Interview with a tech entrepreneur
British and 26 years-old. Blimey
When he was six, Stubbs's Dad - who had an accountancy firm in London - brought home the first computer for Richard, an Apple II (he’s very nostalgic about this Apple dinosaur, saying: “I still have it; when I get rich and famous, I’m going to get it reconditioned and put it on display.”) The Apple soon gave way to an IBM PC and Stubbs started saving up to buy a 386. He admits: “I wanted a 486 DX266 - whoa!! - but couldn’t afford it.”
Nonetheless, “The 386 did the trick through school, almost. I liked it because it had a VGA screen.”
An Amstrad 1512 followed, which “ran a GEM desktop which was rather good - GEM Paint was great, I loved the spray can,” Stubbs enthused. In 1996, he progressed to his first laptop, a DEC that ran Windows 3.11, which he also still has.
“Strangely enough,” Stubbs admits, “my best computers were a couple of custom-built jobbies which I made for myself.” From 1993 on, Stubbs was surrounded by a plethora of computer parts remaindered and cannibalized from his numerous machines.
“When I was four years old, my older brother Marcus had a Commodore 64 which using a programming magazine, he and his friend had plugged in a tape deck then typed 'load' and it began playing ‘Row, row, row your boat.’ I was fascinated,” Stubbs recalls.
He continued: “Then I took the very same programming magazine (remember, this is a four-year old), typed out a simple BASIC program from the magazine, typed the ubiquitous ‘run’ and the response told me there was an ‘error in the code.’ The manual suggested I type ‘list’ and as if by magic thousands of lines of code appeared. I was hooked.”
Stubbs remembers seeing the film War Games and being influenced by it tremendously. “I tried to unscrew the telephone (to emulate Matthew Broderick’s modem lines in the movie) just being inquisitive. I also had a massive line printing feeder with a massive sound-proofing box that was fun to keep my toys in. At this point, I’m five or six years old.”
Here, the subject changes to Stubbs’ dyslexia. Of course, dyslexia is no indication of intelligence, so no big deal, I say. For Stubbs however, it is a very big deal. “It’s soul-destroying and totally demoralizing for me,” he stated strongly. “It’s so frustrating to have to have other people constantly proofread what I’ve written,” he barked. “Everyone knows I can’t spell but I find it so annoying. In school they wanted me to type out papers because my handwriting is so atrocious.”
And at school, age 13, Stubbs finally got to make some IT mischief: “My school had Novell Netware and I could just run amok. There was a special debugger which allowed me to get into the console. We gave ourselves extra storage, staff folder access and Super User status.” Wasn’t he afraid of getting caught? “No, we were undetectable; you learn to hide your tracks,” he divulged with an enormous grin, “we’d find students who left the school and use their accounts.”
Speaking of his time studying computers at the College of Arts & Technology in Eastbourne, Stubbs said there were “a bigger and better computer system and a couple of nice-looking girls”, with the emphasis on the girls. He met his best friend there and the mother of his child, and also acted as Treasurer of the Student Union - an excellent opportunity to socialise, get into music and sink a few thousand pints.
But, he admitted, “it was not challenging enough for my mind.”