What is a Geek?

Three geeks and a presidentMuch like a "guru" is a spiritual leader and teacher, a geek is a technology leader and teacher. Geeks introduce us to brave new worlds, with visions of the future. Geeks pick up where others left off, to turn a vision into a reality. Geeks take concepts and turn them into functional products. Many of the early pioneers of the internet illustrate that geeks often develop new ideas for the "love of the game," without seeking fame or fortune.

Before the term geek became associated with an enthusiast in the technology world it was originally associated with a carnival performer often billed as a wild man. As we explore some rivalries between geeks, we will see some wild acts worthy of being a carnival performance.

Three geeks and a president

The 1921 photo attached to this article shows three famous geeks, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone, along with Warren G. Harding, the 29th President of the USA. The three famous geeks were leaders in American industry in the early 20th century, and often worked and vacationed together. Ford, Edison, and Firestone, along with American naturalist John Burroughs, embarked on a series of summer camping trips calling themselves the Four Vagabonds.

Henry Ford was the founder of the Ford Motor Company. Although Ford did not invent the automobile or the assembly line, his development of the assembly line technique of mass production made the automobile affordable for middle class Americans.

Harvey Firestone was the founder of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, one of the first global makers of automobile tires.

Thomas Edison is considered one of the most prolific inventors in history, holding over 1000 U.S. patents in his name. He is credited with numerous inventions that contributed to mass communication and, in particular, telecommunications.

In 1927 Edison joined with Ford and Firestone to establish the Edison Botanic Research Corporation to develop rubber at his winter home in Fort Myers, Florida.

Geeks Henry Ford and lifelong friend Thomas Edison

Most folks associate Thomas Alva Edison's name with the invention of the light bulb, but the creation of the lightbulb started many years before Edison. His achievement was inventing a carbon filament incandescent electric light, as well as an electric lighting system that contained all the elements necessary to make the incandescent light practical, safe, and economical.

Thomas Alva Edison conceived the principle of recording and reproducing sound as a byproduct of his efforts to play back recorded telegraph messages and to automate speech sounds for transmission by telephone. The invention of the phonograph made Edison famous and a popular cultural figure of his day.

Edison loved tinkering and inventing, Edison did not just have a laboratory at Menlo Park, New Jersey, he created an invention factory. If there was to be someone who symbolizes what it is to be a technology geek, it is without a doubt Thomas Alva Edison.

Henry Ford was an innovator, he manufactured the first automobile that many middle class Americans could afford. But did you know Henry Ford began his career as a geek working at the Edison Illumination Company as a steam engineer eventually rising to chief engineer

Famous geek Nikola Tesla and the War of Currents

If I mentioned Tesla, would your mind immediately think about electric cars? Or would you stir up the debate of whether Thomas Edison stole his ideas from Serbian American inventor Nikola Tesla? The rivalry between Edison and Tesla showed that both men were capable of some pretty wild things, living up to the word geek in more ways that one.

Nikola Tesla once worked for Edison, and later become his rival. In the great battle of the geeks of the industrial era inventor Nikola Tesla and industrialist George Westinghouse joined forces to defeat Edison in the War of Currents. Westinghouse purchased Nikola Tesla's patents and hired him to improve his AC motor for use in Westinghouse's new power system.

If the name Tesla means more to you than just a modern company that manufactures electric vehicles, and you have heard of the War of Currents, you might be a geek.