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Dorks and nerds and geeks, oh my!

Jennifer “Jay” Poole

Picture the Moscone Center in San Francisco. It looms across the street from Yerba Buena gardens, a shining structure of steel and glass.

Now add geeks and techies.

Now add nerds.

Now add dorks and gamers.

Gotcha! I bet you didn't know there was a difference. But there is.

January 10-13 was the Macworld expo, a gathering of sorts for those of the Apple persuasion. I acquired my exhibit hall badge and took the escalator down to the freakshow. And I say that lovingly.

The exhibit floor was awash in vendors for everything from the iGuy, a little bendy creature to house your iPod, to software to control your lights and home electronics from your computer (goodbye Clapper, hello Poltergeist).

I'm going to give you some working definitions for these people (my people) who chose to give up a beautiful day outside to fraternize among their own.

Dorks make the world go 'round. Dorks are necessary because their social awkwardness make good plot points for movies like Ferris Bueller's Day Off. For example, Ferris' best friend Cameron Frye- he is a dork. He is well-meaning yet terrified, hopeful yet pessimistic, and almost fits in but never really does.

Gamers are those in the computer world who have superior hand-eye coordination and an affinity for killing pixels or casting spells. They will literally talk about World of Warcraft, Everquest (Evercrack!) or Halo for hours if you let them. They have guilds and teams and fight skirmishes with the legends of yore and they don't sleep until the Mountain Dew and Funyuns have worn off.

And in case you're wondering if you're a gamer, no, The Sims doesn't count.

Geeks are very useful people to have around. Geeks have dedicated themselves, knowingly or unknowingly, to the knowledge of "stuff." You can be a geek in just about anything- food, cars, the Napoleonic Code- but Macworld housed the original, technically-inclined geek. You're called a geek when your TiVo won't record anything but Win Ben Stein's Money.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines a techie as, "One who studies or is highly interested or proficient in a technical field, especially electronics." The best example of techies? Theatre people. They know what soundboards do. They know what lightboards control. They love the nightlife, they like to boogie.

Techies are just incredibly specialized partying geeks.

Macworld is like nerd Woodstock. Some nerd attendees were large, Jabba-looking characters wearing "Mac Daddy" t-shirts, some looked like they walked straight out of the movie Revenge of the Nerds. Overwhelmingly pale.

They get into arguments about whether SCSI or ATA drives are better. They refer to the sun as the Daystar. More than the cliches, however, programmers and coders, system administrators and network specialists are a wealth of information. (And dorks follow them around like puppies.)

Go hug a geek. Lock a dork in a closet. Let the techies haunt the theatre and buy a nerd a new pen for their pocket collection jubilee.

Conventions like Macworld only remind us how necessary we are.