Jimcat: the Evolution of a Name

Although the name Jimcat is mostly used by those who met me through the RPI-ACM and at science fiction conventions, its origins actually go back much further.

During my high school days, when I acquired my first computer, I would download "cracked" games from bulletin boards with a 300 baud modem, and fancied myself a hacker. (Yes, I had a lot to learn. But we were all young once.) Hackers, in those days, had to have K00L NAMEZ... well, I guess some things do stay constant. So, to bolster my own confidence in myself as a Real Hacker, I decided upon a name for myself.

I chose The Samurai for a variety of reasons. Shogun had recently been shown on television, and there was a general fascination for things Japanese in the popular culture. The most popular of the stereotypical Japanese figures among high school boys like myself was the Ninja, and many a would-be hacker like myself chose some variant on "Ninja" for a pseudonym.

Never being one to follow the herd, I decided that I was more fond of the Samurai than the Ninja. It appealed more to my personality. Where the ninja was portrayed as a mercenary assassin who covered his face, worked in darkness and did away with his victims through stealth and treachery, the samurai valued loyalty above life, clanked about in heavy armor, and if he had to kill an enemy, would be much more likely to kick down his door and disembowel the poor dumb sucker with a six-foot sword while he was entertaining guests with a tea ceremony. If this was not quite my outward personality in my teenage years, it was certainly one that I wanted to identify with more than that of the ninja.

And so, bolstered by the authority conferred upon me by the lack of any other claimants to the title that I was aware of, I conferred upon myself the title of The Samurai. I retained this name until my arrival at RPI, and obtained my first account on MTS.

Now I was at college, and I had a real account on a real computer system. (Yes, I thought that MTS was a real computer system. I still had a lot to learn.) Naturally, I saw it as a moral imperative to legitimize my pseudonym by registering it in the user directory of the system. I was pleased to note that, even here at RPI, there were no other Samurai claimants to be found.

MTS asked for a first and a last name, and while I was used to being The Samurai, it seemed rather silly, even to a college freshman, to have "The" as a first name. So I decided to enter the name as simply Samurai, hoping to be able to do away with the last name entirely. Alas, the directory program insisted on being given a last name in order to complete the registration. (I found out later that there were ways around this, but this was my first month at college, and I still had a lot to... oh, you get the idea.)

I was stymied, but only for a minute. Having recently read The Adventures of Samurai Cat by Mark E. Rogers, I decided that "Cat" would be a fitting last name to go with "Samurai", and thus I became known as Samurai Cat.

This new pseudonym stuck even more strongly than the old one, thanks in main to Connect, a real-time chat program developed by Sandro Wallach and several other members of the RPI-ACM. Since many people using this program liked to refer to themselves and others by their pseudonyms rather than their real names, there was soon a group of people who knew me better as "Samurai Cat" than as Jim Kasprzak. Inevitably the full pseudonym acquired nicknames of its own, and people would address or refer to me as Samurai, Sam, or Samcat. The final proof of its legitimacy came when a group of friends was trying to get my attention across a noisy, crowded dining hall. After calling out "Jim" several times to no avail, one of them finally yelled "Samurai" and instantly got my attention. Well, it made sense. There were many Jims on campus, but who else would answer to "Samurai"?

The final evolution of Samurai Cat into Jimcat took place in 1987, when I moved into a house known originally as ACM Central and later simply as Central. There was already a Jim living there, and to avoid confusion, some qualifier was necessary for my name. Since I was the Jim who was also known as Samurai Cat, the names were combined into Jimcat, and thus the current form came into use.

Although I was at first somewhat ambivalent about the new name I had acquired, this faded very quickly, and I soon adopted the name wholeheartedly as my own. I have used the name for nearly a decade now, and there are people who know me better by that name than any other. This has certainly been reinforced by my use of that name wherever possible in my computer accounts. Jimcat is as much my "real" name as the one that was given to me at birth.

Click here to return to the Slackwood Home Page.

Click here to return to the Index of Names.