A Brief History of Jed

(Last change: 26 August, 2012.)

Grew up in various places in California. Was camera-shy for a long time, but from school pictures was apparently a very serious kid indeed. (That one was taken when I was almost 12, and has been webified at the request of a friend.) Attended Palo Alto High School.

Went on to attend Swarthmore College, which is not (contrary to popular belief) a girls' school in upstate New York. I had a marvelous time there for four years, spending much of my time hanging out with SWIL (the sf club, over which I presided for a year), working in the computing center, writing occasional fiction, playing roleplaying games, learning to love singing, having great conversations long into the night, and other pursuits not calculated to result in academic excellence. I ended up with a double major in English literature and computational linguistics (the latter being a special major combining computer science and linguistics). My senior thesis in comp. ling. involved computer generation of poetry according to linguistic metrical rules, but I never wrote the program that was supposed to accompany the 40-page paper.

I wasn't quite ready to leave Swarthmore after graduation, so I got a job there for the next year, writing software to generate 3D animated videotapes to teach solid geometry to high school students. I also wrote documentation for Geometer's Sketchpad, a superb interactive 2D geometry program now available for Macintosh and PC. All of this was in connection with what has since become The Geometry Forum.

Then I upped anchor and headed west, attending Clarion West (an annual six-week science fiction writing workshop in Seattle) on my way back to the Bay Area.

I spent the next year contracting at Apple Computer, doing QA on "Apple's best-kept secret," A/UX (RIP).

Through the good graces of my then-housemate and longtime friend Arthur, I then got a job at Silicon Graphics as a contract technical writer in the Developer Publications group (this was late '92). I became a Real Employee in July '93. Over the next three years, I worked on the IRIX System Programming Guide, the IRIX Network Programming Guide, the IRIS Performer Programming Guide, The OpenGL Porting Guide, the OpenGL-on-Silicon-Graphics-systems book, and the welcome pages (not the product literature) that shipped with the original WebFORCE(TM) "Web content authoring and serving solution." Oh, and I wrote (or at least adapted, edited, and expanded) the IRIS InSight Professional Publisher User's Guide, for people building online help systems for IRIX.

In August '95, I was offered the chance to co-write a VRML book with Josie Wernecke, acclaimed author of The Inventor Mentor. Despite my long-held plan of taking a year off work starting right about then, I leapt at the opportunity; after all, it was scheduled to take only three months. . . . After a full year of spec revisions, votes, delays, and rewrites, The VRML 2.0 Handbook went to press in August '96, and arrived on bookstore shelves by the end of October.

I then went on leave from SGI. I spent a full year traveling around the US (with a side trip to the UK), visiting friends and attempting to write fiction.

In early '97 I launched a weekly Web-based column on words and wordplay, called Words & Stuff. It later switched to biweekly. Unfortunately, lack of time forced me to put the column on hiatus in late 2000. A few years later, I came back to related topics with a new blog, Neology, which I post to only intermittently.

In August '97 I returned to SGI, this time to Cosmo Software (which was then a wholly-owned subsidiary of SGI), where I wrote the User's Guide for Cosmo Worlds, a VRML authoring tool. Then Cosmo was disbanded and its employees laid off; a company called PLATINUM technology, inc. purchased Cosmo's products and hired some of its staff, including me.

In February '99, six months after Platinum had hired us, it decided that we weren't part of its core business either, and laid us off again. So it goes.

I spent several months lazing about, relaxing, visiting various friends, writing, and generally enjoying time off from work. I also spent some time as a volunteer proofreader for Clean Sheets, an online erotica magazine.

Eventually, after interviewing with various interesting companies, I settled on Macromedia. I spent five mostly happy years there writing documentation for Dreamweaver, a highly regarded HTML authoring tool—"like a word processor for web pages," as I described it to non-technical friends. Sadly, in the spring of 2004 Macromedia closed their Redwood Shores office (a 20-minute drive from my place) and moved us all up to San Francisco (an hour and a half each way by car, train, and foot). I gave it a few months; the commute turned out not to be as awful as I'd feared, but it was still pretty bad. So I began looking for another job.

In September '04, I accepted a job with Google, which presumably needs no introduction, writing documentation for programmers rather than for end users. It's hard to beat the commute: five minutes by car, or fifteen minutes by bike.

Meanwhile, in my outside-of-work time, in early 2000 I signed on as a fiction editor for a new online speculative fiction magazine. Strange Horizons launched in September of 2000 and is still going strong, publishing fine fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art. I stepped down as a fiction editor in mid-2012.

In late 2001, I started keeping a blog, where I post intermittently; if you want to keep up on my life, that's a good place to start.

Jed Hartman <logos@kith.org>