|Here I am at work on my computer.|
There's no denying it, so I might as well admit it: I'm a computer geek.
Perhaps surprisingly, I don't mind the appellationin fact, I consider it an honorable title.
A computer geek is someone who intimately understands the workings of a computer. Come to think of it, that's more like a computer engineer (I'm one of those, too). A computer geek not only understands how they work, but has the patience to work with them every day, the skills to design them, and the doggedness to fix them when they break. Full-blown geekiness is achieved by those who prefer working with computers instead of people, and I've been there, done that, too.
In other words, a computer geek is a veritable cybernetic crusadera dashing, dauntless, daredevil of the digital domain. With a definition like that, how can "computer geek" not be an honorable title?
It all started back when I was a youngster, hanging out in my father's workshop and watching him tinker with radios, TV's, and other electronic gadgets. Over time, tinkering with electronics became one of my hobbies, too, one that I still enjoy today.
I think that so much of what a person becomes is decided at a very early age. Whether by nature or by nurture, I clearly was developing an aptitude for technical subjects. Much later, as a college student I majored in electrical engineering, a pretty tough major. One of the "least tough" subjects was computer programming, something I really enjoyed. Not coincidentally, this subject avoided advanced mathematics, one of my weak areas.
After graduating as an electrical engineer, I had to decide between two career paths: hardware or software. For my first job out of college I chose software; hardware became the path not taken.
The computer field is vastso broad and so deep you can't possibly do it all. You'd be lucky to even understand a tenth of it, never mind do it. Everyone must choose a specialty, and mine was "embedded systems".
To explain what an embedded system is, I'll first explain what an embedded system isn't. When you think of a computer, you usually think of a PC or a Mac, or maybe a mainframe computer that handles business applications. All of these are not embedded systemsthe computer is just a computer, big or small.
In an embedded system, a computer resides inside something that is not a computer. There are plenty of examples in the modern world. For example, a cell phone clearly is a telephone and not a computer. But inside the case, the cell phone contains a powerful computer chip that makes all the digital magic happen. The internal computer is an embedded system. Same thing for a digital camerathe camera takes pictures, but only because a computer is embedded within, detecting your button push and saving all the pixels. In fact, practically everything today has an embedded computer: automobiles, gas pumps, washing machines, fax machines, microwave ovens, medical equipment, copy machines, ATM's, cash registers, and so forth.
It turned out to be a good specialty, and I never ran out of interesting and challenging projects. Most of my work involved communications, such as satellite communications or cellular telephony. I did the best work of my career at 3M, winning a Circle of Technical Excellence award "in recognition of outstanding contribution to technical excellence" for video graphics software. I also free-lanced as a consultant for several companies. I did good work and had a reputation for doing a thorough and meticulous job and being a stickler for detail. And if you've ever written computer software, you know the devil is in the details.
I took a break from computers to go cruising on my sailboat, always expecting to resume my computer career afterwards. But a funny thing happened while sailing the ocean blueI lost interest in programming. I was somewhat bewildered to discover that a vocation I once loved had lost its appeal. But I had discovered that there's so much more to life than just sitting behind a computer.
That doesn't mean I gave up using computers. I still use a computer nearly every day, but now as a tool to achieve other results. My interests nowadays involve writing and photography, so I use my computer to write and edit articles and to process digital pictures. I'm especially interested in providing content for web sites, since this looks like a major new field.
In my previous lifetime as a computer engineer, I wrote several technical articles that were published in trade magazines (all for pay!). I've posted the articles on my web site; click on any of the following links.
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