More ways to know if you are an old geek…

16 10 2007

I was rather tickled to read “You know you are an old geek when…”. It rang quite a few bells for me, and dredged up a lot of what seem like ancient memories of former lives.

I’ll stick my hand up for items 1 (though more often it was a queue to use a terminal rather than pairing), 2 (probably “used to speak hex”, don’t need to do that as much anymore), 4, 5 (different set of languages, but there in spirit and timescale), 6 (one particular project), 7 (on an early 1980’s minicomputer where there was no other option), 8, 9, 10, 11 (done or participated in), 13 (at school).

It also made me think of lots more that could be added to the list. I was going to reply with a comment on web-a-week, but it doesn’t seem to accept comments. So here are…


…some more ways to know if you are an old geek:

1. You remember when each individual bit of memory was stored in something you could physically see and hold in your hand.

2. Other geeks look surprised and confused when they discover that you know something new and trendy.

3. You’ve worked on large-scale commercial databases that weren’t relational (actually, this has just about come back round again… let’s say “pre-relational”).

4. You remember having discussions with colleagues about whether the “goto” statement really is harmful.

5. You’ve used assembler routines to compress/decompress data in some arcane, application-specific way so that it can be squeezed onto fewer magnetic tapes whilst still being accessible to higher-level languages.

6. The public adverts for “The Last One” had you worried – until you convinced yourself logically that whatever it really was, it couldn’t possibly be what the adverts were claiming, and the world would need programmers for a while yet.

7. You remember the excitement of the first time you got sent somewhere with a “luggable” PC (and how much your arms ached afterwards).

8. You’ve written programs that used teletext as the user-interface.

9. There was a time when you thought Ada might be a good thing to get into, once there are compilers for it (APSE anyone?).

10. You can name more than one programming language where you’ve used 5 or more consecutive major versions.

11. You remember writing programs on paper pads and sending them to “data entry” to be “keyed in” (or using equally prehistoric stuff, like manual card-punches).

12. You’ve worked on projects where the system design consisted entirely of a set of flowcharts.

13. You have programming books that are older than the people you’re working with.

14. You can’t decide whether it’s really cool or deeply depressing that all the source code you’ve ever written can now fit on a device smaller than your thumb.


Here are another couple of possibilities, but I suspect these might be personal foibles rather than anything more universal:

15. You suspect that mankind’s ability to successfully complete large and complex technological projects in a reasonable timescale reached a peak somewhere around 1970, and has been in decline ever since – and you believe that this is largely for non-technical reasons (i.e. it’s not the geeks who are the problem).

16. You’ve witnessed several generations of programmers each start from scratch and blissfully ignore what’s gone before, and seen them gradually re-discover much the same issues and re-invent much the same solutions (but with totally different terminology, and with a lot of false starts and outright mistakes along the way).


Anyone else got any?



3 responses

16 10 2007

Yes – I remember these too!

I particularly like the one about the programming books being older than the people you work with. I still have an old copy of Personal Computer World magazine from 1988.

Anyone for a 386 PC with 2Mb or RAM and a 40Mb hard disk for £2495 ($5000) !!

27 08 2009

I sent your ‘test’ to a friend of mine and he thought of an additional one:
17. You heard about this test in an email which has only one recipient: you!
Actually, old geeks seem to be an endangered species.

27 08 2009

@Pierre, thanks – that’s a worthy addition! Very good!

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