When did you become a geek?  For me it was Jr. High School.  I was watching the teacher fumble with the old Bell and Howell projector, invariably screwing up on several times before asking “is there someone here who knows how to do this?”  I didn’t, but during all this waiting and watching her fumble around I had spotted a pictograph of how to thread the film through the mechanism and it just didn’t seem that complicated.  I looked around and no one raised their hand so with some apprehension I raised mine and said “I think I can get it working..”

Everyone turned to look at me and I could feel the all the eyes in the classroom watching my back as I approached the projector, especially the eyes of one cute brunette named Lisa Webster.  No matter what else happened to me that year, I would not screw up in front of Lisa Webster.  The Spring Dance was only two weeks away and this might be just the boost my confidence needed to get up the courage to ask her to go to the dance with me.  Of course it didn’t matter that I couldn’t dance any more than it mattered I knew nothing about projectors.

Following the pictograph I carefully threaded the film through the various drums, sprockets, and widgets and looped it on the return reel, double checked my work, triple checked, and then turned to Ms. Wheeler the teacher and said “I think it’s ready to go..”  She turned off the lights and walked over and turned on the projector and to my utter amazement it worked perfectly.  I don’t remember if she said thank you, or even walking back to my desk to sit down.  I only remember thinking “gee, I can follow directors” and “Did Lisa Webster notice?”

Shortly thereafter I learned Ms. Wheeler had given my name to the “Audio Visual Club”  which worked out of some dark dank corner of the basement, and before I knew it I’d been given instruction on an entire roomful of strange looking machines and been issued my first “geek card” so the teachers would know I was capable of threading a simple film on a projector, operating the one handed copy machine, or turning on the overhead projector and turning the one moving control to achieve focus.  But even back then I knew enough to know NOT to show this card to Lisa Webster.. she would not be impressed.  Yet, I was strangely fascinated by all the different machines in the AV equipment room and I found myself there during many lunch periods checking them out and learning how to use them better and more efficiently.  It was during this time I find a rifle range in the basement and a locked cabinet full of rifles, but I’ll save that tale for another time when lock picking comes up.

Without realizing it I moved from Steve the normal student no one noticed, to Steve the AV Geek who if they noticed me at all.. they disdained my geekhood.   In Jr. High no one likes geeks and in High school it’s even worse.  I can only be grateful that back then we didn’t have computers so I wouldn’t be tempted to open my big mouth and tell Ms. Wheeler I could get her copy of Windows 7 activated or something stupid like that.  Later I figured out most people hold some degree of resentment for those who can do what they cannot, so they’ll often label you or find some other method of marginalization.  And it’s a proven fact that most geeks have higher than average IQ’s so there!

From that moment my fascination with machines and electronics grew and I started building radios, earned my Extra Class Ham Radio License, and even repaired televisions to earn extra money during high school.  The folks in my neighborhood who couldn’t afford a real TV repairman quickly learned to call me.. and I’d carefully remove and package all the tubes from their set (yes, tv’s had tubes back then thank you very much!) and take them down to the Thrifty Drug Store where they had a tube tester and sold tubes.  I’d carefully test each tube, make a list of needed parts for the customer, and they’d give me the money to fix their set plus a “little something for myself” which really never amounted to much.  And the fascination grew.

It grew during my military service where I was a Naval Cryptographer with the Intel services, and that grew into much more.  It was during this time that I first learned to properly use a camera, something I’d avoided because every geek in Jr. High and High School all had one thing in common.  They could all be spotted by the cameras around their necks!  An AV card I could hide in my wallet and pretend I didn’t have one.  You can’t hide a big 35mm with a telephoto, especially if its white!  But by this time in my life I’d learned that being a geek with some things was a good, and it didn’t affect the other parts of my life like I feared it might.  Lisa Webster went to the dance with me that spring and the AV card was never brought up.

Fellow geeks unite!  I’ll admit it, I love high tech electronics, fast computers, and wonderfully fast and wide lenses.  I also love fast cars, jumping out of planes, and all the dances I can manage to wrangle a date to.  I suppose that makes me a balanced geek.  Which when you really think about it, it isn’t all that bad at all..   When did you become a geek?


Until next time..