Before smartphones, social networks, and other must-have tech, it wasn't a badge of honour to be called a geek. Here's a look back at the evolution of the nerd.

Not so long ago, computer geeks got stereotyped as weedy looking guys dressed in white shirts, thin black ties and horn-rimmed glasses, constantly fiddling with something electrical and being teased for not being mainstream.

However, its thanks to geeks like these that much of today's technology we often take for granted exists. This has slowly lead to an acceptance in society of geeks and their much-loved technology. Let's take a tour through the ages, shall we?

The IBM Era

The era that ushered in what we consider the modern-day IT department started off like this: on the left is the 1940's ENIAC (electronic numerical integrator and computer), weighing in at 30 tonnes with more than 19,000 vacuum tubes burning.

On the right is the IBM System 360 mainframe, Model 50. At the controls were computer technicians and early programmers, the dressed-for-success geek of the day

Image credit: IDG News Service

Pirates of Silicon Valley

The buttoned-up IBM look eventually gave way to the hippie programmer: coders, pirates and anarchists whose entrepreneurial zeal challenged the IBM dogma of the day.

"Hippie programmers have long hair and deliberately, even pridefully, ignore the seasons in their choice of clothing. They wear shorts and sandals in the winter and T-shirts all the time," said tech author Robert X Cringely. Showing off the look: on the left, Apple's Jobs and Woz; on the right, Richard Stallman, software freedom activist.

Image credits: Windowtowallstree.com (left); Stallman.org

Broadband speed tester

NEXT PAGE: Gamers in training and Geeks land in pop culture

  1. We look at the geeks behind today's technology
  2. Gamers in training and geeks land in pop culture
  3. The King of the Geeks, from slumdog to dotcom millionaires
  4. Google guys
  5. Nerds and IT still at work
  6. The tech geek inside us all

Before smartphones, social networks, and other must-have tech, it wasn't a badge of honour to be called a geek. Here's a look back at the evolution of the nerd.

Gamers in training

Once the bright minds at Atari, Nintendo and ColecoVision found ways to bring the arcade into the living room, the 1970s and 1980s witnessed the birth of a new kind of geek: the gamer.

Shunning outdoor activity for the thrill of previously unseen digital worlds, gamers blasted asteroids and saved Lady from Donkey Kong - all with the flick of the wrist and tap of their fingers.

Image credit: IDG News Service

Geeks land in pop culture

The 1980s marked a shift in geek culture. That's was when super-smart - if socially awkward - folks stepped into the spotlight by landing starring roles in movies and TV shows. It would be a while, however, before ‘geek' actually became cool.

But geeks did win a place in the heart of popular culture thanks to likeable incarnations such as Louis, Gilbert and Poindexter from 'Revenge of the Nerds'; Doogie Howser, MD; Steve Urkel; Screech from 'Saved by the Bell'; and Anthony Michael Hall as ‘The Geek' in Sixteen Candles.

Image credits: Copyright 20th Century Fox via Hulu.com (top); Wikipedia (below)

Broadband speed tester


NEXT PAGE: The King of the Geeks and from slumdog to dotcom millionaires

  1. We look at the geeks behind today's technology
  2. Gamers in training and geeks land in pop culture
  3. The King of the Geeks, from slumdog to dotcom millionaires
  4. Google guys
  5. Nerds and IT still at work
  6. The tech geek inside us all

Before smartphones, social networks, and other must-have tech, it wasn't a badge of honour to be called a geek. Here's a look back at the evolution of the nerd.

The King of the Geeks

Um... yeah. This photo actually might have set the mainstream geek movement back a couple of years.

Image credit: Macobserver.com

From slumdog to dotcom millionaires

Purists would say that the tech appearance declined in the 1990s - where did the bow ties and suspenders go? But so did the standards for why companies would fork out millions to nearly anyone with a dotcom-related 'business plan' (Got a PowerPoint deck, elevator pitch or words scribbled on napkin? You do. Great!).

No matter, the '90s geek flourished with a new, casual look that screamed: "I know technology, I'll be working here for three months tops, and you need to pay me truckloads of money."

Image credit: Getty Images

Broadband speed tester

NEXT PAGE: Google guys

  1. We look at the geeks behind today's technology
  2. Gamers in training and geeks land in pop culture
  3. The King of the Geeks, from slumdog to dotcom millionaires
  4. Google guys
  5. Nerds and IT still at work
  6. The tech geek inside us all

Before smartphones, social networks, and other must-have tech, it wasn't a badge of honour to be called a geek. Here's a look back at the evolution of the nerd.

Google guys

But not every dotcom ended as ingloriously as many ventures did in the 1990s. There was that search engine named Google, created by Stanford nerds Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Page and Brin became the poster boys for internet-era success, and their mission to provide access to the world's information (and 'Don't be evil' mantra) not only humanised the geek but enabled average people to get geeky with their data desires, too.

Image credit: IDG News Service

Geeks get their own squad

Yet there still have been tech ventures with retro nods to past geek lore. Take, for instance, the Geek Squad agents, who became ubiquitous in the 1990s for their 1950s look, glasses, door-to-door tech service and distinctive VW vehicles.

Image credit: flickr

Broadband speed tester

NEXT PAGE: Nerds and IT still at work

  1. We look at the geeks behind today's technology
  2. Gamers in training and geeks land in pop culture
  3. The King of the Geeks, from slumdog to dotcom millionaires
  4. Google guys
  5. Nerds and IT still at work
  6. The tech geek inside us all

Before smartphones, social networks, and other must-have tech, it wasn't a badge of honour to be called a geek. Here's a look back at the evolution of the nerd.

Nerds!

And lots of other people still love the classic nerd look: dressing up like one just never seems to get old.

Image credit: flickr

IT still at work

Just like their 1940s and '50s IBM predecessors, today's IT geeks have got the mental goods to oversee complicated, bleeding-edge technology. And although the hardware has gotten smaller, geeks must now deal with global infrastructure headaches, constant security threats and tech-savvy ('know it all') users.

Image credit: Getty Images

Broadband speed tester

NEXT PAGE: The tech geek inside us all

  1. We look at the geeks behind today's technology
  2. Gamers in training and geeks land in pop culture
  3. The King of the Geeks, from slumdog to dotcom millionaires
  4. Google guys
  5. Nerds and IT still at work
  6. The tech geek inside us all

Before smartphones, social networks, and other must-have tech, it wasn't a badge of honour to be called a geek. Here's a look back at the evolution of the nerd.

The tech geek inside us all

The new millennium may have come in with a Y2K non-event and financial thud, but the geek exuberance has grown only stronger since. Geekiness has gone mainstream!

According to the Pew internet & American Life Project, 96 percent of those in the US who work use the internet, email or have a mobile phone for some purpose in their lives, almost 40 percent of Americans have a wireless handheld such as a BlackBerry, and nearly 25 percent use social-networking websites like Twitter or Facebook.

Image credit: Getty Images

From Gates to Zuckerberg

The face of the new corporate nerd - now that Gates has retired from Microsoft - is another Harvard dropout who looks something like this: Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

There's no suit, no tie, no slacks. Just a lot of youthful energy and cocksure bravado - and lots and lots of hype. But the hype for Facebook and other social networks like Twitter, plus everyday folks' dependency on tech, has created 'The Golden Age of the Geek'.

Image credit: IDG News Service

Broadband speed tester

  1. We look at the geeks behind today's technology
  2. Gamers in training and geeks land in pop culture
  3. The King of the Geeks, from slumdog to dotcom millionaires
  4. Google guys
  5. Nerds and IT still at work
  6. The tech geek inside us all