How is it possible that there’s a geek culture? I mean, it’s one thing to assume that all folks of a nerdy enough bent will know a little Ohm’s law, can fake their way through enough quantum mechanics to at least be interesting at a cocktail party, and might even have a favorite mnemonic for the resistor colors or the angles involved in sine, cosine, and tangents. But how is it that we all know the answer to life, the universe, and everything?
Mike and I were podcasting a couple of weeks back, and it came out that he’d never played Starcraft. I was aghast! Especially since he’s into video games in general, to have not played the seminal 3-way-without-being-rock-scissors-paper game! My mind boggled. But then again, there was a time in my life when I hadn’t actually read all of Dune or Cryptonomicon, which would have left Mike’s jaw on the floor.
Whether you prefer Star Trek or Star Wars, the Matrix or the Hobbit, it’s even more surprising that we have so much in common! And thinking about it, I’m pretty sure that exactly our interchange is the reason — it’s a word of mouth culture thing. Some folks at the hackerspace are talking about Cthulu, and chances are you’re going to be reading some Lovecraft. An argument about the plausibility of the hacks in The Martian has sent at least a couple of geeks to the cinema or the library. And so it goes.
So do your part! Share your geek-culture recommendations with us all in the comments. If you were stranded on a desert island, with a decent bookshelf and maybe even a streaming video service, what’s on your top-10 list? What do you still need to see, read, or hear?
176 thoughts on “What Every Geek Must Know”
My recommendation is a series of SciFi books by James White, about his Hospital General, a multi-species space hospital. White is one of the few optimistic and pacifist SciFi writers, and the medical drama in alien version is just great.
I still can’t understand why nobody made a TV series, or even just a computer game based on this.
Seconded, with enthusiasm.
Dang, that sounds utterly fascinating! Thanks for the heads up! I think I’ll look into this.
Book 9 “The Galactic Gourmet”, is the weakest of the lot. The main character is a famous chef who gets hired by Sector General to improve the food for the many species of patients. One of the stories in it involves a species that’s omnivorous, leaning more towards carnivorous. They’ve hunted their favorite food animals nearly to extinction so the chef tries to convince them to switch to a vegetarian diet. (Nevermind biochemistry and other realities of dietary science.) Since the book is such an offshoot from the rest of the books you won’t really miss anything if you skip it.
Looks like you’re projecting! Remember that omnivores can live healthy lives without eating animal parts. :) Your synopsis has convinced me to give this series a go. Thanks!
There was a SciFi hospital TV show titled “Mercy Point”. When I first saw an advert for it I had hopes that it was based on the Sector General novels. No such luck, and it was mercifully canceled after 3 of the 7 episodes had aired, with the last four “burned off” in two, 2 episode airings. It’s never been released on any home video or streaming service.
I don’t know what this article is about, I don’t know what your comment is about, but I’ve seen the words “recommendation” and “SciFi” in the same sentence, and that means I now HAVE to threaten with violence anyone who has not yet read the Hyperion cantos, as well as Ilium/Olympus, by Dan Simmons.
Less critical, and technically more Horror than Sci-Fi (depends on where you categorize Mind Control stuff), but Carrion Comfort is also an absolute must-read.
I mean, I’ll literally come to your house and do your laundry if it means you read this stuff, that’s how good it is, and important it is for more people to read it.
The audiobooks at Audible for all this stuff are all really great quality.
A film adaptation of *any* of this, is at the *very* top of my list of expected/hoped-for book adaptations to cinema for the coming decades (now that we might be getting a good Dune).
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Mythos by Stephen Fry, the audiobook
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee
The Demon-hunted World by Carl Sagan
The Voyage of The Beagle by Charles Darwin
No Shadow of a Doubt by Daniel Kennefick
That might exclude me somehow of geekness, but I didnt manage to go anything deep into Hitchhiker’s guide. Compared to Discworld all the ideas are rough, straight-into-your-face humour and not extremly bright either. Ditched afer two chapters. Or equivalent.
I think that’s the best thing about geek culture, is that we all have different tastes, and most people can understand that difference amongst us, and accept it. There are always gatekeepers who might say “oh, you can’t be a geek if you don’t read X” or “you must be a fan of Y since the very beginning or don’t even talk to me” but generally, everyone accepts fans of different levels, and accepts the differences of opinion, and it’s great. I really liked Hitchhikers, but maybe if I had read it now for the first time, I’d probably change my mind about it all, because I’ve changed too.
Any recommendations for other things you did enjoy reading?
The spirit thief. The first book at least.
Try reading Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, then! I think it’s his best book. And I agree on Terry Pratchett. A marvelously warm and insightful writer, not as popular in the US as in England apparently. I tell everybody to read Terry Pratchett!
Second on Mythos! Definitely get the audio book.
I’m a huge fan of battlestar galáctica (2004). I also love all Carl Sagan’s books specially the world daemon Hunted.
Second The Demon Haunted World
The Jargon File, Ringworld ( Niven ) , Hyperion ( Dan Simmons )…
Seconding the entire Ringworld series by Niven. Also “The Mote In God’s Eye” by Niven and Pournelle (the former, long time writer for BYTE magazine). Speaking of which, I’d want to go back and re-read every “Circuit Cellar” column that Jerry Pournelle ever wrote for Byte. Ahhhh, those were the days.
Steve Ciarcia wrote the Circuit Cellar column, it was build it yourself projects.Jerry Pournelle wrote endlessly about computers from a user viewpoint, “The User’s Column”/” Computing at Chaos Manner”
Now those are names I haven’t heard in a long time. Add Bob Pease’s columns in Electronic Design mag. Byte had gems from Al Stevens etc. Don Lancaster is another big name
All nine Ringworld novels. The four by Niven alone, and the four “Worlds” prequel series by Niven and Edward M. Lerner, and the sequel to them all by Niven and Lerner.
Chronological order is the four “Worlds” books, the four “Ringworld” books, then finish with “Fate of Worlds” by both authors.
The “Worlds” series is like a backstage pass across the breadth of Known Space. You’ll get alternate POVs and much more information on a lot of things in other books and stories. You’ll even find out that other than antimatter, there used to be another way to destroy a General Products ship hull. You’ll also find out how the Puppeteers came to be so interested in and knowledgeable about Humans.
For the Jargon File, be very careful to read the original (https://www.dourish.com/goodies/jargon.html) and not the re-written version.
The Hyperion Cantos, all 4 books.
Carrion Comfort, same author.
I’m not the least bit into games, sci-fi, or even retro computing. I like making things and tinkering.
And I like learning about how things work (that is what science is for me).
I’ll buy things just to take them apart and learn how they work.
So I am the odd man out in relation to a lot of what you describe as “geek culture”. I am all about books and learning. I enjoy Hackaday because it makes me aware of new things I might not learn about on my own. Lately I have pulled Feynman’s lectures on physics off the shelf — and am reading them more for Feynman’s mind than the physics if that makes any sense.
I came here to say exactly the same thing. I am the odd one out too!
Can’t be too odd out. Video games don’t interest me. Once in a great while I’ll watch a sci-fi B-movie, but my entertainment is mostly documentaries… Space, geology, engineering, history…. I love documentaries on old or anchient technology (not History Channel or Discovery Channel picture-flashing/will-they-make-it-in-time crap).
Unfortunately, college robbed me of my joy of reading. Still do plenty of it, but it doesn’t bring the appeal it used to.
But my passion is tinkering like you. Tear stuff apart, use the parts for anything else. Search for free junk for more parts. Electrical and/or mechanical…. People often see me holding a random part and just staring at it for what should be considered a concerningly long time… Just brainstorming…
I stopped gaming after my PS2 broke. Nothing has really appealed to me since. I prefer PS1 stuff & SNES, grew up on Castlevania and FF7-9. I play stuff like Suikoden and Chrono Trigger after my host brother turned me onto them living in Japan.
Read Cryptonomicon, grew up reading Sandman & Blade of The Immortal & Lone Wolf & Cub. Got a degree in Japanese, which led me down much nerd culture, but became a machinist after all that, and went to school for watchmaking for a couple years.
The historical Japanese stuff had me interested in smithing at 13, I got into blacksmithing as an adult like 6 years ago, still go weekly to my local forge to work on stuff. Metalhead in school, so always an outsider- and that leads people to their own niches, many of which considered nerdy by simply not being mainstream.
Basically I think “nerd culture” comes from being intelligent and curious, but stifled. We all seem to gravitate toward anything that rewards in humor, imagination, or curiosity- and there is a deep culture founded among such interests that fullfill that, that those ethos naturally spread and attract like minded souls.
I have zero interest in retrocomputing, I visited the Computer History Museum, and found it incredibly boring. I loved the mechanical stuff at the beginning. I’m at home among antique motorcycles & antique high precision tools and that’s where I nerd out. I make & create with metal. This place brings many types of nerdy folk with similar interests together because we share experiences regardless of what kind of niches we settled into.
My add ins for desert Island- any book by Jules Verne (especially 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea), Lone Wolf & Cub, Dr. Who, Red Dwarf. And I still wish people would stop hotgluing gears to goggles. Go learn horology and make the real thing.
The best Jules Verne book for a desert island would be the one he wrote about …a desert island.
‘The Mysterious Island’ can be regarded as the sequel to ‘20000 Leagues Under the Sea’ and details how a group of castaways builds up a mini-society from first principles …with a little help. You could actually use some of the information in it to really help you, such as making gunpowder and so on.
But I won’t spoil it if you haven’t read it, it’s a great adventure. And by far my favourite Verne story.
Second on ‘The Mysterious Island’, easily the best of Verne.
My childhood favorite was ‘The Begum’s Millions’. There is a new 2005 translation by Stanford Luce, if you prefer English.
You and I would be great friends if we met!
+1 – you’re not the only odd one out.
I like video games. I lived through the time when those computers were new, but don’t dwell that much on it. I’m not into comics or sci fi. I’m a programmer (and I do it as a hobby, but don’t have much time now a days), I tinker with electronics, I’m into microphones (easy to get into since the time investment is low). Yeah, I don’t fit the stereotype 100%.
I was thinking the exact same thing.
Everything by Stephenson. Some from Gibson and Sterling. All from Asimov, if you’ve got that much time.
Asimov, Niven, Dick, Bradbury, Brin, Mieville. Firefly, Blade Runner, Martian Chronicles, Akira.
And: Pohl Anderson, Scott Card, Arthur C. Clarke, Roger Zelazny, Gordon Dickson, Frederik Polh, Kurt Vonnegut, Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, and a host of others (who’s names escape me at the moment). Movies and TV – too numerous to name.
Oh, and Douglas Adams!
“Pohl Anderson…Frederik Polh” – congratulations – you managed to misspell both Poul Anderson and Frederik Pohl in the same sentence – but your taste in SF writers is spot on.
Speaking of Frederik Pohl, the Gateway series is quite good. The graphics adventures for PC/DOS are also awesome. Especially, if you’ve got a Roland MT-32 or CM32L compatible LA synthesizer. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gateway_(video_game)
Jules Verne was a favorite for me when I was young.
For some reason I just cannot play games, I’m in awe when I see the graphics of e.g. Red Dead Redemption but playing simply isn’t possible. I’m too slow or something.
But I do know The Answer, I’ve read Larry Niven’s Ringworld (also go read Neutron Star), many Asimov’s books (I like Nemesis) and I have build a Vetinary clock.
I will NOT read science fiction by Orson Scott Card anymore after reading Ender’s Game, I was furious when I finished it. So incredibly mean!
My recommendation is “the other” series of books by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, The Long Earth. Build a stepper.
Orson scott card does give ender a redemption arc in later series, FYI. Some of those books are very very good, in fact.
“For some reason I just cannot play games, I’m in awe when I see the graphics of e.g. Red Dead Redemption but playing simply isn’t possible. I’m too slow or something.”
Hence why I graduated to stealth games were slow and silent are the watchword.
I haven’t played any sneakers since Thief — which might be the seminal member of the genre, but which has pretty darn clunky AI by today’s standards, and I’m not sure I’d recommend. Had great atmosphere and backstory, though.
What’s a good modern sneaker?
Recent Hitman games scratch the itch, very recommended, but they kinda come at it from more than one direction. At the most showing-their-hand the levels are a bit like a puzzle that’s too easy to solve but often i’ve gotten the sense we’re up a rung from “pretty clunky ai” if you know what i mean. Keeping it a game without showing too much stitching is a hard problem to begin with but sometimes Hitman transcends expectations. But then i love Payday 2’s stealth mechanics, it’s a shame so many of their maps get impossible to solo.
“What’s a good modern sneaker?”
Deep story, good twists, steam punkish setting, with some magic. And main theme is a pandemic.
And non violence is rewarded, instead of killing as many as you can.
read Ender’s shadow, it’s pretty incredible
Ringworld and Discworld are not the same thing.
See that’s the problem.. imI haven’t read all that much.. does that make my geek credibility less than others?
Some will of course mean that i need to be educated and they might be right. But I think that it should be the curiosity that drives us.
Not knowing certain quotes or phrases and using that to belittle a fellow geek is a little….. Petty.. don’t you think?
I just discovered ‘Public Service Broadcasting’ and the fantastic album ‘The Race For Space’. Especially the track ‘GO!’ is worth listening to. If you have ever had goosebumps during the go/no-go sequence from NASA you will love this :)
My reading is entirely driven by curiosity. Almost. I’ll read a mindless western now and then — such as when I am laying around sick and want to read something that will sort of carry me along. Other than that though I don’t read for entertainment. I almost never on Youtube for entertainment. I am watching a machine shop video learning how to cut threads or do some welding, or find out how to fix my washing machine or car.
For me, reading is a portal or gateway to knowing or doing things. Younger people seem to spend less time with books and more time with online resources — and there is nothing wrong with that if it gets them to their goals.
Well chosen reading is a way to be a guest in someone else’s mind. A good writer is eager to help you, trying to show you things you don’t know yet. I treasure certain books. The art of electronics is one — my original edition is falling apart. Those guys are absolutely trying to help you and pass on what they know.
“I just discovered ‘Public Service Broadcasting’ and the fantastic album ‘The Race For Space’.”
They did an event with NASA at the Intrepid Museum in NYC.
Their song about the Spitfire is also a banger.
Check out books by Mr. Jayant Narlikar from India
Any “Geek Culture” that doesn’t include watching the directors cut (or better yet the final cut) of Blade Runner… isn’t culture.
(and then I have a fondness for both Buckaroo Banzai…. in some parallel universe there were sequels. If only I could visit.)
The script for “Big Trouble in Little China” started as the sequel for “Buckaroo Banzai”.
The idiot who edited Banzai really made some questionable choices.
Oscillation overthruster > flux capacitor! One of my favorite pieces of fictitious technology. 😁
That other universe probably also has all five seasons of Firefly and the fifth season of Farscape instead of the not so great two part movie. Oh and there was no 2007-2008 Writers Guild strike so Supernatural season 3 would be 22 episodes instead of 16, which would change a lot of its subsequent story, Heroes would be a very different show from partway through Season 2. Sooo many shows that ended up drastically changed from their original plans or just got axed during that time.
And while we’re dreaming, Star Trek TOS ran for five seasons and The Animated Series dign’t get dissed for 30 years, and Paramount stuck with reviving the series in 1979 instead of stretching one pretty lame TV script into a movie. Aaaannnndddd, the original Battlestar Galactica had far less Executive Meddling and much better preparation – so it ran at least three seasons so Galactica: 1980 never existed. There must be *some* “sacrifices” for the greater good.
One last thing, George Lucas never altered one iota of the Original Trilogy other than a general cleanup for DVD and Blu-Ray releases.
Oh, one more final final thing. CBS didn’t screw around with Space Rangers in 1993, none of the BS of ordering only 6 episodes then only broadcasting 4 *in the wrong order with the pilot last*. The DVD set is very low priced but the video quality is good. Just ignore disc 2 that has the 6 episodes munged together into three “movies”.
And SciFi never rebranded to SyFy and didn’t murder Stargate:Universe and Caprica, both of which would still be running today.
“Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League, et al: A Compendium of Evils” by [The Reno Kid] & [Earl Mac Rauch] will be published by Dark Horse on August 10th, 2021.
Here’s the cover blurb:-
Still mourning the losses of his beloved Penny Priddy and his surrogate father Professor Hikita, Buckaroo Banzai must also contend with the constant threat of attack from his immortal nemesis Hanoi Xan, ruthless leader of the World Crime League. To make matters worse, Planet 10 warrior queen John Emdall has sent her Lectroid legions against Earth with a brutal ultimatum. Or is her true target Buckaroo Banzai? As the apocalyptic threats continue to mount, only Buckaroo and his Hong Kong Cavaliers stand in the way of global destruction—or in the words of one of the movie’s iconic lines: “Laugh-a while you can, monkey boy!”
Geek culture is BIG, and no one can know it all. Also, it’s not all universally beloved. I can’t stand Lovecraft, I consider DC inferior to Marvel, and I wonder why Stargate is ignored in the Star Trek/Wars question.
On the other hand, I know that the cake is a lie, even though I don’t play video games.
Word. They’re touchstones because you’re going to keep touching them, Portal is a special enough game that anyone that cares about games probably cares about a silly joke from it. I feel like Neuromancer should be the big number one touchstone right now that we can use to shorthand understanding one another but maybe that’s less geek culture than fiction which speculated. And then i gotta throw on Akira and HACKERS and XCom…
C’mon people Thunderbirds. Gerry Anderson was so way ahead of his time and inspired a whole generation of dreamers
Fireball XL 5 and Space 1999. The Alphans were so lucky to get away from Earth and our current BS.
Space 1999 was concieved to make use of models designed for the cancelled second season of UFO.
That’s agreed! The Andersons inspired multiple generations, not just one. I like the original series, but family members prefer the new animated episodes, made in New Zealand. And that’s fine – they are pretty good.
One thing though, Gerry Anderson surely took some inspiration himself from Roberta Leigh’s awesome series ‘Space Patrol’. Although the puppetry is more crude, the concepts and storylines are darker and more sophisticated than say the Anderson equivalent ‘Fireball XL5’. You can find episodes of ‘Space Patrol’ on Youtube, well worth watching if you are a geek afficionado of early TV sci-fi.
Also I recall seeing things in some SP episodes that later appeared as a direct copy in Star Trek TOS (damn I should have made a note of them at the time, for later comparison).
Another first for ‘Space Patrol’ was that its all-electronic theme ‘music’ pipped Doctor Who’s theme, airing about 7 months before that series in 1963.
Talking about American culture as if it was universal. i know most of the things referenced in the article only because i saw them mentioned in articles written by Americans, wondered what they were talking about and researched.
The Answer is posited by an English writer. Dr. Who and Red Dwarf are also from the UK. All You Need Is Kill is penned by a Japanese writer (though butchered by Hollywood).
Geek culture is bigger than the US. I would even go as far as to claim it has more adherents outside the US.
I see. So that’s why the Perry Rhodan series wasn’t mentioned at all yet? ;)
I mean, “it is the most successful science fiction book series ever written.”
But the English translations have lagged wayyyyy behind.
I only ever found the first 100 or so in English, translated by Wendayne Ackerman, wife of SciFi stalwart, Forrest J Ackerman.
Was anyone else appalled that on Jeopardy(US) this week, none of the contestants new that cyberspace was coined by Gibson and grok was coined by Heinlein? The Gibson question was harder – it what common term that Gibson introduced in Burning Chrome. The Heinlein question was essentially, who wrote Strange in a Strange Land. You don’t have to have read it to know that. I’m a huge fan of Gibson, and once was a huge fan of Heinlein (tastes change, times change…) so I’m not a good judge of this.
I caught this too. So much of current pop culture comes from comic books and sci fi. You’d think that “Jeopardy smart” people would know these!
Cosmos by Carl Sagan
Cosmic Vistas by Ivan Semeniuk.
For people that must file with the U.S. IRS, read tax code, in all of its glorious detail. In particular section 179. The original implementation and subsequent changes make some stuff almost no cost. Many accountants do not know how to do technical businesses, and do not understand state code for small LLCs, so read this for your self. This stuff has enabled the purchase of spectrum analyzers, multi-mode scopes, lab expansion, and other stuff, to include part ownership of an airplane (which has become essential to my work).
Which leads to my other suggestion for what ‘geeks’ must know – aircraft and aviation systems. Once you have the financial means and time, get a pilot’s license. Aviation is a great playground for hackers a la home-built aircraft and, much like the dumbed-down FCC tests for HAM licenses, is now much easier to get a pilot’s license per the new LSA category. The physics and technical complexities and discipline of aviation are appealing to engineers.
And, as fan of zombie and other-than-nuclear apocalypses (admit it, you have spent hours discussing zombie apocalypses with geek friends), general aviation is core tool for post-apocalyptic environs.
For people that pay EU taxes – sorry about that, no bonus depreciation in your patchwork of multi-country tax code. Except for Italy and Portugal, as you people tend to not pay your taxes, so no need to recover costs. For Australians, the usual – just send in whatever remains at the end of the year.
> read tax code, in all of its glorious detail
Hmm, interesting, but maybe I’ll wait for the movie.
> Aviation is a great playground for hackers
I think the money pits I have are doing an adequate job already :-)
Frederik Pohl, Poul Anderson. If we’re gonna geek, can we pedant as well?
I can’t reccomend the Field&Shop and Restoration Youtube metacommunity highly enough – Hand Tool Rescue, Mustie1, Diesel Creek, Andrew Camarata, The Good Of The Land, Jonathan W, VintageMachinery, David Richards, Abom79, Salvage Workshop, Watch Wes Work, and anyone you spot in their Stickerwalls
Hand Tool Rescue, smaller machine and tool restoration. (mostly) no-narration
Mustie 1, you will learn to diagnose and repair small engines. He’s just fun. very much Cool Uncle vibe
Diesel Creek (Matt), Land maintenance and machine repair, plus other things like shop construction. Good at explaining Why he’s doing what he’s doing. has a “bad” habit of dragging home dead machines
Andrew Camarata, Landscaping and Excavation, as well as machinery upkeep, repair, and modification. has a small fleet of trackhoe excavators
The Good Of The Land: semi-homestead land maintenance, some Tool Restoration
Jonathan W: general machine repair and modding, with some Big Machine adventures
VintageMachinery[.org] (Keith Rucker), full machine shop (mill and lathework) towards making replacement parts for Old Iron
David Richards, machine shop run off a steam engine, deliberately set up with tooling circa 1925
Abom79 (Adam Booth), professional and Hobby-pro machinist
Clickspring (Chris), hobbyist clockmaker with some very interesting insights and very good camerawork
Salvage Workshop, machine resurrection and maintenance
Watch Wes Work, The Life And Times of a rural car/truck mechanic
Abom79 is a treasure. And I recently discovered “this old Tony” on Youtube. His videos are well produced, a lot of fun, and a wonderful way to learn about machine shop work and metalworking.
Nobody has mentioned one aspect of hacker culture much, I think you are the first one!
A fair number of hackaday articles feature this (repair and restoration) and I find it hard to resist when someone has some broken thing. I end up saying, “give me that and let me see if I can fix it”. I am really trying to stop.
I semi-on-purpose omitted TOT because he already has a presence in the Hacker-facing side of things (also forgot when i was making the list). AvE too, because while he’s a 200 pound gorilla on a wrench, he’s a *smart* 200lb (etc) who already has a presence in the hacker general awareness. I went for channels that don’t face the arduino-hobbyist side of things as much: field&shop channels that scratch the “I love hard work, I could watch it all day” itch that’s worsened by the quarrantimes
essentially i went for channels less likely to be recommended by The Algorithm if you mostly have Arduino-scale stuff in your watch history
Squatch253 also, for fixing and restoring equipment.
Seconding Keith Rucker’s channel, as well as Huygens Optics, An Engineer’s Findings, Stephan Gotteswinter, & Robin Renzetti (aka Robrenz). Clickspring as well. Those are my favorite maker channels for serious work.
Instagram, after someone convinced me for months, I finally joined, and there is a wealth of info there for machinist, knifemaker, blacksmith, & horology nerds.
instagram is actively hostile to desktop users tho :<
I keep screaming at them to stop showing me posts about Rolex and others, but they never get the hint. I want a feed of nothing but horology, machining, and blacksmithing, with some medieval armor and automata, and somehow no matter what I do I keep getting pictures of people’s animals and Iceland.
I hate the algorithim- its designed by morons.
Just my two cents: My Mechanics.
Hell yeah. Awesome stuff there, I was just rattling names off the top of my head for the list. My Mechanics does tool and toy restoration, Goes the extra mile
mrpete222 AKA Tubalcain has 1,350 videos on YouTube on tools, machine tools, foundry patternmaking etc.
We’re not giving the Elgin Marbles back any time soon, also read Iain M Banks.
Seems a lot are focusing on sci-fi books. What about good old Futurama? I’ve identified many a nerd in a crowd of non-nerds by making a futurama quote. Generally those who “get it” are the nerds in the crowd. It can be something seemingly innocent in response to something someone else says like, “Good news everyone!”, followed by relating it to something they just said.
The lack of Futurama in this comments made me really sad.
Usually I keep my sadness pent up inside where it can fester quietly as a mental illness. Fry : Yeah. That’s what I do with my stupidness.
Positive attitudes are important. Can only reply in this allegorical and metaphorical manner:
Which leads me to my next suggestions.
Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’, to wit, the seven influences that would enable a successful outcome (learning from failures is limiting and time-consuming); and the five ways to gather knowledge (‘intelligence’). The Griffith translation is the absolute best.
Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’. And not because of its absolutism, but because (young) geeks are, more oft than other demographics, apt to be naive of the baser machinations of humans and not always able to judge intentions, and seldom understand how to organize a group of techies with diverging goals. I had an Indian math instructor that insisted it should be read, and reading it has enabled this engineer’s recovery from social messes more than once.
Someone ran all of Futurama through an HD upscaler and it turned out really nice, especially since the upscaler used was specifically designed for animation. It’s also been used to upscale both seasons of MEGAS XLR.
Absolutely Futurama is a huge part of modern nerd culture, and Rick & Morty ran with that too.
I feel like anything that mixes sci-fi and humor quickly becomes a cornerstone of nerd culture, even to more hands on craftsman-like nerds like me.
This explains Red Dwarf too.
Half-Life 1 & 2
Counterstrike (<1.6 of course)
Starcraft (was already mentioned)
Pong, Snake, Pacman, etc ;-)
Win95 (not A or B (or C?)) or Win98 (not SE)
http://www.netzmafia.de/skripten/netze/index.html (sorry German only but google translate might help)
Monty Python (Holy Grail whatever)
War Games (still haven't seen that one – shame on me)
Rick & Morty
Maybe https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_Books :-P
.. and Mission Supernova. ^^
PS: MOD4WIN is also a piece of nerd/geek culture, IMHO.
SF Films: 2010, Silent Running, Explorers, D.A.R.Y.L., Project Brainstorm, Evolver, Andromeda Strain,
Flight of the Navigator, Logan’s Run, The Tower (’85), West World, Blue Thunder, The Net, Bodo, Hackers,
Dark City, Forbidden Planet, 13th Floor/World on Wire, Lexx (series), Defense Play, Critters IV, X-Files (series)
About hacks having sent people to movies… There are several movies that I have downloaded from torrent sites (when that was a thing) just for one specific bit (And then watched and enjoyed the entire movie).
A streetcar called desire : The streetcar
The Crimson Rivers (Les Rivières Pourpres) : The Keller building in Livet-Gavet
The Crimson Rivers II : the wind tunnel in Grenoble
Do the right thing : Pool trucks
Fahrenheit 451 : The Safege monorail test track
The Italian Job : Dual front-axled bus
Jules et Jim : Two Dutch rail test vehicles are called Jules and Jim – they do not appear in the movie at all.
Who framed roger rabbit : The great American streetcar scandal
Who killed the electric car : references to Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Fun Fact – Somewhere in the UK is a live-action replica of Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward’s pink Rolls-Royce from Thunderbirds, built on the same type of chassis as the bus in Italian Job.
Pathetic …. precisely why you “geeks” wouldn’t – pay attention – key word here SURVIVE on that desert island!. None of you (so far) have even mentioned any books about, wait for it – “survival” – unless you’re all DELTA or SEAL operators who have endured wilderness training, it’s doubtful any of you would get past a week.
At least the crew of the shipwrecked Minnow had the Professor to fill in and be the survival SME (who else could make coconuts into a lie detector ? lmao)
Knowing how to skin an animal and cook it is probably a good skill to possess. As would identifying poisonous plants vs edible plants.
If you want TMZ, ET! or other superficial mindless entertainment – and live out your lives on an island.. so be it. I would be doing what was injected into our DNA from SERE training evolutions, that is – survive and escape….
Of course this is all null and void – if you are on that island by design
You clearly come here knowing some point of the site, yet miss the spirit and point of the article entirely.
And for the record, you’re buying into a lot of stereotypes about nerds. I was president of my highschool Japanese club (how much nerdier can you get?), but I also grew up a deer hunter in the woods & learned wilderness survival skills.
I have actually slept deep in the woods in a homemade lean-to. I know how to collect safe freshwater using solar distillation and evaporation and a dug pit. How to gut game. And a lot else.
The idea that only the AR-15 toting frothing at the mouth ‘Merica crowd knows anything about wilderness survival and nerds don’t is a pretty laughable and simplistic view of nerds at large. The person who survives the longest is the one with a brain and the ability to use it 😉
Well said. I grew up on a farm and having only one set of interests never made sense to me.
Ah, we might not be able to skin a rabbit, but we’ll all have an army of robot butlers in very short order.
How about: nothing?
Or maybe a better: Whatever they want to know.
While our personal experiences are limited to what we as individuals have experienced, the sum of the experiences of all geeks is vast and diverse. I can not think of a single thing which “every geek must know”.
In fact, it’d say this exercise is some want counter productive to our overall culture, and starts to foster exclusion, impostor syndrome, and a rather tonic “a really geek would know X” mentality.
A healthier way to frame this discussion could be “what might every geek benefit from knowing”. But even then, there is a such a rich and diverse set of people under the banner “geek”, that all the answers would likely only apply to a sub-set of people.
I’d go in the opposite direction and ask “why do you want to be labeled as a member of a stereotypical group?” I like everything that everyone has mentioned and lots of stuff people haven’t mentioned. I used to feel like I was a geek as a kid, but that set no longer contains enough of who I am.
I think you can drop teh “stereotypical”, it’s cleaner. :)
Your direction doesn’t feel that opposite (perhaps my ramble could be better), but that it comes down to self identifying, and not feeling there are some ‘requirements’ (i.e. something you ‘must know’) to meet in order to be included.
We’re all intersections of many things/groups, and this is always changing. I’m not sure I’m that much in the geek set any more, although others may assume so on first meeting, but at least part of me was/is in the geek set, even if that part is in my past now.
I think we’re on the same page. I added stereotypical as an afterthought to clarify my position, but among like minds, I recognize it is superfluous.
I’ve never understood why people waste so much energy on games, when they can actually make real stuff.
I do both, so maybe I can help you understand. Games are like interactive novels that you read and write at the same time. There are elements of planning, strategy, and in some genres, building things. Maybe your idea of what constitutes a game is limited. When you get tired of building stuff, how do you relax?
I don’t understand why people watch horror movies, I’ve driven on icy roads at night.
available workspace, minimum upfront investment, physical disability, mental disability, don’t want to Build… stop being so judgemental about it.
I would suggest you also bring magic the gathering online. (It will just work on our imaginary island, trust me )
How many “nerds” are now kicking themselves over such an oversight? :P
Oops I just mixed up nerd and geek. Do they mean the same thing to anyone else, or do you find them to be different things?
Supposedly (per my English Comp instructor during the early 80s) Dr Seuss originated ‘nerd’ in the 1950s.
According to my wife, Wikipedia has a page for both terms. Whatever.
I believe that nerd is a pejorative and indicates someone having poor social skills and excessive focus on mundane stuff. While geek is more cool and is descriptive of someone having superior skills and eclectic interests and rich social structures.
Sorry to bust your bubble, but geek is older and originally very perjorative. Think sideshow geeks from 19th century carnivals, that was not a flattering label.
Such as the guy that bit the heads off of chickens.
I used to be huge into MTG- good catch.
Stanislaw Lem, absolutely!
From the hilarious tales of Pirx the pilot to the deep misteries of planet Solaris, Lem is my favourite SciFi author.
I usually do not comment on any forum, but when I saw some people here mention Ender’s game, I felt I too wanted to contribute something. My contribution to the list is Ender’s World, because despite it not being a sci-fi story, it is a great piece to add to the Ender puzzle. It reveals so much more about Ender’s game than most of us could discover on our own and it provides potential very plausible and satisfying answers to so many questions that pop out while reading Ender’s game. If you do not already like Ender’s game or have not read it, try it with Ender’s World and Ender’s game side by side.
I am a fan of all things Star Wars and Star Trek, but for me, Ender’s game is something truly special. It is in my opinion in a league of its own, because few stories are as complex and so packed with themes and so thought provoking as Ender’s game. While Ender’s and the other kids’ experiences are far more extreme in the challenges and issues they face, most of us have faced similar situations or predicaments at some point in our lives, so we can relate to how they find their way and who they become as a result of it. Almost everything hides a meaning, a thought, an idea about humanity, mankind, and our place in the stars in Ender’s game. So, to those like me, who were not happy with the ending of Ender’s game and wanted to quit reading the series, I recommend the book Ender’s World, because it gives a better perspective on the different themes and books in Scott Card’s Ender series. It is written by a very special group of individuals who are all dedicated fans themselves. It also reveals how they have found use or learned something from Ender’s game and put it to use in their own lives. Put Ender’s world and Ender’s game side by side and enjoy seeing the bigger picture completing that incredible world of Ender’s game. Turns out there is so much more to like than most of us could discover on our own. I got a lot of it from Ender’s game, but it confirmed some stuff I had been wondering about for years. Ender’s World tied together what I got out of it myself and what I kind of ignored the first few times.
Everything in Ender’s game has meaning, so take it all in. The ending in Ender’s game feels mean in a way, but it is also so much more. It is so full of content from start to finish that I myself came to enjoy the first Ender book more and more the more I discovered about it. There are for example many leadership types in Ender’s game and while we may not like them all or even see them as leaders at times, they all serve a purpose in portraying an aspect of mankind, even to a point it shows us something special about alien kind. It even made me think about how militaries train in warfare sims and how they “play” the “game” and to what lengths they go to to ensure that like Ender, the way they “win” matters. Interestingly, one of the authors in Ender’s World talks about how Ender’s game and the Art of war formed the basis for a renewed military naval doctrine. Interestingly though, apparently Card did not have Art of War or naval military doctrine in mind when starting out and Ender’s game became so much more than he had ever hoped or imagined. That too is in Ender’s World.
Mr. Robot (TV series)- whoever came up with the idea of a character that breaks the fourth wall and then blames you and yet you still like this character at the end of the season is a genius. Plus closest hacker on TV (Period End of Sentence).
The Time Travelers Wife (Book)- it’s a guilty pleasure, and I like how they deal with the time travel dilemma. Plus if you could go back in time, you know you would do some messed up stuff.
Walkaway by Cory Doctorow
Ok… I need some help. Reading the comments got me thinking about a paper back way back in i think the 70’s. It was about a space station/ship (kind of Babylon 5 like) heading to colonize a planet. The ship pushed its own artificial sun ahead of it. There was a murder onboard and the investigator’s name was Paramus Gray (I think). The ship gets close to a black hole and things start to go wrong. Gravity problems, the children start to manifest abilities minor changes in the laws of physics… Near the end the artificial sun starts to destabilize and Paramus throws himself into it. I can’t find the title anywhere. On the cover was a picture of the station and it’s artificial sun. Anyone ????
Anyone who can find this for me will receive the proper geek scifi gift…. I will take you to…. Taco Bell.
Taking someone out to thai, ramen, or a real taqueria of actual quality would attract more geeks irl fwiw.
Taco Bell was the only survivor of the franchise wars. Now all restaurants are Taco Bell. Unless you live in a country where there is no Taco Bell and the line was badly overdubbed with Pizza Hut.
@greg… Geek points for you for catching my Demo Man reference.
Ok- now I get it 😂 “He doesn’t know how to use the 3 Seashells?” hahaha
My top 11 out of 10 books:
Liu Cixin : The 3 Body Problem, The Dark Forest and Death’s End
James S. A. Corey : The Expanse (currently at book #7)
Carl Sagan : Contact
And The Murderbot Diaries, by Martha Wells, recommended here or over in the Hack Chat.
Pluto TV has been streaming the great trainwreck and cult favorite… Barbarella
“Baaaabaareeeeellllaaaaa” (If you know the movie you will remember that)
Also just rewatched Tron and Tron Legacy.
Leela: Well, it wasn’t a bad life, if only I could get back that time I spent watching Tron: Legacy.
Fry: Leela, I’ve made up my mind. Before we die, I’m going to find and destroy every remaining copy of Tron: Legacy. It may take a couple of hours, but…
It was OK, but one thing it really needed was during the lightcycle bit to have Sam Flynn at some point say to an opponent “You think you’re good? Watch this!” then do a double 90 degree zig-zag to take him out.
Discovered PlutoTV only a couple of days ago and it’s been showing back-to-back Mythbusters. No bad thing.
To me, there are defining behaviors to being ‘geek’ info-dumping, and deep passion.
If you have something that you are into, so much that you look into things that just reference your interest– you’ve got the deep passion.
If you also have the tendency to tell all sorts of details about your interest to people that seem at least a bit interested — you have the info-dumping.
“geek culture” would be like trying to know all of “art culture” It’s not going to happen, and trying to spend all you time on learning the culture without the behaviors… would make you the geek equivalent of one of the ‘poseur’ art critics. If geek culture was your passion and you info-dumped about it, then you’ve got the behavior as well!
I think it’s pretty risky to try to compile even a intro list to geek culture and knowledge base. Geeks are well know for sometimes missing social cues and gatekeeping. “you haven’t read xxx?!, you aren’t a /real/ geek” is pretty common already.
Basically find something that sparks your interest, learn it deeply and tell others about it — that is what I feel is the beginning and heart of geek culture.
In some ways, not knowing about xxx can be good, you can let another passionate geek clue you in, and they’d probably be done to re-watch/read/teach it with you!
I’ve got some sad news… Most geeks are ‘woke’ people. The only thing they/we like to cancel is stuff that’s pretty atrocious behavior — like assaulting cosplayers. I think that’s something that shouldn’t be okay anyway.
What’s something you are concerned about being canceled by ‘woke people’, geek or not, that isn’t an terrible behavior? I’d be surprised if you can name one.
Holidays on a calendar… This just happened in a New Jersey school system. Even Christmas was labeled… Day Off.
interesting — they received backlash from rightfully changing Columbus day, so they (the school board, not ‘woke culture’) responded by simply showing any days off as ‘day off’.
Seems to me that its a case of refusing to engage in a debate outside of their preview (education) rather than canceling. But Fox news claims it is so therefore it must be, right?
>>you missed a very important point: “What’s something you are concerned about being canceled by ‘woke people’, geek or not, !!!that isn’t an terrible behavior!!!?”
Given that the whole thing was trying to avoid Columbus day, which is problematic for many reasons, and is defended as a dog whistle/shibboleth by certain unsavory groups. I’d say it’s a perfect example of terrible people being told that their disproven beliefs belong back at the 1900-50s, not in public.
It might be worth looking into why things happen, rather than following a sound byte.
In any case, this isn’t reddit where everything devolves until Godwin’s law occurs. I’ll just continue to disagree with you.
Have a great evening, and geek on!
For the books, I’ll re-read all of Stanislaw Lem’s, Strugatsky’s Roadside picnic (known hereabouts as Stalker, but isn’t really), Sir A.C. Clarke’s collection, Iain M. Banks, whatever available by Ted Chiang, Hugo-worthy C. J. Cherryh, Peter Hamilton, etc.. Pretty much two first bookcases of my library would do:) Not sure if I am ready to re-read anything by Stephenson yet: need a few more years for that.
In a streaming medium, I would really like to see something new. Can’t stand Star Wars and Star Trek is pretty much done for after Discovery came out. Halt and catch fire, Manhattan, Jericho, Kings, Babylon 5.
You haven’t even defined the word, but you want culture?
You have an interest in something out of the mainstream. It defines you because it’s important to you, but it’s not an identity. However, the mainstream may burden you with a label, because you are an outsider.
They don’t care what you are interested in, they are declaring you an outsider.
But this post treats it like an identity, like “hacker” or “maker”. So people declare an identity, even before actually being something. And then of course you need “culture” because it’s not about having an interest in something, but being part of something.
There were some very prolific writers, but we knew little about them, and we didn’t idolize them. Their work came first, not their name. Tney were telling you about what they did. The cult of personality rises with a shift to third party writers. Someone else writing up the project puts in the “gees” and “isn’t this wonderful”. I rarely saw this in hobby electronic and ham magazines, but I did see it once and it was obvious. When “Wired” started up, the contrast to Byte in the early days was dramatic.
If you.like comic books, it may make you an outsider, but it’s not the same thing as an interest in electronics or astronomy. There may be some overlap, but it doesn’t mean some monolithic mass. And I’d argue being an outcast for reading comic books isn’t the same as being an outcast because you spend your time in hobby electronics
“Big Bang Theory” wasn’t a documentary, it was making fun of outcasts, and thus piling up stereotypes. Sure they had jobs, but they spent their time with comic books and other peripheral things. They didn’t stay up writing code or building things.
Any specific thing, there are things you need to know. But Ohm’s law isn’t culture. I might pick up some things because the few kids at school interested in electronics had other interests, but I didn’t need comic books or music or video games (not that they existed fifty years ago) to do electronics, or to fit in.
Eureka, Fringe, Warehouse 13, Firefly, Supernatural, Stranger Things, Space Rangers, everything written by Keith Laumer, Akira, Hand Maid May, Girls und Panzer, The Sky Crawlers, Cowboy Bebop, Outlaw Star, everything written by Isaac Asimov (except perhaps the “sequel” to Fantastic Voyage), original Battlestar Galactica… all the good magazines like Popular Science, Mechanix Illustrated (prior to their 1984 change to Home Mechanix), Popular Mechanics – before they all went off the deep end. Also long departed magazines like Science and Mechanics and others that faded away through the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Scifi films, the second one listed being pretty much a sleeper which is greatly undeserved:
Colossus: The Forbin Project
Heavy Metal – the magazine (Metal Hurlant in the original French) Out of France it had a crazy variety of styles and story lines. It was what I had for Star Wars before Star Wars.
I remember that a friend of mine put in Facebook a post about a plethora of mathematical symbols and he said “I can’t believe that I use to understand this”.to which I replied “in fact that is a very simple second order linear differential equation… I felt nerdy as hell
That’s the thing about being a geek – you don’t have to know a certain baseline number of traditionally “geeky” things to be a geek; you only have to be passionate about one or more particular subjects. I can tell you from personal experience that not every geek who is enthusiastic about science fiction is also a math whiz (I love Star Trek, Star Wars, Asimov and Clarke, but never got past Algebra II).
However, if I were to recommend some basic geeky things to demonstrate geek culture to a non-geek, they may include the following:
Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Wars IV: A New Hope, Star Wars V: Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi, War of the Worlds (1953), 2001, A Space Odyssey, any of the Lord of the Rings series of movies, any DC or Marvel movie
The Martian by Andy Weir, Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Phillip K. Dick, Burning Chrome by William Gibson, Dragonriders of Pern (trilogy of original 3 books) by Anne McGaffery
Cowboy Bebop, Inuyasha, Full Metal Alchemist, Spice and Wolf, A Certain Scientific Railgun, Claymore, Ghost in the Shell
Mythbusters, Star Trek TOS, Star Trek TNG, Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, Babylon V
It’s not just literature and games – Tom Lehrer’s music is very much a part of my version of geek/nerd culture and would have to find its way to that island. In my early (pre-web) years, I would have needed an unabridged dictionary and an encyclopedia to read at my leisure. Everything Tolkien would be almost as essential as food and water.
As for what the labels nerd and geek mean, they were first assigned to me, not as terms of endearment. I suspect that over time, I and many others given the label, have coopted them and done our best to make them something positive.
@Michael Black, I totally agree with your comment on “The Big Bang Theory”. To me, it is little more than an ordinary sitcom, where the joke is on the nerds and physics and engineering are simply part of the backdrop.
If I remember correctly, it was until about season 3 that the show seemed to glorify nerd/geek culture, after that it switched to ridicule.
Just found on Tubi streaming….. Cleopatra 2525. I can imagine the creation meeting…. “Hey, let’s do Zenia Warrior Princess in the future with lots of skin showing. Have them fight aliens who took over the Earth. Throw in a clueless girl who was frozen in the past. Also do lots of fight scenes with tons of expensive special effects with little dialogue so we don’t need to hire any writers. To make it appeal to teens make sure you run over their wardrobe with a lawnmower. If we hire the janitor to write the dialogue, we’ll have a hit ! ” 😄😄😄😄😄
Since the past year has been so bad as a Geek/Nerd I have found myself saying the only things I could think of…..
Computer…. Arch !
Computer…. End Simulation !
(Computer Voice)….. Unable to comply. To end simulation requires higher authorization.
Yeah…. we’re boned…. (Bender)
As I see now, we are nearly all indivduals. I think Im bit odd…. I really enjoy playing and working with electronic/computer stuff, somtimes i feel tired and disguised when I have to f*ck with something overhelming, nonsensing and too complicated systems and “products”…. Then I relax my mind when I just code for fun, I kickstart my good old “workstation” and run either freedos+Borland turbo C+nasm or linux with gcc and emacs… and spend few hours or days, for example by playing with old industrial DAQ PCI/ISA cards, creating own, not neccessary but fresh new HMI SCADA framework, automation controller , or writing somthing else, generally useless 😆…. My friends are mostly from another filed,… few of them know a bit about electronics and have totally different hobbies and interests… and I dont usualy talk tech to them at this level 😉…. When it comes to culture… I prefer going to rave party outside or night club to feel more like the human… instead of reading books or watching films 😆… But these I will remember and probably influenced my life: R. Stallmann: The cathedral and the Bazzar, The hackers crackdown, x86 systems refference manual, at least citates and ideas book of Friedrich Nietzsche, recently released book Chernobyl, Trainspotting and Filth by Irwine Welsh, A. Shandors Satan’s Bible 😉, F. M. Dostojevskij : The Brothers Karamazov, and Highschool Mathematics 😉
The Art of Electronics
Songs of the Dying earth by Jack Vance, a series of short sci-fi/fantasy tales. Very good.
A few of my favorites that no-one has mentioned yet:-
Galaxy Quest – Probably the best Star Trek movie ever made
The works of EE “Doc Smith” (especially the Lensman & Skylark series)
Lexx – Candian/German scifi show
Space: Above and Beyond
A Certain Scientific Railgun
I had totally forgotten about Lexx. Good job it is on Prime at present, well there goes evenings for a while.
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