Technology That Empowers Me

I’m going to admit something that I’ve kept a pretty well-guarded secret over the years:¬†I am a geek.

I know, I know, that’s probably a shocker to everyone. Given that your typical person with a couple of B.S. degrees, and M.S. degree in nuclear physics, and a Ph.D. in astrophysics is so far far away from being a geek, I might be a little bit out of the ordinary.

You’d think I’d be sarcastic, too?

Early Life of a Technology Geek

Since a young age I was enthralled with technology. My family got a an Apple Macintosh Performa 6116CD when I was a kid, and from about that moment on my life has been firmly centered around a computer of some sort of another.

Technology that empowers me.

Sure I had used the Commodore 64 and the Apple II, but my Mac was the beginning of an early love of everything computational. And it’s really quite simple, really, why I felt that way.

I felt empowered by technology.

It was at about that time that all of a sudden my life shifted from me being just a relatively normal kid with good grades, living in Westerville and going to a decent school, to living in the hood, going to a really terrible school (Como Elementary – there’s finally talk of closing it), and being three to four years ahead of my peers instantly.

como

I was “the smart kid” fitting into a world I didn’t really understand, but when I was on a computer, I was in a world that I understood fully. More than fully, I started learning how to do all sorts of new an interesting things; programming with HyperCard and then, later on, C++.

Knowing how to use a computer effectively was how I saw myself as distinguished from everyone else in the world. And, thanks to my computer, I really had a much easier time with school than my peers. I remember being able to use Grapher – a powerful math program built in to early Macs – to be able to check my algebra homework. Soon, I became so interested in computation mathematics and later on physics, that I knew from the beginning of my high school days that I wanted to go into physics and get a Ph.D.

And speaking of high school, I was considered a little weird in some ways, because here I was on the college-prep track with perfect grades and loading up on AP credits, and yet at the same time I was enrolled in a trade program studying computer networking and working to earn a CCNA certification.

I could still tell you a lot about obscure IOS commands, and that’s not iOS as in Apple, but Cisco’s “Internetwork Operating System” which ran (and runs, in some incarnation) on all of their switches and routers.

College+

So then I went to college. I found myself early on seizing the reigns of the burgeoning “blogosphere” well before it was called that… I had my first “blog” at DiaryLand, back when it wasn’t blogging but was just writing stuff on the internet like an openly read journal.

That led me to web development, because I soon wanted my own domain, and I got it: kjizel.com. “K-Jizel” was my Snoop-Dogg-ified version of my initials KJ. Fo’ shizzle.

I’m shaking my head at my past self.

But regardless, I was always on the cusp: I had the first gen iPod that worked with Windows (I’d long since given up on Macs), I had a laptop I babied, and a desktop that I loved, and my job after leaving Staples was fixing up and getting the laboratory equipment and computers in shape at Otterbein.

And I got into Reddit when it started… 2005. Sad.

But throughout, all of my uses of technology were firmly geared in one direction: empowerment.

I felt empowered blogging because I finally had a voice, I felt empowered programming because I was twisting the computer to do my bidding in esoteric ways that looked like magic to those not in the know, and I felt empowered by Reddit because we all knew about the recuperative power of the cat meme before the term “meme” floated around.

Technology and Me Nowadays

I still feel empowered by technology in a whole lot of ways. Though now I realize that one can use technology for your will or you can become a slave to the technology.

I became a slave to technology for a little while. Grad school didn’t help with that.

But now, despite running a technology company, running multiple websites, and still knowing how to do esoteric and nifty tricks with multiple programming languages, I feel like I have a healthy relationship with technology.

I’ve rediscovered reading, which I had lost in what I now call my “blog years”.

I’ve rediscovered offline social interaction. No offense, but Facebook is a lot better when you’re only friends with people that you actually interact with in real life.

And I’ve rediscovered that sometimes technology gets in the way. I have an entire business built around making people’s lives easier with technology when technology fails or doesn’t work well. And that’s at all scales, too: broken PCs, networks at work not working for anyone, and¬†making websites to help non-profits and small businesses engage with the community (and customers) better.

My point is this: you should take a step back and think about technology in your own life once in a while; are you a slave to it or is it a slave to you?

And, more importantly, are you really happy with that.

[And lest you think I’ve scaled down significantly, I’m writing this on a Thinkpad Convertible Ultrabook while my kids stream Curious George over the internet to our HD TV, and my wife plays on Facebook with her smartphone, thats three generations out of date compared to either of mine. I’m a little crazy tech-wise still.]