I think the pinnacle of my geek life was when I was still in school, high school more specifically, but I think I can throw my university life as well. Nowadays, not so much. Some days, I even question how much of a geek I am at all.
Even though I’m surrounded by my gadgets and gizmos, I’ve always stood by the principle that having the latest and greatest doesn’t make us geeks. Sure, it’s a nice thing to show off, with our smartphones and ebook readers and tablets and God knows what next; but it just means that we have too much money to burn and I think that’s the crucial factor that sets geekdom apart from just being a rich person.
Being a kid from middle class suburbia, it’s expected that you won’t have the latest and greatest. If possible, a lot of the things you own are budget friendly or even hand-me-downs. If anything, you might not even own it if it isn’t a practical priority, this is especially true if you were brought up in an Asian based way of life. So in the effort to make do with a computer that was obsolete long before we even bought it, I became a geek.
That I think is why the height of my geekdom was during those years. Without money to take for granted the things we buy today as independent wage earners, all I could do was to make the best of the things I already own. Whether it be taking a computer apart or pushing it to the limits, these were things I had no choice but to learn if I wanted to at least run the games I yearned to play. Same goes for learning to build websites and write codes just so you’d hide or complement those ugly ads on the free webhosts that you’re on (remember Geocities?).
It was a time when I learned so much and while I was envious of people who could afford it, it never stopped me from trying to be at par with the people who did have it. If it could be jury rigged, then by God I would have made it work. it may not have been the prettiest or even the most efficient way at it, but it did the job and further more, I was proud of such achievements. You just don’t get that anymore. I just don’t get that anymore. These days, almost every tech related issue seems to have the question “How much would it cost to solve this problem?”. That’s a far cry from the original “Where can I find the best hack to make this work?” that I used to have. The latter question is one asked by a geek, the former is just someone who’s too lazy to take up the challenge.
There was a time before when my elder peers giving me the same argument that at the end of the day, you really don’t have time for such things. Even as a person who works long odd hours, I never saw how that could be an issue; unless of course it’s more than just time or money. Being a geek is as much a lifestyle choice as it is a habit. Money shouldn’t be a factor in letting you forget that the whole world is out there to hack. Time shouldn’t be a factor to making you forget that there is always room to bend the rules and if possible, make new ones up. It is hard work, but only a conscious geek would find it utterly rewarding, and that alone separates geeks from the rest of the pack.
So yes, I working towards asking the money question less. It’s easy to go wild for a bit when you suddenly realise you are actually responsible for your own finances. Much like realising you can eat bacon whenever you want, the effects are always detrimental in the long term. That being said, it’s not hard to return to the point in my childhood that gave me the best times of my life. I can only hope that one day, I can share that joy with my own children, knowing that while we might not have some fancy entertainment center in the living room, at least we managed to build a networked enabled backyard cinema with nothing more than whatever spare parts we aren’t using at home.
That’s definitely family time everyone can enjoy.