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The unsung hero series: Here's to the UL Computer Society

IT author Mel Gorman kicks off our "unsung heroes" series, recalling his first mentors. His latest book is "Understanding the Linux Virtual Memory Manager."

And the award for best supporting actor goes to...

Mel Gorman

Mel Gorman is a certified engineer and author of Understanding the Linux Virtual Memory Manager from Prentice Hall PTR. He's kicking off our series about "unsung heroes," the mentors who played a crucial role in inspiring and nurturing IT pros's interest and abilities in computing. Watch for more IT mentor articles, and tell us about your gurus at - Jan Stafford, editor

I am not a person who hero-worships. While there are many people in the IT field that I admire, I would not single any one of them out as the person to meet. I would meet any of them with equal delight.

The greatest influence for me was the University of Limerick Computer Society. My early exposure to computers was through my brother, but I did not get seriously involved with computers until I reached college. Learning about the wider Libre Software movement, GNU and Linux activities happened later. The Society was a gathering of people with a common interest, but the group also had two servers of its own. The servers were administrated by a small group of members, and every member had a shell account on them.

Some of the active members of the society at the time I joined had the right mix of geek to be seriously technical people but were also outgoing and sociable. There was also a huge breadth of expertise in the group, ranging from general engeering to administration to software development and everything in between. Some of the feats achieved by the people involved at the time were staggering to me, such reverse engineering the Word document file, building their own voice-activated window manager, helping port Linux to the VAX, writing their own games, documenting the whole SDL graphics library publish articles in magazines. These feats were and are still amazing to me.

I cannot name an individual that would inspire me, but the closest would be the small group of people active in the UL Computer Society between 1996 and 2000. Watching the work they were involved in and were capable of inspired me to get involved with Libre software myself.

Watch for more "unsung hero" stories, and tell us about your mentors at

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