The job advert might as well had said, “Need not apply: Old, retired computer nerds.” I sometimes browse through the IT section of job adverts to amuse myself and to remind my inner nerd that it’s a cruel, cruel world out there for older folk from all walks of life and professions. I might not last the morning on the job dealing with a supervisor on the data center floor who doesn’t know that “head” and “tail” are not sexual innuendo, that POTS isn’t the plural form of pot, or that forcing a memory core dump doesn’t mean I suffer from bowel incontinence. I’m implying that some people don’t even know what a phone booth is, let alone that “tip” and “ring” have nothing to do with leaving a tip at the restaurant or wearing an engagement ring. The chasm between old school nerd and their modern contemporaries is a wide one, and I applaud those nerds who can bridge the gap with technical history and mentoring, the latter of which is an endangered trait.
So what do old, retired computer nerds get themselves into when they leave the data center collective? I hope they live long and prosper and get a new hard disk, but I can only speak for myself. In 2012 I took up guitar and music lessons to challenge my mind and arthritic hands while I’m not battling my love-hate relationship with writing. I also quench my nerdy self with copious amounts of tinkering with Propellor and Raspberry Pi boards and repurposing unused technology.
I was all excited over participating in NaNoWriMo 2015, but after a few attempts I couldn’t get my mind off existing projects—both musical and writing—long enough to run with a new idea for 30 days. I already have a huge writing project that requires an enormous amount of technical research on such topics as quantum mechanics, ancient history, Neanderthals, genetics, biology, and organic computing. Add to that pile the effort of taking care of my elderly mother, and I find my days are quite filled with purpose.
I believe hitting the deck running is essential the day after you leave the office for good. It’s very easy to slip into a routine of self-indulgence if there’s nothing to challenge your mind and body. Learn to play an instrument, create characters in your head and write about their adventures, or build kinetic sculptures—just don’t spend so much time in front of the Telly that your brain rots in situ. The important thing to recall everyday is that old does not mean obsolete and old nerds do it slower.