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The Geek Code 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 and different from all the other geeks in the world can be written down (encoded) in this very compact format. Then other geeks can read the geek code and work back from that to discover what the writer looks like, what interests they have, and so forth. 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. This concept is used in many other occupations and groups such as goths (Goth Code) and even the Schlock Mercenary webcomic.
A few years before the Geek Code was published, similar codes existed for other purposes. The Natural Bears Classification System, first documented in 1989, is a similar code for the bear subculture. Like the Geek Code, it generally uses a single letter for the attribute and + or − signs for the grade. It was inspired by the Yerkes spectral classification system for describing stars. 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 (represent mutually exclusive classes).
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".
Hayden's own geek code is:
-----BEGIN GEEK CODE BLOCK-----
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------
Some revival attempts have been made since Geek Code 3.12 became obsolete (see the External links section). The most faithful adaptation is Geek Code 3.20, built in late 2010, which aims at creating a permablock for all kind of geeks.
A snapshot of version 3.12 of the Geek Code as last seen on its official website (with only small HTML changes to make it more amenable with recent standards) has been made available online. An archival copy has also been put online as a posthumous mirror.
The Geek Code Block formatting, which is optional (though not in Robert Hayden's opinion), is a parody of the output produced by the encryption program PGP. Within the Geek Code Block there is a line specifying the version of Geek Code being used. The next line starts with the letter
G (for Geek) followed by the geek's occupation(s):
GMU for a geek of music, then the geek code proper begins. 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 28 occupations that can be represented. These are:
GB—Geek of Business
GC—Geek of Classics
GCA—Geek of Commercial Arts
GCM—Geek of Computer Management
GCS—Geek of Computer Science
GCC—Geek of Communications
GE—Geek of Engineering
GED—Geek of Education
GFA—Geek of Fine Arts
GG—Geek of Government
GH—Geek of Humanities
GIT—Geek of Information Technology
GJ—Geek of Jurisprudence (Law)
GLS—Geek of Library Science
GL—Geek of Literature
GMC—Geek of Mass Communications
GM—Geek of Math
GMD—Geek of Medicine
GMU—Geek of Music
GPA—Geek of Performing Arts
GP—Geek of Philosophy
GS—Geek of Science (Physics, Chemistry, Biology, etc.)
GSS—Geek of Social Science (Psychology, Sociology, etc.)
GTW—Geek of Technical Writing
GO—Geek of Other. Some types of geeks deviate from the normal geek activities. This is encouraged as true geeks come from all walks of life.
GU—Geek of 'Undecided'. This is a popular vocation with incoming freshmen.
G!—Geek of no qualifications. A rather miserable existence, you would think.
GAT—Geek of All Trades. For those geeks that can do anything and everything. GAT usually precludes the use of other vocational descriptors.
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 (3 categories), computers (13), computer-related politics (2), general politics (2), computer-related interests (6), other interests (3), and lifestyle and sex (4).
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?".
Originally, geek codes were designed as a quick reference about a geek's preferences for use in .sig files on Usenet and email. Pete Williams wrote a program called ungeek.pl that automatically decoded a geek code into the English definitions. In late 1998, Bradley M. Kuhn 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.
- 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.
- "The First Gay Space on the Internet". Slate.com.
- VGR. "The Geek Code : online codec in English, French, Français ++ evolution 2010". Fecj.org. Retrieved March 12, 2013.
- 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!
- IFo Hancroft. "A snapshot of The Code of the Geeks v3.12". Retrieved April 26, 2016.
- Serge K. Keller (May 8, 2017). "An archival copy of The Code of the Geeks v3.12".
- 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)