MiscThe perfect geek age?

 Posted by (Visited 50717 times)  Misc
May 142009
 

Was being born in 1971 the perfect time to be born a geek?

  • It meant I got to see Star Wars in the theater, 13 times, at ages 6 and 7, exactly when it would overwhelm my sense of wonder.
  • I got an 8-bit computer at exactly the age when boys get obsessive about details, and I spent days PEEKing and POKEing and typing in listings from magazines and learning how computers actually worked.
  • It meant at least half the new games I played were actually new ideas.
  • And yet I got to play real pinball machines.
  • In real arcades.
  • New Wave science fiction was the used paperbacks laying around, and I got to read cyberpunk and steampunk as they were invented, and see SF when fandom was not yet a media circus.
  • I got to play D&D from as close to the beginning as most anyone.
  • And feel like I had inside baseball knowledge during the D&D scene in E.T., which the other folks in the theater didn’t get.
  • I was there for when the X-Men were new and fresh
  • I got to high school when PCs were becoming ubiquitous.
  • I got to college when Macs were on Apple campuses, and actually useful.
  • And when you had no choice but to use libraries for research, so I actually learned what real research is.
  • And I was too young to feel cynical about Dead Poets Society.
  • I got onto the Internet after it was tiny, but before it was mass market. So I got to see and use most of the tools and software that were key to its evolution, as they were used, then replaced, then discarded. Pine, gopher, Usenet, Mozilla…
  • I read Sandman when the issues first came out.
  • I got into the games business before it was mass media, but got to ride the wave.
  • …and also got to see the Web unfold…
  • …and got Wikipedia and Google just in time for when I didn’t need to use libraries anymore…
  • …and see some of the science fiction coming true.

Looking back on it, it makes me feel a bit sorry for those born ten years later. And I can’t judge ten years earlier, but so much of that seemed to hit at the right age. Looking back at history, it seems like the last big waves of popular invention like this were decades ago. Teens with hot rods? Engineering in the 20s? I see my kids now, and they are so clearly getting the finished products of so much, not the products in the process of invention… Am I wrong?

  104 Responses to “The perfect geek age?”

  1. It is the perfect year to be born a geek, I know from experience. 😉

  2. Being born in 74, I’m close (I remember seeing SW a bazillion times…at $2.99 per show), but now things aren’t necessarily closed to kids. They’re getting the benefits of tried and tested products that were “test cases” when we were kids, so hopefully the bugs are worked out. But things like paperless books? Genetic engineering? Quantum entanglement? Kids these days aren’t so deprived that they’ll only inherit what we “beta tested”, they’ll just get a totally new class of things to grow up with (which, when we’re old, we’ll rail against as being “new-fangled” as is the ritual of aging).

  3. Great post. Agree (although I was born in 1966).

  4. I was born ten years earlier. So I got to see and do all the things you did (aside from working in the games industry), but also saw the end of the previous age of computing. When you start out with punch cards and paper tape, you appreciate the new ways even MORE.

    My kids were born in the mid-80s, and all their lives they have seen the world rushing headlong into the future your kids will live in.

  5. I’m a fair bit younger, and I’m quite envious with that whole list of yours, I must say. Still, I have no memory of never not having both a computer and gaming console. I’ve had the internet for a huge portion of my life, since I was very young, and I’ve basically been raised on technology. So, I can’t complain too much.

  6. So, my point was about the fact that I got each of these new things at the age that seemed right for them. Like, my dad got his first real computer, an Osborne One, when he was in his 30s. That’s not the right age to get such a thing, if you know what I mean. But it WAS at the perfect age for me to learn MS BASIC and CP/M.

  7. You might be right, I was born in 76 and feel pretty happy to have come up in a similar time. I didn’t see Star Wars in the theater, but I did get to mock the hair bands of the 80s while being at actual shows with Eddie Vedder and Lane Staley before they were “grunge”.

    I was able to use Pine, gopher, Usenet, etc but by the time I cared about them I didn’t have to pay those 4-digit phone bills for their usage.

    I got to start to program in Java and .NET langauges so was able to mostly avoid pointers! (despite cutting my teeth on C/C++).

    I got actual databases to work with instead of glorified flat files.

    I didn’t have to use Word Processors much, instead I was able to work on Word Perfect and Windows 3.1.

    But you’re right IMO – 70 to 79 was a pretty good decade for the geek in us all.

  8. You know, I’ve thought of similar things at various points…
    *I’ve got powerful chips of several architectures to toy with and learn at exactly the time when portability is most crucial.
    *I’ve seen the tragic death of the arcade and the archival movement that has tragically failed to arise from it.
    * I’ve lived through the rise of games from something kids do to something literally everyone and their grandmother does.
    * I’ll be seeing their acceptance in the hallowed halls of academia’s more artistic side, probably in only a few short years.
    * The solidified standards of yesteryear are finally giving rise to Tim’s original goal, and the semantic information network is starting to bridge the gap between the independent content creator and the consumer.
    * Computers and computing devices progressed from being a somewhat affluent indicator to ubiquitous even on a child’s weekly allowance.
    * We can now easily, reliably, and legally carry an entire system’s worth of software on a device no larger than your pinky-finger.

    Sure, as discrete items, these are not as momentous as some of the things you mention, but technology and its by-products are incremental in nature, and I have a great deal yet to see. I think we can agree, however, that it’s a great time to be a geek now. 🙂

  9. 1969 here and in complete agreement. We were fortunate enough to be born during the height of the age of imagination (because that was all that you had). I often wonder if my kids will have magical moments similar to my first steps into Vesper or Ak’anon. Will anything wash over them the way Fellowship of the Ring washed over me in 2001? I’m sure they will have their own “perfect geek age” but I suspect it will be quite different from ours. I’m pretty happy with mine, tho.

  10. I’m currently reading Edison’s bio, and it does sound like there was an exciting period at that time with the dawn of the telephone, cheap electric light, available electricity to which people could connect motors, etc. Huge amounts of change were in turn enabled by these.

    And then again, maybe every generation feels this way?

    Our kids are seeing google, social networks, mobile computing, etc. We grew up reading about other countries and pen-pals were a quaint idea difficult to implement. They can befriend kids overseas, play games with them and yell at each other over headsets while doing it.

    When I was a kid I wore thick eyeglasses. Eyeglasses can get remedied on your lunch hour! How frikkin sci-fi is that?!

    A couple months back my kid blamed some spilled toys on the Roomba, saying “oh, the roomba did it”. The household robot as scapegoat!

    Anyhow, there’s some truth to your post, but also some nostalgic bias I think.

  11. I see your point about correlating “the perfect geek age” with the rise of technology. But I think you would have found different and equally good ways to spend your time if you had been younger or older. Imagine having a powerful tool like Python available at 15 instead of PET/AppleSoft/Microsoft Basic. What I would give to have a younger, more fertile mind with access to such power. Sure, we got to peek/poke/mov/shl and learned a lot doing it. We were certainly more fortunate (in our eyes) than those who had to wait until college to get their batched punch cards processed. But if you talk to engineers from that generation they feel they were more lucky than we. To me, the golden age of the geek started with Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage and continues on today.

  12. I suppose I do envy you somewhat for experiencing some of the things I’ve missed.

    I’ve been thinking kind of the same thing as you but the opposite and about my life being born -86.

    I was brought to life just in time to miss the hardships and got to experience all the fruits of the labour. I started out with the C64 and I’ve been able to experience everything since. The break with the Internet, gaming innovation and so on.

    Well, I guess the song is right:
    Always look at the bright side of life.

  13. yes, 1971 is close enough, although its actually 1972 that was the perfect year to be born a geek 😉

  14. Too tempting to pass up…

    The perfect age of geekery was the 1960s as far as invention goes as the world reaped the discipline that came of WWII. With few exceptions, our technology is built on that decade’s progress and investments.

    The Seventies are lost but oh what a good time was had by the 60s geeks who found they could become wealthy with just a few ideas ripped from their textbooks written in the 60s and a wiley CEO.

    The 80s simply sucked. Bad for so many reasons but particularly it’s culture of no-op art. Video Killed the Radio Star and the good bands.

    The 90s are the age of rebranding as invention. The single development one can point to as belonging to this generation is the advancement in game hardware. Otherwise, it’s hard to find real innovation. It was the time of harvesting. It left a generation that believes the only way it can win is to lie and make up numbers.

    Every age thinks it is better to have been born into. Geeks with slide rulers made it to the Moon and back and left most of our tech behind as a side effect. Today’s geeks with laptops and cell phones twit each other about how going to the Moon isn’t worth it with all these problems we have on Earth and as a result, miss both the adventure and the payoff in human spirit when it witnesses real achievement and real invention brought about by the willingness to do what can’t be done.

    Today’s geeks are wussy compared to the guys who sat in the Pit at JSC and the HOSC at MSFC. (Nah, Richard Garriott had the best of both worlds but without his Dad, Owen, on Skylab, I wonder what would have given him inspiration.) On the whole, today’s geeks aren’t risk takers; they are prefer indemnification and anonymous rudeness because of an overwhelming desperation to be relevant or faux-web-heroic. Sad really.

    Let the Generation Wars roll!

  15. I’m a 1961 model.
    I got to experience all the cool stuff Mr. Koster got to see, albeit at a later age (but hey, once a geek, always a geek).
    Yet nothing beats the moon landing. That’s probably humanity’s proudest accomplishment so far.

  16. 1958. Cobol. CP/M. Really floppy discs. (yes, and punch cards). Z80 & 6809 machine code. And great music…

  17. 1971 here too and yeah, I’m sorry to have missed the moon landing but my track follows yours pretty precisely: programming computers when I was small, the movies, Wild Cards, Neuromancer, Sandman, Dark Knight, Watchmen . . . I started reading Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with issue 7 of the black & white series, watched Star Blazers in first syndication, and could still look forward to new (and still good!) books by Asimov and Heinlein. I went from local BBSes (including coding my own) to CompuServe, Delphi, AOL, and was running the Mosaic web browser in its first release.

    I feel very lucky.

  18. Oh Yeah!

    1966 for me. So lived all that too.

    I’m lucky enough to remember the moon landings (thanks Mum & Dad).
    Moved to N.Z. so got a lot of tech bass-akwards 1973 first colour TV broadcast, 1975 a SECOND TV channel arrives wow! Satellite before cable etc Dr Who screening all the way through though. Haven’t carried cash since about 1984, just my eft-pos card, all shops (and I mean all, total market saturation) soon had eft-pos, which made financial transactions when overseas seem positively mediaeval. Programmed on an old NCR 500 mainframe at high school (paper tape & punch cards) then the next year in basic on System 80s (Australasian TRS 80s). It was the same in the arcades a giant room sized slot-car set next to pong & space invaders… man we went through the 20c coins

  19. Born in ’69 here, and while I do feel I got my fair share of awesome ’70s and ’80s pop culture classics, I was still too young to really connect with punk rock until I got into my teens in the early ’80s. If I’d been born, say, ten years prior in ’59, I could’ve probably gotten myself to London or NYC in 1976-1977, at least.

  20. 1972 here. I’ve actually thought about this recently, how lucky it was to be born at that time and experience so many great things as a kid. Here are my highlights:

    – Star Wars
    – arcade games everywhere, starting with Space Invaders, and then a whole slew of games for many years
    – Atari, Intellivision, Colecovision
    – Close Encounters
    – D&D
    – Commodore 64
    – roller skates
    – cable TV; HBO
    – E.T., Tron, Clash of the Titans
    – Thriller
    – MTV
    – synthesizers
    – Olivia Newton John, Blondie, Bo Derek
    – The Muppet Show
    – Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers
    – Abba, The Bee Gees
    – Airplane!

  21. FWIW, I DID mean a +/- on the year to some largish degree. 🙂

  22. 1970 has all of that, with the added convenience that calculating ages from a zero year is dead simple. 🙂

  23. I too was born in 1971 (Sept. 21th, Peoria, IL). It was amazing time to grow up. The explosion of video game industry and the PC industry occurred right when we hit an age to being tinkering with it and enjoying it. The fact that my dad bought a TRS-80 Model 1 computer for his small business changed the trajectory of my life.

    However, I would say kids born around 2000, have it better as budding geeks. The staggering amount of technically knowledge and interactive geek community is staggering. One of the limiting factors back then was that information was sparse and not connected. Now high quality information and knowledgeable people are a search away. Hardware is at least an order of magnitude cheaper and many orders of magnitude more powerful. Good software and code (GNU/Linux, etc.) is a free and powerful. Plus geek culture is much more mainstream and an acceptable pursuit in the present day and age. Including geek girls.

  24. So you’re saying that you live in le meilleur des mondes possibles?

  25. I’m 1962 and I agree that the actual moon landings when I was 6 – 10 years old beat the heck out of the fictional Star Wars! Besides, we already had the much more imaginative Star Trek and I’d read most of Clarke and Asimov and some Le Guin before Star Wars hit.

    I learned to program on calculators in the early years of high school: HP67/97 (handheld vs desktop with printer, otherwise the same), TI57 and 58/58C/59, Casio FX502.

    I got my hands on the Commodore Pet and TRS80 by the middle of high school, and the school bought an Apple ][ towards the end of my final year. My first non-trivial program was a print spooler written in assembly language.

    I hit university right at the transition from the 16 bit PDP11 to the 32 bit VAX and used both extensively (and got exposed to Unix). I wrote a 6502 emulator on the VAX and then a (partial) VAX emulator on the Apple ][. We had Macintoshes before I graduated and they were a total revelation that was clearly The Future.

  26. YES. September 22, 1971

    Exactly 13 times as well, but in the drive-in.

  27. 71 born, when technology was like magic, me and my brothers got a used pong machine as a present one year when I was probably three years old and played it on the family b/w television constantly. And the first time we rented an Atari 2600 and some games over the weekend. And the time we got an BBC Acorn computer into our home and discovered the awesome game Elite.

    All of those times the technology completely blew my mind and pawed the way for my geekdom into pursuing electronic engineering and then software engineering that I am very happily working on today.

    I wonder if young people get blown away by new stuff today, I know from experience my 9 year old son loves this stuff but I don’t think he has seen anything yet that came as a surprise to him, he takes technology for granted and does not feel any magic about it.

    I don’t think I have had a “blow my mind” experience since except perhaps when playing DOOM for the first time, that was intense !

    So, looking forward to the next mind blowing, but having low expectations.

    Thanks for the thread though, made me think back.

    Z

  28. I was born in 1980, and I often had wished I was born just a few years earlier. It kind of felt like I was on the tail end of a lot of stuff. I still feel superior to those who are just 3-4 years younger than me though who didn’t ever use a computer with a text-only display and no fixed disks.

  29. 1970 was THE ideal year to be born a geek. UNIX Epoch (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unix_time) and of course my birthday 1/22/1970….

  30. It’d be quite unfair to ask that question until another 30 years have passed. Us 80s kids are perhaps disenfrancised, though, since we seem to be an “inbetween” generation, and the 90s kids even worse, but the next inflection point will likely create a similar set of circumstances. It’s all up to what happens in 2010-2020, for the people born after 2000 and so on for the kids born in 2010-2020, and who knows what that’ll be?

    But yeah, there are better and worse decades, and the 70s were probably better than the 80s or 90s on that account.

  31. ’71 here (but near the end of the year).

    One observation.

    Most of those born 71 on have “momentous changes” that hinge at least partially on pop culture references (which do make my heart flutter I’ll admit).

    Most of those born 61-65 (the dawn of modern geekdom?) are referencing truly ground changing technology shifts. Spaceflight and the moon landing, the switch from physical storage media (punch cards) to magnetic storage media. The switch from machine coding to programing languages and compilers. The first video games. The internet.

    I feel lucky compared to the whipper snappers that didn’t have to learn on DOS. I automatically understand a lot of stuff that is a black box to them unless they go out of their way to learn it. And I can learn new software packages or scripting languages at a pace that astounds some of my collegues…I grew up thinking that way.

    But when I read about what happened before me …I realize I did not grow up in an age of miracles. Only wonders.

  32. I was born in 1979. I got to enjoy such great games as Starflight and TIE Fighter (later things like Warcraft as well). Fortunately, I was of the era that encouraged typing in BASIC program listings and the like in choose-your-own adventure style books, and the command line was the natural place to be. Programming is what I mainly did when I grew up (I still have the start of a text adventure named “Escape” around somewhere).

    The other good thing about growing up then is that games were made by a few people, not the gigantic teams that make up AAA titles today. My parents convinced me not to go into making games for a living, so I’m getting around to it now.

  33. 1982. And I think you are wrong about +10 years being bad. +10 years has been great.

    * I got to enjoy all three starwars movies without any gaps in time. I watched them all probably a hundred times in the 80s and early 90s.
    * I’m old enough that I learned to use a computer with a command line.
    * I was programming in QBASIC at 9, and typing in games found in books and magazines from the library and on BBSes.
    * Speaking of which, I still remember using BBS systems (admittedly, I had the luxury of a 9600 baud modem)
    * There were still real arcades when I was a kid.
    * Nintendo hit the scene when I was still at a formative age (I had a genesis in the next generation, but I had plenty of grade school friends with proper 8-bit nintendos), so jokes about the Konami Code are awesome.
    * D&D had spawned a healthy ecosystem of tabletop RPGs by the time I hit the scene, and they were still way outside of mainstream (including D&D).
    * I helped my middle school install a high-speed ethernet network when I was 12 and 13. So, I’ve understood network topology and how to make a crossover cable for 15 years now.
    * I remember when the web was invented.
    * I learned to write HTML when CGI was this crazy thing that was still pretty rare. My clique in highschool kept journals online 5-10 years before the word “blog” existed.
    * I remember when Quake came out, and the amazing revolution in online gaming that it started (that was awesome for a geek with a school network at his and his friend’s beck and call–I was having after school “LAN parties” before anyone had uttered the word).
    * In high school, Linux was reasonably mature, and coming into its own in the high tech sector–right as I was looking for a way to dig deeper into how computers work.
    * I learned how to program (in high school) while steeped in mature, excellent Open Source Software. That was really cool. I’ve learned more than 10 languages, built my own and never had to think about how much a compiler costs.

    Unlike Jason above me, I don’t feel like I missed much. I feel sorry for the kids 5-6 years younger than me who grew up on Windows 95/98/ME and MacOS 7 through 9. The geeks from that generation probably also think they haven’t missed anything. Open Source has been a great revolution to watch. I missed out on getting rich quick in the tech bubble by about five years, but oh well.

    I’m pretty sure there’s always going to be good stuff to get into if you are a geek.

    Jeff

  34. you are wrong by one year…1970 here and that is THE Geek age!

    – Remembers SNL Classic
    – Saw the rise and fall of Belushi
    – used Atari 800 to help Dad do “online banking”
    – first ever High School Computer Club
    – two words: TWIN PEAKS college year
    – understood Tracy Ulmann and those animated shorts The Simpsons
    – build TV graphics on an Amiga
    – Video Toaster was cutting edge
    – Comics still meant somthing
    – saw Andrew Clay and Rodney Dangerfield on same bill
    – Eddie Murphy told jokes, not was a joke
    – the birth of real Rock and Roll!
    – the swatch

  35. Btw, I think you forgot to mention Molly Ringwald in your list.

  36. Hello??? us 71-ers were 11 when Blade Runner came out! The same older brother took me to see that AND turned me on to d&d, elfquest (the game),and Traveller!
    Remember Traveller the bizzare sci-fi roleplaying came?
    Okay I just outed myself as ubergeek of the year, but hey, looks like i’m in good company.

  37. The best birth year for a geek was 1955. Old enough to use personal computers and young enough to be a computer guru and not work in mainframe technology. Most of richest techies (Gates, Jobs, ect) were born at this time.

  38. 1971!!!

    The dawning of Rap music, before it got co-opted and pop marketed.

    Revenge of the Nerds.

    Jon Waters classics when we were about to go into high school.

    Fast Times at Ridgemont High (and sneaking around to see it because it had nudez).

    We missed the brunt of the crack epidemic the AIDS epidemic, and the crystal meth epidemic, but we caught the tail end of the E-craze, and fortunately it ended before we got E-tarded.

    We missed most of the height of gang violence.

    We don’t have to be embarrassed of our pop stars because they were already legends before TMZ and Perez Hilton came around and trashed everyone.

    We got to play with toxic toys, which were always the coolest toys, of course. And we had cooler versions of the Big Wheel, including skateboards.

    Some of us, as children, knew what the inside of a smoky bar or disco looked like.

    Saturday morning Kung Fu theater

    Star Trek the Next Generation hit at our perfect age: 16. When we were just old enough to actually enjoy it.

    Thundercats
    GI Joe action figures
    Battle of the Planets
    or Robotech for our older siblings
    Voltron

    Though, I must say I missed out on the Harry Potter fanaticism, the Pokemon and the Magic the Gathering crazes….

  39. Could it be that maybe there are vintage years for nerddom? If 1971 and 1955 are some, what are some others? I think 1990 might be one of those years, give or take one.

  40. Born in ’70. I could have written what you wrote. I’ve thought the same things many time. Thanks for writing it down.

    Of course it’s always easy to rant about “kids these days”… Who knows what the “innovations” today are going to turn into in 40 years?

  41. As a ’73 geek, I have to say that your basic premise is spot on and I share a number of your fond memories. I still recall the warm glow of excitement of receiving that first D&D basic set and memorizing all those arcane rules, figuring out what the heck “undead” meant and drawing maps on graph paper… then playing some Atari when I needed a break.

  42. ’72 here. You’re forgetting that we got to see Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark in theaters too.

    Grew up with D&D. Had an email account by 1988 while in high school. Most can’t believe that I’ve had email for over 20 years. Ask someone what WAIS was? If their younger than 30 then they have no clue.

    Found MUDs right as I was getting through the bulk of CS classes in college. I knew what a computer lab was. Promptly failed out of computer science school because of it, though I did eventually get my degree. Ah. Good times.

    I remember playing MUDs over a 2400 baud intercontinental link between Korea and the US while in the military. I think we used every ounce of the entire northern south Korea’s US military bandwidth while playing. Glad no one needed the line. *grin*

    🙂 You’re spot on Raph. Great time to be a geek.

  43. I’m biased, but 1965 seems better. I can remember Apollo missions, I was just a few years older for the advent of personal computers in ’77, had more disposable income and personal freedom through those years than you’d have had between 6 and 10 yrs old, and I can remember far too tragically and vividly the horrible life of a 3-tv-networks existence as kid during those godawful watergate trials.

    Of course, nowadays I’d probably be tivoing watergate, then coming home from work and dissecting the daily drama.

    The only downside for ’65 was graduating in ’83, which happened as *everyone* started going to college ‘in computers because they’re the big thing’. I swerved into another engineering discipline in college and it took me a decade to gradually work my way back to focussing on computers and networks.

    Oh, and anyone that just likes reminiscing about how amazing the world was for kids at any time from 1950 forward should pick up ‘The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid’ by Bill Bryson. At times while reading this hysterical book, I almost envy him and the 1951 contingency.

  44. Being a Geek really matter… not when we born!

  45. Dude, so close. The classic geek year can be nothing other, than ’69. All the stuff you list, plus you we’re born in the 60s.

  46. Absolutely. I was born in 1969 and can attest to almost exactly the phenomena you describe. In addition, this was the heyday of Lego, of which I had a large collection. I got more mileage from Lego than all other toys put together – until I got a computer.

    This was also the last era before the rise of the nanny state. I got to play with dangerous chemicals (doing a class talk that involved dissolving a copper coin in nitric acid – my own nitric acid – at age 7), make pyrotechnics and rockets (getting kicked out of school at age 14) and dabble in shooting.

    If I was to do any of that now I would risk being labelled a terrorist or at least a person of interest to be monitored by the police.

    Around that time an acquaintance of my father set up a business making commercial fireworks, that still persists today. Try getting a licence to do that now.

    God forbid that I should have followed my father’s footsteps and become a high-school teacher.

  47. Although I was born in ’70 (late in the year so effectively equal), I can only agree with about 50% of your statements…

    … because I was born outside the US …

    And guess what? That divide still exists. I still have the feeling that all the good stuff happens ‘somewhere else’ first and only trickles through to the ‘unwashed’ outside the US later.

  48. April 15, 1452!

    Perfect time to be born a geek! I was part of the original renaissance, you late comers have no idea what you’re talking about. I conceptualised the helicopter, centuries before the internal combustion engine! C’mon! That PWNs your puny skills.

  49. The perfect time to be born a geek is always “right now”.

    Richard

  50. Real nerds look forward, not backward! The best year to be born is that year when technology that allows users to experience, to the fullest, any moment in history comes about. 🙂

  51. Counterpoint: Hair in the 80s.

  52. Ahh there must be a range. I was born in 73 and got to do all of that. Tbough you should add go to libraries to look things up.

    Though I think being cynical about Dead Pets Society has little to do about age and more about personality. I thought it was nonsense from the first time I saw it.

    Something Id add is we are old enough to remember when tv could not be recorded in any form at home. I bet we appreciate DVR and even VCRs (betamax too?) more than the whippersnappers of today.

  53. Bah…

    I was born in 1966. Went from Black & White TV to COLOR! My OSI C1P Superboard is older than a lot of the posters here. VCR for Christmas ’78 – I got to watch Star Trek on VHS! Arcades ate all my quarters, dollars, 5’s… Having the all in one stereo to have the freedom to convert LP to cassette to 8-track to “turn that thing down!”

    When watching WarGames gave me the idea to write my own war dialer for my Novation Apple Cat 1200 bps (with duplex board!) modem to try to “stick it to the man”.

    Getting to vote Ronald Reagan – best President of my lifetime and yours – into office for a second term. Sure the toilet seats cost $50,000, but look at the cool toys we got with them – Tomahawk missles!

  54. 1971 here… Gotta agree with you…

    Though part of me wishes I’d been born a few years earlier… just enough to experience and remember the moon landing.

  55. […] Read the rest of his right-on, dyno-mite! post here.  […]

  56. Although I, too, am from that period, I would be hesitant in feeling sorry for today’s generation. My 3 year old spent today creating racing tracks in TrackMania, creating creatures in Spore and role playing in Free Realms. Imagination run riot with tools built specifically for creativity and sharing. Now he has metaplace to look forward to with no preconceived notions of what the web should/used to be.

  57. The Moon landing was exciting but it was the run up to it that was the real adventure. I watched everything from Sputnik to now when it was risky and unknown. There was a time when a craft launched, they ran it in all the classrooms. I sat in the principal’s office and listened to the entire flight of John Glenn on radio. I cringed as the Gemini crew sitting on that Titan refused to pull the escape because Wally realized before the ground crew did it wasn’t going to blow. I cried for the Apollo 1 crew who like most of them had stood on that same hillside on Monte Sano looking at the stars through Von Braun’s telescope.

    On the other hand, watch videos of early 60s TV when it was the Caucasian Broadcast Systems but women looked healthy (they actually had real thighs). I shook the hand of George Wallace (once when he had legs, and later when he didn’t), watched the flag being lowered at school before they told us JFK was dead, got up one morning to find out Bobby was dead and Dr. King. I’ve had breakfast with Neil Armstrong and kibitzed with Timothy Leary, and on and on.

    And yet was it as exciting as watching the Saturday newsreels of the Japanese surrender? Probably. Is playing WoW as exciting as having every kid in the neighborhood playing hide and seek beneath the street lights on Friday night or laying on the ground watching Echo I and Pegasus pass overhead? Every dream leads to the day of doing what can’t be done and that day will look very exciting to the kid who isn’t doing it but wants to.

    Bartle is right. The best day is always today. Geeks have it good. Musicians have a rougher go having been reduced back to being house slaves as far as gigs go but it has never been a better time to be a composer and we owe the geeks for that.

  58. Born in ’67, and agree with pretty much everything you said. I remember the first time I hooked at Atari VCS up to the family TV. It was pure magic.

  59. I was born in 1971, and while it was a great era to live in, I wish I was born 4 or 5 years earlier. This way I could have driven to the booming video games arcades by myself while they were in their heydays, I could have drank alcohol legally at 18 (the legal drinking age age changed federally in 1984), and I could have experienced the phenomenon of CRUISING better (it was literally banned in my state the summer before I received my drivers permit). All in all I am not unhappy about the year I was born, but I think the kids slightly older than me had it a little better in terms of teenage fun. 🙂

  60. 1971: YEAR OF THE GEEK…

    I was born in 1971, which not only makes me (almost, in a month) 38 years old, but also qualifies me for ideal geekeryhood.
    Mainly by optimal temporal association, because I also was around when the following, among other things, happened for Ralph Kos…

  61. I’d argue that the best years to be born a geek is in the 1960-1965 range (disclaimer: I was born in 1961). D&D emerged from Chainmail (the game) in the early 70’s, which is when these people were hitting junior high. That was the true Dawning of a new Age, with guilds popping up all over the country, cool fairs selling miniatures, and all of it new to us all. Pong hit in 1975, and the Atari console soon after, when these people were just old enough to embrace them. We saw the advent of computer classes in school (I took the first computer class offered in our high school, in 1977). We watched movement from punch cards to floppies to hard disk, from RS-232 to cat-5 to wireless. We were in college during the advent of the WWW, and had discretionary income to buy each generation of gaming device as it came out. People born in 60-65 are truly the bridge between old and new: we typed our term papers on typewriters, yet are conversant with all of today’s games and technologies.

  62. b. 1971 here too.

    I remember on my tenth birthday, my parents took me to some crazy arcade that was somewhere in western Ohio. There was a pinball machine that was so *BIG* that I couldn’t reach both sides, despite that I was already almost 5′ tall. I had to stand on one side and my mother on the other. The pinball itself was easily as big as a cue ball.

  63. I was born in late 1960, and agree with @John Cleave that those years were some of the best- because we got to see the last of the old-stuff (like B&W TVs that you had to change tubes to fix), the Big 3 networks (ugh, Watergate!), and the beginning of both the computer and Internet ages. I was especially fortunate to serve in the USAF at a particularly interesting base, where various companies (like HP) tried out their new toys with us as the guinea pigs. Some of the technology made it (like the tech that is now in cell phones, but was housed in 8′ tall racks in ’80), and some did not (ever hear of a ‘stringy-floppy’? No? It’s dead, Jim…) I even had email back when sending or receiving it meant going to the communications center on the base- no remote terminals- yet! And I learned to read ASCII code off punched paper tape, and deal with decks of programming cards. We thought that 64K was a ginormous memory!

    I’m not a ‘digital native’ like the 80s, 90s, and 00s kids are, nor am I a ‘digital immigrant’ like the Old-school Boomers. I’m that relatively uncommon ‘digital pioneer’- among the ones who test hopped TCP-IP, messed around with fiber, switched from the 5.5″ to 3.25″ floppies, played with modems that took two people to carry around, and was awfully glad when Mosaic was created, so I didn’t have to carry cheat-sheets of IP addresses to the library with me to go hunting for stuff online. Sadly, I learned website creation with HTML 1.0, and after a over decade away from it, realize that I need to learn web-programming from scratch.

    It wasn’t long ago when 500MB of hard drive space cost nearly %500. Today, you can get a TB drive for a dime a gigabyte, and I expect that within the decade, ‘petabyte’ and even ‘exabyte’ will join our vocabulary.

    I agree that the best time to be a geek is anytime.

  64. 66 here.
    When born does not matter as much as where and whether you could get access to tech.

    Dad got a TS1000 in high school and then an Apple ][c.

    But I never heard of MUDs etc until after I was married.

  65. I was born in 2030, and youre all wrong. Half of you will see.

    toborcube v.4

  66. To see the Beatles from Sullivan to Abbey Road, beginning to end, I claim as the best. Music was magic.

    But that wasn’t just a geek thing. It was an everybody thing. I miss that. I think the online world urge is people wanting that, to belong to something that includes everybody.

  67. 79 France here, I can really relate to @Richard Boehme and @Alex Crouzen views. With the EU cultural lag trying to catch up with US, I lived the 80s pretty much like Raph did the 70s (SW real pinball arcades ftw) with the notable exception of the heavy Japanese influence (mangas).

    I tend to think that people born in the 70s have a great spirit balance: they played with wood sticks then matchbox and hotwheels cars then action figures Lego and square video games and then better and then better etc. A lot of super positive cartoons were broadcast, it was like an endless stream of dreams for a better future.
    It made a generation aware of the joy of simplicity blend with a strong curiosity and desire to go “next”.
    Problem is we’re kind of tired -BS noise- and young generations put a lot of energy consuming what you people born in the early 60s invented and that we’re still polishing.

  68. By 1971 you had totally missed out on the original Star Trek series, the first moon landing, and still a bit too young to enjoy the first integrated circuits.

  69. […] Age: Perfect for a 633k. (for the unititiated, that is supposed to mean “geek” in 13375p34k) Don’t even bother getting me a birthday present that doesn’t have a USB-plug. […]

  70. Nope, sorry. I was born in 1959 and got to watch the moon landing on TV at 10 years old. Old farts rule. 😉

  71. You mean ‘nerd’ not ‘geek’.

    And you’re right! 1971 was the perfect year for a nerd to be born.

  72. I think the case could be made for 1978. Although I did not get to see Jaws or the first Star Wars in the theater, I was young enough to appreciate the action figures. I was the right age to bury GI Joe in the sand, and my Lego people looked like people instead of bricks with heads (although I had some of those, too).

    I learned MS BASIC when I was 13, which is the perfect age for a girl to start coding. Magic: The Gathering and The X-Files came out when I was in high school, and I was able to sleep through our high school librarian’s lessons on gopher, because I knew the technology would be dead in a year. I also was old enough to truly appreciate the Zip disc, because I no longer had to carry a box of floppies, like I had done all through junior high.

    Unfortunately, being in this age bracket meant that when I got to college, the Macs in our lab were utterly useless. Pretty, but useless.

  73. I think the first 10 year old with “fire” had a shitload more fun. I really do.

  74. I started about a decade earlier than Raph and when I was a kid I got to see Star Trek when it first came out (on a new color tv!) and watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon as it happened.

    I got to learn how to use a slide rule in Jr High (and I still have one, how geeky is that?).

    Small computers arrived as I was entering the job market so I jumped right in. I still have the same job title, but the job has changed a lot. I started out carrying a soldering iron and an o-scope. Now I fix mostly software problems.

    I ran a BBS before the web got well established. At a high school reunion, I had to explain what a BBS was, “It was like a web site that wasn’t connected to the web”. She replied, “What good is that?”

    I got to see UO in the early days, when stepping out of town on the road meant getting whacked and having to get new armor… and played SWG before the NGE.

  75. You were lucky to be a teenager in an age when most some “hot” things happened *and* were accessible for free or cheap.

    I’d say the next big thing similar to the Internet may be biotech. But good-luck with that, as a kid, to be involved in biotech…

    “Hot” things, like games, movies and everything else are now starting with a lot of capital because due to their nature they can’t otherwise. The “bad” part is that they become and sometimes even stay inaccessible for the largest part of humankind.

  76. all i know is that being born in 74 like i was was a great way to get a job in technology with a philosophy major………

  77. I was born in 1957.
    I saw Star Wars when I was old enough to a)appreciate it, and b)understand the cultural references.
    I got to explore the unfolding of the internet – with my OWN computer, not my Dad’s.
    I built a microcomputer, back when they came in kits.
    I also
    – saw Star Trek when it forst aired.
    – saw Godzilla in a theater.
    – saw the entire space program.

    Dream on, kid.

  78. Isn’t this very much like saying things were better “in the good old days”? Just like Socrates said btw…

    You might have seen all the innovation of THIS version of the geek culture. In 5 years that will most likely have changed.

  79. The Internet ate my homage to the sixties. Damn tubes.

    I think the primate who first knocked one rock against another to produce a sharp flake said to himself, “yeah baby! Welcome to the age of innovation!”

    Of course, he then wrote a brilliant short story about a future full of stone tools which sat on the slush pile for millenia because magazines hadn’t been invented, and by the time they were, nobody really “got” cave paintings. Bogus.

  80. Ahh, the sixties. I hit my teens in the sixties. Those were wild years. I remember being taught to hide under my desk in school, in case of, you know, the world coming to a nuclear end. I remember the hippies and the anti-war demonstrations. I remember the Berlin Wall, pictures of people hung up in barbwire, people being shot trying to get over that wall, accounts on the nightly news. I don’t think those of you who came later, even though you witnessed the tearing down of that wall, can quite appreciate the monumental moment the same way as those of us who grew up watching it in the fifties and sixties. Of course, no one could appreciate it like the Germans.

    I got to watch the live moonwalk in our school auditorium. What a moment.

    In ’71, I was sweating out the draft and Vietnam.

    Oh, and I remember my dad’s DeSoto! ’52, I think.

  81. Shoutout from another 1971-er.

    I always said that I remembered D&D when it was the red rule book and the blue rule book.
    I also remember programming my Atari 400 in BASIC and saving it on a tape back up (glorified tape player).
    I also kick myself because had I stayed programming and learning more, I would be retired by now. (either that or dead of a heart attack)

  82. I am always amazed at how special people think they are. Gallileo was a geek. Pythagoras was a geek. Bacon was a geek. My Grandmother grew up taking a hores drawn trolley around town. Then they got cars and radio and telephones. They saw the beginning of electricity and atomoic energy and space travel……how not as cool as you

  83. Perhaps before we let this go, I should mention that I never saw Star Trek in the original run because it was deliberately not shown in the town that built the Saturn V. Why? Our local TV station owner decided it was too controversial because it had a mixed race cast and emphasized the point. The infamous “kiss” made them sure they were right about that. The signs over the waterfountains and bathrooms had only come down five years earlier. Welcome to Alabama in the Sixties. Not pretty.

    The 60s were a time of stark contrasts. It turned us serious young. My take is very little has happened to undo the damage done by Reagan to the generation that just produced the worst Star Trek movie I’ve seen. It is a chop socky wire-fu cartoon that would work better as an FPS.

    IOW, by dumping the Boomer Baggage, Abrahms managed to strip it of everything that made the franchise last. It was of a time of challenges and it has been released into a time when challenges aren’t embraced. They are recycled and rebranded and that means the real challenges go unnoticed. I fear the commenter is right: this geek generation is an in-betweener. They will ensure the movie makes big box but it won’t have any impact on the culture.

    And that means it isn’t a waste of time or money: just minds.

  84. This isn’t about whether people think they are special. You’re taking the post far too seriously. It was about whether people born on a particular date happen to have had well-timed access to certain things and events, thus helping form them in particular directions.

  85. I think one of the defining characteristics of a geek is that we latch on to certain influences, regardless of whether they’re well-placed on our personal timeline. Tolkien published his masterworks long before I was around to appreciate them, but they managed to hang around until I was ready to absorb their grandeur. The New X-Men didn’t debut until I was in college, but the old X-Men were quite enough to send a much younger me to the library for books on genetics (dismayingly, they offered no practical “how to” advice). I didn’t have Luke Skywalker until I was a young adult, but I did have Neil Armstrong.

    Had I been born several centuries earlier I might be composing my own fanboy sequal to the Illiad or pestering Sophicles with awkward questions about the lift capacity of the deux ex machina. It’s just the way geeks are wired (even ancient Greek geeks).

    So I think the answer to “the perfect geek age” is to ask a geek “when were you born”? Whatever the answer, that was the perfect year 🙂

  86. I was born in 1971. I can relate!

  87. Tolkien published his masterworks long before I was around to appreciate them, but they managed to hang around until I was ready to absorb their grandeur.

    And you can thank “geeks” for that.

    The word “geek” is transforming. I think it started with “Oh really? You’re doing what? That’s kind of cool!”

  88. […] designer of the classic PC game Ultima Online, who ponders whether his birth year of 1971 made for the perfect “geek age.” For example, he saw Star Wars in theaters 13 times, played pinball machines in real arcades and […]

  89. 1971. Yep. I think the geeks of the late 80s have a real advantage using systems simple enough to be understandable without a major in comp.sci, yet powerful enough to cover what modern computers are capable of (CBM64/Amiga/AtariST). That and the advances in synthesizers/DSP…

    Too complex systems + the distractions of the Internet aren’t optimal for learning…

  90. What is the best age for a geek? I’m a ’73, but to me geek is a state of mind. A passion and wonder for technology.
    The C-64, BBC model-B, Amiga 500, etc. The games 🙂 D&D, Ultima, Elite,
    I’m picking the best bits of my youth to pass on to my kids.
    But then there is today, with Lego Robots, Emulators for the C-64/etc, 3D animation, etc. Stuff that I never played with as a kid.

  91. 1972, and I’m not so sure. If you think of all the useless knowledge we’ve built up in addition to the good stuff then perhaps kids of today are getting an advantage. I’m thinking: COBOL/CORBA/Pascal/Delphi/OWL/COM/68000 for example.

    BTW, I know it’s useless because kids have no idea what we’re talking about. Maybe we should stop sentimentalizing about how great we are and teach the kids what they really need to know. Lisp of course!

  92. And you will be dead before the singularity. Opps.. Sucks to be you!

  93. Ok- 1986 here. I’m going to come out and say that I was poised as one of the good geek years.

    1) Cross-cultural transfer with Japan brought both giant robots and ninjas to popular culture
    2) I may not have been around for the early days of the internet, but I was there when it went huge
    3) Two years past the dystopian future
    4) Mario has always been there for me
    5) Portable gaming has been a facet of my life since elementary
    6) I’ll statistically live to see cooler things in the future than people born before me 🙂

    As a younger geek who is the son of a geek from the 60’s, I say we embrace each other in the spirit of friendship and electronics!

  94. And you will be dead

    We have a secret plan to transfer our geeky genetic matrices into willing hosts, producing organisms that are not clones, but an admixture of genetic traits of both host and donor. We will then attempt to incalculate into these organisms our values and aspirations, enabling elements of both our biological and philosophical essence to travel forward in the timestream long beyond our own short lifespans.

    Shhhhh. Don’t tell anybody. It’s a secret.

  95. Not wrong. But then, I’m biased, being the perfect geek age.

  96. Before we die, we’ll be working very hard to ensure the right people realize the concept of the singularity is of the same ilk as the Second Coming in the year 1000 and Eugenics in the 1930s. Infinite perfectability has the same problems as other abstract infinities: it only works on paper. A machine or a cow are too smart to buy into it.

    Oops.

  97. I’m getting it now. They misunderstood. He didn’t say “meek”, he said “the geek shall inherit the earth”.

  98. @Steve Knight: I don’t know why you think knowing Pascal and 68000 is wasted knowledge. Pascal is a good entrypoint for any imperative programming language and 68000 has one of the cleanest CISC instruction sets which allows you to write pretty and readable assembly programs (x86 is damn ugly in comparison). Programmers that don’t know assembly don’t really know what they are doing when they write high-level programs whether they write for the CPU or the GPU, IMHO. On the other hand, there is little motivation for hacker-kids to learn assembly today so I think they are worse off in terms of actually gaining a thorough understanding of how and why computers work. The older geeks were motivated to write programs “close to the hardware” out of necessity.

    Today I sometimes read manuals for new CPU architectures (for fun and to gain technological insight), but those manuals assume you know what the “early” geeks acquired by self-study… So I feel sorry for the young geeks and the steep learning-curve they face.

  99. […] And feel like I had inside baseball knowledge during the D&D scene in E.T. […]

  100. […] The rest of the article is worth a read. […]

  101. […] The perfect geek age? 15 mai 2009 Was being born in 1971 the perfect time to be born a geek? via raphkoster.com […]

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