unaware of his celebrity while I did a quick double-take.  He waddled up to a grad student participating in the event who was hanging shyly by the pizza table. “What’s going on here?” he asked.

Student swallowed a hunk of his pizza and replied, “Music Hack Day.”

"What’s a Music Hack Day?" he quickly replied.

"Well, it’s a hackathon where a bunch of people hang out and build music stuff on a bunch of APIs."

"APIs?" RMS intoned gravely.  "Is that like Software-as-a-Service?"

"Well, yeah," the student sighed, knowing what to expect next.

"You all should be working on a free alternative instead."

And before anyone could bring up his Wikipedia page to confirm with the programming legend’s photo, he turned about on a heel and marched out, in search of his own pizza with a grad student in tow.

Photo by Paul Osman.

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