So, with the discussions of geekdom that have been posted lately, I’ve been thinking about geekdom. Geekiness is generally thought of as a personality type, perhaps even a personality disorder, but after the comment from “tangent” a few days ago, I’ve been rethinking the whole concept of geekiness.
Tangent’s comment was that geeks typically are not satisfied to “experience” something, they have to dive as deeply into it as they possibly can in order to get satisfaction. His example was beer, a typical person drinks beer, a geek who likes beer will inevitably analyze beers, compare beer types, and eventually brew their own beer.
So this made me think about my own interests, and upon reflection I think Tangent was right. When I got interested in fishing, it was not long (a few months perhaps) before I was learning to fly fish and tying my own flies. I was researching fish behavior and mapping out the topology of local lakes. I was comparing and contrasting boats, fishing rods, reels, line and lures.
When I got interested in astronomy it wasn’t long before I was researching telescope design and designing and building my own telescopes. I learned enough about lens design that I could calculate achromatic lens shapes and determine the optimum focal plane for different light frequencies. I learned about lens coatings and how spherical lens designs had inherent flaws and why a particular telescope was worth $3,000 while one that looked virtually the same might be worth $300. I researched eyepiece designs and mirror coatings. I researched astrophotography and automated mounts. Amateur astronomy turned out to be a veritable smorgasbord of fine details that kept me fascinated for years before I finally felt like I had plumbed the depths of the hobby.
When I bought my first home computer it wasn’t more than a few weeks before I purchased a programming environment for it and was learning the assembler language needed to program it. Eventually I even got a job programming for that computer (the Macintosh).
Looking back at things I think that this is somewhat profound, although others may say “duh, dude, we’ve always known that.”
Basically I think the enjoyment I get out of a hobby is directly related to the opportunity that hobby has for exploring the fine details of the hobby. The more arcane and difficult, the better. While other people may just grab a beer and jump in a boat, I will spend hours researching the lake, determining the best places to catch fish, and then either tying the proper flies for the endeavor or else purchasing the proper bait or lures to maximize my chances of successfully catching fish. Then I throw them back in the lake because the goal wasn’t to actually CATCH fish, the goal was to solve the PUZZLE of catching fish.
And that’s what I think it boils down to, the solving of puzzles. At least it is for me.
Is this typical geek activity? Or is this well beyond typical geekdom into the uber geek area?