February 2009 (17.02) issue
By Daniel Roth
Robb Topolski couldn't stay awake. All he could manage was three hours at a stretch before passing out. At first, his doctors were baffled, though they would eventually diagnose his condition as a severe form of anemia. But for the time being, no one knew anything except that it was dangerous for Topolski to venture too far from his bed.
Topolski was a quality assurance engineer at Intel before going on disability, and he loved playing with new gadgets and software. So in late February 2007, he dragged himself out of the queen-size bed in his Hillsboro, Oregon, home, sat down at one of the three PCs a few feet away, and opened his latest toy, the file-sharing program Shareaza. He was a big barbershop-harmony fan—he'd sung baritone in Intel's One Bit Parody quartet—and he wanted to test the software by searching for some new tracks and sharing the ones on his hard drive: tunes like the Civil War-era hit "The Vacant Chair," and a Tin Pan Alley ode to prostitution, "She Is More to Be Pitied Than Censured."
Topolski pointed Shareaza to his music folder. Then he fell asleep. And that's when something strange happened—or rather, that's when nothing happened. Each time he woke up and checked his PC, he discovered there had been no activity at all. Topolski knew that his music tastes weren't exactly mainstream; but still, among the millions of BitTorrent, Gnutella, and eDonkey users out there who could see his files, no one wanted even one of his tunes? He'd search some forums for help, then fall asleep again. (more)