Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Life as a Nerd

As a teen, I was awkward, a social outcast, and more focused on math, science, and engineering than sex, drugs, and rock&roll.

In 1972, I won the 4th grade science fair by building a Van de Graaff generator- the photo above. Few people know that it failed as the judges were about to review it. I noticed the power supply leads were loose and thinking I had unplugged the 4000 volt transformer, I tightened them with both hands. Whoops - 4000 volts surged through my body and knocked me across the room. My hair has been curly ever since.

Also in 1972, I received my first electronics breadboard set - the 65 in 1 Electronic Project Kit.

I taught myself how to use PNP and NPN transistors, how to use resistors/capacitors/inductors, and the basics of analog to digital conversion. Here's my December 25, 1972 picture- note the short sleeve shirt, buttoned at the top button, the white socks, and the black horn-rimmmed glasses. I was too young for a pocket protector - that came later.

Today, my CIO life is filled with glamor, thrills, and chills. From nerd to IT Buckaroo Bonzai. Geeks of the world unite!


Will Snow said...

And I remember meeting you in 1976 - was there a special handshake for nerds? I can't remember.

We may have been nerds, but we sure had fun!

Bernz said...

The geeks shall inherit, indeed.

I am of the generation of geeks/nerds after you, Doctor. The Hacker Generation, as I call it. Of course I have to admit that I thrill in stories of your generation's z80 processors. Young computer people I meet thrill in stories of 300 baud modems and telnet. Today's current young geeks will tell stories of when Internet was only accessible via your wired computer.

The geek stuff has made my life good: financially and socially. It has allowed wonderful travel and professional experiences.

Being a geek/nerd/whatever isn't a cattle-brand. I think it just means that you question, explore, wonder and ignore some convention. Sounds good to me.

Anonymous said...

[after crashing through the wall of a factory]

Lectroid: We are not in the Eighth dimension, we are over New Jersey. Hope is not lost.

Frank Bresz said...

Proud to be a member of the nerd patrol. I received as a birthday present a calculator circa 1971. I have both VHS and DVD versions of Buckaroo in my library, and always think of it when I pass near Grover's Mill NJ. Many close friends refer to me as John Bigboote'.

Mattpenning said...

My two favorite Buckaroo Banzai quotes:

"Nothing is ever what it seems but everything is exactly what it is." - B. Banzai

"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." - B. Banzai

ucligornuts said...

John, I appreciate your trip from your early beginning... All too often we only get to read the titles that distinguished leaders amass after graduation, and others haven't the foggiest idea of where they came from. From my rather small sample size of informal counseling of undergrads at MIT, I think it would do them a world of good to see examples of how "nerdy beginnings" can be the first steps to greatness! :)

Ahier said...

Thank you for the marvelous glimpse into the formation of a nerd - parents take note!

Medical Quack said...

Thanks for sharing that bit of history with all. I'm late blooming female nerd and one thing about nerds is that I have found we all share ideas and experiences equally too.
I like that a lot and I think now we are all entering into the world of high powered wireless nerds to go where nerds have never gone but we are all ready!

Anonymous said...

I built an science project X-ray machine with a 500 watt bulb, tin foil, and 12 volt battery, and a Ford Model T ignition coil. My adventures with the chemistry set focused on things that burned and produced horrible aromas.

It is really a wonder that any of us survived our childhoods.

Carl said...

Three cheers for CIO's and for future CIO's. All are invited to join our CIO Network LinkedIn group:

Carl Lavin

Ahier said...

In case you missed it - excellent profile in the New York Times:

Judy F said...

I'm just catching up on your blog.

My 15 year old son received Sam's Java self help book for the holidays and we haven't seen him since! It's the modern version of the science experiments we used to do!