Monday, April 30, 2007

Do you have geek genes or Levi jeans?

By Joe Moore

I consider myself to be tech savvy—maybe more so than the average PC user. I believe I have geek genes. My wife has Levi jeans. She is always calling me into her office to say that there's something wrong with her PC and could I fix it. It’s usually a result of pilot error.

I wasn’t born with a geek gene. I believe I got it while in close proximity to someone who was born with it: my son. I remember when he passed it on to me. Many years ago, he came home from school one day with a Radio Shack TRS-80. He had traded a friend an old CB radio for it. The TRS used a TV for a monitor and had a paltry 16k of RAM. No hard drive. Storage was on an external 5.25” floppy disk or an audio cassette tape. Within a week, I got my hands on a basic word processing module and was using the computer more than my son. I wrote lots of stories with it as I dreamed of becoming a novelist.

Being an official geek, I soon grew tired of the TRS-80 and moved up to the highly advanced Commodore 64. Same external storage but a whopping 64k of RAM. Now we were getting somewhere. I found a better word processor program and kept writing more stuff. My first novel was years away, but I was on a roll.

Somewhere along the line, I learned how to use an Apple Macintosh. Built-in floppy storage and a massive 128k of RAM. I could feel the power.

Then I purchased a dedicated word processing device made by Magnavox called a VideoWriter. It was a computer, printer and monitor built into one unit. I wrote my first book using it--an action adventure novel set in Cuba and South Florida called DIRE STRAITS.

My first real, bigboy computer was a 286 made by Emerson. It had 4MB of RAM and a 40MB hard drive. Today, you can find toys in a McDonalds Happy Meal with more memory than my Emerson.

Next came a Micron which I used for many years until settling into my trusty Dell running three 19” LCD monitors and a bagillion giggawatts of flux capacitors and hot-swapping Terradactyl bites of quadrophonic, plutonium multiplex demodulators. When I turn it on, it’s like the scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation where the whole power grid dims.

Does having geek genes help me write better novels? Probably not. But when you're a geek, it doesn't really matter. All that does matter is staying on the "bleeding edge" of technology.

So whatever happed to my son who gave me the geek gene? He went on to become a federal agent for the Department of Defense. His specialty: computer forensics.

Which do you have: geek genes or Levi jeans? What was your journey like along the techno highway to get you to your current computer? And the biggest question of all: will you stay with Windows XP or upgrade to Vista? I'm running the Vista compatibility test right now.


Candy Calvert said...

Right now my genes are Bill Blass, which go great with my khaki and teal pinstripe "menswear" jacket.

So--obviously--you can tell there's no techno DNA here. However, I had the great sense to marry a Guru Geek, who was in the fray way back during the days when there were punch cards and computers the size of a Nordstrom dressing room suite (oops, sorry gene crossover).

And I--like your wife, I'm sure--am VERY grateful for those of you with geek genes.

"We" are in the "dunno for sure yet" stage of the Vista consideration. Apparently. Or so I've heard. If I listen. ;-)

Great post--I'm gonna show hubby!
Also, fabulous office photo. What kind of genes does you cat have?


Mark Combes said...

I'm more a shorts and flip flop kind of guy - but I too have a bit of geek gene in me too. More on the music side for me. I own just about all the accessories a human can buy for his iPod - and I'm off to get more today! Viva la Geek!

Joe Moore said...

My cat doesn't have geek genes, but he does know the secret paw shake.

Joe Moore said...

Here's a geek update: Apple sells 100 iPods a minute or 6000 per hour or 144k per day or 52.56m per year. I'm sure they send you their sincerest thanks. :-)

Nina Wright said...

I must credit an Early Geek Boyfriend for exposing my inner nerd. The love of my young life gave me my first computer--a Kaypro!--as a Valentine's Day gift. He was not only geeky but also subversive; together we founded the local Kaypro Users Group, hauling those suitcase-sized metal machines with the tiny screens to every meeting!

It was on a Kaypro that I launched my freelance writing career. The rest, as they say, is history. Or, in my case, mysteries.

Great post, Joe! Love the pix.


Real estate, murder, and one bad dog.

Mark Terry said...

Wow, I thought I was geeky when I bought a 22-inch monitor to tie into my 17-inch laptop (a Hummer of laptops, the Dell XPS--I've traveled with it once and decided I'd rather carry a bowling ball around the airport).

Interestingly, there's been extensive neurological research suggesting that not only is your brain wired a certain way, BUT...

Your activities/education rewire your brain. They've done some interesting studies on twins as they grew, discovering that when identical twins go off into different career paths, their brains get rewired by the activities they do.

I've found this fascinating, because growing up, although I had decent grades in everything, I was really into music and books and reading. But I got a degree in microbiology and spent 18 years working in science (while writing novels unsuccessfully).

Now I make a living writing (often about science, but more often this year about business issues) and I feel like I'm rewriting my brain again--back to the artsy guy I used to be.

I'm not a huge techno geek, by any means, but there are certain types of science I'm very interested in.

Joe Moore said...

Nina and Mark,

Thanks for your thoughts. BTW, be careful where you step. There's a lot of live wires here. :-)

Julia Buckley said...

Joe, why do you have THREE computer screens in that photo? Does that enhance the Geek Gene?

You shouldn't have posted this; now we're all going to ask you for advice. :)

I remember being reluctant to give up my electric typewriter in favor of a computer. Then someone showed me the "delete" key. No whiteout, no cranking the page up and down to hand-correct. I was sold, and I never looked back.

But now I want three screens like Joe.

Joe Moore said...


The reason I have three monitors is I convinced my wife I could write three books at once with them. She bought into that for a very short time. The reason I only have three is because she won't allow me to have four. :-)

May 01, 2007 7:13 PM

Mark Terry said...

You should see Tobias Buckell sometime. He uses multiple monitors, too, with an outline program on one, the actual manuscript on another...

I have 2 monitors, but I really onlyl use them both when I'm doing writing involving working with a spreadsheet, so I put the spreadsheet up on one monitor and Word on the other.

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