Theo de Raadt is the eldest of four children to a Dutch father, and a South African mother, with two sisters and a brother. Concern over the mandatory two-year armed forces conscription in South Africa led the family to emigrate to Calgary, Alberta, Canada in November 1977. In 1983 the largest recession in Canada since the Great Depression sent the family to the Yukon. Prior to the move de Raadt got his first computer, a Commodore VIC-20, which was soon followed by an Amiga. It is with these computers that he first began to develop software.
In 1992 he obtained a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Calgary.
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