I understand that self-identifying as a geek in 2010 makes me neither cool nor special, now that geeks are considered… you know… cool and special. But having laid out my blogging cred, I’d still like to make the case for the geek side of the equation (equations being something I actually know very little about).
Yep, a distaste for mathematics curtailed dreams of studying computer science, or something along those lines, in college. Back in middle school, however, I was happily hacking BASIC in my school’s Apple //e lab. I had sort of a knack for it; in computer class, I raced through the packet of programs we were required to transcribe faster than anyone else, and began spending my time writing my own programs, which would do things like tell my friend that his favorite football team sucked, repeatedly, through the magic of 20 GOTO 10.
I didn’t really apply this knowledge very well at the time; it would still be a couple of years before I had a computer at home. And even when I finally did, a completely awesome Pentium 166 MHz IBM Aptiva1 running Windows 95, I didn’t quite know how to get started programming on it.2
Another device appeared in my life a few years after the computer; I received a TI-83 graphing calculator for use in Algebra II. I initially found that it made a great mobile Tetris machine, but it wasn’t until reading Bill Gates’ The Road Ahead, in which he recounted his early days programming primitive computers, that I found myself inspired to do more with it.3
The calculator seemed like a good place to start programming, especially because the user manual contained an entire chapter devoted to teaching the TI-BASIC language! I picked this up pretty quickly, since I still remembered a lot of concepts from Apple BASIC. In my junior year of high school, I was soon writing programs to help me take shortcuts to solving math and science problems. But most importantly, I wanted to make games.
So I made a game. How I did so could be its own entry, and very well may be in the future.
This inspired me to sign up for the Computer Programming I elective in my senior year. They taught us Visual Basic, and the class was neither interesting nor fun. This, paired with the realization that studying computer science in college meant taking lots of math (something I’d always heard, but college course catalogs assured), made it clear that I should focus on the other thing I liked doing: writing.
I majored in communications, and the rest is history. Except for a fruitless foray into Python a couple of years ago, I haven’t programmed much lately.
But I still embody, I think, the hacker ethos. For me, 2005 could also have been called the mythical Year of Linux on the Desktop, thanks to the then-nascent, but still quite amazing, Ubuntu distribution. While it was alien to me, and didn’t quite ‘just work’ on my laptop, I persevered (smug Windows-using friends would say I “suffered”) and use it to this day. I love Ubuntu, and it still… almost just works.
Along the same geek lines, doing more with the devices I own seems to be a recurring theme in my life. These days. I carry in my pocket a rooted Android phone (running CyanogenMod), and at home have a homebrew-enabled Nintendo Wii and DS, a Canon PowerShot sporting CHDK, and Linksys routers running the dd-wrt and Tomato firmwares. My (lack of) skill-set means that you won’t find me helping the cause of hacking open a new device, but I’m glad to file the occasional bug. In short, I like to get as much as possible out of my devices, including, quite literally, my data. Backup is a topic I’ll be coming back to, for sure.
I think that about sums up my geek side (and unintentionally makes a pretty good case for my navel-gazing side).