2009-02-17

What Started Your Geekery?

From whence came your geekish tendencies? Were they made, or did they just happen? Did they magically manifest in your mind in the womb?

At dinner the other night, we discussed a particularly unpleasant way to be introduced to technology:
A) Go away on vacation for two weeks
B) Return from vacation to find a PC on your desk
C) Find large manual to be read on your own time
(the year was 1992, and this was not uncommon)

My mother looks over at me and my father and says "The two of you taught yourselves. How did you get started?"

My father and I look at each other, the table, back at each other, and shrug. My father says "well, I was just there. I don't really know." Now, he's being a bit modest. He was one of the first people at Delta to have a PC, but only because he bought his own (one PCjr for his office and one for the house in 1984).

I started using the PCjr for word processing, Flight Simulator, Gato and Rogue. I wrote tons of papers in junior high, high school and college, printed in dot matrix goodness.

But it wasn't my fist computer. I had a VIC-20 with cartridges for Gorf, Turtle Programming and a 16KB expander. I also had a cassette tape storage system and a printer, both of which were woefully underutilized.

Prior to the VIC-20, I'd used a TI-99 in 6th grade for some sort of pirate text-based adventure game. I haven't a clue why the VIC-20 had appear where the TI-99 did not, given that the TI-99 was way more powerful. It's not even like I wrote many programs. At geek camp (as I think of it now) in 6th grade, most of our computer skills course consisted of us putting characters on the screen just so we could watch that big, fat VIC-20 cursor "eat" them when we held down the backspace key.

Before that, I had an Atari 2600. Preceeding the 2600 was Asteroids, or as I think of it, the single greatest video game ever. And my freind's Oddesy console... we'd swap his Oddesy for my 2600 for a few days at a time. But is that where this started? I'm not sure that it did.

I think it happened before that. I remember being fascinated by my father's baby blue Smith Corona electric typewriter. It didn't hurt that the kid next door had all manner of cast-off devices from his father's machine shop. Heck, I'm fairly certain a broken Sinclair would have been sufficiently entertaining to me.

I vividly recall the brightly-lit panels in Space: 1999's control center and Eagle. Star Trek was a given, but it was more on par with Emergency! as an adventure show. And I picture in my mind as clearly as if it were yesterday when I proudly announced to my second grade class the fantastic new show premiering that night: Battlestar Galactica.

I could go on for pages (Micronauts, Star Wars, comic books, whatever). Was I made into, or did I just happen to become, a geek?

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