Letter to City Life

People are quick to characterise the "sad" computer nerd,but who are they really?


Dear City Life,
I am writing to you as an advocate of a much maligned and misunderstood minority.
Throughout our lives we are forced to endure the insult of perjoritive terms of abuse which denigrate and caricature our kind. Consequently I was very disappointed to see one such term used in one of your own articles. I am referring of course to your use of the word 'nerd' in RA Page's article on the Moonfish organisation.

There exists in our society a small minority of individuals with a natural gift for the kind of abstract rational concepts which leave the average person baffled, bemused or simply bored. We are generally given a scientific education throughout which many of us remain in the academic top percentile. We choose to make our living in science, engineering or information technology. Have we not already suffered enough?

In allowing the use of such terms in your pages you are perpetuating a culture of contempt towards me and my kind, which would be unacceptable were it to be directed against any other minority; an episode of Channel Four's 'This Life' series,for example once referred to a scientist of the stature of Christian Doppler as 'some geek', without attracting adverse comment.

Without science and technology there would be no industrial civilisation that means no electric pop music, theatres, museums and other events celebrated in your magazine. We require the efforts of those who make life possible before we can have the things that make it worth living. Surely these people deserve the same respect as everyone else.

For your information the original meaning of the word 'geek' was a physically disabled person displayed as an attraction in a fairground sideshow. 'Nerd' is a contraction of 'Ne'r do well' an odd epithet to apply to the richest man in the world.

It is common knowledge that those of us trained in the sciences have no sense of humour and are completely devoid of human feelings, so I cannot claim to be offended by your article. However, given that it appears in a publication so self -consciously proud of its politically correct editorial policy, I would like to object to the logical inconsistency.


Stereotyping errors

I tuned in to Attachments (Tuesdays BBC2) because of the sheer brilliance of This Life, but this is a letdown. I'm a writer myself, and I would be ashamed to let my name appear against something so poorly researched.
I have also worked in several computer software environments over 15 years, and I never once encountered the sort of pathetic, juvenile, nerdy computer programmer stereotypes portrayed.
The formula is still good - gritty, realistic dialogue, tense situations, interesting relationships. Why spoil the effect by including two cartoon characters? Programmers are not a form of sad, sexually frustrated, human debris, and these two would not last a week in an average computer centre.
Chris Rigby
Worcester

[RT Letters 21-27 October 2000]


LOVESICK HACKER "CRIPPLED PORT"

Caffrey

A lovesick hacker caused a 'potentially catastrophic' electronic meltdown at America's biggest port in a bungled attack on a fellow chatroom user's PC,a court heard yesterday. Aaron Caffrey,who had an American girlfriend, wanted to avenge anti-US remarks made by a South African user called Bokkie,it was alleged. But the bug allegedly sent by the 19-year old Briton disabled computers in Huston,Texas,freezing crucial data including figures needed for navigation.
'The attack could have had catastrophic repercussions to life and limb',said prosecutor Paul Addison. Caffrey,who suffers from the communication disorder Asperger syndrome, named his computer Jessica after his girlfriend and dedicated the attack script to her,the court was told.
The bug went via a number of intermediary computers to build up strength,Southwark Crown Court heard. One of those hit belonged to the port,which was bombarded with electronic messages and crashed on Septemer 20,2001.
American authorities traced the computer's Internet provider number to a computer at Caffrey's home. Caffrey,of Shaftesbury, Dorset, denies unauthorised modification of computer material. The case continues.
[The Metro Oct7 2003]

Carol Vorderman We like to think of ourselves as a nation of inventors - but do we as a nation value inventiveness?
This week Swansea hosts the International Conference on Technology at which the Prince of Wales Award for Innovation will he announced. "So what?" I hear you cry. "So the future of Britain," I shout in reply. Technology is what we make and what we sell if we're lucky. Is it merely coincidence that our most economically successful days were when we had pride in our inventiveness?

Look back in the history books and you will see rows of great British inventors Trevithick, Cayley, Babbage, Kelvin, Bell, Parsons, Ferranti. Nowadays we celebrate thespians, footballers and boys in the City for making a quick buck.

Today only one in a thousand ideas makes it commercially because, as Prince Charles puts it, "there is still a lot of scepticism about British innovation". There is another reason why we don't value our inventors - in terms of technology we are ill-educated snobs. We think it far better to know a few lines from Shakespeare than understanding what a RAM is and how it works. Does it ever occur to anyone that we ought to know both?

In the next two decades the world will change out of all recognition and the power base will go where the money goes, and the money will go where technology and inventiveness thrive. Please make sure it's here; give Britain a heritage for tomorrow.
Radio Times

Melissa | Hacker | Autism | Curious Incident


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