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Steve Case in his other office, a local coffee shop.

No, he’s not that Steve Case. But just like the AOL co-founder, this week’s Geek of the Week is a true tech aficionado.

Steve Case, a resident of Tacoma, Wash., has always wondered how things work. As a kid, he took apart a toy robot to see what made it tick. As he got older he learned how to put things back together. And as time went on, Case learned how to make new things, and make existing things better.

Today, Case fixes things for Xerox, where he is a specialty print technology manager.

“I am honored to be called a ‘troubleshooter,'” Case said. “Knowing that I’m trusted to first understand how things work and then determine what’s preventing them from working as intended.”

Case said he is a detail person through and through.

“I notice when something doesn’t seem right, catch typos without even looking for them, and if there’s a big enough opportunity for improvement, I let the author know,” Case said. “I even spotted the Easter egg when GeekWire migrated to the new WordPress platform a couple years ago. … And yes, I have the T-shirt to prove it.”

Learn more about Case, what he does and how he does it, in this week’s Geek of the Week questionnaire:

What do you do, and why do you do it? “I am a specialty print technology manager at Xerox. In practice, that means I lead a team that works with large-format printers, scanners, and label printers, and the systems that drive them.

“A predecessor told me he liked working with printing so much because it brings together so many things, including computers, operating systems, applications, human factors, networking, and of course the hardware itself. That means lots of places where things can break, but part of my team’s job is to document processes and improve them where it makes sense.”

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? “Printing is not dead. So long as we live in a physical world, we will need to get digital data into the real world. Sometimes you also need to scan physical material into digital form. As we move toward virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), maybe more things will be projected rather than printed, but we’re nowhere near that point yet.”

Where do you find your inspiration? “I genuinely enjoy making things work better, and I tend to see problems as puzzles. Businesses run better, people’s lives are better, and there’s less “stuff” getting in the way.”

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? “HTTP. The Web (the part of the Internet that people are most familiar with) wouldn’t exist without it, and much of my day involves research across public and private networks that run on HTTP.”

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? “I’ve actually got two desks at the office, both with dual monitors. However, I can’t show you my desks or the fun things we work with because cameras aren’t allowed in or anywhere near the lab. I can show you my other office: A coffee shop where I like to touch-base with folks and catch-up on email evenings and weekends.”

Steve Case
Steve Case, whose favorite cause is donating blood.

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) “Always be ready to take notes, since you never know when inspiration will strike. When I’m at my computer, that means OneNote. When I’m away from the computer, it means dictating to an email or note-taking app on my phone. When all else fails, there’s an envelope in one pocket and a pen in another so I can take notes the old-fashioned way.”

Mac, Windows or Linux? “Windows.”

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? “Archer. Of course the others were great too, following in his footsteps.”

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? “TARDIS. (Transporter and Time Machine in one package.)”

I once waited in line for … “I usually wait for the .1 release, so there’s not a lot of waiting in line.”

Your role models: “With a nod back to the question about the Star Trek captains, it’s hard not to think of a pair of Star Trek chief engineers: Scotty and Geordi. They are the ones who take the requirements and turn them into reality — sometimes in unprecedented ways.”

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … “I don’t want to give away my game plan, so I’m not going to spill the beans here.”

Best gadget ever: “The smart phone: A real live pocket computer, with audio and video I/O, that nearly everyone can afford to carry now.”

Greatest game in history: “Depending on how you interpret the question, either Go, or the 1980 US/USSR “Miracle on Ice” Olympics hockey game.”

First computer: “A ‘386 white box desktop from Bear Computer in Bellevue.”

Current phone: “Multiple.”

Favorite app: “I’m not that big on apps; I’d rather do most things on a bigger display (or spread across multiple displays). That may change as voice recognition improves, but for now, Twitter is the app I use the most.”

Favorite cause: “Blood donation. You donate a pint of blood and around an hour of your time, and you give a gift that’s priceless.”

Most important technology of 2016: “Driver-assistance technologies, such as automatic braking, cruise control that automatically adjusts your following distance, and sensor technologies that keep an eye on other vehicles. I don’t think driverless cars will play a significant part in the real world for several years, but this kind of tech provides incremental steps in that direction.”

Most important technology of 2018: “Super-capacitors and batteries with higher energy density that will make electric and hybrid vehicles more practical, and allow mobile technology to shrink and/or run longer between charges.”

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: “When a client asks for something out of the ordinary (especially something that’s expensive or complicated), I’m notorious for asking “What are you trying to accomplish?” ie: Keep your eye on the end game rather than on the cool tech that might seem like a nice way to get there.”


Twitter: @JoeBugBuster

LinkedIn: Steve Case

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