Are You Geekier Than Me?

Last modified on March 4th, 2008

Mark just swung by my desk at work and we spun into a debate about who was the bigger nerd. This somehow led to a discussion about the first computers we ever owned. My first computer was probably when I was around six years old. It was a Radio Shack’s Tandy TRS-80. Back in those days you’d go out and buy a magazine with BASIC code in it and have to manually type your own games into the thing. I remember my dad and I struggled for days just to get this stupid game going where dots would bounce around the screen.

Tandy TRS-80The Tandy TRS-80, From Wikipedia

Next on the list was my Commodore 64 computer. I was far cooler than it at the time, so I got my own Fastload cartridge to speed it up a few notches. There was this local nerd in Chilliwack that worked for the phone company who could reprogram the EEPROM in them with your own custom logo. So of course, all of us in the wack had our own customized fast load cartridges. I spent that part of my life demolishing Ultima RPGs and lots of other wicked black and white games. At the end of that era both my dad and I had 300 bps modems where we we could call each other and do a rudimentary form of email. 300 bps folks. Contrast that to my current 10,000,000 bps connection at home.

After that, my dad upgraded to an Intel based XT computer, which started me down the road I’m currently on. I spent quite a bit of time hacking on it, learning basic ANSI art, custom hacks etc. When I was 15 I picked up my first “real” computer, which was a 386 SX-16 MHz computer with one of the largest hard drives available at the time – the 20 MB “Monster”. Once I installed DoubleSpace on it, I could rock out at 40 MB. Being the super cool kid I was at school, I decided to set up one of the first Bulletin Board Systems in Chilliwack, affectionately called “The Lost World BBS.” After that, I became somewhat of a local celebrity amongst the various chess clubs in Chilliwack.

That was around the time I first started dabbling in software development. My friend Jeff was already a fairly awesome C++ developer at the time, but all I had around was Turbo Pascal, so I started writing software with that. I wrote a shareware voting booth for Remote Access that lots of people ended up using (I even made some money form it). The roots of the internet were starting to take hold at that point in time, and inter-BBS communication using FidoNet was already occuring, at least nightly, for many BBSes. To help spur things along, I wrote a FidoNet Node Diff tool that would take the nightly diffs and merge them into local databases. Since I wrote mine in C++ (which was pretty hard core at the time), it ended up being faster than most of the other ones at the time. This eventually led me to create a full-fledged front-end mailer (called Crossroads, hence the name of my Flickr plugin) for BBSes that would handle Fidonet requests.

When university rolled around, I took a several year break from hard-core software development. I still did the odd project, mostly as an excuse to skip classes. One of the big projects was a full-fledged CD burning program in Windows called “Singe” (never released, but man, could it make a coaster in record time!) My friend Jeff and I also did a collision re-construction program for use by an engineering firm in Surrey (it was pretty cool – you could input vehicle parameters, trajectories, etc, and recreate an entire automobile accident on the computer).

The rest, as they say, is history. Drop me a nerdy story about yourself. Were you a bigger geek as a kid?

** as a side note, after writing this I had this crazy idea about merging the still active RemoteAccess code-base with asterisk to provide retro BBS experience. Maybe telnet based. Would be funky.