Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fu Ping's 2010 Speech at UNC

Sometime around Janurary, 2010, Fu Ping gave a speech, "Story of an Entrepreneur", at the Kenan Institute at University of North Carolina. The speech was uploaded to YouTube on January 21, 2010, from the institute's official account.

In this speech, Fu Ping told her life story besides her entrepreneur experience. In this version,
  1. She asserted that she never went to school during the 10 years of Cultural Revolution, but "I went to countryside plant rice fields. I worked in factories and I was in the military learning how to shoot." [it's curious how a "bad element" child could be allowed to join the military at that time.]
  2. She stated that it was a family relative who "engineered an escape" while she was in prison for her infanticide research, no mention of Deng Xiaoping's involvement.
  3. She stated that "Within two weeks out of jail I was given a passport." [She would later admit that she spent another year in China, "because it was hard to get a passport."]
  4. She also provided a more detailed description on how the original idea for Mosaic browser came about.
The entire speech can be viewed on YouTube in five parts: one, two, three, four, and five. The following is a partial transcript relevant to her early life:
I was born in China in 1958. Unfortunately when I was 8 to 18, which was supposedly from elementary to high school, China started the Cultural Revolution. So I didn't have a chance to go to school. My aunt and uncle actually raised me in a very loving family. In 1966, I was taken away from them. I thought they were my parents. And sent back to Nanjing. I was in Shanghai. I was sent back to Nanjing where my biological parents were. When I was just arriving at Nanjing, it was too late. My parents were put in a truck and sent in exile. I only saw them away and the last word I remember from my mother was "Please take care of your sister." I was 8 and she was 4, with no parents around. That day was such a fateful day. I lost the mother who raised me, the mother who born me, and I became the surrogate mother to my sister. 
I was the youngest in that generation of what they called "black kids" -- black by birth as our parents are bourgeois. If you are educated or if you are entrepreneur, you are bad. Children of educated parents are called black bastard, or black elements. We were treated extremely poor and teachers were killed right in front of us kids to scare us. My sister was thrown into a river to drown. I tried to save her and I was gang-raped by the Red Guards because I jumped into the river to try to save my sister. So, the life during the Cultural Revolution was unimaginable for us kids without parents and for us being called black. I am sorry. I always get emotional when I think about that time. 
Fast forward 10 years. The Cultural Revolution ended the year I was supposed to graduate from high school. I actually never went to school during those 10 years. I went to countryside plant rice fields. I worked in factories and I was in the military learning how to shoot.  
10 years later China ended Cultural Revolution and allowed people to go back to school. I passed the national exam and went back to school. I didn't have a choice as I was assigned to study Chinese literature. I really liked school and studying Chinese literature even though it wasn't my choice. I loved it. In my graduation thesis, I chose a humanitarian topic because I realized that at the time China was enforcing the one-child policy. Baby girls are being killed in the countryside because, being still primarily an agriculture society, people want boys. Later I knew -- now I know -- during that time when I was in college, 30 millions of babies were killed. When I did my research, the subject was normally being suppressed. When my research came out, the government and some newspapers actually supported it so they reported it. That was the first time China admitted that killing was existed. So the news was immediately covered by the international press. I became the scapegoat when UN imposed sanctions to China for human rights violations  I was thrown into jail in a black room with no windows. I thought I was surely going to be killed. I didn't know why I was arrested at the time. All I wish was a quick and painless pill. I thought it was so cruel because my life was just turning around. I was able to go to a university. 
But I was kind of lucky that one of my grandfather's friends engineered an escape for me from China. I was not secretly escaped but kicked out since my report was really a humanitarian issue. He was from Taiwan and China wanted Taiwan to return to China so they agreed to kick me out of China.  
In 1982, very few Chinese were able to come to the States. It was considered lucky that I was able to leave China and come to the United States to study. But I did not plan it and I didn't speak any English. My life plan did not include leaving my family in China and come to the United States. Within two weeks out of jail I was given a passport and told to leave.  
So I came to United States. I didn't speak English and I didn't study any math or science. Or I had was Chinese literature and I couldn't live from that. I need to find a more marketable skill. That's what lead me into computer science, which leads me to Geomagic. 
In early 80s, computer science happen to be a new field. People who studied it in college don't know how to program, unlike today it's like a second skill. But at that time I felt that I was good at language and computer science is a man-made language. So I studied computer science and one thing led to another I landed a job at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. I tell you that was the best job of my life. Actually one of our employees in the audience who was my student there and followed me all the way here. That was a job that you can just dream about what science and math can do and you don't have to worry about profit and loss. We had a 40 million dollars annual budget and I was managing 10 million dollars in industrial relationship and 30 million federal government. So, we could actually do anything we wanted. I just happened to hire this student his name is Marc Andreessen. He didn't really want to work in heavy math and wanted something simpler. So I said, "how about a browser?" He said, "what browser?" So we talked about a multi-media browser. One of the reasons is our group actually worked on telnet, imaging software, Apple computer as well as server. So we had a big database and we had Internet and multi-media. It was pretty natural idea to have a graphic user interface that people can navigate something. Another reason is I was managing public domain software. Everyday I spent a lot time to tell people the Internet domain account. I just got tired of typing that. So I thought would it be nice to have a graphic user interface to tell people there is an image on it and, when they click on it, they can get there. It was a very simple idea. At that time it was hard-coded and it was not as complicated as today. But anyway, once Netscape went public, it became history.

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