April 15, 2010

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Doubting my geek cred
Is it normal to occasionally feel like a fraud?
By John “jaQ” Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

Not being as dorky as you envision yourself would be a relief for most folks. For all the progress we’ve made since the mid ’90s, we geeks, nerds and dweebs still have to fight for social standing among the suave. Still, once you’ve made peace with yourself and owned the awkwardness that comes with technical interests, it can be disconcerting to realize that, as long as you’re gonna be a dork, you’re not even the best dork you could possibly be.

I do lust after all the newest gadgets, but I’m hardly what you’d call an early adopter. If anything, researching the latest technology — and especially the technology that’s not quite for sale yet — makes me hold on to my older stuff even longer.

I don’t own an HDTV. They’re nice, and I wouldn’t turn down a free one, but shoot, 3D televisions are coming on the market now. Why should I upgrade to something that’s already obsolete when I can wait a little while for 3D prices to come down? Bonus: once 3D prices do come down, there will actually be more than a trickle of 3D content. Besides, the wooden entertainment center I got for free through Craigslist a couple years ago is made for the old 4:3 ratio, and any 16:9 HDTV would leave ugly empty space at the top and bottom of that hole. And my fiancée spent a lot of time painting that thing. She’d be mad.

None of the connected equipment screams out for High Definition, either. There’s a Nintendo GameCube, a blocky old Playstation 2 that the aforementioned fiancée brought into the relationship, a VCR and the world’s first sub-$100 DVD recorder (grab the September 1, 2005, issue of the Hippo from your basement stash for a review of that sucker). Oh, and a few of those joysticks with games built in that you plug right into your TV.

That’s right, no Blu-ray either. I’m not just bitter over HD-DVD’s loss in the format war, honest. I’m over it. It’s a chicken-and-egg thing. I’d have to get a new TV and a Blu-ray player at the same time to really see the benefit. I certainly can’t put Blu-ray discs on my Christmas wish list — the stress and confusion it would cause my loved ones seeing the cheaper DVD right next to the Blu-ray would be too much to ask them to bear. It’s hard enough passing over VHS tapes at yard sales myself.

All this says nothing about my computing habits. I recently revived my vintage 1999 desktop to do some audio recording, and it has a fairly specialized, expensive-when-it-was-new sound card in it. I know all that hardware and software work together, so I’m not mucking with it. A brand new, top-of-the-line PC would be major cash, and even a few hundred bucks for a basic one is more than I need to spend.

Maybe it’s not so much that I’m a fraud — maybe I’m just cheap. Except I don’t always jump on board the free stuff either. I use Facebook when I feel like being exhibitionist, but never quite got the whole Twitter thing; I thought the fad would blow over but lots of celebrities love it, so it’s a fantastic way for fans to stalk them. There’s a Linux partition on my laptop that hardly ever gets playtime.

But dude, ask me anything about Star Trek: The Next Generation and you’re going to school.