Revenge of the Nerd

Written by PushingUpRoses on September 29th, 2011

When I was in second grade, all I wanted was a new computer. My aunt had an old tandy, green text on black screen and everything, which she gave to me. I played a lot of Treasure Mountain (400 LEVELS OF THE SAME THING THAT DOESN’T PROGRESS IN DIFFICULTY AW YEAH). With the arrival of CD-Roms and Soundblaster however, I wanted a computer where I could play these up-and-coming TALKING games. So I begged and begged, and a couple Christmas’s later, I got my computer, complete with creative labs CD-Rom and a package of games that would make any retro gamer pee their pants.

It came with Doom. It was so cool.

I decided my new computer was amazing. I loved it. It could play games, I could write papers on it, it had Windows 3.1, which I was personally amazed by because previously, I had been using DOS computers, AND it had that RADICAL MS-Paint program that I could paint really stupid portraits of myself in. COOOOOOOOL.

In my amazement, I decided to write a paper on my new toy. It was for either 2nd or 3rd grade if I recall correctly. I don’t remember the exact time, I just have the visual in my head of reading my paper out loud to the class. The subject of the paper was to be “The best thing I received for Christmas.” So I wrote this completely in depth paper about my computer. How it had Windows 3.1. How it had a CD-ROM. How soundblaster was new, and that my games could talk. I was a very passionate 8 year old.

I spoke my words proudly and eagerly. And when I was done, the clique of snobby girls sitting diagonal from me laughed. And then I realized that I had ostracized myself from my fellow students for the rest of the year. And even the rest of my time spent in elementary school. Being a “nerd” or any form of “computer geek” was the worst thing you could be when I was growing up. It wasn’t accepted as being cool like it is today. No, when I was growing up, my friends of the female persuasion would rather involve themselves in the exciting, fast paced worlds of boy bands. And jewelry. And sometimes shoes. I hate shoes. Eventually I got tired being a nerd and ran amuck through my high school years, resulting in me getting thrown out of public school. ….But that is really a story for another day. *coughISortOfThreatenedThePrincipalcough*

It blows my mind that “nerdy” things have become such a trendy thing. Now we have websites devoted to selling geek swag. It’s COOL to be a nerd. You WANT to know about things like Star Wars, Back to the Future, Computers, iPhones, programming. Man, I’m COOL now. And because I actually teach students technology based subjects at my job, I’m even MORE COOL. Students depend on me because I have the upper hand. I HAVE POWER. ….sorry.

But then I thought, is being a nerd cool because people actually find it cool? Or is it more of a matter that technology has become so useful, that people depend on nerds? I teach students of all ages and from all kinds of different backgrounds. I constantly get young girls coming in with their iPhone. Young, teenage girls who are fresh out of high school, and honestly don’t have a clue, and for the most part are required to take *some* form of computer course just to complete their core. These girls do not care about learning the computer. But they DO care that their iPhone is working properly, so they depend on us computer dorks, programmers, and hardware gurus to make their everyday accessories work. Now, for the most part, I get students who love learning. But every now and then I get those bratty, spoiled types who could care less about what they have the opportunity to learn. Apathetic as they are, they are not like the girls who made fun of me in elementary school. They respect people who have the upper hand.

I think another reason being a nerd has become so accepting over the last 15 years or so, is the fact that video games have become more popular than ever. And good video games require good programmers, good designers, good artists, and because games have become so lush and cinematic over time, it’s something everyone can get into. Unless you are one of those gals who break their boyfriends PS3s in a giant butthurt fit then uploads it on youtube. Man, I hate that.

I remember being young and being ridiculed for liking the computer games that I played. Now I hop online, claim to like video games, and all of a sudden I am some hot commodity for having girl parts, and enjoying games. It’s absolutely insane the way things have changed. It’s pretty nice not having to worry about getting picked on for having been a huge nerd in the past. I mean, that’s what my obsession with the Monkees is for. Pick on that, for cripes sake.

Some things never change, however. The other day I taught a girl who wore pants that read “juicy” on the butt. I was teaching her Microsoft Excel. She didn’t understand something, so she just outright laughed and called it stupid. Nobody laughed with her.

  • http://twitter.com/Yuoaman Nick Burns

    I can somewhat relate to you – I grew up in that strange period where ‘nerd’ activities shifted into the mainstream and it was kind of confusing watching it happen firsthand. Up until I was about twelve or so anyone who played video games or liked science fiction was automatically considered a nerd, and then suddenly one day EVERYONE played video games. Suddenly the thing I was mocked for was considered ‘normal’… I still don’t know what to think about it all. Kind of cool, I guess?

  • http://twitter.com/GinSKennedy Gin S Kennedy

    I can completely relate to your blog entry except growing up I had a black and green IBM computer with QBasic.  Unfortunately, I did not have many games to play, so I would make frequent trips to the library to check out programming books and build simple adventure games to play.  It started out with something simple as two dragons residing in a cave and picking the right one to a lush world that I would invite my friends over to play and explore this world that I created with my imagination.  I also begged my parents for a new computer with a CD-ROM and “Talking games”   Thank you Roses.  Thank you for sharing this entry and allowing me to know that i’m simply not alone.

  • Anonymous

    You played Treasure Mountain, I played Treasure Cove.  I freaking BEAT Treasure Cove.  AND Gizmos and Gadgets.  Yes, those games are freaking beatable, and I beat them!  MUAHAHAHAHA

    Also, cool story about a game that changed my life forever: one day my dad went out to a CVS and came home with some shareware game called Doom.  Well, sure, we’ll give it a shot.  And holy shit, it’s not bleeps and bloops, this is REAL SOUND, BAYBEE!  Seriously, I played the hell out of that game (insert pun here, hurr hurr).  To this day, I can beat Knee Deep in the Dead without even thinking about it, and I have no clue what’s going on in the other three “episodes.” 😉

    But oh, wait, something more relevant to your actual topic of discussion.  It really is cool to stay who you are, even if nerds were considered uncool back in the day.  Posing as someone you’re not tends not to end well.  Me, I wasn’t exactly shunned for being a nerd, but I didn’t have a truckload of friends either.  Eh, I got through elementary and middle school alright.  High school was a bit better.  I really opened up in college, though; I can’t even really explain why.  Maybe it was a change in setting; who knows?

    Well, long story short, I still enjoy making obscure references to old movies and games, and rather than having that put me in a minority that exists to be made fun of, it’s the other way around; only people who really resonate with me in those particular fields of interest will get it.  I don’t know how many Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure jokes I’ve made in my Let’s Plays, and I don’t think I’ve ever had someone point out that he or she has gotten it.  Oh well; their loss!

    (Someone did, however, catch my Courage the Cowardly Dog reference when I said “Retuuuurn the slaaaaab.  Mega win!)

    This is a great article, as usual, Roses.  Your writing style never ceases to amaze me, nor does your level of intimacy and emotional depth cease to impress me.  Well done!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1659175268 Todd Hargosh

    It’s strange how back when I was in school I was always offended by being calls those terms. I wanted to at least fit in and because of my stature I was not. But over time, starting with college I started to accept who I was. Hung out with fellow nerds and even got my current position at GiN with them. And now even my girlfriend calls me these terms and I openly embrace it. I’m proud of the culture that I am now with. Hell look at mine and Kelly’s podcast. It’s called Gamer GEEKS for crying out loud.

  • Kendu72

    I am younger than you, so my introduction to the world of nerddom was not mired in the world of Windows 3.1 but more along the lines of Windows XP. In that world I was free to explore the worlds of Age of Mythology, Deus Ex, Morrowind, and even Oblivion before I had to get an upgraded video card. My early introduction to these things, especially after when I started college, marked me for life as someone who knew about computers and dubbed me forever as a “Nerd” in the plainest context. I became valuable to those who knew little about computers, namely my family and close friends (those who wished to pay attention to me in high school before I dropped out.)

    So my usefulness kind of blossomed as a result. And yeah, I resented those who didn’t take the time to learn what I knew about computers, which totally wasn’t hard at all in my eyes.  Being that go-to guy with computers and anything tech was fairly annoying, but I should have been grateful my sister didn’t delve into the tech pool and my mother only upgraded to a smartphone just recently. Otherwise I would have been doing far more phone tech support than I should have.

    I value my nerdness because I chose to be one before it was a needed or a “cool” status. Nowadays it is all I have to set me apart from the crowds that wish only to be mediocre status (which is translated to be damn near insulting.) I’m sought like a cure to cancer for the most mundane things, and mostly I play the busy man and brush off those attempts to seek my wisdom. They did not value my intelligence before, so I chose not to keep them apprised of my newest discoveries in the world of current tech. Why, I’m so glad you got the latest iPhone from your carrier, but I won’t tell you how to use it. You could have treated me better when you first met me or perhaps with a smidgen of respect more than you had previously. Maybe then would you have garnered enough props in my book to receive guidance on one.

    Thank you for the article.

  • Anonymous

    I was pretty well ostracized from the rest of my classmates until high school, where I finally started making actual friends.  The only things I was interested in at the time were video games and… well, video games.  It was too niche at the time though, so nobody knew how to respond, I guess.  Unfortunately, I was too young to understand how to talk about things other than what I wanted to talk about, and didn’t have any siblings to practice social interactions with, so wee lad Slepter ended up a loner most of his childhood, leading to the development of this introverted individual, who now sits around writing comments on videos and blogs.

    It didn’t help that I had terribly misaligned teeth as well, which couldn’t get fixed until my teen years for whatever orthodontic reason.  Human beings, I believe, are best put on display for the selfish and tribal creatures that they truly are in elementary school, where they’ve yet to be trained how to act like something more than a wild primate.  It takes time and discipline to transform a human into something you can be seen in public with–of course, again, my classmates lacked this, and took the opportunity to practice their innate knack for barbarism, casting me aside like an empty bag of candy, devoid of all its former valuables.  Even my first friend, the first person who’d socialize with me without bullying me, was in fact what they call a “fair weather friend.”  That kind of shit fucks with your head after a while, I guess.

    Argh, I don’t mean to piss and moan.  I guess all I was trying to say was that I understand what it’s like to be excluded for being who you are.  Fortunately for me, who I was inevitably changed over time into something more palatable, and so did other people as they were conditioned to be civilized.

    I don’t think it’s something everyone deals with as they grow up, but when I hear it, it reverberates within me, like you’ve pinned down my pitch and pinged your tuning fork.  I find it a quality worthy of respect.

  • Anonymous

    Ah…I remember being called similar names back in the day.  Nerd, Geek, Big Head,Goober…wait..how did that get in there?  Anyways, I never let it bother me.  In fact I increased my knowledge to not only technology, but martial arts and sports as well.  Honestly, they had no idea whether to call me a jock or a nerd.  

  • Dominic

    Write an autobiography! I’d read it

  • http://profiles.google.com/uwontfindmatt Matthew Delaney

    In certain forms, I can relate to this. Not because I was a computer geek, oh no; I barely passed computing in year 10 and decided I preferred studying law (which I also barely passed, due to a lack of care and complete laziness.) The reason I always felt dispossessed was that I was the geek that fell between the lines, too geeky to be a jock, not nerdy enough to be the kind that dominates the class. 
    Of course, I found out in uni that once I escape the Platonist arbitrariness of the school environment, that I was suddenly treasured, as I had talent at Philosophy, Sociology, and pretty much anything that could be called post-modern. Admittedly, I’m younger than you, and I’m a different kind of weird; I’m 21, live in Australia, I’m a man who’s recently taken to eyeliner and goes on about edgy alt rock bands (I’d be counted amongst the cool kids if my demeanour didn’t suggest I always felt awkward amongst them), but I feel that as someone whose position of social power and position has changed as the values (and age brackets) shift, I can somewhat identify. Thanks, and I love your articles and videos.

  • Bubby

    I can sympathize with being ostracized for nerddom- I was using a computer before I was old enough to read or write, and I grew up getting excited about the new X-Files episode or B-movie Friday nights (whether my parents realized it or not, they poised me for nerddom before I was even in preschool). I think my moment of ostracization was when I brought my pet crab’s molted shell for show and tell. I was so proud of my little crab and how he was growing up and left something so cool behind, but all the other girls were grossed out and shut me down immediately.

    I was there for when nerddom suddenly became okay, although I think it happened earlier in my school than in most. When I was 9 pokemania struck the school, and I had the games near memorized- suddenly I was the one with a niche, the one to go to for advice. It was utterly bewildering. Middle school, for the first time there were other nerds- friendly nerds! In High school it was not only okay to show your nerdiness, but to embrace it- robotics clubs and programming class became like second families, and using quantum theory in a philosophical discussion was met not with laughter but with a buzz of demand for elaboration. I think nerds have controlled the world for longer than most people know- we’re just starting to show it.

  • Doomguy93

    I can totally sympathize. I’ve been made fun of for being a nerd in the past (not that it’s affected me), now it’s being glamorized by movies like Scott Pilgram Rules the World (sick flick btw). The only thing that sucks for me is that ALL of the games I play are predominantly played by people ten years older than me!!(I’m 17 years old), and you’re a prime example, Roses. I mean, I spout of titles like Xargon, One Must Fall: 2097, Vectorman or something like that, and I get blank stares from my friends. *facepalm*

  • DarkBee

    Should I be lucky I grew up in a country that doesn’t have strict lines between groups at school? In any case, everyone of my friends in highschool was using a computer one way or another and we got (very basic) lessons on how to use one.
    In fact, I’ve been using a PC since I was maybe 5 or so, which is now 23 years ago, and nobody gave a crap about it, although I didn’t rave about it like you did.

  • Quoth the Raven

    I guess I grew up in another world. When I was in school there was nothing geeky  about liking computer games or computers. Perhaps in elementary school but it never left much of an impression. By middle school and high school the internet had become the thing of the ages and thus nerdom was generally accepted as an ok think. Geeks were still mocked for being geeks but this was more to do with a stereotyping of them being unattractive and such. But I’ve always been an outsider with his nose in a book so perhaps I missed somethings.

  • icepikoftime

    haha the monkees! jp

  • Kathryn Miller

    Myself, I had (and still have) a Commodore 64 growing up. I never wrote a paper on it but I did think I was awesome for having it. Then I found out all my friends had SNES and Sega. Yeah those were hard times. But now, It is cool that I have a Commodore 64 first. I can trick people into thinking I was all retro, more so then them. (My age is 24, so I was born around the same time as the NES. Just don’t want to date myself.) Heck, in my grade school, there were computer classes as soon as second grade. And guess what we played on the School Computers? Yep. We had second grade Doom lan parties. At school.
     
    Was still the outcast, but I was kinda cool around the technology. ^^

  • Anonymous

    Hey Rose! Quick question for you-I haven’t seen an episode of Nerds to the 3ed power in awhile and was wondering if it still going or was cancelled.  I love listening to you and the guys go over gamer stuff and would really miss that if it was cancelled.  Did I miss the memo or what? Thanks!                                                            -Dream

  • Squeee…

    I loved my TRS-80 “Color Computer” with black on green text, if that’s the Tandy machine you’re describing than you’ve just become 20% more awesome IMHO. It was the first computer I got to play with as a kid, and it’s sheer lack of utility (mine had 16KB RAM and cassettes for storage) mean I ended up being it’s owner.

  • http://twitter.com/chaotive Leonardo Montenegro

    Very well written article, I dig it completely. Anyway, geek coolness doesn’t make you good at technology either, so it could be just a trend. Also, games rule, not just every technology out there (i hate iphones 😀 ).

  • Dusk

    Dude, the Monkees, not a nerd thing.  I love them. =D
    I’ve been raised on music before my time, and compared to what people deem to be music now, that stuff was amazing.  Whatever the heck we have now…well…that’s not music.