Tom Geller, dilettante and poetaster


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* Geekery most foul *

It's tempting to say that high-tech nerdism is my secret shame, but the opposite is actually true: I'm much prouder of my technical interests than my business accomplishments. That was true even before the pocket-protector'd nerd was raised to a popular-culture icon, before dot-com millionaires and "Real Genius".

But I'll always be a wannabe, because I simply don't have the obsessive concentration and discipline needed to be a serious programmer or engineer, and probably never will. I nearly failed the only computer science class I took in college ("Structured Programming using Pascal"), and my chess-playing plateaued at C-level. I simply got too frustrated when I couldn't figure something out. I am, as you know, a "dilettante and poetaster"; I can accept that now, but it hasn't been easy.

I first played with computers as part of an afterschool program sometime around 1977, using a terminal that was hard-wired to the district's central mainframe. (300 baud! Tractor-feed paper, with no monitor! Hunt the Wumpus! Ahh, those were the days.) I went on to become a pretty good at programming BASIC on the TRS-80, but never really kept up when it was creamed in the market, first by the Apple II and later by the IBM PC. Of course, there's more to the technical mind than computers, and I also messed around a little with electronics, photography and mechanical devices. But even then, it was clear that I wasn't The Real Thing: My friend Dan was already jacking into BBSes and doing phone hacks (about which the details are better left obscure). Fortunately, my plateau is high enough to let me do useful stuff: Here's a list.

  • Mac consulting. I first used a Mac in 1985, as part of high school print shop, and then became a student consultant on Macs in college. Years later, I wrote reviews for ZD Net/Mac and MacWEEK, and did a short stint as an on-call consultant for Infoasis.
  • Unix system administration. I love Unix, and regret that I didn't have much access to a shell account until very recently. (Oberlin used VMS until 1996 or so (!), I had no guidance at the University of Cincinnati, didn't get my shell account until 1997, and didn't load Linux on my server until 1999.) I'm now what I'd call a junior-level sysadmin; Doug Muth does most of the heavy lifting on the server that runs and my other sites, but I can handle a lot of the basic stuff. Oh, and I'm writing this on an iBook running Yellow Dog Linux.
  • Light programming. It might be gilding the lily a bit to call what I do "programming", but I can figure out most scripting languages and quasi-languages, such as SQL, Perl, AppleScript, FileMaker Pro scripts, server-side includes and the like. (As of the August 2000 redesign, this site uses SSIs fairly extensively.)

This page was last updated on Friday, January 06, 2012 at 12:15am UTC. All contents copyright 2005 by Tom Geller.