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Code Or The Force? The Great Geek Debates Continue

Adafruit founder Limor Fried challenges Rancho Obi-Wan founder Steve Sansweet to a duel between Star Wars and Ada Lovelace.

Code Or The Force? The Great Geek Debates Continue
[Source Photos: LucasFilms, Disney, Ada Lovelace: via Wikipedia]

Every day this week, as Fast Company readers vote to decide the single greatest geek moment in history, we’ll also present a debate over geek moments that we hope will get your juices flowing. It’s something to make you think as you get ready to exercise your sacred franchise.

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As part of this week’s bracket competition to determine the greatest geek moment in history, we’re presenting daily debates that include technologists, culture mavens, software makers, and authors. They argued the merits of their personal favorite geek moments over email. And now we present those debates, lightly edited, for your reading pleasure.

Limor Fried (Ladyada), founder and CEO of Adafruit Industries My personal pick for greatest geek moment was when Augusta Ada King, the countess of Lovelace (referred to as Ada Lovelace) discovered that she could write a program/algorithm that could be executed by a machine. This was Charles Babbage’s analytical engine. She’s usually considered the first world’s first computer programmer. That “spark” set so much in motion. The very idea of humans being able to command machines in addition to just mathematics started with this very early and profound “geek moment” in the 1800s.

Steve Sansweet, founder of Rancho Obi-Wan, the world’s largest Star Wars museum, in Petaluma, California. The premiere of Star Wars on May 25, 1977, did more to launch geek culture as we know it today than any other single event in the history of geekdom. It had–and continues to have–a unique pull on three generations and millions of people worldwide. It helped change “geek” from a pejorative to, in the eyes of Hollywood and the licensing business, someone to court. And it strengthened the idea of fandom and, eventually, gave it true power.

Fried A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . . wouldn’t be possible unless someone, a geek, discovered that we could write programs and algorithms that could be executed by a machine. It’s part of a connected chain of events. One made another possible. I think even C-3PO, human-cyborg relations, would agree. Besides, Princess Leia and Ada Lovelace are both smart, powerful women, who also just happen to rock out the same hair style.

Sansweet While I truly admire a brilliant woman born 200 years ago who had a passion for science and math, one could equally argue that the Antikythera mechanism, built 2,000 years ago, was the first true computer that had been lost in the mists of time. Star Wars can also be traced back thousands of years to the underpinnings of mythology, from the hero’s journey to the wise mentor and, in a delightful twist, the damsel not in distress but in control. Princess Leia, in fact, made it possible for girls to get their geek on in a previously male-dominated subculture.

About the author

Daniel Terdiman is a San Francisco-based technology journalist with nearly 20 years of experience. A veteran of CNET and VentureBeat, Daniel has also written for Wired, The New York Times, Time, and many other publications.

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