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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 24th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Do I fail the geek test?

9 November 2017

I used to be a geek. No, actually, I was an uber-geek.

My interest... nay, obsession, with technology meant that I was always at the cutting edge of whatever was being developed.

I was building microcomputers many years before they became something you could buy in the stores.

Some of the first programs I wrote were (out of necessity) interpreters for the computers I had built.

Much of my meagre earnings as a teenager got poured into buying the latest components, such as very expensive but very small seven-segment LEDs and the latest ICs with which to experiment.

This was one of the very first "blogs" to ever appear on the internet and came into being long before "blog" was even a word. In fact, I still have the little plaque that NetGuide magazine awarded to Aardvark back in 1998 for "Best Zine".

Yes, if it was new, different and exciting, I just *had* to have it and learn about it with a bit of the good old "hands on".

Oh dear, how I have changed in a few short decades.

Today, although I'm still passionately interested and involved in new technologies, my daily use of such tech is a long way from the bleeding edge.

Take my phone for example... It's not an iPhone X or a Samsung Galaxy 8. No, it's a humble $9 special. No smarts, no camera, no touch-screen -- just voice and SMS.

Don't get me wrong, I *do* have a smartphone... I just don't use it as a smartphone. Why should I?

This uber-cheap, uber-small, uber-efficient phone runs nearly two weeks on a charge, sits nicely on my belt and doesn't contain my entire life to the extent that its loss would be like losing a close friend.

Nope... this phone is "just a phone" and that suits me perfectly.

Even my drones and RC model stuff is a generation behind the trailblazing stuff that is regularly rolled out by vendors.

The flight controller (gyros, accelerometers and processor which stabilises every drone and makes them controllable by mere mortals) in most of my craft uses a humble ARM F1 processor. The bleeding edge controllers today run the F4, a much faster and more capable bit of silicon -- but why would *I* need it? My flying skills are barely average so saving a few milliseconds here and there in the control loop would have no effect on me.

My daily drive is a 1994 Toyota Hilux. It doesn't have GPS, traction control, ESP or even ABS. It is about as far away from the bleeding edge of automotive technology as you can get -- but it's great. It gets me to and from my destination with reliability and adequate comfort. If it breaks down, the only tools I'll need to fix it are a hammer, screwdriver and a few ring-spanners.

The PCs I'm using are i5 machines and I'm running Windows 7 and an older LTS version of Linux Mint. Once again, this stuff "works" and does exactly what I want/need (although I am hankering for a faster rendering machine still).

Yes, I'm still very much "up to speed" on the latest technologies -- but I don't often use it myself. I've found a very comfortable and safe position which is some way back from the cutting edge and which saves me a fortune every year.

My Toyota cost $5K about three or so years ago and has required nothing more than tyres, oil, filters and petrol to keep on the road.

My phone is on a very old prepay plan which costs me a $20 top-up every 2-3 months (and which Vodafone have been trying like hell to get me out of and onto one of their more expensive monthly commitment plans).

The flight controllers I use cost $15, versus $60 for the newer, faster ones.

And my Windows 7 doesn't seem nearly as intent on sharing my information with Microsoft as the newest version (10) does, while an i5 and Linux is all I need for my regular Net-based activities, word processing and such.

So yes, I really don't think I qualify as a "geek" any longer -- but you know what, that doesn't bother me at all.

A couple of questions for readers: Are you a geek -- or are you, like myself, finding it increasingly more pleasant and affordable to live just a little further back from the bleeding edge?

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