the name 'steward' itself



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First of all, it's "steward". Not "Steward", not "stuart", not "Stuart", and especially not "Stewie".

It started as an alternate identifier for me in the early 1980's, when I was a shop steward for Local 54, Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, AFL-CIO, in the Food Service Department at Six Flags Great Adventure. While I was working there, I got a Citizen's Band (CB) radio for my car. This was during the big CB craze when everyone, not just truckers, were getting CB radios.

For you younger folks:
  • Imagine a world without cellphones.
  • Imagine a world with only one telephone company throughout about 90% of the United States.
  • Imagine all calls outside your local area being charged by the minute, and long distance being much more expensive than local.
  • Oh, yeah, and imagine no World Wide Web.

Depending on weather conditions, CB's had a range of about two to six miles.

People who used CB's usually had an alternate identifier, or "handle", like "Rubber Duck" or "Big Bear". Since I was a shop steward, "steward" seemed obvious to me. Of course, it wasn't spelled out then, CB's didn't have text messaging.

I took to using it as well on BBS systems (these were computer chat and/or posting systems run by individual computer hobbyists over telephone lines, usually for free.) On Q-Link, however, I simply went with the default name it gave me - JohnD39 - which is why I'm "JohnD39" on AOL sites (since AOL is what Q-Link turned into.) I also use "JohnD39" on sites if "steward" is already taken.

The small "s"

When the Internet was becoming - slowly - available for public access (after previously having been restricted to colleges, very large corporations such as IBM and AT&T, and the United States military - after all, they paid for its invention), there was a very "Lord of the Rings" tone to the Internet (and its predecessor components, BITNet, ARPANet, and NSFNet.) Many servers were named after something or other in LOTR, and a lot of people wanted, if not "gandalf", then "mithrandir" or so forth. One problem that persists to this day is that while IBM computers (and software based on IBM computers, such as Microsoft) don't differentiate between upper- and lower-case, UNIX and related operating systems do diffferentiate. To avoid problems, it became a tradition to use all lower-case letters for identifiers, so as not to confuse things between the IBM world and the UNIX world.

Which brings us to Gandalf (or gandalf). In The Return of the King, Gandalf says the following to Denethor, Steward of Gondor:

"But I will say this:
the rule of no realm is mine,
neither of Gondor nor any other,
great or small.
But all worthy things that are in peril
as the world now stands,
those are my care.
And for my part,
I shall not wholly fail of my task,
though Gondor should perish,
if anything passes through this night
that can still grow fair
or bear fruit and flower in days to come.
For I also am a steward.
Did you not know?"

Aha! A Gandalf name that no-one noticed. This became my posting-name for the USENET (sort of a collection of Internet discussion groups that were around before the Web, and which still exist - most people now access it through Google Groups), other areas of the Internet, and my craft name in Witchcraft.

So, even though my legal name - the one that is on my paycheck, and the one that Who's Who in America knows me by - is a completely different name, I would guess that more people know me as "steward" than by my legal name. (Although this site links to the site with my legal name, the reverse is not true.)

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Thursday, January 1, 1970