Growing up Geek: Chris Pirillo
Welcome to Growing Up Geek, an ongoing feature where we take a look back at our youth and tell stories of growing up to be the nerds that we are. Today, we have a special guest: internet entrepreneur, tech support blogger, media personality and geek, Chris Pirillo
Before I begin, let me just say: I'm not a slave to your mental delusions of who you think I am.
I have to get that out of the way largely because I've been "doing things" publicly for so long that some people have already formed opinions about me and what they believe I stand for. That's their problem, not mine.
I don't know if there was ever a specific moment I found myself attracted to electronic objects? I certainly recall playing with my cousin's Merlin and watching with wonder as my brother fiddled with his Alphie. I was certainly mesmerized by calculators, but that didn't lead me to develop advanced math skills.
Our family had an Atari 2600 (I uploaded the unboxing of both it and my first LEGO set to our YouTube channel). I think that's what started me down the path of being a casual gamer? It wasn't until my grandfather picked up a Commodore Vic 20 and connected it to a black and white television set that I started to explore computing. Granted, there wasn't much you could do with it back then. I honed my curiosity when "Santa" delivered a Commodore 64 -- the sights, the sounds!
I fiddled with BASIC programming for a while, but really no more than the average child might have done in the day. I loved the home computer for what it enabled me to do - software, as crafted by other hands, drove an addiction.
The Atari 2600 took a back seat to the original NES. Though, a few years later, I wasn't as interested in gaming as much as I was writing. After having learned to type on a real typewriter, having word processing software at my fingertips was an immense accelerant. I suppose this interest in somewhat-creative writing is why I eventually fell back on a pursuing a degree in English? Gaming sucked, if only because the options were expensive and hopelessly buggy.
It wasn't until a few years later, as a sophomore in college, that I would get connected to the Internet for the first time - and that's when I'd say my life really changed. From the first email I sent to a guy sitting across from me in a computer lab, I was hooked. It couldn't be THIS easy. It couldn't be THIS incredible. Mind you, the terminal was a PC running some earlier form of DOS -- no graphics, no World Wide Web. My eyes were open. It was fun to explore what the Internet had to offer -- limited as it was.
I used the Internet to connect with other people, primarily - that's what drew me in day after day. I couldn't easily connect with people I knew, however (we certainly didn't have Facebook, and it was a hurdle to get an account at the university to begin with). To me, the Internet still is nothing without people. I fueled most conversations via ISCA, the world's leading BBS at the time.
We had both PCs and Macs on campus - though it might be difficult to imagine (or remember) just how different they were from one another. I lived largely in DOS, though I didn't have a computer of my own. My junior year roomie had an amazing Mac Classic - which I used to explore fonts and design dynamic HyperCard experiences. Still, my first computer was a PC running Windows 3.11 - and long before MP3s were available, I'd fill my 420MB hard drive with amazing freeware I'd find through newsgroups.
I became a true software addict.
It was this passion for exploration and love for sharing my discoveries with others that created the "Chris Pirillo" I am today. In 1996, I would parlay an old high school nickname (and online handle) "Locker Gnome" into a brand for delivering information to other curious people. That's when social media started for me.
Within a few years' time, I would be sending LockerGnome.com email newsletters regularly to 100,000+ people from around the world. I've been doing that ever since (and then some). My passion has lead to several amazing projects over the years.
That's how it started - not at TechTV, as some believe. I had made a name for myself with peers long before that network was named (and I've certainly outlived it with a greater degree of success). It wasn't until after I had authored a book on email publishing that I would even float onto the radar of open-minded network show producers. They were looking for another person to fill some insanely large shoes - and that experience would become both a boon and a bane.
I've never aimed to be anybody but myself. Some people have a problem with that, and they're not afraid to share their less-than-constructive opinions with the world.
The real irony? I get bullied more by other "geeks" now than I ever did by jockasses in high school. That's not funny. The enemy used to be THEM - and now it seems to be US.
I was drawn to the Internet with a sense of wonder, a feeling of true connectedness - and now it seems I'm becoming increasingly overwhelmed by a sense of rampant entitlement.
I know that some geeks / nerds are happy to engage in anti-social, destructive behaviors, but this should never be brandished as a badge of honor - it's a tremendous shortcoming in a day and age when everybody is connected to this global stream of consciousness with free-flowing content and approaching-unlimited connectivity.
I continue to publish my own perspectives and discoveries online - everywhere. Seriously, where am I not sharing today? I'm sure I'll continue to craft geek-centric content for myself and others until the day I shuffle off this mortal coil. My goal? To continue to thrive in a career of being myself. That, and to be acquired by Aol.
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