Ingrid writes and interesting post over at The 80s Club – 80s Cliques and talks about the various groups of teenagers typically found in an 80s American High School.
While some of them are quite US centric, there are some similarities that we had here in Australia too.
One issue I take is with the lumping of “geeks” and “nerds” together into one group – although I do admit that back then, the true geeks were probably nerds too, since consumer-level technology like computers were very new and only certain types of kids got into them.
Interestingly, by the late 90s there was a clear distinction between “geeks” and “nerds” … where nerd was a term used to generically describe someone with poor social skills who would much rather spend time working on some project on their own (or with a close group of other nerdy friends), a geek started to become more business-like in their pursuits.
The dot.com boom of the late 1990s saw geek become chic, and many people who may have been labelled nerds the previous decade (possibly because they were), came out of their shell and started actually doing things with their skills – usually making megabucks !!
The term geek now usually reflects that someone has a very technological focus in their skills – usually computer oriented. Geeks don’t necessarily have bad social skills, and indeed, success in the dot.com business world required not only great technical skill, but the ability to actually do business as well (of which the social element is quite important) – even if that business was merely talking yourself up to the next employer willing to double your salary.
In the post dot.com days, geek might not be quite as chic as it was a few years ago – but it’s still significanty better than nerd. And you’ll still find the occasional geek driving a new Porsche/Ferrari/Lamborghini that he paid cash for.
So – I’m a geek – I’m the first to admit that. But please don’t call me a nerd – I do find that to be insulting :D
Chris Howard says
Hi Simon. Found your site through Trevor’s who found mine through ProBlogger. It’s interesting the threads that draw us all together.
Interesting also your definitions of geeks and nerds. Mine differ somewhat, and I happily call myself a nerd.
For me a geek is the one who’s obsessive about something (such as computers) to the detrimetn of his socializing – which he’s usually not interested in anyway. He also tends to show disdain for peopel who don’t understand his interest as much as he does. In computing, a computer geek will always be able to program, have a Linux server because he can and so on.
Nerds on the other hand (and again, this is just my definition), also can struggle socially and are happy with their own company. They also know a particular field of interest very well, but are not totally obsessive about it or aloof. They also like sharing their knowledge and helping others understand. This means they’re more likely to be found in support roles than geeks, who are more likely to be programmers or sys admins.
I probably was a geek 20 years ago but nowadays, I’m happy to be a nerd.