I remember a time when being a nerd wasn’t a seen as such a good thing. It certainly wasn’t cool. Back then it meant that you were a little squirrely, maybe a weakling, but either good with math or computers or smart in some way, or maybe in to something like D&D or sci-fi books. One of the things I remember about being a nerd was being forced to play softball at school, always being the last one picked, and then when you’re at bat everyone yelling “EASY OUT!!! EASY OUT!!!” and they’d all move forwards towards the plate. And generally they were right… which was why I didn’t want to play in the first place. I’d just hit the ball so that someone could catch it and our team could lose. At least then the game would be over. Of course there were other kids who were ‘easy outs’ and who weren’t nerds.. so at least I had the nerd thing going for me. The difference was while ‘they’ were playing they were wishing they could do better at the game and that people wouldn’t make fun of them.. and while I was playing I was thinking about how much I wished I didn’t have to play at all, and how I was going to design some cool arcade game.
As a young nerd in High School I walked the halls often scared that some Juniors would grab me and flush my head down the toilet. And then one day they did grab me in the quad and I elbowed the main guy in the ribs as hard as I could and he let me go. I suspect that I hurt him enough cause I was never bothered again.
From 7th grade on I wanted a computer and even tried to lean BASIC just from a book. That was in Jr High and we couldn’t afford a computer. But when I got to High School they had a computer lab with Apple ][‘s and Comodore PET’s. I spent a lot of time in that room. I was late to school A LOT and would get detention almost every day and the lab was one of the places I could serve my time. So I had a nice little scam going. They could give me detention every day and I didn’t care cause I wanted to be in the lab anyway. At some point, maybe as a senior, they figured it out and tried to make me serve my time in other ways but it was too much hassle and they finally gave in.
Then after graduating I figured out that girls didn’t like it when you talked about stuff like why the sky was blue. That level of nerdism was a complete turn off. So I started pretending that I didn’t think about stuff like that, even though I did. Of course it didn’t help.. with or without the nerd talk I was nerd all the way. Six feet tall and 145 lbs. Skinny as a rail, glasses.. stereotype.
And now today.. “too many” years later being a nerd is like cool or something. You have ‘celebrity nerds’ like Chris Hardwick, “The Nerdist” and there are the hot nerd chicks that I won’t mention right now. And I have to admit that Chris is a pretty cool nerd. He’s good looking, smart, and at least in the public view is in to all sorts of nerdy things. But I doubt that Chris’ life history with nerdism is anything like mine. For one he’s a lot younger than me so he lived through a different era and a different high school climate, and I bet no one ever yelled ‘Easy Out’ while he was at bat.
No.. I’m a ‘classic’ nerd and I’m probably not very cool. For example, yesterday I found an article online by a guy who in the 80’s designed a circuit to do d to a conversion to create xy coordinates for a vector screen for classic video games. And I really enjoyed it. I found it delightful because it was totally classic nerd history.. and I played the arcade games this guy helped create. That’s not popular nerdism.. that’s REAL nerdism. And that’s who I am.