When Geek Conversations Go Bad

There’s this annoying trend in the geek culture that I can’t help but comment on, if for no other reason than to let people know about geek culture here in the early 21st century. The trend is this:

At any given point in time, a group of geeks can be talking about just about anything (take note of the context here – it’s geeks talking. We’re not talking about sushi.) Things go along nicely until some old-timer geek walks up and injects himself into the conversation by somehow turning a conversation about iPods into a conversation about, say, his first SPARCStation.

Well, it’s all downhill from here. Another geek will then find what he thinks is a rather smooth segue into talking about his first SPARCStation and how he was the first one to have a monitor that wasn’t monochrome. Another geek thumbs his nose at such a trivial show of geek machismo and says something along the lines of “I was so happy to get a SPARCStation when they came out, because that old IBM RT I had been working on was really starting to get to me.”

Oh man. Here we go. Another geek jumps in with “IBM RT?! Man, you lucked out! At least that thing ran X! When that shiny new thing came out I was still using an Osborne I”

And so it goes, with geeks lining up to figure out the geek pecking order of the pack. Who worked on a PDP-11, or a PDP-8, or (gasp!) No! Not a PDP-5! With the paper tape!?! Oh man!

Look, there’s just no reason that a conversation about iPods should be forced to somehow morph into a conversation about something that had a hard drive bigger than me and hotter than hell just because you old-timer geeks have decided not to keep up with current trends. It’s fine. We don’t care that you wouldn’t know what to do with an iPod if someone threw it at your head, but don’t drag us into your personal hell by forcing us to listen to your drivel about your TRS-80 as if it gives you some kind of geek street cred.

There’s always room for knowledge in geek communities, and knowledge of old systems most definitely counts. I have much respect for people who dealt with some of those archaic machines and still found a way to maintain their sanity, but if you find yourself interjecting thoughts about stuff that hasn’t been made for 15 years or more into a conversation about the latest thoughts on quad-core uber-smp green-ray biorhythmic processing, try to resist the temptation. I’m just sayin’.

Thanks to my office mate, Chris Tengi, for help with references to historical machines :-)

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  • harda

    I agree geeks have the bad habit of nostalgia, but I don’t think the phenomena is unique to geeks. I think whenever any group of people with a common history get together, talking about that common history is common. Whenever I have a family dinner with my parents, sibling, or other family, we spend a large percentage of the time reminiscing. Same thing with my High School friends.

    Humans, demonstratably, remember by association; I don’t think its unnatural to share the associations outloud. Attention whores just use this natural tendancy as convient cover to steal focus.

    -Dave