How Did You Know You Were a Computer Person?

How Did You Know You Were a Computer Person?Many of you wrote in to tell me the story of how you discovered that computing was destined to be a part of your life. As promised, I’m going to feature a selection of comments that I received. Sit down, grab yourself a cup of coffee or Mountain Dew, and enjoy reading about how your fellow computer users realized they had The Geek Gene.

Cheryl Verde goes cuckoo for cuckoo clocks: “What was that one specific occasion that you can remember when you realized that you were born to be a techie? Funny you should ask because I actually do remember it. At the age of 11, our family owned an old-fashioned German cuckoo clock. You know, the type where the doors open each hour and music plays? I was always curious about it, and finally got permission to dismantle it so I could peer inside and see what made it tick. I wasn’t disappointed as I found it quite fascinating and mysterious. I was amazed at the numerous integral mechanisms that all contribute to producing a viable clock. I am certain that day was the precursor of my love for computers and technology. Today, I enjoy being a freelance computer consultant.”

Jerry Berg tells it like it is: “I probably got into the computer world in 1964. Back then no one knew what I was talking about and were scared about what they had heard. We were completely unique and tended to stay together because we talked a common language, even though it may be a different computer language. My wife is also in the business, and when we first met we spent hours talking about the things we did at work. I then went into the management end and lost a degree of the techiness, but still considered myself tech-oriented. PCs came along in the early ’80s and I started all over discovering what we could do, and started to scare some and greatly encourage others. I am absolutely amazed at how they have developed and the uses they have. We haven’t started to scratch the surface.”

Betty Law-Morgan shows the professors up: “My realization of the geek gene came before knowledge of the meaning of the word geek. In 1983, I was working for Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. The university came along and dropped an IBM PC with 8088 processor, 52K of RAM, and dual 5.25″ floppies on my desk, along with a monitor that displayed in fluorescent green and a daisy wheel printer. Along with it came DOS, WordStar, 1*2*3, and dBase. We were instructed to simply leave them alone and someone from the Computer Science Department would be along in a few weeks to set them up. Then there would be training classes. That’s a dumb thing to do to the daughter of an engineer who has never owned anything automated which she didn’t take apart and put back together [grin].

I read the manuals, set up the machine, and began using it. Around three months later, we were told to shop up in the CompuSci department for classes. The instructors kept trying to perform functions in the three available apps, which failed, and I continually had to show them the correct way to do it. One of these CompuSci professors got tired of my corrections and finally said, “If you know so much, why don’t you teach the class?” My response was, “Certainly.” I used his outline and taught the rest of the class, including the explanation of the hardware and operating systems.

I realized I had the “geek gene” when it became apparent that, while I had spent less time and certainly did not have their education, I knew more about the PC than the CompuSci professors. I’ve been a confirmed geek ever since. As a matter of fact, I’m still teaching others to be computer geeks.”

Sean Watts (Hey, nice last name!) remembers what started up The Geek Gene: “I was in high school and the Apple II had made its way to the science lab. This was an invention that I wanted to know more about. From the moment I saw the cursor flashing hypnotically on the small amber screen… I guess that was when I embraced geekism as a norm. Especially when my parents would lend me out to the friends and neighbors to program their VCRs. I then begged for a Commodore 64K, which was the top in its day, for my next birthday!!! From then on, I was immersed in all things technology can offer. Bring it on.”

Randy Zich‘s story is no doubt very much like yours: “I knew I was a geek the minute I sat down at the computer and realized that, with a little more knowledge, I could make this thing do what I wanted. It was set in stone the minute the computer being down was more of a disaster than if the TV died.”

Jeff Curtin tells the truth: “I used to be the one yelling at the people at parties who were on the computer instead of socializing. Now I’m the one being yelled at. When I got my first computer (Compaq laptop) six years ago, I knew I was a goner. I think that if I didn’t do what I do now, (VP with national Brokerage Firm), I’d be devoting my life to the computer and all the gadgets associated with it.”

There you have it — true stories from the front lines of computing. No matter what your story is, The Geek Gene is something worthy of appreciation. Isn’t this stuff great?

CC licensed Flickr photo shared by Francis Storr

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  • raidz3ro

    I knew when I was saving every penny to get my first computer. I became absolutely obsessed and it was all I could think of. Money was tight but I finally managed to scrape enough money together to get a computer built by a guy who built them out of his house. All I wanted to do was play Half Life. Then, Counter-Strike came, and it was game over :) Been hooked ever since lol.

  • Brulee46

    Simply refused to be intimidated by the new technology

  • Aprisenhoover

    I knew I was a computer person after I completely disassembled my first Packard Bell computer, and couldn’t make it work again afterwards.
    Now I am a successful system builder and nerd. I love tech.

  • Marco

    I decided to become a geek when my computer broke and I had my nephew fix it. He was visiting from Guatemala!

  • sdeforest

    When I was 16, I scored on a truckload of used pinball machines and jukeboxes, which I took them apart to see how they work and designed and built a machine to play tic-tac-toe, but my goal was to simulate a human, so either the machine or human player could go first, and the machine would start in a random corner or the center. On an adjustable fraction of the time, the machine would make a mistake and then continue logically. This was difficult to do with mechanical relays. I won a science fair contest and never looked back.

  • Ashiqure Rahman

    I started learning HTML when I was 9 after I heard about my older brother designing websites for money.

  • scadawizard

    My cousin worked for the phone company and gave me a bunch of boxes loaded with old stepping switches, relays, decade displays, power supplies and rotary dials, he also gave me a book called The Design of Switching Circuits. I built several accumulators, multipliers and other noisy devices, several years later I joined a computer club at Stanford and it launched me on a life-long journey into the digital world.