The web is a competitive landscape. It’s an environment with lots and lots of type-A personalities all competing to be the dominant players. It’s full of opinionated people, entrepreneurs, and bloggers, who all have their opinion on a subject. Everyone wants to be right. That’s why, when you see a landscape, such as mobile, where a single player such as Apple has such a passionate community that will fight tooth and nail for it, it’s a big target for critics, and those behind it will fight back. When a player such as Android comes along with a serious threat to the popular guy, people will do all they can to choose sides and either go with the popular guy, or pick the underdog. On the web, it seems it always has to be one or the other. However, I think you’ll find the true, perhaps more silent Geeks, will be the ones on the sidelines choosing “All of the above”.
I grew up in a home where we couldn’t afford a Mac. We had Apple IIs at school, and I had several distant relatives with Macs and I’d play thoroughly with those when I had the chance. In fact, a lot of my first programming experience, learning BASIC, was on those very Apple II machines I got to use in elementary school. At the same time I remember playing Commodore 64 at my friends’ homes and being fascinated with the different types of architectures and different styles of programming that went with those architectures. I was fascinated that some systems took cartridges, some took floppy disks, and others took tape to read (and eventually store) data. In those days it didn’t really matter what system I was on. It mattered that I was able to get the job done and learn from each. I was fascinated!
Later on in High School, I remember some of the classrooms having PCs, some having Macs, and all of them having varying different operating systems and computer architectures. I’d come home to an even cheaper system that I would then spend hours upon hours trying to read other peoples’ programs and try to understand what they were doing in languages such as Pascal, Assembly, BASIC, and even a little C++. The thing is, as a developer and passionate geek it didn’t really matter to me what system we were using. It mattered that I was learning new things and studying new architectures and figuring out how to code and what those architectures did.
I took that same mentality as I went to college. I sold computers at a Tandy-owned Computer City store (they later went out of business), and I remember always being jealous of the people that could afford the one or two Macs that we sold. They were so cool! They could read text aloud in a human-sounding voice, and had such a different look and feel that fascinated me! At the same time, I remember vivid conversations with co-workers about the release of IBM’s OS 2 Warp we were getting ready to sell, and how cool it was to finally have a 32-bit operating system on the market. We had similar discussions and envy about Windows 95, and I remember having fun beta testing it with a friend of mine (who now works for Microsoft, ironically). I remember how cool the SGI machines we sold were and how cool they were for rendering graphics and other high-end stuff.
Later on I discovered this thing called Linux. I remember wanting to know all I could about it. Finally, an operating system I could afford that let me tinker with its insides and see what it did underneath. I wasn’t this excited since the old 8080 kits you used to be able to build your own computers from! I remember learning how to compile the entire OS from scratch and the difficulties that entailed, yet at the same time how I could do so many cool things that I just couldn’t do on Windows. Later on I even remember tinkering around with the short-lived BeOS.
Finally, only about 5 or 6 years ago I finally bought my first Mac (an iBook). It was probably the first time I could actually afford one. It was a beautiful experience! It was one I will never forget. Everything, from the packaging, to the operating system, to the little fading light when it went to sleep had me hooked. It was the perfect desktop operating system for me at the time. I learned all about packaging, branding, and experience from that.
Today, you’ll find me using all kinds of different operating systems and technologies. Technology fascinates me! While you may find me using Mac on my desktop, and trying out my new iPad, you’ll also see me setting up Windows 7 for my kids and my family. You’ll see me tinkering with the parental controls and helping them understand this world called Windows. At the same time you’ll see me using Linux for my web servers, and at various companies I’ve worked for it made even more sense to use Windows for those servers. Some day I might even use Google on my desktop or even on a server. I will certainly try each and every one out, oodling at all the cool features and unique pieces of each. Let’s face it – new technology, no matter where it is, is pretty dang cool!
While I may carry an iPhone today, and I will probably buy the iPhone 4, I also own a Palm Pre. You can also find me carrying and trying various flavored devices of Android through work. I just asked Sprint for a demo unit of the Evo I could review for you guys. You may even catch me carrying a Blackberry device, or even Windows Mobile (which at one time was my favorite phone as a user). You may see me tethering my iPad off my Palm Pre, or using an Android tablet device with a jailbroken iPhone. The fact is, as a developer, a blogger, and an entrepreneur, but mostly a geek, I need to understand all of them. I need to learn how each operating system works. I need to know the basics of coding on each so I can make educated decisions.
I will never pick just one. I will never pick just 2. As a true geek, I have an obligation to try them all and enjoy the cool features of each. Will I disagree or be negative about specific components of each? Certainly, but as with any technology, I will always have elements of each I particularly like and really admire. I would be hurting myself, and those I write for (both from a blog and software standpoint) if I ever picked just one. Picking one would be the negative choice.
Next time you see a Geek, ask to see their phones – you will always know the true Geek as the one that pulls out each and every phone or embedded device they’re playing with at the moment. That’s the type of Geek I want to be.