I discovered Gaim in the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) user profile of a friend about five years
ago. I didn’t know a lot about Linux then. I knew that it was a free implementation of UNIX with
publicly available source code, but my previous experiences with UNIX comprised staring at a
shell prompt, trying to type cryptic commands into a “DOS-like” console. Likewise, I assumed
that Linux was primitive compared to the high-tech, state-of-the-art Windows 98 I was using
that day when I read my friend’s profile.
“Visit the Gaim Web page,” it invited me. I followed the link and found my preconceptions
were wrong. On what I had seen as a platform solely for Web servers and corporate mainframes,
I could perform such everyday tasks as chatting with my friends. I expected nothing but text
commands, but I found Web browsers, e-mail clients, and games—all with windows to scroll
and buttons to click. Linux no longer looked like DOS; it was an actively developed desktop
operating system. Wanting to contribute to that development process, I quickly downloaded
the Gaim source code and started coding.
At the time, though, I had just started learning how to use my operating system and didn’t
know any C (the language Gaim is written in). This didn’t stop me; I quickly taught myself all the
skills necessary to write this hugely popular desktop application, using Gaim as an example.
Today, I’m the lead developer of the Gaim project, and I work closely with a group of developers
to maintain and enhance the most popular open source instant messaging application on the