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Who are the people behind GeekTech? We’re writers, students, rocket scientists, astronomers, musicians, programmers. We come from all different backgrounds. We’re, well, geeks. Here’s what got us into geekdom to begin with, what our favorite geeky books are, our geek role models, and our favorite geek WIN/FAIL moment. Enjoy.
Geeky lure: My father’s TV-repair side business. He repaired TVs for friends and relatives back when they had tubes, dials and (*gasp*) no remotes. He used to let watch and/or assist. I like to tell people I was born with a soldering iron in my hand.
Favorite book: Any of the “Dummies” guides. They went a long way in connecting geeks to the masses.
Geek role model: The late Ed Juge, who worked at Radio Shack for a while, later did some PR work for Compaq and ran the old RV Forum on CompuServe. When he came to New York on his Compaq PR visits, he’d stop at all the major tech magazines during the day, but would always save the dinner meeting slot for me. When Radio Shack made the legendary Model 100, the first true laptop, the made a handful of gold-plated units with the owner’s name on them instead of the Radio Shack logo. He had one of them.
WIN/FAIL moment: The day I caught my first computer virus. It didn’t do any damage. I just made the sound of a flushing toilet.
Geeky lure: Growing up in Alaska, my family always emphasized the outdoors rather than computers or even TV. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I became interested in gaming enough to track events and tech growth online. Even then, it was more of a passing interest rather than something I became enthralled in. I think that my interest in tech was more of a slow growth rather than a sudden urge.
Favorite book: Oh jeez… I haven’t read anything in, literally, years. I’ve read textbooks, but not much more than that. Seeing as that’s the case, I’ll just say The Dresden Files. I really enjoyed the series and would have gotten into it even more if I hadn’t lost one of the books while riding a four-wheeler down a beach.
Geek role model: I have two, and I refuse to choose between them. The first is the literary genius Stephen Fry. The way the man can string a sentence together is inspirational. My other geek hero is Dr. Michio Kaku, the physicist. I love all things physics and the way Kaku can describe physics makes it all the more interesting.
WIN/FAIL moment: I think the best geek moment I can remember was a few weeks ago. I found a graphic of a shirt decal of several of the Doctors from Dr. Who playing as the band The Who. I shared it with [PCWorld editorial assistant] Armando Rodriguez, and a frenzied search began between the two of us to find the shirt. As it turns out, the shirt was on a site called TeeFury, who sells one shirt type of shirt everyday and only once. As it happens, we came across the site on just the right day to purchase the Dr. Who shirt, despite randomly stumbling across the the two month old graphic. It doesn’t sound very epic, but it was to me.
Geeky lure: From as early as I can remember I have always had an interest in tech, which exploded when our family got our first PC in the mid-nineties (It was a Gateway). Following the PC’s introduction, I spent hours playing Transport Tycoon, until that is, the Internet arrived in Brandrick household.
Favorite book: My student cookbook. It got me through some tough times.
Geek role model: My grandad was always tinkering with random gadgets, which without doubt sparked an early interest in my now inner geek. Oh and although not a true geek, Gary Vaynerchuck is a pretty inspiring chap.
WIN/FAIL moment: A definitive fail: Recording a special Christmas podcast for another Website, only to leave my laptop on all day before uploading. I return to get the podcast online only to find the hard drive wiped and the podcast deleted. Hardly a personal fail, more of a technical one, but a disappointing one all the same. The lesson? Always back up.
Geeky lure: As a kid I always liked to take things apart. I guess the fact that computers were so complicated was what drew me to them. I wanted to build computers, but that soon changed into wanting to write code and build programs. However as soon as my parents got a high-speed Internet connection, I ditched my failed dream of becoming a computer programmer and decided I wanted to make Web pages. I wanted to make something that anybody, regardless of what computer you used, could experience. There were no minimum system requirements for webpages and I wanted to be able to share things with the entire world. That was what fueled my tech enthusiasm, and still does today.
Favorite book: I don’t really have one, at least not one that pops into my head. I don’t read a lot of books but prefer shorter snippets on the Internet, and mostly learning things through practice.
Geek role model: Again, I can’t say I really have one, maybe I should though. I’m more inspired by the individual things I see and not as much the people that create them. It’s kind of hard getting to know the people behind a website design or its coding.
WIN/FAIL moment: My favorite win moment is when I was a freshman at SFSU living in the dorms with [PCWorld Android specialist] Armando Rodriguez. We were so poor and bored that we would check Craigslist for free comptuer stuff constantly, hoping for some nuggets of goodness.
We finally found some people Downtown San Francisco who were giving away a bunch of computers and junk, so we hopped on the Muni train, disregarding the fact I had class in 3 hours, and went to pick it up. We made out with 4 tower computers, keyboards, a monitor, other miscellaneous input devices and lugged it all the way back which was an enormous pain, but I still got to class on time.
In the end we took all the computers apart and combined most of their innards and I ended up using one for a Web server at my parents’ house for a bit, but never had any worthwhile content on it.
Geeky lure: My family came quite late into technology, so I was actually in my mid-teens before we picked up a computer. I was a big, horrid machine that always seemed to break down. However, I got a great deal of satisfaction from tinkering with it and mending it myself. I guess my love for tech kind of blossomed from there.
Favorite book: If I’m honest, I haven’t read a lot of geeky books. I generally prefer to read scraps of information online from others (feel free to suggest some to me though as I love to read!). Though I want to get into coding etc when I have some spare time so I’ll probably be picking up a few chunky textbooks on the subject and reading up!
Geek role model: Not so much a role model, but I have great admiration for some of the developers and modders out there with their great hacks. So… you!
WIN/FAIL moment: I have more fails than wins. One ultimate fail was trying to install an operating system onto my parent’s computer, but wanted to do a fresh install, rather than run it straight over the OS. However I made an error somewhere, got too technical and what should have taken under an hour ended up taking three days and having to ask someone else to do it for me–I still blame it on my parents having a bad computer!
Geeky lure: My interests have been in the nerd camp for as long as I can remember. Roleplaying games, computers, gadgetry; I dig it all. My dad is a gadget lover as well, and we went from an Amiga to a Commodore 64 when I was a kid. Loved those things. I still have an original Radioshack Pong TV game console in the basement, somewhere.
Favorite book:Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. I happened to get that before Snow Crash et al, and it really pushed me into that genre. I’ve since devoured all I can of it. I should note that I’ve got a soft spot for Roger Zelazny as well.
Geek role model: Will Wheaton. That dude went from Wesley Crusher to, well, whatever he is today. But I follow him on twitter so he must be doing pretty well for himself. That’s my answer, don’t judge me and no it isn’t a man crush.
WIN/FAIL moment: I think this is a little bit of both. When I was a young teen ager, a friend and I used to be addicted to a strategy war game on his Apple2c. I can’t remember what it was called, some 2D bit of awesomeness. Well, one summer we huddled around that computer and built a map to play on, but not any ordinary map. We drew out The Forgotten Realms (of AD&D) with it entirely from memory and discussion. Fact checking after (via my Forgotten Realms Atlas!) showed we were pretty on the mark. Oh, the map had balance issues, as you can imagine. All those mountains in the west suck.
Geeky lure: Circa 1991, my dad would bring home his insanely great 16MHz Powerbook 100 from work. You gotta love those monochrome, passive matrix displays- perfect for text-based adventure games.
Favorite book: Give it up for Tolkien! The Hobbit is just as great today as it was when I was 10.
Geek role model: I’ve streamed every Steve Jobs keynote since QuickTime 4 came out in 1999. Sure, the man is a bit eccentric but I was one of the few who actually remembers his triumphant return as iCEO, and I still get a little excited for a good old fashioned Stevenote.
WIN/FAIL moment: For my CS capstone project I wrote a 3D racing game in openGL called DeathKart. It featured a sweet Batmobile car model and a soundtrack furnished by Iron Maiden. Playing a video game that I wrote, on a huge projection screen, while Maiden blasted at my professor and peers was a wholly satisfying moment. I’m pretty glad that “Aces High” actually played a pivotal role in my graduating college.
Geeky lure: My earliest memory of using a computer was an old, third-hand Macintosh II. It had an encyclopedia and being the 7-year-old boy I was, I immediately started looking up dinosaurs and printed pictures of them using the dot matrix it was attached to. Since then, whenever there’s anything electronic in the room I have an irresistible urge to try it out.
Favorite book:1984 by George Orwell.
Geek role model: Stephen Hawking. The man is at the forefront of theoretical physics and cosmology, while he cheats death everyday for the last 50+ years.
WIN/FAIL moment: During my early High School years I storyboarded my trilogy of RPGs, and spent about a week in total, trying to program the intro in RPG Maker 2000. In the end I drew sprites for all the main characters, got musical themes for each of them, cobbled together the first village and a tenth of the dungeon. Then I tried to make my first animation which took a day itself. It was crap. After that, I promptly closed the program and never looked back.
Geeky lure: My family is all engineers and scientists; my teenage rebellion consisted of insisting that I’d major in English. That went out the window with my first chemistry class and the realization that, while writing about made-up things is fun and interesting, actually making the made-up things happen is even more satisfying.
Favorite book: Matilda, hands-down. Hitchhiker’s Guide runs a close second.
Geek role model: Douglas Adams infused all his writing, no matter the topic, with a passionate fascination that I as a reader couldn’t help but catch. The Salmon of Doubt showed that he was interested in just EVERYTHING, all at once. I can only hope to capture that kind of curiosity and enthusiasm, worded with such articulation.
Geeky lure: I was hooked from the first time I touched an Apple IIe (with a green screen, no less) in Kindergarten. Up to that point, I had never touched a computer before.
Favorite book: The Macintosh Bible. It was a large reference/how-to book whose first edition came out before the “For Dummies” books were household names. It used a mix of humor and useful information that made it a fun read, even if you know everything in it.
Geek role model: My brother-in-law; to a young geek his room full of old PCs and equipment was a geek wonderland.
WIN/FAIL moment: One morning I came to the office, sat down at my desk, and powered on my PC, and heard the worst noise coming from it. Fearing the worst–a dead hard drive–I called the helpdesk and asked to have it checked. The helpdesk technician retrieved my PC, tested it, and found nothing wrong with it.
She brought it back upstairs, hooked it back up in my cube, and powered it on. It made the weird sound again. She then pulled out my keyboard tray and the noise stopped. It turned out that a key was stuck on the keyboard, which resulted in a rapid-fire system beep that sounded like something much worse.
Geeky lure: I’ve just always been interested in Geekdom for as long as I could remember, but the movie Apollo 13 was a movie that I watched frequently as a kid. I’d say that was my first small step toward the moon.
Favorite book: My favorite Geeky book is definitely Experimental Composite Propellant by Terry McCreary. What can I say? I fly rockets!
Geek role model: Mr. Scott Brielmaier, my high school Physics and AP Physics teacher. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today and I wouldn’t have gone into rocket science.
WIN/FAIL moment: So this one time(always a bad way to start a story) my friends and I were making rocket candy in our makeshift lab. And then the state of the art curing oven (toaster oven) exploded in flames. Good times were had by all.
Geeky lure: I grew up the son of a watchmaker, so I was always watching my father taking apart things and putting them back together. Ever since elementary school I was always playing with LEGOs and things like that, so that’s where my curiosity about “complex (multi-part) things” came from.
My father and older bother are both really into sound systems, so that’s where I started working with “real” electronics and discovering how things work.
Favorite book: I’m an absolute fan of the Ender series from Orson Scott Card. Ender’s Game is my favorite book of all time. If that doesn’t count as geeky, I remember reading Bill Gates’ The Road Ahead wayyyy back in the day when it first came out.
Geek role model: I’m going to have to with a tie between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. I know that’s a cheap answer, but maybe I’m leaning more towards Bill Gates.
WIN/FAIL moment: I remember back in high school I got into an exclusive summer program at a top engineering school. My buddies and I installed Quake 3 Arena on every computer (including PCs and Macs because we don’t discriminate) in the network; and no one from that summer has any recollection of anything we were supposed to learn that summer. It was awesome.
Geeky lure: I got started by playing Beast on my dad’s IBM clone in the 1980s and making “art” with Kid Pix on my neighbor’s Macintosh. Eventually I graduated to repairing computers at my high school, working at my college’s computing helpdesk, soldering iBooks back together, and running Solaris boxes out of my closet to make up for my college’s lack of VPN.
Favorite book:Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, which taught me all the cryptography I needed to know. He even autographed my copy of Anathemwhen he spoke at MIT!
Geek role model: I’m a huge fan of Ethan Zuckerman who uses technology to improve the lives of people throughout the world, not just by improving access and legal infrastructure but also by helping individuals share stories. Plus, he talked at ROFLCon, likes lolcats, and taught a class I to ok called “Digital Democracy”.
WIN/FAIL moment: Anything from hacks.mit.edu (nerd pride!), especially the solar-powered subway car on the big dome.
[Last updated: November 14, 2011 / Originally posted: May 24, 2010 11:34 PM PDT]