Confessions of a Grown Up Nerd

Not many of us ever actually get a moment of self definition so clear, so as to be memorable across years and years,  I was though. Let me tell you about it.

It happened on a Saturday afternoon in my studio.  I was working on one of my computers when my friend Laurie, who was my wife at that time, came back from a business conference.  Laurie is a children’s librarian and story teller and has been for over 30 years.  Working in the library world isn’t easy but Laurie takes it very seriously.  It’s often hard on her but her love of knowledge, the written word and her desire to help people find whatever they need for whatever reason has always kept her going.

If you are one of those people who speak sotto voche about how libraries and “the written word” are dead then you should probably reconsider that position.  If you don’t then you should be sure not to share it with anyone that has two brain cells to rub together because you might not enjoy the impression those people have after you do.

Since Laurie has to work not only with the public but with the stream of volunteers and young librarians just out of school, the latter a diminishing flow but the tap has not been entirely turned off, communication can become an issue.  Cross a few generation gaps and you have a problem. Librarians do not, as a rule, shy away from problems.  It’s in their nature to address  problems head on.  Once again, if this surprises you then I recommend you visit your local library more.

The conference from which Laurie had just returned was meant to address just such issues. It was to promote greater understanding between the older members of staff and what the media at that time had begun to call “Generation X”.  After dropping her bags, and petting the dog, Laurie stuck her head into the studio.

“I get it now,” She said with a soft smile, “you’re not really a Baby Boomer, you’re closer to Gen X.”

You have to understand that I was born before the advent of the space age, meaning I pre-date Sputnik.  That would place my birth near the end of the “baby boomer” demographic but chronological remote from Gen X.  So understandably I stopped what I was working on like the piano player stops playing when the gunfighter comes through the swinging doors.  There was a heartbeat as I took a step outside myself and took a walked out of body. By doing this I could experience to survey the scene.  This is what Laurie saw.

On the Oak desk, which I built myself, stood the two monitors connected to my main work station glowing brightly.  On one monitor was my 3D modeling software, on the other were numerous windows open to various websites with content ranging from schematics to Anime.  This was long before the advent of Facebook so I had 3 or four conversation windows open with AIM or IRQ so I could chat with friends in various time zones.  I was elbows deep in one of four “render monsters”, at that time these were cheap computer I built to render the animation frames of I was working on. Next to me on the floor was my MAC Powerbook where I did my book keeping and e-mail, which was busily charging/syncing my PDA.

In a few seconds I took all this in and turned to her and said:

“Well, technically I am one of the people who CREATED Gen X.”

Now this may sound like a tipper truck full of hubris but hear me out.  In every revolution there are great Generals who have the grand vision and lead the charge, but despite what pundits would have you believe they never do it alone.  In those same revolutions there has to be soldiers. To keep those soldiers in line there has to be Sergeants, and that’s what I have been.

Yes I was born before Sputnik, but my Mother was a Computer Programmer.  My Father was the head of Engineering Data when that involved microfilm. I did my first CAD work using punch cards but was also the first 3D Artist at Lucasfilm Games. I worked on MMORPGs on Commodore 64s.  I got paid to design TIE Fighters and animate Nazis for Indiana Jones to punch and made horrifying labyrinths for PACMAN to stumble through. I was an iPhone developer from the start and still am. Projects I worked on are in the Smithsonian.

You may not know who I am but if you have grown up in the digital age chances are you have touched something I worked on.  Along the way I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with some of the funniest and most brilliant individuals the human race has ever spawned and they, have left me with some stories to tell.

So that is what the BLOG is about, in part, passing on the oral history of a digital age I grew up in.  It is also about talking to other people I have met along the way and through their insight making sense of the Digital world we live in today.

So I am Martin Cameron and I am a Grown up nerd and this is where the story begins.