The Geek Code, developed in 1993, is a series of letters and symbols used by self-described "geeks" to inform fellow geeks about their personality, appearance, interests, skills, and opinions. The idea is that everything that makes a geek individual can be encoded in a compact format which only other geeks can read. This is deemed to be efficient in some sufficiently geeky manner.
The Geek Code was invented by Robert A. Hayden in 1993 and was defined at geekcode.com. It was inspired by a similar code for the bear subculture - which in turn was inspired by the Yerkes spectral classification system for describing stars.
In some parts of the net, it was once common practice to use a geek code as one's email or Usenet signature. One of the consequences of being so old in such a fast-moving field is that much of the geek code now looks rather dated, with the World Wide Web being described as "relatively new and little understood".
After a number of updates, the last revision of the code was v3.12, in 1996.
Geek codes can be written in two formats; either as a simple string:
GED/J d-- s:++>: a-- C++(++++) ULU++ P+ L++ E---- W+(-) N+++ o+ K+++ w--- O- M+ V-- PS++>$ PE++>$ Y++ PGP++ t- 5+++ X++ R+++>$ tv+ b+ DI+++ D+++ G+++++ e++ h r-- y++**
...or as a "Geek Code Block", a parody of the output produced by the encryption program PGP:
-----BEGIN GEEK CODE BLOCK----- Version: 3.1 GED/J d-- s:++>: a-- C++(++++) ULU++ P+ L++ E---- W+(-) N+++ o+ K+++ w--- O- M+ V-- PS++>$ PE++>$ Y++ PGP++ t- 5+++ X++ R+++>$ tv+ b+ DI+++ D+++ G+++++ e++ h r-- y++** ------END GEEK CODE BLOCK------
Note that this latter format has a line specifying the version of Geek Code being used.
(Both these examples use Hayden's own geek code.)
The code starts with the letter
G (for Geek) followed by the geek's occupation(s):
GMU for a geek of music,
GCS for a geek of computer science etc. There are 28 occupations that can be represented, but
GAT is for geeks that can do anything and everything - and "usually precludes the use of other vocational descriptors".
For geeks with multiple occupations, a slash or slashes are used:
GMD/TW, for instance, for a geek of medicine and technical writing.
There are a number of categories in Geek Code, each represented by a letter. For example, the lower-case letter
t represents Star Trek. The Geek Code's author has this to say about Star Trek:
- "Most geeks have an undeniable love for the Star Trek television show. Because geek is often synonymous with trekkie, it is important that all geeks list their Trek rating."
Meanwhile, the lower-case letter
r represents relationships. Geeks are less associated with relationships than they are with Star Trek, and the Geek Code says this about them:
- "While many geeks are highly successful at having relationships, a good many more are not. Give us the gritty details."
The Geek Code website contains the complete list of categories, along with all of the special syntax options. The choice of categories (from version 3 onward) reflects what geeks consider important. Categories include appearance, computers, computer-related politics, general politics, computer-related interests, other interests , and lifestyle and sex.
Although some categories have special syntax, generally each category is followed by a series of
- signs showing how much the geek agrees or disagrees with the category. For example,
t+++ indicates a geek who thinks this about Star Trek:
- "I know all about warp field dynamics and the principles behind the transporter. I have memorized the TECH manual. I speak Klingon. I go to cons with Vulcan ears on."
On the other hand, someone who puts
r--- in their geek code feels the following way about relationships:
- "I'm beginning to think that I'm a leper or something, the way people avoid me like the plague."
The meaning of each category can be changed in subtle or not-so-subtle ways using punctuation marks as modifiers. For example, an
@ after a category means that the geek's feelings on this category are not very rigid and can change with time, while a dollar sign implies the geek is in the enviable position of being paid for their work in this category. A greater-than sign indicates a "wannabe" rating and means that the person is at a rating indicated before the sign, but wants to reach the one after the sign. A rating in parentheses indicates instability, as does the
@, but indicates a specific range rather that the entire rating. The asterisk modifier exists for some categories, expressing a category-dependent "off-the-charts" value: for example,
R* is described as "I thought life WAS role-playing?".
There are been several '"decoders" produced to transform a specific geek code into English, including:
- Pete Williams' Perl program ungeek.pl.
- Bradley M. Kuhn, in late 1998, made Williams' program available as a web service.
- Joe Reiss made a similar page available in October 1999.
- Susan Leigh Star (1995). The cultures of computing. pp. 10–20.
- Romenesko, James (17 May 1996). "The Code of the Geeks". Washinton Post. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
- geekcode.com (dead in 2016); archived link from 2000: https://web.archive.org/web/20000816084557/http://www.geekcode.com/geek.html Archived February 28, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- "geek code". The Jargon File (version 4.4.7). Retrieved 16 November 2018.
- "The First Gay Space on the Internet". Slate.com.
- Unlike the Geek Code, the Yerkes system uses classes, subclasses and peculiarities for categorization. These systems differ in their orthogonality: the Geek Code is very orthogonal in the computer science sense (where variables may be projected onto basis vectors), where the Yerkes system is very orthogonal in the taxonomic sense (representing mutually exclusive classes).
- Serge K. Keller (May 8, 2017). "An archival copy of The Code of the Geeks v3.12".
Parker, Quintin (1997). "The Acorn Code – Geek Code Supplement". Archived from the original on July 13, 1997. Retrieved May 5, 2011.
The problem is, for us Acorn users, is that it asks you quantify all your opinions of UNIX and PC programs, whereas many of us wouldn't even touch them with a bargepole!
- Robert Hayden. "geekcode.com". geekcode.com. Archived from the original on February 28, 2009. Retrieved March 12, 2013.
- "The Geek Code Decoder Page". Ebb.org. Archived from the original on March 1, 2013. Retrieved March 12, 2013.
- The site first appears in the Internet Archive on December 7, 1998 ("Geek Code Decoder history at the WayBack machine". The Internet Archive. December 7, 1998. Archived from the original on April 14, 2013. Retrieved January 5, 2008.).
- Reference to the site first appears in the Internet Archive on October 7, 1999("Geek Code Decoder history at the WayBack machine". The Internet Archive. February 9, 1999. Archived from the original on October 5, 2016. Retrieved October 5, 2016.).
- Robert Hayden's official Geek Code web site (presenting v3.12)