I am

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a computer geek.

The above is my name, in binary code, the code which computers use exclusively- tiny transistors and capacitors hold either a zero or a one, a negative or a positive charge. The fact that I put that on my web site indicates that yes, I am indeed a computer geek. Geek of course is now a very positive term, an adjective to be proud of.

As you can tell by my career page, I have been interested in technology since a very early age. My first experience with a computer was with a TI-99/4a that my parents purchased used when I was probably 7 or 8 years old. The TI-99/4 series holds the distinction of being the first 16-bit personal computer. The TI-99/4A had a 16-bit TMS9900 CPU running at 3.3 MHz. It had a full QWERTY keyboard, a slot for inserting solid state cartridges which contained games and other programs, and you plugged the system into your television for a display. It also had controllers to play games with. I spent many hours playing games like Parsec, Alpiner, TI Invaders, and Blasto. The TI-99/4a was both a gaming system and a true computer, with add-ons such as a speech synthesizer and a tape recorder as a data storage device. The first program I ever wrote was on our TI-99/4a and written in TI BASIC from a programming book. The program took an hour or so to write, and ran for about 10 seconds showing a rocket launch made up of ASCII characters. It was still fascinating. Click here for an ad with Bill Cosby and the TI-99/4a.

Here is a video of Parsec on the TI-99/4a

I should note that, while the TI-99/4a was my first experience with a true computer, my dad had collected and repaired old arcade games, and we had a game room in the basement, which was a popular hit with neighborhood kids, as you can imagine. There were a couple pinball machines, a shooting game which had a pistol that fired steel balls at small moving targets, and another rifle game which used light to fire upon other moving targets. Those were more mechanical, but there were some true video arcade games, including two full sized Asteroid arcade games. You can now even play that game online!

My next giant leap in computing technology came in 1992, when my parents purchased an IBM clone computer with an intel 386dx40 processor and math coprocessor (which was fairly rare), and 4MB of RAM for the family. Back then, that was a substantial expense for a system like that, but it paid off in spades, as that computer is where I learned about IBM-PC computers and technology. It came with Microsoft DOS 5.1 on 5 1/4" floppy disks, and I remember learning DOS commands and running many programs and games written for DOS, including XTree Gold, Mech Warrior, Castles, Prince of Persia, A-10 Tank Killer, Sim City, Conflict, and the revolutionary Wolfenstein 3D. I purcashed a SoundBlaster (the original) just so I could play Wolfenstein with sounds- what an amazing experience that was. I upgraded DOS several times until I reached DOS 6.22. The system came with a 40MB hard drive, a 3.5" floppy drive and a 5 1/4" floppy drive. Later, I added a CD-ROM drive. I also later installed Windows 3.0, and then Windows 3.1 which was much more stable than Windows 3.0.

Wolfenstein 3D Gameplay Video

I also went through a phase where I had the ubiquitous 8-bit Nintendo and Sega console systems for televisions, but they never replaced the PC of course, the graphics and gameplay of a console system, in my opinion, can never surpass that of a PC, which is the most powerful gaming platform today. Still, the traditional games like Super Mario Brothers were extremely fun to play.

In 1996, as I graduated high school, I purchased a Gateway 2000 Pentium 133 computer with 32MB of RAM. It was top of the line- an incredibly powerful machine for the time, and Gateway was a top of the line brand at the time too. This system came with Microsoft Windows 95, the first Microsoft Windows operating system to not require MS-DOS, even though there was still much DOS code behind the scenes. Windows was revolutionary in that it brought the simple, point and click technology to the masses. Apple Macintosh systems had a similar interface, but they were too expensive, and too limited, in my opinion, for the masses. IBM had created the hardware standard for the PC, and Microsoft had set the software standard. Everything else was up to the free market, and that is what made the PC the extremely powerful tool that it is today. Apple's closed platform lacked, and still lacks, the free-market innovation and competition that the PC world enjoys. I later upgraded the system to Windows 98, and Windows 98 Second Edition when it was released. My parents purchased a Mac at a rummage sale around this time and I played around with Mac OS 8, but we didn't have much of a use for it, so they sold it.

Super Mario Brothers Gameplay Video

My next system was one that I built: a Pentium II 350MHz that I installed Windows ME (Millinnium) on, and later Windows XP. I sold that system to my uncle and it is still in use today. Then I built a PC with a 1GHz AMD Thunderbird processor with 1GB of RAM running Windows XP. Around that time I also purchased an Apple iMac 233MHz system on eBay with Mac OS X to broaden my experience, particularly with Apple's new unix-based operating system. While it was a fun toy, I always found myself going back to my PC to actually get things done. The Apple would be good for certain tasks, but in all, I just didn't find it as capable as a PC. Mainly because the software available for it was much more limited than in the Windows world. I later sold the Mac to a friend's mom, who used it for some graphics work. I also had another PC running RedHat Linux and KDE. I considered it a challenge at the time to successfully network the Linux box, the Mac, and my Windows systems. In the end I was able to network all 3 operating systems, and share files and print between all of them.

After that I built a 3GHz hyperthreaded Pentium IV running Windows XP. That system is now running Windows Vista with 3GB of RAM and a GeForce 6600GT graphics card and DVD burner and is now Heather's primary computer. I have owned 20-30 or so computers over the years and still have 7 or 8 running in my home today, including laptops, desktops, servers, and other systems. My primary system today has an Intel Core 2 Duo (dual-core proecessor) 2.66GHz with 2GB of RAM, a GeForce 8800GT graphics card running Windows Vista, which I believe to be a big improvement over Windows XP, provided you have the hardware to support it. Vista has a number of security and aesthetic imrpovements over XP.

Over the years, I've used PCs for everything from word processing, web site design, graphics design, programming, email, browsing the Internet, FTP, finding and playing music and videos, spreadsheets, accounting, video editing and production, and of course gaming. Over the years I've played countless hours of hundreds of games but a few of my favorites are Wolfenstein 3D, Doom 2, Half-Life, Civilization 3, Rollercoaster Tycoon, Railroad Tycoon 3, Delta Force, Sea Dogs, Tropico, Command & Conquer, and the C&C Red Alert series, Team Fortress, and now Team Fortress 2, and Portal. Heather and I have had a lot of fun playing Team Fortress 2 online together, which is the latest iteration of the original Team Fortress game I played years ago. It's basically a capture the flag, or control point game with various 'classes' of player, i.e. Sniper, Pyro, Soldier, Engineer, Medic, Scout, Demolition Man. The newest twist of Team Fortress 2 is the characters are purposely 'animated.'  It definitely makes for a different game and adds more of a comic element. Here is a 'Meet the Engineer' video from TF2 and a few screenshots from the game:

Meet the Engineer from TF2 Trailer

You can create nifty sprays to spray on the wall in the game.
Mine is a photo of myself, while Heather uses an image of our dog, Lacie, for her spray.

This is what a spy gets when he tries to sap my sentry gun when I'm an Engineer. A wrench over the head. :)

This is one of many screenshots of me wiping the floor with the competition (I am at the top of the red team, with 167 points and 94 kills). I would think my reflexes would have slowed down by now, but I guess I still have the 'touch.' :-)

I also play a lot of Company of Heroes, Call of Duty, and Starcraft 2.

I am a firm believer in technology as a means to improve mankind and the world around us and therefore am a heavy user of technology in my vehicles and on my person.

I indeed qualify as a computer geek, and a gadget freak, particularly since technology is my chosen profession. What a fun world it is!