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On Being a Geek (Name Plate)

Geek (gek) n. -- a performer of grotesque or depraved acts in a carnival, etc., such as biting off the head of a live chicken.

At first glance, most people would probably say that I'm a geek. That is almost true, I certainly possess many geek attributes. During much of high school, I wasn't popular, and my friends were all geeks. I started out being a geek on speech team, then spent a year in Japan as an exchange student, then when I got back to America I started playing with that new toy my parents had brought into the house, the IBM-PC. I have always had geeky interests, in computers, in science fiction, and so forth.

I've gone through the geek "trial by fire" of having my little corner of chosen technology, that I had invested vast quantities of time learning the all the tricks and secrets to making work, be superceded by something different enough that it made my hard-earned knowledge irrelevant. It may be hard for younger geeks to imagine that there was a day when people could make good livings writing standalone databases in xBase, but I was one of those people. It may be hard to imagine that there was a day when knowing how to ftp a file or communicate on USENET made you part of a pretty small group. I got my first account on a Unix host after the Great Renaming, and before the Morris worm. I was an active USENET poster when Canter and Siegel did the green card spam, and I worried then about what it portended for the online community. Today, it probably seems pretty strange that advertising on the Internet was unusual enough to get people up in arms, but it was. And these examples are nothing compared to what people who started in this field in the sixties have been through.

On the other hand, my orientation towards geekstuff is just a little off center for me to be a 100% true geek. I'm really more of a bridge between "normal people" and geeks. I'm too comfortable with public speaking and communications, and enjoy them too much. I'm a little bit too interested in social things, like how people live, what they wear, what they feel. My geek skills aren't quite at the level of what I consider an alpha geek.

I guess you could say that I'm enough of a geek to recognize and look up to people who really are alpha geeks. And I'm enough of a non-geek to enjoy working with people who aren't geeks at all. Even people who are afraid of computers and hate science fiction.



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Updated April 23, 1999
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