I’m a Geek. I always have been a Geek and always will be a Geek. Exactly what prompts one to become a Geek? Simply put, it is a fascination with new stuff. Perhaps it’s partially because I’m an engineer, but I’m more inclined to believe it is a passion. I like new inventions and discoveries, I like things not invented or discovered yet. I am curious how new stuff works or will work. Many people gravitate towards success as a measure of how well one stands up to one’s peers or perhaps, how high of a score or rating they get for a measurable task. Geeks don’t keep score. They simply want to follow some new objective of technology or marvel at what accomplishments are being achieved by others. The most compelling aspect of being a Geek is wondering what is yet to be. There are no text books for what hasn’t happened yet.
I remember when the Russians were the first to put a man in space. I didn’t understand why the US had to play one-upmanship, but this was the onset of the Cold War. This incident also fueled the space race in which the young and appealing JFK challenged the county to put a man on the moon and return home safely to earth before the end of the decade. In today’s climate, gaining a non-partisan approval to bolster the funds for a young NASA to meet the challenge would take longer than the actual eight years and two months it took make happen in the 60’s.
Now that sound barriers were broken and space travel had been achieved, the next big thing was the development of computers. This was a natural progression as the burgeoning space program required handling a relatively massive amount of data and providing useful feedback permitting objects and people to be sent into earth’s orbit and beyond. This revolution continues to this day and shows no sign of backing off the exponential advancement scale.
It was sometime around 1970 when my Dad brought home a new hand-held electronic calculator. It was made by a Company named Sharp. My father was very proud to show us how it could add and subtract; I was too young to know about multiplication yet. Dad was a Geek too. During this age of electronic transformation, the most significant development was the use and mass production of transistors. Transistors and magnetic media storage became the building blocks of all the generations of computers and electronics to follow and I would follow right along.
My first computer experience was in my senior calculus class in High School. We were given a demonstration on the “power of the Radio Shack TRS 80 Model 1 personal computer. This beast had a whopping 5 MB hard drive with 4 KB of RAM. This was the machine on which I would soon learn how to program in BASIC computer language. IF,THEN, ELSE…
In college I got into mini-main frames – the VAX (even sounded high tech at the time) and later computer punch cards and FORTRAN on an IBM Mainframe. Software never got my attention the way that the machines that converted them into a series of 0’s and 1’s. The machine’s capabilities soon encompassed just about anything that had electrical power to assist with control or monitoring, well, anything. My current laptop has a 1 TB (Terabyte or 1000 GB) hard drive and 32 MB SDRAM. In a little over 30 years a typical personal computer has 200,000 x more data capacity and 8000 x more memory than the once mighty Radio Shack TRS 80. Oh, the user interface and screen graphics are a tad better too.
This electronic revolution has taken communications from Morse code to a standard of 1.5 MB of data transmission in less than a second – It’s not just the speed, but the sheer volume of data that can be captured in “real-time” like streaming HD video that is changing the way people view programming. It’s like wirelessly transmitting dot-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash, dot-dot-dot sent from the Bridge of the Titanic on its fated journey in about the same amount of time as downloading the movie of the same name today.
The confluence of all these advancements is now routinely used by the masses. Talk to your watch? Tell a speaker what music to play? Get real time weather and traffic maps with audible alerts on the drive to work? Monitor your home and vehicle security remotely? Want to have War & Peace read to you in its entirety? Done, done, done, done and done.
The explorer in every Geek is still alive in well as scientists delve deeper into the expanse of the universe and smallest of small particles that make up everything. These things are somehow related and someday, someone will prove it with the elusive Unification Theory.
Recently we got a peek of Pluto, the last planetoid (formerly Pluto-the-Planet) in our solar system ironically captured by a ship named New Horizons. Who knew Pluto had a heart? A privately held company is building the most powerful rocket engine ever conceived. We can now fly pilotless airplanes and driverless cars. Home deliveries by drones or other robotic vehicles is a very near term reality.
All this activity some day in the near future may be captured instantaneously and accessed at your discretion via an implanted body chip to a personal information device or, if your old-fashioned, your mobile phone. I just hope they all continue to have the option to be turned off if desired; I’m not 100% Geek.
Scotty, it’s the Geek. Beam me up!