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Dom Mooney's Website... Cybergoths no more.

Labelling the Geek

Was it Star Trek or Star Wars that did it? Or was it my father's love of science fiction, something that we share until this day? I can still remember the joy of reading Azimov's Foundation and EE 'Doc' Smith's Lensmen novels from his bookshelf, and the discovery of Andre Norton at the local library (the still awesome Sargasso of Space). Anyway, somewhere along the way in the late 1970s I slipped into the role of a geek.

According to the dictionary on my MacBook, that makes me either an unfashionable or socially inept person, or a carnival performer who does wild and disgusting acts. I'm assuming it's the first definition that a school friend who recently recently recontacted me through Facebook meant when she reminisced that I was 'the geek with the briefcase who played Dungeons & Dragons'. I can only say that it's a fair cop; yes, I played D&D, but don't hold it against me as my true gaming love was the science fiction of Traveller with a dash of the dark Lovecraftian Horror of Call of Cthulhu. I played D&D, but I didn't inhale. (There you are. Exposure of inter-geek contempt and rivalry. Although, there can be something cathartic about a good dungeon bash.)

The geekiness was probably accentuated by the somewhat bowl-like haircut and NHS glasses (remember kids, not all the command economy ideas of the old pre-Thatcher NHS were good things) plus the fact I was fascinated by computers. Can you remember your first? I can mine. It was a Commodore Pet at a retreat weekend away run by the local church. A passion was born then, as I looked at the small green screen VDU and played some games, and made some small attempts at programming. This passion was sustained by the computer that my parents bought me as a present.

I was fortunate that my father worked in computing and knew people and understood the obsession that was growing. Unlike my friends who were all getting ZX-81s, I had a Video Genie. That's a TRS-80 clone machine. Built in cassette deck for data transfer. 32k of RAM. A proper keyboard. BASIC built in. I learned to program, even to the point of creating a 'spin the bottle' program after two of my friends got accused of cheating one summer holiday. Kids, eh? The obsession was fed by the BBC Model B's at school (and the awesome Elite, never bettered). Work experience had me reading the MS-DOS manuals from an IBM-PC XT thanks to ICI. Definitely geeky.

The computing obsession has tamed in some ways; although I like knowing how things work, I much prefer an interface like the Mac's where you can just do stuff and not hack. Windows 3.1 and NT3 put me in that state of mind. I used an Atari ST with monochrome monitor through University (aka a Mac wannabee), moving to my first Apple in 1996 when I graduated. I still love Science Fiction (although it's not all I read in the slightest) and although I don't play anywhere as near as much as I used to at school (5 days a week!), I still love roleplaying games and have written and published stuff for them.

The funny thing is, the world seems to have embraced geekdom. All around are smartphones and social networking. The internet and mobile technology has changed the world. The cloud is pervasive with Google, Dropbox and their ilk. I was surprised to realise how much I rely on the cloud when I recently hardened my Google password and had to re-input it left, right and centre because of the number of applications linked to it. I run 2 computers, a smartphone and a tablet and they all synchronise their data via the cloud, and I'm leaning towards dropping applications that don't do this and need manual syncing. Science fiction tropes dominate the media and popular culture. Everything, everywhere, on multiple platforms.

Are we all geeks now? I suspect that my main difference from some of those who wouldn't use the label is that I understand it a little better and use slightly different features to them.

Or are we all living in a science fiction future subtly different to the dreams of the 1970s? Either way, I've no problem with the label of being a 'geek'. I think it's something you need to embrace the world we live in. You’re living with my memes.