Anonymous writes "I'm proud to introduce WrongPlanet.net's new Asperger's Interview series. WrongPlanet.net has grown to the point that we are able to use our resources to interview famous and prominent figures who have Asperger's Syndrome. The WrongPlanet.net interview series aims to provide the community with a valuable source of interviews. The following is the first interview of the new series.
WrongPlanet.net has had the rare opportunity of being able to interview Bram Cohen, the creator of the BitTorrent technology. Because there is already a plethora of information about BitTorrent, this interview takes a different approach and focuses entirely on Cohenís Aspergerís Syndrome. Cohenís story is extremely inspirational to those of us who do have Aspergerís, and will probably be so even to those without Aspergerís Syndrome! Read on for the text of the interview!!
Bram Cohen: Creator of BitTorrent
An interview with the creator of the most preeminent file sharing and
While reading an article entitled
â€œThe BitTorrent Effectâ€ which appeared in the
January 2005 issue of Wired Magazine, I was surprised to find out that the creator of
Bram Cohen, has Aspergerâ€™s Syndrome. After finishing this article, I
became determined to track down Cohen and ask him some questions about how
Aspergerâ€™s Syndrome has affected his very successful life. I finally
found him on IRC and was able to interview him about how he has dealt with
Aspergerâ€™s Syndrome. Iâ€™d like to thank Mr. Cohen
for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer these somewhat personal
Cohen started working on BitTorrent in April, 2001.
Since the release of this technology in the summer of 2001, it has quickly grown into
one of the most preeminent file distribution methods, especially among open source
products such as Linux. The decentralized nature of BitTorrent allows an individual or
company to share its files without needing to worry about bandwidth demands. Every
client downloading a file from the network will usually donate part of its own
bandwidth which, when added up with all the other donwloaders of the particular file,
becomes quite a lot, making it much faster than technologies such as Gnutella (or
Because there is already a plethora of information about
BitTorrent, this interview takes a different approach and focuses entirely on
Cohenâ€™s Aspergerâ€™s Syndrome.
Cohenâ€™s story is extremely inspirational to those of us who do have
Aspergerâ€™s, and will probably be so even to those without
Aspergerâ€™s Syndrome (Sorry, Aspergerâ€™s makes it
hard for me to tell what other people will think, so Iâ€™m only
guessing that it will be ;-). I know that many of you with Asperger's Syndrome may be
at a low point in life, but this is only temporary! Bram has been there too and now he
is one of the most respected figures in the computer science field.
has Asperger's helped you with your programming?
Bram Cohen: Oh, heh, I dunno. I tend to get
obsessed with technical problems, and have a very long attention span, which are
obviously good traits for being a programmer, and seem like Asperger's traits, but
[because of] not having an almost-identical-except-no-asperger's version of myself, it's hard to
WP: How was life at
BC: I hated school, and dropped out
of college. I got picked on a lot in school, and had a lot of trouble making
WP: I know the
BC: One thing about school - I
always had this attitude that I was in school to learn, and attempted to do whatever
was involved in that process, while school had this attitude that I was there to earn
grades, which I couldn't care less about. Unsurprisingly, my grades weren't very
WP: That's been true for
me as well. I tend to have trouble focusing on anything that I'm not interested in. Do
you have this problem?
BC: Yes, I'm extremely bad at
working on things which seem pointless (uninteresting I can mostly deal with). It's
caused problems for me at some workplaces, particularly when the whole job was to
maintain a garbage legacy codebase.
WP: So you taught
yourself the languages that you know?
BC: My father taught me Basic and
rudimentary C, I learned everything else on my own, including studying computational
complexity on my own. That's more a function of my age than anything else though -
back when I was in school there were hardly any programming classes.
WP: How did you meet your
wife? [Many of us with Aspergerâ€™s tend to have trouble with romantic
BC: I met my wife because she knew
someone I worked withh, I don't want to go into more detail than that.
WP: I understand and
that's perfectly fine. How has Asperger's influenced your attempts to find a job [or
work at one]?
BC: In terms of work I've always had
a Bad Attitude in that I won't work anywhere which requires me to work strict hours
or follow a dress code. I don't know if that's an Asperger's thing or not, I think
it's just being reasonable.
WP: A lot of us would
agree with you on that. Do you have anything else you'd like to add [about
Aspergerâ€™s Syndrome in general]?
Asperger's in general, I'd like to comment that I never really identified as having
it until I started to learn some basic social signaling and realized just how bad my
problems had been.
It's very frustrating now, because I
can remember events in my life well enough to be able to realize now what people were
thinking at the time, even though I had no idea what was going on back then, but of
course there's no way of going back and explaining it to myself.
lot of people seem to feel that way when they find out later in life. What do you have
the most difficulty with in social situations?
BC: There's no single thing which causes problems, it's a general
missing skill set of being able to read faces, and being able to express thoughts on
one's own face properly (there are other social cues, of course, but in my case I
learned starting with the face, and everything else was easy from
I still sometimes
get tired and just completely lose it. I try to not make eye contact when that
happens. Fortunately people are very accepting when one seems to 'snap out of it', so
if I act weird around someone one day then reasonably interactive the next they
generally figure that I was just tired or distracted or
WP: This is totally unrelated and more of a question I ask to anyone I
speak to: What operating system do you prefer?
BC: I hate dealing with computers in general, so I'm typically
OS-agnostic, I've most recently been abused by a windows machine, so I hate that the
most for the moment.
WP: Ha ha. Well I don't want to take too much of your time away from
you. Thanks for the help!"