The Shunning of the Geek

I think that Bill Gates sometimes looks up the phone numbers of his high school tormentors. I bet he calls them occasionally to gloat whenever he feels like getting back at them for all the atomic wedgies. I can just see it now.


“Hey, buddy, remember how you stuck my head in the toilet in ninth grade with four of your jock friends? Well, my stock just went up fifty cents today, and I made half a billion dollars. Can you count to 500 million? Huh? How much do you make flipping those burgers, twenty grand a year? Who’s the loser now?”

As much as I don’t like the Evil Empire and its chief software engineer, I can at least somewhat understand where Bill is coming from. If he does indulge in those nightly phone calls, I can condone it. There’s an ugly discrimination going on in society, and it is not based on skin color or sex. It is actually one of the very few issues that unite Mac and Windows users, because it does not differ between them. It’s the disrespect for the Common Geek.

I don’t know about you, but I am patently offended by those idiotic Dell commercials where Joe Consumer raves about the Dell support system, stating it’s like “he has a computer geek on the roof” that he can consult whenever he can’t figure out how to operate his almost-idiot-proof new Dell. Sure, pal…you make fun of them and give them wedgies in high school, you won’t hang out with them, but when the chips are on the table, you ask for their assistance. “Here, nerd boy, fix this for me and then go back into your cage.” You know what I feel like telling him? Screw you, and enjoy trying to install AOL on your overpriced rig, you schmuck.

That’s what these people do: all their lives, they take advantage of those that actually know stuff, only to shun them socially at the first opportunity. Geeks are not taken seriously. This is one of the very few societies on this planet where smart people are considered socially undesirable.

Observe how the content and courtesy of Internet communication has changed since the non-geek segment of the populace has hopped on the bandwagon. In 1994, I could send and receive email all day long, for weeks and even months at a time, without receiving one piece of unsolicited email. Usenet discussions were civil and informative. Jim Jock and his pals start to jump online, and all of a sudden I have to dig through twenty porn and get-rich-quick offers every time I check for legit email. For the geeks, the Internet was a habitat, the only social environment on the planet where intellect was the only factor in interpersonal relations, and the selfish morons have ruined it for us. If you can’t figure out how to get to the “real” Internet, you ought to stick with AOL, where the clueless congregate and multiply. On AOL, you may subject yourself to draconian Terms of Service, enforced by the AOL equivalent of the Gestapo. Still, with all the enforcement on AOL, the “chat rooms” are filled with grammatically challenged individuals, and the content of most chats is just about as exciting (and as painful to witness) as a bad Japanese cartoon. Even with Big Brother AOL watching out for the children, people get nine pieces of porno spam for each piece of legit email. From a technical standpoint, AOL’s news and mail readers are hopelessly underfeatured because they have to keep their software tailored to the lowest IQ denominator among AOL users. Make it pretty and easy to click on for the drooling morons, who cares about proper attachment handling? This is what happens with any society when you let the brainless egomaniacs not only run the show but define the standards for the rest of us.

Contrast this with the Internet itself, aside from the bloated bag of content popcorn that the WWW has turned into. Usenet is alive and prospering, even though it has unusable newsgroups that have been abandoned by the sane and thinking. Everything that requires more knowledge to operate than the ability to click on a pretty button is still unmolested by those who see the Net as their personal free marketing vehicle. IRC is what AOL chat rooms could be—a self-policed community that is the polar opposite from AOL dictatorship. Yet the conversations are more civil, violators of the unwritten code of conduct are rare and immediately subject to punting, and content is not limited to what the average seven-year-old might find inoffensive.

How come the nerds can get it right? Why, then, is it socially more acceptable to carry a piece of pigskin across Astroturf, than to sit at home and expand your horizon by talking to people from countries that your former classmates can’t even find on a map?

But that’s okay. Just ask Bill G. whether he regrets getting into computers back in school. I sure don’t. I let the morons play on AOL, and ask for Internet access at work. I just smile patiently when I get called “geek”, and turn around and charge them a hundred bucks an hour for setting up a four-node network in their used car dealer offices. Keep it up, jock boy, and discourage more of your peers from learning about computers. Somebody has to serve my food when I get home from a day of overpaid geek work.