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Nerd’s The Word

Pity the poor computer programmer. By long standing tradition he is fat, bespectacled, a loner hunched over his screen, surrounded by the remnants of junk food,with all of the social skills of an aardvark. Call him Dennis Nedry. In ye olde days a magician was a person of stature; today’s information highway magicians are figures of fun in the popular culture.

Computer nerds are people too and, like real people, have a sense of humor. It tends to be a little weird (alright, a whole lot weird). A lot of computer nerd humor revolves around what they do. A good programmer is sort of like an architect designing a house. A software development company is sort of like a real estate devopment firm.

Computer nerds have an strange relationship with with corporate management. The popular comic strip, Dilbert is an amusing look at the computer world in the trenches. Managing computer nerds is a difficult task which requires a whole new language. One of the rituals of the corporate programmer is the technical review which has its own language. Corporate languages should not be confused with computer languages which are another matter entirely.

One of the staples of folk humor is the parody of popular ballads such as The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Computers seem to be a replacement for the ethnic of your choice in the low humor department. Granted, no one is likely to ask “How many computers does it take to change a light bulb?” The essence of the ethnic joke is that the ethnic in question is not too bright. Neither, of course, is the computer, but its humorous lack of intelligence is of a quite different character.


Eveashan, England. — Joseph Begley saved 2,000 cigarette coupons and mailed them in to a British cigarette company in order to get a watch. When the watch didn’t arrive he wrote and asked why. Back came three watches. Mr. Begley only wanted one so he mailed back the other two. The next day 10 parcels arrived from the cigarette company. The following day 18 parcels arrived. The day after that 10 more parcels came. All were trade-in gifts given by the cigarette company in exchange for coupons Mr. Begley never had. Among the gifts were three tape recorders, a doll, a golf bag, two electric blankets, a cot, saucepans, a pressure cooker, and long-playing records. Mr. Begley wrote a long, pleading letter to the company asking them to stop. In the return mail came a reply saying: “It was a computer error.” The company gave Mr. Begley 10,000 coupons in compensation for his troubles. With these Mr. Begley ordered some tools and a bedspread.

He received a plant stand and two stepladders.

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This page last updated April 29, 1996.
It was also updated November 15, 2005.