I’m often asked how or why I “got into computers” and I usually answer, only half-jokingly, “I went to an all boys school and they were easier to talk to than girls.”
Back in that distant past, you didn’t just own a computer, you had to be “into it.” My first three computers (ZX81, BBC Model B, BBC Master 128) were pretty much useless if you didn’t know at least some code. If you weren’t willing to spend hours fighting a tape deck or poring over code listings in magazines then the computer was just an expensive ornament.
Even my first PC (and much to the horror of my Amiga and Archimedes owning peers, I was the first PC user at my school) needed a lot of coaxing to get it to do anything at all. If you were scared off by a black screen with a little A:\> prompt then you didn’t use a computer. Yes, it was an A in those days, we didn’t have hard drives.
We were mostly self-taught and a mixture of curiosity and the satisfaction of making these boxes beep and flash at our command, spawned a generation of geeks and coders. We may not have all learned machine code or assembly language, but we could knock out a great bit of BASIC, PASCAL or even C.
So almost 24 years to the day, I was a very proud 16 year-old to have a prize-winning letter printed in PC Plus magazine, especially as it sounded like I had out-geeked all the staff there when writing it.
And so it continued. In 1993, when the first web browser appeared, getting online was not just a case of plugging it in and going (actually, you don’t even need to plug anything in nowadays!) – it was a long process of setting up stacks and socks, whining modems and a fair amount of determination.
If you didn’t know how to set it up, you didn’t use it. If you were online you supported yourself, you knew how to fix everything that came your way.
Which is why I worry a little now. Pretty much every house has a PC in it and every child is using Word or Powerpoint to complete their homework.
But if the PC doesn’t work, most of them don’t have a clue of what to do.
Obviously, in my PC repair trade that’s not an entirely bad thing! But it is a concern when so few youngsters want to code and we see most of the skills we need in the future being provided by countries other than our own. It’s why we need organisations like Young Rewired State to encourage children who are interested in developing these skills.
The fact that 500 people around the country have signed up for this year’s Festival of Code workshops is great. It’s very sad that none of them are from the Canterbury area. So when Liz from the Whitstable Times telephoned to ask if I had any views on the issue, I was happy to climb onto my soapbox. How she got my rant into such a small box on page 6 of this week’s paper I do not know!
But it’s quite spooky that this latest appearance in print, calling out for support for young geeks, is almost 24 years to the day that this young geek first had his work printed.
As I hinted at in a previous post about the definition of a geek – I had a nice chat with Jan Thom of the Whitstable Times last week, and today the results of that chat appear on page 10 of the Whitstable Times, along with me popping up on the front page too.
It’s amazing how much Jan could prise out of me in about an hour and turn that unintelligible (to me) shorthand into an an article.
Just a couple of things to point out to the world…
Answer 1: I started HDG with Helen, not Jane. Oops.
Answer 5: not quite the first romance at Pfizer, but the first Sandwich to Surrey commute marriage.
Answer 6: I left Pfizer at the end of 2007, Helen left in 2006 because that’s when James was born!
Answer 8: support the Oyster Festival – please like their page!
Answer 9: East Kent
Answer 11: see more about #geekstable
Answer 16: Yes, I know Bill Hicks is dead. It’s a dream dinner party before the smoking ban…
Our web design arm, fairly marvellous, have been pretty busy lately. Their portfolio is expanding at an incredible rate and it’s proving difficult to keep their website up-to-date! However, no problem this time, as they are proud to announce the launch of another client’s website.
So, if you’re looking for commercial or domestic cleaners, and you don’t want mopheads, go to eXtreme Clean for professional cleaning services in Kent.
Sometimes the most satisfying part of building a website is not completing the design, not carrying out the implementation nor finding some particularly groovy way of doing something. It’s the bit when you let go, you’ve trained the client on how to update it and the next day… things have changed.
The client now really owns their site, it’s their content and they are in charge.
The clock ticks ever closer to 4th January and the impending VAT increase.
According to some, this little 2.5% increase will cost families an extra £389 per year – VAT Rise ‘Will Cost Families £389 A Year’ – Sky News
Of course, there’s every chance you won’t see much of a difference, just like when we went back up to 17.5% last year. You certainly won’t notice a difference when you call your friendly local geek out for your computer repair – we will be absorbing the increase for you.
In other words, we’ll be taking a 2.5% pay cut, so need all the work we can get. So, if you know anyone with computer problems, please remind them – don’t just press any key, press the HDG key.
Possibly the best small business server solution is also the best kept secret. And it looks like it’s going to get even better. I’ve been using Windows Home Server for a few months now and offer it to some of our small business clients as the perfect solution.
This is because most small businesses don’t need Small Business Server.
Not long after setting up my Twitter account, I downloaded and started using TweetDeck, and a great client it is too.
However, having this great PC client did have a few downsides. Either the little pop-up notification would appear just as I wanted to click something underneath it, or something so interesting would pop up that I would immediately click on it. And then I’d be distracted, time would fly and I’d be doomed to get nothing done. Plus, if I was out seeing a client, there would be such a queue of updates waiting to be read that I’d fall so far behind and just skip a day. Or two.
But then they released a beta of TweetDeck on Android.
While Kelly at Fill Your Face Cosmetics liked the look of her website, she found it impossible to update. It was also entirely Flash based, making it far from accessible or search-engine friendly.
We carried out a full conversion to our preferred CMS and migrated to our own hosting. We also made a number of improvements, so Kelly is a lot happier…
Having tried several companies for web design, I was beginning to become very distrustful of all IT based companies. But then I met Dear Geek, who I have now renamed Geekie!!
From the instant I met Jonathan (Geeekie) I knew this was a good guy, he has listened to my brief and delivered exactly what I wanted in relation to my website. He keeps my website up to date and stays in regular contact, which I find very reassuring due to my previous IT experiences.
If Carlsbergs made Geeks……
Kelly Costello – Fill Your Face Cosmetics
Lorenden already had a website when they called us in. They liked the design but found it very difficult to update – their hosting was also working out very expensive.
We took over their hosting, carried out a conversion to our preferred CMS, made several improvements to the site and carried out a training session for the staff.
Even after the cost of us carrying out that work, they will save over £800 in the first year and over £1,200 per year after that.
We were very pleased to be invited back by Kent Enterprise Trust to work on two new websites to promote the services offered at their new premises.
This project was particularly fun as we trained 10 people on how to use their new CMS – they have jumped into it and even started working with the templates and CSS – we’re not precious about our websites – at the end of the day, it is the client’s website, not ours.