Making more geeks, one geek at a time

Please pardon a slightly off-topic post. This isn’t about electronics, but it’s about making more people who might make electronics, so it’s almost relevant.

Saturday afternoon my seven-year-old son asked if I’d let him play Quake 3 on my desktop computer. I said sure and walked him through bringing up the Ubuntu Unity menu, typing in “ioquake,” and so on, until he’d started a multiplayer game populated with several bot enemies. All was well and I returned to fiddling with Twilio.

Then came the Tech Support call: “DAD!!!” My son had navigated down into some odd menu I’d never seen, and both of us needed some time to figure out what was going on. We hit escape, got our bearings, and he was back manufacturing gibs once again. I told him to stick to the main options in the menu.

“OK, Dad.“ And back to Twilio.


This time he’d done something kind of interesting. He’d opened the Quake console and had gotten into some state that seemed unrecoverable except for quitting. I was about to repeat my “stick to the main” admonition, except this time phrased as a “because I’m Dad - now it’s a rule - disobedience forbidden - on pain of punishment” kind of parental edict.

Fortunately, I caught myself, just before the words left my mouth. _My son was doing exactly what I used to do when I was learning computers._ He was exploring every path in the UI, seeing what would happen, poking the box. This was hacking. This was the satisfaction of curiosity, the development of proficiency, the beginning of true understanding. This was my son being a geek.

My irritation subsided. Awe replaced it. I stepped back, literally and figuratively. I nudged him a bit to get him unstuck, as he’d asked me to, but I let him keep exploring the real game that he wanted to play - the user interface of this shoot ‘em up.