I’m not the best one to ask about the whole Jock-vs-Nerd thing. I certainly knew about it as a teenager–heck, I’d read my dad’s old magazines from the 50s and see the ads aimed at the “98-pound weakling” and how he should muscle up so he wouldn’t get sand kicked in his face at the beach–and I very much enjoyed the movie Revenge of the Nerds when it came out in 1984.
I went to an art and music high school, you see, and things were very different there. With so many odd creative types around, I guess the fellas on the football team (and we did have one, full of preppie guys who listened to Phil Collins) and their cheerleader girlfriends knew there were just as many of us as there were of them, so we all lived in peaceful co-existence. In fact, I even remember going to a few parties at jock houses and, when other jocks from other schools showed up and started to make fun of us, our jocks stepped in to defend us: “Hey, these guys are okay, leave them alone.”
Well, I do remember one kid, actually. He wasn’t in the art program and he wasn’t into sports. He was a real dyed-in-the-wool nerd. Small, messy, socially awkward, and so into computers he could write programs from scratch (he once wrote me something that made random colourful lines and patterns that looked much like today’s screensavers, but in 1984 and on an Apple IIe). This little guy, let’s call him Norbert, once stood up to do a book report and called the characters “carbon-based lifeforms” after he’d decided he’d said their names too many times. Norbert didn’t have many friends and I’d often see him sitting alone in the cafeteria while I’d be sitting with my group of cool, artsy New Wave friends. But because it was a pretty accepting school, no one would be throwing things at him and I seem to remember most of us who shared classes with him would at least nod hello.
It’s to guys like that–and to the gals who collected programs on floppy disks rather then friends–that I’d like to dedicate these episodes of Where Cool Came From. Quarantined in the computer room, these kids had a tough teen-hood, but are, today, the ones occupying the top echelons of Google and Apple. Or they’re the mad scientists who’ll one day discover a way end our dependency on oil, or find a cure for cancer.
So here’s to the nerd, the geek, the dork and the outcast. Your time in the spotlight has come…not that you noticed or give a crap anyway
Yours in coolness,