Re: Good times, those
I work in schools. I do their IT.
Every school has what I refer to as a geek clique. It may be a couple of students and a keen teacher, or maybe 10-12 of us all together (including the IT manager). In those groups, we meet once a week and hack on stuff. Just in the last year, we've built drone copters (we tried building out own but it was... over-engineered, shall we say, and likely to never take off), used Raspberry Pi IR cameras to great effect, we're pushing through Arduino now where C-syntax is used to directly push pin voltages to control hand-built circuits with basic components (literally resistors, diodes, etc. none of this modular or high-end rubbish), we discuss the old computers, we demonstrate several programming languages and dive into assembly for our examples of what's actually happening. We discuss Turing, and Lovelace, and dip into Godel's completeness theorems, graph theory and all kind of things.
The kids sit and hand-paint 2D isometric games using MS paint. We knock up parts for the drones in Sketchup and print them out on the 3D printer.
NONE of this is in the curriculum, this is all after-school clubs and lunch-time things and extensions when the lesson is over. In fact, in this school, we rejected even the new IT curriculum as it didn't go far enough. How old are these kids? 10-11 for the most part.
There are geek cliques out there, still. There are people that know "the old ways" and will whip out a Wheatstone Bridge circuit diagram from memory and explain how it works, or churn out some 6502 code from heart. And the right groups of kids still find it fascinating. Hell, I was working with an IT technician in a previous school who was 20, and it's amazing when you realise what a 20-year-old was never exposed to in IT terms. Six months later, the guy was learning programming languages for fun.
The community is still there. In fact, if anything, being a geek isn't quite so bad. When I was a kid, in an inner-city comprehensive, you were shunned for being the geek and had to find those like-minded geeks. The geeks pupils I socialise with now, they don't have that kind of isolation. Raspberry Pi is cool. Making a case for your iPhone on a 3D printer is something that will bring 20 "uninterested" kids to class to see if they can make their own too. Every kid has a smartphone already, theirs just has some programming apps. Every kid is jealous of their drone and will go get their own from Maplin's just to fly it around.
If anything, the community is more alive than ever, even if the old tech has taken a back seat. The reason that you don't see it is that it's part of modern culture too. Being able to "write an app" for your smartphone is something you can do on a freebie website nowadays and all kids do it in lessons as part of the curriculum.
The geek culture is alive and thriving in today's youth, which is great for the likes of myself who didn't have the community side of it when I was young and can now enthuse over quite how cool the operation of even a single transistor is in the company of like-minded people.
If anything, the problem is that technology is so complex, projects can be boring. You want to make a GPS-reader for your RPi project? Buy this GPS module for £20, it talks serial to the board, done. Because you don't really stand a chance of making the circuit on your own due to the complexity. But you can still teach and learn the basics, have fun, find friends who also enjoy it and have lots of geek-out moments where you go completely off-track and start showing them old "computer hacker" movies from the 80's.
Those times aren't dead, geeks are just more accepted nowadays. Being a Sheldon isn't what it used to be.