About the Manual

The Nerd Manual is meant to be both a useful resource for nerds and a guide for the people involved with nerds. If you're a nerd you can find information here that will help you improve your life and perhaps better understand yourself. If you're close friends with, dating, or married to a nerd, I want to give you insight into things nerds do that a lot of people have difficulty understanding.

I hope to avoid offending anyone--either nerd or non-nerd--but please understand that the manual will get into some sensitive topics, stray into contentious territories, and even use stereotypes to illustrate points. It's OK to disagree with something, but keep your comments civil.


Nerd Q&A: Classifying Computer Geeks

What are the types of computer geeks?

Hmm. This is a question I don’t see a lot. I can only imagine why someone would ask, but if it’s worth asking it’s worth answering.

Note: By setting up classifications I am in no way suggesting that every computer lover fits into a single category, or that someone who is good at systems administration is necessarily a geek or nerd.

Blake Patterson - The Byte Cellar (Check out his other awesome pics!)

  1. Technophiles: they love the newest technology, whether it’s a gadget or a laptop or a blue box that can beat humans at writing poetry. They know how your computers (everything from your laptop to your fitbit) work, and can usually make them do exactly what you want, or figure out how with a little Googling.
  2. Computer Hackers: they love to know how computers work and how to make them do stuff the computers weren’t originally intended to do. These people will look for ways to exploit software and hardware to make computers go faster, unlock hidden secrets, make systems more secure, and sometimes get into things they aren’t supposed to.
  3. Programmers: they write code to make computers do things for other people. Programmers know multiple languages that aren’t spoken in any country. They can open up the code on a piece of software and divine secrets the way augers used to divine entrails. They build the systems that everything we use today runs on, including your smartphone, your banking system, and even your car.
  4. Hardware Personnel: they take plastic, purified sand, and metal, mix that with electricity, and make it all do stuff like show you pictures of cute kittens playing with cute puppies or procedurally generating an entire galaxy. They might deal with problems like quantum tunneling, thermodynamic cost, P vs NP, dark silicon, and speed of light limitations, or they might just focus on how big the keys on your laptop should be.
  5. Network Personnel: they control the flow of information from one part of the planet to another, sometimes even off the planet. These people design the highways for all the information that travels at over 299,000,000 meters per second. They mix metal and plastic and purified sand with electricity and light and radio waves to carry those selfies you took in the bathroom to SnapChat and WhatsApp.
  6. Retrotechnophiles: scour thrift shops, eBay, roadside auctions, abandoned warehouses, and anyplace else that might have that impossible to find vintage computer artifact like a BBC Micro teletext adapter. These are they people who NASA turns to when they want to rescue lunar images trapped on a defunct tape backup, or the guys who recover Andy Warhol's artistic experiments with an Amiga computer.
Within each of these areas there are myriad specialties, such as human computer interface design, troubleshooting, analysis, and scads of other points of focus.

I left out gamers and general computer users because, while they use systems with CPUs, they don’t usually care as much about the computers or software as they do about the gaming experience provided by the hardware and the code. They just want the best console or fastest rig without worrying about CPUs and graphics cards. However, some gamers and users have a laser focus on peripherals such as controllers and monitors, and some gamers decompile game code to look for Easter eggs, so they warrant a mention.

I hope this helps anyone who’s, I dunno, looking for an appropriate gift for their computer loving nerd friends. What do you guys think? Did I leave anyone out?

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