Saved by the geek.

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As technology makes further inroads into our lives, it comes at the price of increased stress and frustration as we struggle with more complexity and just the challenge of keeping it all working. Tech manuals just don't make good reading, and with every new upgrade or purchase there are more buttons and features to figure out or even worse, configure. In the dark ages, it all started with the blinking 12:00 on the VCR. Now we are stumbling through a landscape of computers, software, new operating systems, wireless networks, PDA's, and cell phones. And that's before we even get to the office.

When it comes time to save the day (OK, just to get your gizmo working again), Superman is now wearing a white shirt and clip-on tie. Maybe he's not faster than a speeding bullet, but he will show you how to download Casino Royale in 12 minutes, and his computer has enough power to run Bolivia. He can order a party-size pizza with a single click. Look into Cyberspace. Its a fumbling end-user! Its that 404 error you keep getting when you can't connect! No, it's a Geek!


We know geeks to be single minded, obsessive people, accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits. Just to offset any feelings of jealously we also think of them as living on boundaries of social normality. Inner Geek more sympathetically describes them as people who "strive to prove their worth outside the definitions of mainstream". What really defines a Geek is their compulsion and drive to learn vast quantities of knowledge about a particular field, e.g. computers or Star Trek. It is important to distinguish the Geek from the Nerd, because the Nerd is characterized as having high intelligence, but may not be fascinated with one subject. A Geek's mastery is more likely the result of countless hours of study, albeit at the expense of having a "normal" social life.

With such an obvious need to identify these potential leaders of our new technocracy, where should we look first? Of late you simply need to look for the Volkswagon Beetle bearing the Geek Squad or Nerds-On-Site logo and colorful markings. You can come to my IT Consultant Meetup Group. You could wait for the next Star Wars movie and see who has lined up three days in advance. You can look for the indivduals wearing the T-Shirt that reads "Keep out of direct sunlight", or that one you can't read - most likely its binary code that translates into "You Are Dumb". If there is a geek in your life check here for more. But why not let technology help track down the techie? At Inner Geek they have engineered a test that is apparently quite reliable. You may even want to take it yourself. Here are some sample questions:

  • In school did you do homework that wasn't required?
  • Have you indexed and catalogued a personal collection?
  • Do like to read on Friday or Saturday nights, or turn on your computer first thing in the morning?
  • Do you wear a digital watch?
  • Do you want a light saber? To work for Microsoft? More RAM? More friends?
  • Have you destroyed things just to see how they work?
  • Do you know more people online than in real life?
  • How many hobbits can you name?
  • Do you know how to how to count to 31 on one hand?

Perhaps an old high school colleage comes to mind. One high school student who would score high on the Geek Test is Robert Stephens, the founder and chief inspector of "Geek Squad," the tech support company he founded while he was still in college. Started for $200.00 in 1994 they grew to a squad of over 6000 geeks in 2002, becoming North America's largest technology support company. They fix 4,000 computers a day in their Louisville facility.. Recently featured on 60 Minutes, Robert Stephens said "It takes time to read the manuals. I'm gonna save you that time cause I stay home on Saturday nights and read them for you." Bought out by Best Buy in 1994, Robert now has lots of time to read in the comfort of his new Lear jet.