geekwire

Remembering Arfa: Seizure threatens life of 16-year-old computer prodigy

Dec. 30, 2011 at 4:00 PM ET

This portrait of Arfa Karim Randhawa, by Dan DeLong, accompanied a Seattle P-I story about her 2005 Microsoft visit.

Computer programming prodigy Arfa Karim Randhawa, a 16-year-old girl from Pakistan who seven years ago became the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional in the world, is on life support after suffering an epileptic attack, according to a newspaper report out of the country.

Her father, Amjad Karim Randhawa, tells The Express Tribune, “only a miracle will allow my brilliant, genius daughter to live now."

In 2005, when I was working for the Seattle P-I newspaper, I got a chance to meet and write a story about Arfa. She was 10 years old at the time, visiting the Microsoft campus to meet Bill Gates and other executives from the Redmond company.

(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

As I wrote in the story at the time, She made an impression through a combination of charm, flattery and boldness uncommon for someone her age. For example, during Arfa’s meeting with Gates, she presented him with a poem she wrote that celebrated his life story. But she also questioned him about what she perceived to be the relatively small proportion of women on the campus.

In short, she is a remarkable person. She is also very thoughtful, and after the article ran, she made a point of keeping in touch with me via email. It was fun to periodically get messages from her out of the blue, updating me on her progress in school and her plans for the future.

Arfa was extremely proud of her accomplishment as the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional, even including the phrase “Youngest MCP in the World” in her email signature line. So a few years ago,when a 9-year-old from India broke her record, I sent Arfa a link and asked her what she thought.

I went back this morning and found her response …

“This is the first time I’ve seen this story. But I must say that I’m really happy to have read it. This is exactly what I had been wishing for ever since I got to bring laurels for my country. I am very glad to see that people are following what I did and have succeeded in beating me. I don’t know whether you’ve heard or not but a boy, named Bilal, from Gujranwala in Pakistan also became a Microsoft Certified Professional at the age of nine. I would say that the other youngsters should follow suit, thereby convincing the people to take us kids seriously. Our generation is very talented and so should be promoted.”

She was 13 at the time, and working hard in school in hopes of attending her “dream university,” MIT, where she wanted to study computer science.

Todd Bishop is co-founder of GeekWire, a technology news site based in Seattle.

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