A friend and I used to crack jokes about her being on the edge of losing her girl card because she didn’t like chocolate, or pink. Her shoe collection and love of designer handbags was probably the only thing that spared her from having her girl status completely revoked. Now, I can’t imagine that anyone would ever accuse me of being in danger of losing my girl card, but there is another card that I have lost along the way.
My geek card.
My husband, who is one hell of a programmer, will admit (though, I wonder if he will do so in public) that back in the day when the whole world was still learning how to make the web work, my skills at web page building and graphics design were better than his. I knew how to maintain my own IRC server. I knew more than a little bit about Apache. I couldn’t have built some of the more elegant things that he did in other programming languages, but my web skills were pretty awesome. I showed him some cool tricks that I learned you could do in Photoshop. I was responsible for a ridiculous amount of the HTML code that fed our websites. Heck, at the end of my time in the work force, before I opted out to become a stay at home parent, I was making a modest living designing and maintaining a website for a company that only just abandoned that design a few years ago. I wasn’t a rockstar, but I was decent. I had conversations with my husband that made my friends stare at us like we were speaking an alien tongue and I had the skills to translate geek to English for folks that didn’t understand it.
I’ve let these skills lapse and sometimes I regret it. I used to be able to follow the conversation when my husband would talk shop with his co-workers and now, all I can do is stand there and smile politely and nod. When my husband talks to me about some server he found still running software with names I actually recognize, my reaction isn’t, “Cool!” it’s, “Dear God! That is OLD. They actually PAID this guy? Wow, they got ripped off.”
I’ve often wondered what happened to turn me from “geek” to “user.”
I think I’ve pinpointed it and the answer surprised me. It wasn’t so much that I allowed my skills to atrophy. It’s just that I didn’t need them anymore because their usefulness was replaced with tools that made the job a lot easier.
It started when I found Blogger. You didn’t have to build your own web pages and could just say whatever the heck you wanted on your own website? Too cool! That later evolved into the WordPress blog you see before you, and even then, I don’t lift up the hood to look at the HTML. When I edit a blog post, WordPress has got a WYSIWYG editor in it, and I totally just dated myself by using the term WYSIWYG in public. Wow, it really has been that long. I used to like to get into the code and get my hands dirty for a few hours every night before bed and if I wasn’t tweaking my web pages, I was designing new graphics for no apparent reason other than it was fun. I don’t have to dig into the code now. Visual editors have gotten good enough that it’s not necessary to know HTML, to put up a great looking personal web page.
That includes the graphics too. The last time I opened image editing software that wasn’t iPhoto, was only for the purpose of color balancing a picture. What happened to the days when I ran a website with the specific purpose of providing free web graphics to the world? I’ll tell you what happened, we stopped needing them. Needing “free web graphics” like buttons, bars, borders and banners went away with Geocities– yes, I know I dated myself, again– buttons, bars, banners and backgrounds have become passé. When I see web pages using these, I laugh and think, “Hello! 1997 called and it wants its web page back!”
So it isn’t so much that I gave up on being a geek or walked away from that sort of life. It’s just that progress happened, and I went with it. I’ve changed, for sure, but I’m not the only thing that’s changed around here. The world has changed too. It used to be necessary to be that geeky to get anything done on the internet, and now, you just don’t have to go that far or work that hard to put up a website, build a blog or even come up with your own cool logo. I think that’s a good thing. It’s made our global village just that much smaller.
It doesn’t help with my feelings of inadequacy at company dinner parties with my husband’s geeky co-workers though.