(Note: This post is well beyond the seven year limit for spoilers. If you haven't seen 2001 or 2010 by now, I can't help you.)
Many years ago, as a loomling, one of my very first memories was of seeing the movie 2010: The Year We Make Contact on cable. That the first 'real' record I ever listened to was the soundtrack to that movie should come as no surprise, but that's not really relevant. I was quite young so I didn't get most of it, but I remembered enough about it that it gave me some interesting questions (so I thought; I was six, okay?) to ask at the library later. The thing that struck me the most about the movies was, unsurprisingly, the monolith. The universal alien device, which manipulated proto-hominids on Earth by teaching them how to hunt, gather, and make war, as well as making unspecified changes to their evolutionary path; which served as a monitoring outpost; which implemented the endpoints of a vast interstellar (intergalactic? interdimensional?) wormhole network; which turned a gas giant into a miniature star. If you like, the monolith was a universal key to unlock the mysteries of the universe and inspire growth and change.
Many, many years later I was a computer geek in my late teens, just dumb enough to think I knew the right questions to ask, just smart enough to know that I didn't know nearly as much as I should. I knew that college was coming up one way or another and I'd have to get my ducks in a row to do work there and hopefully get some research done. I also knew that it wasn't going to be easy. I'd just graduated from a hotwired Atari microcomputer with a modem to a modest PC clone, a 386 cobbled together out of hand-me-down components, stuff I'd scavenged out of dumpsters, and the odd weekend trip to the computer show. I knew that there was this thing called Ethernet, and the college I was going to had just started rolling out connections of same to dorm rooms, and it was a pre-req for a comp.sci major. I also knew that I needed an OS that could connect to the Net somehow, but I didn't have the connections to get my hands on the new hotness back then, nor did Leandra have the specs to run it if I did.