Thursday, 5 June 2014

A clever and geeky beginning

Yesterday I wrote, in an aside, about how I had spent a lot of time being laughed at. Oddly enough though, most of this has been as an adult.

As a kid in primary school I was definitely very geeky. I was in chess club, and spent as much time as a could on the school computer. In fact during a school week away at an out door pursuits centre, I spent the entire week trying to beat Suburban Fox. I never did beat that, but did win Granny's Garden though. Good times!

I had a Commodore 64 at home, and I guess i must have been around 7 or 8 as my best friend at the time had a Speccy. My best friend moved away when i was approximately 9 or 10, and I know I had it before then so 7 or 8 seems like a good bet (Incidentally I would love to find out whatever happened to my friend, she was called Louisa Mackenzie and her mum taught me the piano. I know she had two older sisters and a brother, but trying to find old female friends is really difficult) I was programming on it from a fairly early age, and in typical me fashion I was correcting the listings in the books I had.

I was clever, and I knew it. I was sure that I would pass the 11+ and go to grammar school, and even at the age of 10 I knew that I would be going to university. This was in the early 80's when it was not so commonplace as now. Neither of my parents went to university, and in fact the only person I vaguely knew who had was my dad's best friend from school who was offered an unconditional place at, I think, Cambridge. I'm pretty sure my dad's friend became a teacher, which puzzled me a little as a child, as my mother was a teacher and she didn't have a degree. Anyway, I digress. 

i was as arrogant a little pig at 10 as one could wish.

All that changed when I went to secondary school. I did, of course, pass the 11+ exam and actually got into a private school which was part of the foundation of grammar schools in Birmingham. When I attended I was in for a massive shock. I was no longer the cleverest person in the school, I wasn't the cleverest person in my year. In fact I wasn't even the smartest in my form. I was actually the least intelligent in my form, and that was severe blow to my ego at the age of 11!

Still, it's probably for the best, as it meant I was a fairly good-natured teenager, and willing to share my time and what talents I had with others. It also gave me a feeling that I wasn't good enough, which manifested itself in my being unwilling to do things because of that feeling. Something which persists today. 

I really have digressed now! I spent most of my lunchtimes on the school computers, mostly gaming, and also practicing for the school quiz team. I was pretty happy, and I had friends. I was geeky, but no-one ever really made me feel bad about it as everyone there was intelligent and mostly focusing on exams and doing well enough to get into their university of choice. My best friend for many years was just as geeky as I and was into Star Trek (STOS and TNG) and went to Space Camp. We are still friends today, only our programme of choice now seems to be stargate!

It was competitive and hard work, I was exhausted by the end of sixth form. I was ready for university and excited about studying computer science. I went from a fairly nurturing environment where being clever was a given, and being interested in school or university was the norm, to an environment where looks and where you spent your free time seemed to be more important.

I made a few friends on my course, but the girls who were on my corridor in the Halls were nothing like me. I couldn't relate to them at all (apart from my oldest friend, who had the room next to me - i was quite co-dependant on her!) and they couldn't understand my desire to be in the 24hr spod lab. I survived the first year though. 

The second year was different, I shared a flat with my oldest friend, a friend of hers and two random strangers the university placed us with. One was repeating his second year, and was pretty quite and nice enough. The other though took a dislike to me. He was, I suppose, pretty good looking (although not my type) and was used to having girls fall on their knees in front of him. Not me. He took exception to this, and spent most of that year bullying me. Constantly making references to my height (I am very short) and weight (I was about 8 stone, not exactly overweight), not just verbally, but actually scrawling them in the lifts in our block of flats, breaking my things which were left in the kitchen, and generally making my life a misery. I ended up spending my free time in the 24hr spod lab, only this time it wasn't a short walk inside the Halls, it was a good 20 minute on campus itself. Walking at night through Salford was certainly an experience, but it seemed like the safer option to being in my flat.

Anyway, fast forward 20 years or so, and I've spent most of my life working in IT pretty happily. Living the geeky dream, and working with people who understand it when you enthuse about playing Repton as a kid. The rest of the world though, whilst some of the things that I enjoyed as a kid are now considered mainstream (the internet for one!), the reaction that I get off the average person in the street is not great.

I've kind of lost the topic now with all this rambling...maybe it's a post for another day about geekiness today.


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