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Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Hacker/Nerd Connection

Contrary to popular myth, you don't have to be a nerd to be a hacker. It does help, however, and many hackers are in fact nerds. Being something of a social outcast helps you stay concentrated on the really important things, like thinking and hacking.

For this reason, many hackers have adopted the label ‘geek’ as a badge of pride — it's a way of declaring their independence from normal social expectations (as well as a fondness for other things like science fiction and strategy games that often go with being a hacker). The term 'nerd' used to be used this way back in the 1990s, back when 'nerd' was a mild pejorative and 'geek' a rather harsher one; sometime after 2000 they switched places, at least in U.S. popular culture, and there is now even a significant geek-pride culture among people who aren't techies.

If you can manage to concentrate enough on hacking to be good at it and still have a life, that's fine. This is a lot easier today than it was when I was a newbie in the 1970s; mainstream culture is much friendlier to techno-nerds now. There are even growing numbers of people who realize that hackers are often high-quality lover and spouse material.

If you're attracted to hacking because you don't have a life, that's OK too — at least you won't have trouble concentrating. Maybe you'll get a life later on.

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