Was 1971 the best year to be born a geek?

Raph Koster makes a pretty good case for 1971 being the perfect year to be born geek. I'm biased (born: July 17, 1971), of course:
* It meant I got to see Star Wars in the theater, 13 times, at age 8 and 9, exactly when it would overwhelm my sense of wonder.

* I got an 8-bit computer at exactly the age when boys get obsessive about details, and I spent days PEEKing and POKEing and typing in listings from magazines and learning how computers actually worked.

* It meant at least half the new games I played were actually new ideas.

* And yet I got to play real pinball machines.

* In real arcades.

* New Wave science fiction was the used paperbacks laying around, and I got to read cyberpunk and steampunk as they were invented, and see SF when fandom was not yet a media circus.

* I got to play D&D from as close to the beginning as most anyone.

The perfect geek age?


  1. I was born in 1968 and concur on many points… although, Star Wars came out in 1977, so I saw it when I was 8 and 9… he would have been 6 and 7.

    And to quote Patton Oswalt… “In 1977 I went into that theater a boy and came out a MAN.”

    Seeing PCs born (1981, if we’re speaking of *the* PC) and mature as I did. Hours on a TRS-80, TI99/4a, C64 (the best!) and later on actual PCs. Nothing can beat those memories.

    Playing Defender, Robotron, Donkey Kong, Galaxian, Tempest (the best!) in actual arcades with hundreds of coin op cabinets. Console kids will never get it. Even MAME misses the mark slightly due to the lack of community.

    Tron, The Last Starfighter, Wargames, Krull, Clash of the Titans, Superman… all in the theater.

    Good stuff.

  2. To be honest, 1965 was the optimum year. I got to see Star Wars–and Carrie Fisher–in the full hormonal flush of adolescence. This crush on the lost princess of Alderaan would then carry through my teen years, culminating in shocking attire she wore in the opening scenes in Return. And by ‘shocking’, I mean ‘awesome’.

    Another boon to being born in 1965? You saw the Transformers for the cheap money grab that they were. There. I said it.

  3. Nothing special about ’71 – I was born five years earlier in 1966, and can say exactly the same. In many cases (8 bit computing, fresh games ideas, D&D, the intertubes) even more so!

  4. I’m not sure how someone born in 1971 was able to see “Star Wars” in the theater at age 9 (unless it was during a re-release), but I was born in 1967 (same year as Sgt. Pepper–top THAT!), and got to see Star Wars when I was 10. Which was the perfect age to start down that road to geekdom, IMHO.

  5. As someone who was born in 1971.. I’d say it was a few years too late. Computers were too shrink-wrapped by then.. you could skate by on just BASIC and never have to learn assembler. That made my skills soft and I have suffered compared to my peers born a few years earlier.

  6. The first UNIX Programmer’s Manual came out in ’71. The very day I was born, in fact.

  7. Born in ’75, earliest memory is seeing Star Wars in a drive-in. Not much of a geek, but a good geek origin-story!

  8. There was a lot of geekiness going on long before that stuff! Now I’m not a geek, but me big brudder was building HeathKit electronics and radios when I was a kid. Neighborhood kids called him “The Genius”.
    The first “scary” movie I saw, at 6 or 7, was Invaders From Mars. I saw the zippers on the back of their suits- not so scary.
    Experienced the stuff you guys did vacariously thru my sons- games and all- but I had to buy them.
    I thought Luke was a crybaby and Leia was a bitch. Sorry. I liked the old Hercules movies, and Rachael Welch- Ooh La La! I’d still do ‘er!

  9. Another ’75er here and I think we did OK… The joys of programming a Trash-80, the ’80s tabletop RPG boom, “What the hell is a mouse?”

  10. I’d rather be a geek born in 2009 than a geek born in ’71. The geekiest stuff is just happening or about to happen. Screw seeing Star Wars when it first came out or watching the first VHS “digitally enhanced” versions in the late 90’s, or seeing Episodes 1-3 earlier this decade. I’d rather be a newborn now so that in 20 or so years I could live Star Wars.

  11. I feel sorry for anybody who was born too late to be familliar with a command line by necessity.

  12. 1958!
    ‘Cause not only did I get to do all those things,
    but I got to MAKE em!!

    programmed 8bit machines & learned C in mid/late 70’s, played D&D, played Adventure, etc.
    saw Star Wars in college, was inspired to go into efx biz. helped create CGI biz…

    and I had the income to buy my own early game machines… wish i’d never trashed that pong though.

    – Hagbard C.

  13. 1965. Old enough that my Fortran textbook covered punch cards. Young enough that I didn’t have to use them.

  14. Personally, I think that 2020 will be the best year to be born as a geek. You’ll hit 13 just in time to get the internet jacked into your brain. You’ll see the first consumer holographic monitors hit the market. You’ll experience the first brain sensor input “hacks” and get to program virtual drugs.

    Man… good times…

  15. You’re more likely to be living the Mad Max cycle…. I’m absolutely fucking terrified for the kids of today.

  16. Nothing wrong with 1967.

    I’d add that in that era, you’d get to see Warner Brothers cartoons on broadcast TV and assume their powerful cultural lessions in situ, as it were.

  17. @18, true that, but the Apocolypse is geekier than ever.

    @17, nevermind, I change my vote. I want to be born in 1953 so that by 1969 I would be an impressionable teenager. The moon landing was Star Wars.

  18. 1959 – I got to play with chemistry sets that could still make acids and smokebombs, ride the initial wave of comic book resurgence, caught Star Trek’s initial run during those same wonder years, and most importantly started school shortly after sputnik caused all schools to start promoting science over all other pursuits (not a big fan of that situation, but it did turn me into a big geek).

  19. I’d say 1977 was the best year.. because it means when people like Raph Koster were making their mark on the gaming world, I was fresh into it and absorbing all these new ideas.

    But it doesn’t make me so young that I missed the fledgling roots of the video game industry.

  20. 1966. Awesome year for geeks, and the fact that I was in the US Mid West (fly over, gentle souls) meant that 1971 Kansas looked like 1966 New York. So, there’s that.

    We older ones took the younger ones for familiars and let them die in our stead — We also allowed ourselves the total of the 5×20 rolls, trading charisma for strength to build the perfect Giant.

    1. I was born the day before Sputnik I was launched. I saw Star Wars on opening night while tripping on acid.

  21. Oh wow, math fail on my part. :P

    I saw Star Wars in ’77, on into ’78 if I recall correctly. I used to get dropped off at the theater for a matinee and watch it twice in a row.

    I am up to 18 theater viewings now, I think…

    Yes, I missed the moon landing. But my point was about being there for the starts of things. Alas, the moon landing feels like the ending of something else.

  22. I think every year from 1945 on was the “best” year to be born a geek at the time. Imagine the gadgets that a geek born today will get to enjoy while the geek from 1971 is too senile to understand how to work it.

  23. Well, I remember long lineups at my local theatre 2 years after the initial release, so seeing Star Wars 13 times between 79 and 80 is plausible — before the Empire Strikes Back came out anyway.

    As far as the perfect year goes, I’m just happy to have had a set of real lawn darts to play with. Kids are way too overprotected these days.

  24. ^&*&*&^ whippersnappers! Those of you born in the 70s and later are all soft! There wouldn’t be geeks if we pioneering nerds hadn’t blazed the trail for you. Back in the olden days, we had to make do with Ray Harryhausen movies (Ray put Lucas and Spielberg to shame). We didn’t have any of those fancy Nintendo gadgets either. We had to walk miles through the snow to get to the video arcades.

    Uphill, both ways.

  25. Well, I love being a geek born in 1971 for all the above reasons but I’d still have liked to experience the moon landings too. :)

  26. ’67-er here. My Jesus year (33) was 2000. My parents noted that Sgt. Pepper made me consistently dance with glee in my playpen. I concur with all you listed, Cory, and seeing Apollo landings too (though probably later than A-11.) I still have the first edition of AD&D books, in great condition (mainly because me and my friends were just enough into RPGs to switch to Runequest when it first came out in ’79.)

    Aside from geekdom, I was just old enough (13) to grok punk and nu wave as they emerged. (The real ’80’s music is not what they play on Nostalgia programs. That was the shit we had to tolerate while we created something new, dark and beautiful that hasn’t been matched since in an original direction for music.) Perhaps we can come up with a better name than Gen X or Y (Why?) to describe the post-boomer to ’75 generation. Any ideas?

  27. 1969 was a bit better, for a few reasons:

    I remember watching Sesame Street the first year it was on.
    I remember watching one of the space missions live on TV, not sure which one.
    I remember Disneyland back when they had “E” tickets.
    I remember seeing JAWS, ALIEN and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS on their opening weekends.
    I remember copying BASIC programs out of computer magazines and typing them, line by line, into my ATARI 600XL.
    I was old enough to use the first MAC in school and learn enough about them to make a career out of it.
    I remember when AOL was good.

  28. my 38th birthday was 2 days ago and yes, it was the perfect year for the geek to be born.

  29. I am sorry but i have to disagree. I am from 1980 and worked my ass off learning Qbasic by transcribing code from books. Where kids now start with programming in openGL and the internet as their resource. Cannot get better than that

  30. 1969 chiming in here as well. To add to #35s comment, I remember seeing Mr. Roger’s when it was just puppets over a black cloth backdrop.

    My father won a copy of the Empire Strikes Back soundtrack… on LP… for knowing Chewbacca was a Wookie. I didn’t prompt him with the answer :)

    I broke into the principal’s office in grade school at lunchtime… so I could play Oregon Trail on the Apple II they kept locked up in there.

    And to attempt to add to my geek cred, I was born July 16, the day Apollo 11 launched – first manned moon landing, baby.

  31. I was born in 1967 in Wapakoneta, Ohio, hometown of Neil A. Armstrong, first man on the moon.

    2.5 – Apollo 11 – One of my first memories.
    6 – Skylab launched
    9 – Mars Viking missions
    10 – Star Wars came out. It was the first PG movie my folks would let me watch. I watched it 26 times in the theaters.
    11 – Battlestar Galactica on TV and Star Trek in the theaters. I started playing D&D boxed set.
    12 – I learn FORTRAN on a card reader
    13 – Empire Strikes Back and Cosmos with Carl Sagan airs on PBS
    14 – First Space Shuttle launch and we get a TRS 80 and I teach myself BASIC

    I’m pretty sure 1967 was a sweet year to be born a geek.

  32. Antinous: “I saw Star Wars on opening night while tripping on acid”

    -That explains a lot. And I mean that in a good way. ;D

  33. 67.
    Got to see Star Wars upteen times at the Cooper Theatre in Denver at a perfectly developed 10, and just in time to catch both Mattel Football I & II, and Sid & Marty Croft’s run just before it petered out.

    In yo face!

  34. I was born in 1970 and I have to agree. I recall playing Wumpus at TREK-80 in the teletype lab at Lawrence Hall of Science when I was about 7, too. I still have my green d8, and medium blue d12 from my original D&D box set.

  35. 1969. If you weren’t alive for the moonshot, Woodstock AND Abbey Road, well. What do you really have?

  36. 1971 was a great year to be born the perfect geek CONSUMER.

    Enjoy the world we envisioned and made for you, little guy.


  37. @#35

    I remember copying BASIC programs out of computer magazines and typing them, line by line, into my ATARI 600XL.

    Man, that reminded me of plugging BASIC programs out of a big book titled “101 Computer Games” into my Apple ][+ and unable to appreciate anything with color because my parents refused to hook it up to our tv, so I was stuck with the 10″ monochrome monitor it came with…

  38. 1980 here, and while I missed out on some of the earlier thing I was around for the golden age of computer gaming. X-Com, OMF, Doom and a new Duke Nukem. Good times.

    Though I do wish that I was younger for all those Metal concerts that I couldn’t go to at the time :-(

  39. Born in 1967.

    Saw Star Wars in the theater 21 times the summer it was released, each accompanied by an adult. I’d say my dad was just as hooked, because he always wanted to take me if he had time. But yeah, ideal age for sense of wonder, obsession with space princesses who wear lots of lip gloss, etc.

    RPG’s: AD&D was in its heyday when I was an early teen, there were plenty of groups playing. At the local college campus you could find some DM’s that really knew how to run a great game. Ha! Phikus, I haven’t thought about Runequest in years!

    And growing up with basic and fortran, silly DOS and all the rest was pretty cool too. ASCII art FTW! And it all got better right before my eyes.

    No regrets about 1967! Except not meeting enough of the aforementioned space princesses, but this is a geek thread…

  40. I saw Star Wars in the theater at age 6. Had I been older, I would have paid less attention. Besides, it’s far geekier to have seen 2001 on opening day. And the LSD was better then, too.

    1. My cousin and I saw 2001 when we were ten. My uncle picked us up afterward and asked us what the movie was about. “Ummmmm………”

  41. I was born in 1971, and seeing jiggling boobies in the movie Airplane at age 9 was probably the single most important event in my geekdom.

  42. #7, Stefan Jones said “Kids born in 1971 are too young to remember moon missions.”
    Too True!!
    I was born in July of 1967 and swear to this day that one of my earliest memories is being woken up very early in the morning to watch a moon landing. Don’t recall of course which one, probably not Apollo 11 as I would have been exactly 2. But it was an early one. My mom would wake me up for launches and anything NASA related. I was obsessed with space travel, which made me a SciFi geek very early on.
    But I fully concur with everything else Koster said!!

  43. Jimh@~50: I still play RQ over conference call with friends in distant parts of the country. We plan on eventually publishing our own unique flavor that has developed over many years of play and absorbed other game systems in the process (including variants Stormbringer and Call of Cthulhu) now that RQ is open source. No, we never used Ducks. =D

  44. I was born in 1971 and I do not think it was the best year to be born a geek.

    Because every year is pretty cool to be born an obsessive neophile. If there isn’t rapid technological change going on (because you’re in a year well before the Industrial Revolution), you will find something else to obsess over. I mean, have you ever seen Leonardo’s notebook?

    No, if anything, perhaps it was simply a year in which many obsessive neophiles were born, because of something all these new-fangled “plastics” were beginning to ooze into our bodies, and still are!

  45. Everybody is nostalgic for when they were 9. That’s why Main St. Disneyland looks frozen in 1910.

  46. I was born in ’65, and it seemed ideal. Star Wars as a twelve year old. Haunting arcades in the golden age of Defender to Tempest. DND when the advanced rules came out. An Apple ][+ to learn what programming is.

  47. February 1971.

    Definitely enjoyed the original BSG on TV, and Buck Rodgers in the 25 Century (Erin Gray!).

    Watched early Japanese anime like Starblazers, Speed Racer, Battle of the Planets, etc. Pre-ROBOTECH. Also watched all the badly dubbed Japanese monster movies on TV…Gamara, Godzilla, Ultraman. Plenty of goofy kung fu movies, too. Six Million Dollar Man, Lost In Space, Linda Carter as Wonder Woman…Shazam, Isis…

    Got to watch Brit SciFi like The Tomorrow People when it came on Nickelodeon. Remember when cable TV first came out; remember when MTV was just an idea being floated for the future (mentioned in one of those Saturday morning CBS news flash segments).

    Yeah, too young to remember the moon missions, but I did get myself to NASA for a tour by 1979 (I had a cool science teacher dad). First computer: Apple II+. First console: Atari 2600.
    Dot Matrix Printer…fun with Print Shop banners.
    Pirated games out the wazzoo from neighborhood friends. Text-only adventures like Zork, Enchanter, et. al. from Infocom (don’t have the patience for them now like I did back then).

    Danced to Pac-Man Fever.

    Played the original D&D, got a subscription to Dragon Magazine. Spent way too many quarters in game arcades; Celebrated at least 1 birthday at Chuck E. Cheese.

    Never had a modem, but I knew people who did, and who were all into BBS’s and stuff. My dad was on Compuserve in the early days, mostly for business info.

    I don’t know if it can be said it’s the “ultimate” geek experience, but I feel like I can act as a bridge, in my field of librarianship, between the “internet generation(s)” and the “print generations” of older librarians.

  48. 71? Pshaw!
    I got to watch Zoom, box 350 (if you can sing the rest you are the perfect age).

  49. Oh wow (as we said in the 60’s) I feel old.
    I date from 1952, and remember seeing Sputnik from our backyard. I saw 2001 A Space Odyssey when we could still think it might BE like that in 2001. I was a teenager for the moon landing- and it WAS a big deal. Remember going to a computer fair in 1968 in San Francisco (grew up in Carmel). My wife’s the real geek programmer, starting with front panel switches, PDP-8, PDP-11. Now she’s working with embedded systems, and the familiarity with basic level hardware and software issues that we got from assembly, paper tape, and primitive hardware makes life easier, compared to geeks of (ahem) more recent vintage.

    But talk about a geek odyssey- my dad started life as a subsistence farmer in KY in the depression. Ploughing fields with a mule, and if they didn’t raise it they didn’t eat. They had only technology that would have been completely familiar to a farmer 4000 years ago. After the War, and via the GI bill, he got an EE degree, and ended up working on the first ground imaging radar (very black project at the time, gone for weeks to undisclosed locations), many space and satellite projects, including later on the shuttle and the GPS system… Prehistory to space travel in a single lifetime. Many of us will see changes in our lifetimes, but we would be hard pressed to top that.

  50. My father was born in 1934. When he was in college, radios were still contraband so he and his friends built their own (and their own stations). Pretty geeky.

    He became a chemist back in the days when being a chemist required pretty good glass-blowing skills to make your own beakers, etc.

    Then, he grew up to work for NASA where he was in the first group to every handle the lunar samples. Later he would design a space colony for NASA (whose artwork has been featured here on Boing Boing), and lead the Viking Project (first missions to Mars). All pretty geeky stuff.

    He also had a lot of friends at SRI during the very first moments of the internet (and later worked for SRI himself), and a close friend who was integral at Xerox PARC in developing the very idea of a GUI. These were his geek friends and they were doing amazing things.

    But, really, the key to why being an adult geek in the 60’s and 70’s was preferable than being born then is the parties.

    I have quite the collection of party pictures that prove that those very early Silicon Valley pioneers of the late 60’s – mid 70’s had pretty wild private lives. Don’t think for a second the geeks weren’t getting in on the summer of love.

    Heck, some of the people debating the greatness of being born in 1971 might’ve been conceived at some of these parties that I have pictures of.

    But, I have to agree, today’s geeks have it way better. The internet is an absolutely incredible resource of information and even the most sophisticated gadgetry is relatively cheap.

    While in grad school, my father had to drop of stacks of punch cards at the school’s lone computer, and wait 24 hours, at least, to see if his code even ran. Later in life things alleviated slightly by having to merely rent out a Cray for a few hours. Although those make for interesting geek stories, he’d have killed for a modern low end laptap like the ones my 12 year old niece has.

    Point being, every generation has its upsides and downsides.

  51. I am going to chime-in and say 1979 was a mixed bag.

    It was bad culturally: I watched Challenger in my 1st grade classroom, so at least I got to watch what began–along with perestroika–the winding up of the space program. Also, chemistry sets were gone or on the way out, and anti-D&D mania was in full effect.

    On the other hand, it was the sweet spot for nerd technology: I played D&D on Prodigy with people WHO LIVED IN OTHER PLACES. And BASIC to C++ were viable and available, and no one had cell phones.

  52. I’m in! April 71. I believe every word of this. I just passed on my old boxed AD&D books to a young friend, along with all my hand-drawn maps and years of mythology building. Why didn’t I write a lucrative fantasy novel instead?

  53. Mentioned multiple times already…

    Apparently, it wasn’t a good year for mathematicians, being that he was born and 1971 and was 8 or 9 by 1977.

    Sir, please turn in your geek card.

    But if being 8 or 9 when Star Wars came out is a qualifier for a perfect year to be born a geek, those of us born in 1969 thank you. (Being that we were born the year of the Apollo 11 landing doesn’t hurt either.)

  54. Born July 1980, and I have to say you have something there. I hate to sound like a grizzled old prospector, but technology is too easy to use now. When I started messing with my Tandy 1000 “Playing computer games” meant coding one up first. But then I enjoyed all of that. One of my fondest memories from growing up was when my dad got a gas grill for Christmas and I spent most of the morning with the 45 page instruction book assembling the whole thing.

  55. Personally, I wish I was born 20+ years earlier than I actually was, because then I could have worked at Atari back when it was still crazy there. Or Nintendo. Or Electronic Arts.

    The early days were innovative and nuts and just the kind of place where I could find a niche early on and do well at it. Back then it seemed like sometimes they were just happy to have warm bodies. Now it’s hard to break into anything cool.

  56. I was born in 1961 and I still got to do all these things too (and while in highschool — yes, and still of highschool age!).

  57. #29: Me too!

    Well, a few week after Sputnik launched. At around 8-9 years old, I managed to notice Sputnik sweeping across the sky, from my back yard.
    Man, in those days, you could easily see the Milky Way.

    I remember watching the first moon landing – live!

    I first saw ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ when it came out. Ten years old, freezing my butt off in an near-empty cinema which had the AC turned on full blast in July 68. Man, no acid required!

    Visited the Expo ’67 site, ‘Man and his World’ (though not in 1967), almost every week, brandishing my Passeport to get it stamped at all the pavilions through the Summers of ’68 – ’70. All that new technology, all that culture to to soak in!

    I owned and used a slide rule. And I can still do square roots by hand on paper.

    Saw and played all the first video games – when they came out.

    Bought VisiCalc ver1.0 for the Apple //c, when it came out.
    Actually it was for my Apple //c clone – a “Peach 2001″, with an earth-shaking 128K of RAM. (Shut up! I was poor!)

    I even owned a hard drive for my Apple // clone, salvaged from a Compucentre’s ‘Sidewalk Sale’. Five Megabytes!

    Now, get off my lawn!

  58. I was born the day of the moon landing in 1969. My job (web application developer) didn’t yet exist. I wrote my first programs at age 8 and soon after my dad spent $10,000 on an Alpha Micro. My wife informed me that my $200 netbook just arrived, ordered from the Internet a few days ago.

    Still, every year is a great year to be born a nerd. My kids will probably experience true virtual reality and have jobs as genetic engineers. Technology keeps moving forward.

  59. My great grandfather would disagree. He was a civil engineer, and a proto-techno-geek: by the time I knew him his dining room was packed with filing cabinets loaded with every bridge blueprint he could get his hands on. When they opened the Mackinac Bridge (still, according to Wikipedia, the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western hemisphere) in 1957 he made my parents drive down and pick him up in Toledo so he could ride over it.

    He was born in 1863, and maintained that he couldn’t have lived through a better time for a geek (though he didn’t know that word, himself) He was born before electricity and indoor toilets, and everything else, really, and nearly lived long enough to see a man land on the moon (he lived to be 105). Between those years he got to see a lot more interesting stuff happen than 8-bit computing and pinball machines!

  60. Born @ the very start of 1975 – and my first movie memory was watching star wars at a drive in theater from the back of a covered pick up truck with a propane tank in the back with me. Having star wars being my 1st vivid movie memory from such a young age, rocks.

    I also remember enough of the last 1/2 of the 70s to only be slightly warped and all of the 80s to be extremely bitter. :-)

  61. No way man, 1871 was THE year to be born. Walking sticks, top hats, ridiculous walrus moustache-sideburns combo!

    You youngsters don’t know what you missed! It was SO much better to be a kid then than t’was in the show-offy 20th century.

  62. I remember that when I didn’t get in to Empire Strikes Back due to the long lines and limited seating, I spent the 4$ on video games, and got a proper spanking at home.

    Star wars, spanking, video games. 1971.

  63. It was pretty cool, too, hanging out with Thales ca. 600 BCE. When he told us all his “matter-is-made-of-water” hypothesis, we were all, like, “damn, dude, that’s some seriously geeked-out shit. How’d you come up with that?” And he was, like, “it’s pretty fucking obvious, now shut up, I’ve got military fortifications to build and olive oil futures to buy.” Thales, one hell of a geek.

    1957, wasn’t a bad year for geekdom, either: the OED records geek‘s first nerd-centric use that year in a letter by Jack Kerouac:

    Brooklyn College wanted me to lecture to eager students and big geek questions to answer.

    Kerouac wasn’t a geek, but it’s a lovely use of the word….

  64. I too was born in 1971, and saw Star Wars at the cinema in 1977, but unfortunately I’m just not a geek.

  65. First liar never wins.

    I saw 2001 while tripping! Had to go back a week later to make sure it wasn’t just ME.

  66. 1972 here. I lived for Star Wars. I had a Commodore 64 but didn’t have any magazines to go with it and it collected dust after an initial bout of programing choose-your-own adventure RPGs. I lived for D&D but didn’t get to play much. Finally our school banned it just as I was meeting some people. From then on until some time after I graduated I was petrified of being thought of as a nerd/fag (yes I equated the two) and instead I pretended to be a skater and stopped getting straight A’s in school. I refused to go to the school library at lunch even when I had no friends and was forced to sit alone up against a wall. When I again began purchasing RPG’s and comics toward the end of high school I parked around the back and hoped no one saw me going in and never spoke to anyone. Still don’t have any friends.

  67. Dammit. I was going to post exactly ( almost) what number 81 said up there. I am voting for 1951 myself. Grew up being scared to death by the Twlight Zone, saw my first Star Trek episode when it aired, etc. etc. But especially what number 81 said. Damn.

  68. ’72 is too late. Didn’t really understand computers when they were new.

    ’50’s are too early. Sure the moon landing was great, but you might have been stuck watching it from a foxhole in Viet Nam.

    ’67 or so is probably about perfect.

  69. I’m a 1972 baby myself, and I think it’s just as good of a year to have been born a geek as 1971.

    I saw Star Wars in the theater…sure, I was young, but I REMEMBER…it was an iconic event in my childhood.

    I had an Aquarius computer (the poor child’s Commodore) and spent hours and hours and hours hand-programming it in BASIC to create text based games.

    I also had the opportunity to play D&D from the get-go, although I will readily admit that being a girl, I was way more fascinated with the little bag of fake gems and stuff than creating characters. I didn’t get into RPGs until much later.

    And I also got to play real pinball in a real arcade. Of course, I was young enough that my mom told me I wasn’t supposed to go hang out at the arcade, but it’s not like that stopped me. :)

  70. … Turnin’ 40 on Sat. I got to run into the house to catch the Saturn V launching Skylab, got to watch the news as Skylab fell from the sky. Got to watch Astronomy radically change. Watched Cosmos and James Burke first run on PBS.

    And you younger guys got to miss WWII stories from the people who were there. Factory stories from my grandmothers who made airplane engines at the Wright Engine Company. Also all the cool tech stuff tied into the Cold War. You missed out on the feeling of threat and overwhelming sense of nuclear doom.

    You missed out on watching the USA become more and more like the Soviet Union after they fell in Dec 91. If you’re my age you can appreciate how much of a good thing losing the Viet Nam war was for the US.

    You kids don’t know how bad you have it!


  71. Every year is probably a great year to be born a geek, but I can say that being born in 1961 allowed me some pretty astonishing geek moments.

    Such as getting to stay up late and watch the first men walking on the Moon was really something. And that same year encountering my first microwave oven in the commissary of the state capitol basement, where I could magically heat up a sandwich from an automat vending machine.

    And I will never forget the first time I saw my uncle’s red LED watch, which had to be among the first. Those red numerals glowing on that black face. It was like something from a completely alien planet. I soon saved up my money and bought one for myself.

    Being taught to program in a numerical artillery game on a programmable Hewlett Packard calculator.

    Then there was the time, in 1972 I think, that my friends and I went to the arcade at the State Fair and saw something truly astonishing – a new arcade game called Pong. Holy crap, that was boss!

    And along the way there were giant, dangerous chemistry sets. Whammo Air Blasters. Weird and awesome early 1970’s junk food like Pizza Spins.

    And my generation was led by the most powerful geek that ever lived – Mr. Peabody.

  72. You are a little late. You can’t be born a geek. you inner geekdom needs to take root and grow. Probably sprouting about 6-10 years old?

    From a technology perspective, I would say mid-60’s.

  73. I had the same Star Wars experience, and became a lifelong film fanatic.

    Then I grew up and became a film editor. The first year and a half my career was analog — cutting and splicing 16mm and 35mm film. Just as I matured, the industry went digital.

    1971 was the cutting edge year for everything!!!

  74. #67, You’re right about the culture of the early ’70’s Silicon Valley- I was a young adult in Santa Cruz then. Wild times.

    Interesting to see where people place the technological fault lines- for many of the younger set those seem to involve games or cultural references. Old folks seem to reference tools or events (moon landing, Sputnik). Hmmm. Could be just different perspectives of age. I’m not sure if what would have seemed significant to me at 20-30 is the same as it is now.

    What do you think? I’ll throw out a couple:
    For my father’s generation (born in 1924), the transistor.
    Then the first microprocessor in my generation.
    Slide rules- I was in college when the first calculator came out, and they were banned from exams because so few could afford one. This may be the analog to digital cultural dividing line.
    Personal computers- by that I mean something that did not require a professional staff to operate, and didn’t need its own room.
    The Internet- that has so obviously changed so much- and information / communications in general.

  75. @ stosh machek #87:

    Now you got me picturing someone handing out cigars and announcement cards reading “IT’S A GEEK!”

  76. I was born a few years earlier, so I got to have all this stuff (TRS-80 POKEd assembly language subroutines for the Z-80 microprocessor FTW!), but I also got my ham radio license as a kid (along with a thorough grounding in electrical engineering), learned Morse code, and built my own radio.

    I suspect that a true geek works with the materials at hand, and tinkers away. “Geekyness” in this context is all about how you approach things; it’s not really about the things themselves.

  77. Am I the only one who was flabbergasted by this one:

    “And I was too young to feel cynical about Dead Poets Society.”

    He was 17 or 18 when it came out. I was 15 when I saw it and I felt cynical about it. I mean, I remember being caught up in it when I watched it, but by the next day, thinking back on it I felt cynical about the whole thing and slightly manipulated.

    Really, I tend to think that the mid seventies were a pretty good time. There were only really a few years where they taught computer programming in elementary schools. Too early and they had no computers. Too late and they had switched to IBM PCs or clones which didn’t come with Logo like the Apple IIs had.

    I was six when we got our first computer, a Commodore Vic 20. I think that was a pretty good age. Early enough that using one is completely natural for me. Late enough that I didn’t take it for granted as something which had always been there.

  78. 1965 was the best – I saw the geekiest thing around – the moon landings live! I saw the Teton meteor live! Also, ham radio was KING before the internet.

    And, I played all the new video games *when they were new!* Pong, Space Invaders, Battlezone Galaxia, Dig Dug. Let’s not forget the *real* gaming console the atari 2600!

    CP/M and DOS were king. And I agree with #63 JJR1971 – Buck Rogers – Erin Grey – the ultimate babe of that decade. Farrah Fawcett had nothing on her! Let’s not forget space 1999! Also, seeing Battlestar Galactica in the theater!

  79. You also got to read the X-Men in their prime as they came out, along with the Dark Knight and Watchmen issue by issue as they came out when you were a young teenager (adults had no idea what you were reading).

  80. Another vote for the more mature generation.

    I saw the entire space race, starting with Sputnik. I had the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs presented to me live on TV by Walter Cronkite.

    2001: A Space Odyssey on opening night, the original Star Trek TV series, (yes, people still call me “Captain Kirk”) and I still wasn’t too old to hiss at Darth Vader sitting in the front row at the theater, either.

    I was in the first programming class ever offered by my high school, and was part of the slide rule versus calculator battle in college.

    They inspired me, and I’ve had the privilege of helping design the future you youngsters enjoy today.

    I’m glad for the scientists, engineers, geeks and inventors that went before me, and am happy to see the next generation step up and carry on the tradition. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in this world, and there’s a huge place for geeks to make things better. Do Good, Have Fun, Live Long and Prosper.

  81. I was born in 1971. I was twelve when Raiders of the Lost Ark was released — the perfect age to be introduced to Indiana Jones.

  82. Add another reason: Star Trek was by then in wide syndication.

    Born 1970, I was raised by Mr Rogers, the Electric Company, and Spock.

  83. Born in 1982:

    – Star Wars has always had Ewoks

    – I got to use computers without having to know how they worked

    – The games I played were improved versions, not basic prototypes

    – I got to see awesome pinball machines, and still don’t see what the big deal was

    – I didn’t have to endure arcades for too long

    – I got to read transhmanist SF when it was invented, and got to see fandom at the dawn of the Internet

    – And I got to play D&D 4e

    And I still think the best year to be born a geek is next year. Or at least the optimal year for being able to ride the escalator to immortality, so I can see all the cool new stuff. Forget your old media and crabby old man nostalgia, true geekery is about wanting to see awesome new stuff.

  84. Antinous offered:

    I saw Star Wars on opening night while tripping on acid.

    I always found the reality of seeing movies on acid far inferior to the idea.

    Wow. There are so many people in this room. Look at the detail on those curtains. Oh yeah, I’m in a cinema. The movie is starting. What movie is it? I can see the carpet. I can see in the dark. The dude in front just looked around, can he hear my thoughts? I think I can hear his thoughts. There’s light coming out of his eyes. That must be why I can see the carpet. The carpet is moving. Heh heh heh. Oh yeah, I’m in a cinema. I think the movie is starting. What’s the time? Hang on, the movie started at… that means it’s been going for an hour… but it only seems like 5 minutes…

    I need some air.

  85. It really depends on how you define geek. I was born in ’61, so remember when computers were big building sized things with big round tapes that spun around and around in very cold rooms… and no one who worked in the offices we “toured” as grade school students had the slightest idea how they worked, but they sure did pretend they were hot stuff when they talked about them!
    I also remember Star Trek when it originally aired (and wondered how absolutely no one in the little town I lived in understood what a phaser was!); the Apple IIe, where you could double the memory from 64K to 128K (WOW!); Star Wars when it actually mattered, and wondering how on earth they could afford all those special effects on Battlestar Galactica (not to mention all those wonderful scifi women right when I was a hor… um… imaginative… teen); the list goes on.
    Todays “geeks” are just too normal… they expect special effects to “be” the story, not enhance it; they have an entire channel devoted to scifi (not just a single show not even available in every city); they don’t feel that singular painful/pleasure of being the only geek in the school who gets it… Sorry, but geek has become chic… so the true geek is dead. Don’t believe me? Look at the decline in science and engineering degrees in the last ten years. What we have now aren’t geeks, they are gadget freaks, who think owning an iPod is a necessity. Ask a dozen iPod owners if they’ve taken the thing apart and really understand how it works… bet you get a dozen blank stares.

  86. Wow, I have much the same experience as most folks, being from ’74. Arcades, Pong, Atari, Intellivision, freakishly large VHS VCRs, and Star Wars toys. Oh, and LEGOs.

    I had a bit of additional views of the early ’80s, though. My father was a rock musician, so I got to watch him play in clubs, on stage, and even on the Solid Gold show. I spent lots of time being bored in the studios watching musicians playing the same track over and over and over (and over and over and over) again. The kids at school never believed me when I’d tell them though.

    I’d help my father tune his Moog synthesizer with these little panpots, since the oscillators would drift and get out of tune. The unit was such that you had to flip the whole top of the unit over, and you couldn’t see the segmented LED display and turn the panpots at the same time. I’d sit underneath and give him the readouts before a gig. I seriously miss the synthpop of the ’80s.

    I got to see the Berlin Wall several times in 1983-’84. Tank traps, mine fields, and Communist guards in East Berlin goose-stepping with such force that their cheeks would shake. They had aluminum coins, chocolate that tasted like wax, and no advertising, making the place look like a desolate black and white Bergman wet dream. I saw German punks with green mowhawks — knitting in the subways too.

    When I came back to the States, I had a shrink that taught me to program in BASIC, which made my geek conversion complete. I used to pirate Apple ][ games, and sell them to the kids at school on those 5 1/4 floppies. I used a hole-punch to cut the notch in the other side of the disk so you could put stuff on the other side. I miss those foil write-protect tabs, as nothing today will block the power-on lights quite like those did.

    I wrote my first song using Vision on a Mac2 with a Yamaha DX-7 and Proteus 1. I never heard any electronic music until 1998, and up until then had tried (and failed miserably) to make rock-n-roll with these goofy electronic instruments.

    Good times, good times. Thanks for the nostalgia!

  87. @97: True geekery is about wanting to MAKE awesome new stuff.

    That’s why ‘getting’ to use a computer without knowing how it works is no virtue.

  88. @ Dalziel_86 #97: true geekery is about wanting to see awesome new stuff.

    IMHO, it’s about rolling up your sleeves and actually making some of that awesome new stuff. I’ve always found a strong similarity between “geek” culture and “maker” culture. But to each their own.

    The being born in the late-60s, early 70s does represent a window in time when “getting your first computer” actually meant learning how to program it, rather than just relying on someone else’s software for everything you do. I personally think that’s extremely empowering.

  89. Late to this, but I was born in 1968 and was 8 going on 9 when I saw Star Wars in 1977.

    Cory says this:

    Raph Koster makes a pretty good case for 1971 being the perfect year to be born geek.

    Raph Koster says this:

    It meant I got to see Star Wars in the theater, 13 times, at age 8 and 9, exactly when it would overwhelm my sense of wonder.

    Sorry to belabor the point 1971? Star Wars came out in 1977 means he was 6 or 7.

    Also the claims about D&D and SF books are dubious at best. I have never played or enjoyed playing D&D games but could have jumped into the culture if I wanted to. And while I loved SF, it was mainly TV and radio shows… Listening to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was great!

    What I don’t like about vast generalizations like this is it paints a stereotype of computer/tech folks that doesn’t exist and maybe never existed.

  90. I was born in 1954. I am old enough to remember all the things you’re talking about, and much more. Not the year I was born… I was 17 in 1971.

    Older is better, kids.

  91. I was born in ’66 but I was very much into Star Wars – I read the book in 1 day, staying up most of the night to finish it. I lived in the boondocks so I rarely got to an actual arcade, but I remember walking to a mile or so to a convenience store collecting bottles to trade in to play Donkey Kong and Centipede.

  92. @104: My daughter was born in 96, and she’s learned programming and circuit design through one of these. =D I highly recommend this as a parent/child project for geeky people.

  93. 3/23/71 here…it absolutely was the best year to be born a geek.

    80-84 arcade games. ’nuff said.

  94. When things get too high tech, they actually get less interesting to me. For example: in one movie Bond cracks an electronic lock by attaching a black box to the door that does all the work for him. Yawn.

    @108 – I want to check it out. Thanks. :D

  95. If this article said a certain year was ‘a great year,’ and not ‘the best year,’ it would have gotten less of a rise out of everyone else.

  96. Also born in 71, and got to see a double bill of Aliens and The Fly at the drive in. I’ll never forget the splendour of the crashing drop ship!

    1. Also born in 71, and got to see a double bill of Aliens and The Fly at the drive in.

      I saw a double bill of Alien and The Muppet Movie at a drive-in. Not sure what demographic they were aiming for.

  97. Born in 70 and I have a vivid memory of waiting in the optometrist’s office to get a new prescription for glasses and reading through a magazine. I spent the time reading an article about this new movie coming out that looked like it might be good, and I should ask my mom to see it. I was 6 years old and that movie was star wars.

    Oh and I did my first programming on the miserable, yet simultaneously awesome TRS-80 (aka the Trash 80). And played D&D by the age of 10 and got a C64 at 12. And now I program computers for a living… I believe my first program was:
    10. I RULE!!!
    20. GOTO 10

    1. I spent the time reading an article about this new movie coming out that looked like it might be good, and I should ask my mom to see it.

      I remember seeing the theatrical trailer for Star Wars when I went to see King Kong. The trailers were much better than the feature that night.

  98. Class of ’62 here. Saw Star Wars on first release and yeah, it was cool, but my mother took me out of school one day in ’69 to watch MAN LANDING ON THE MOON! Is that geek? Who cares!

  99. Seems like there’s either a touch of chauvinism or denial to the people making the claim that ’71 was the optimum year. As someone born in 1990, I experienced Star Wars, pinball, and arcades the same as anyone before me, with the addition of a massively expanded gaming world and plenty of good sci-fi, like iterations of Star Trek and Firefly. I’m not suggesting being born in the early ’90s puts me any better off, but my geek status hasn’t suffered at all as a result of coming later than the rest.

  100. OCEANCONCEPTS, born in 1952, you talked about watching Sputnik from your back yard, but surely you meant Echo.

    Also a 1952 baby, I watched Alan Shepard lift from my third grade classroom door. (That was the same year I discovered the Lester del Rey titles in my local library.) We tracked Echo night after night, marveled at the weather data beamed down from TIROS, and watched the first TELSTAR broadcasts from England to the US. Later I watched the still photos as Ranger crashed into the moon, scrutinized the films of Ed White doing the first American EVA (no real time video then), watched breathlessly as Apollo 11 launched.

    I watched Star Trek TOS in its original season, and took in Kubrick’s 2001 in theatrical release.

    Bog help me, I had a poster with a 360/40 in my bedroom in high school. I keypunched ForTran programs in 1969 for a big honkin’ Honeywell system with 48 — count ’em — 48 freakin’ kilocharacters of memory.

    I was hacking the Game of Life on an IBM 1130 with 16K 16-bit words of memory, and almost keeping up with the MIT guys with their endless computing resource.

    No offense, but you 1971 babies came late to the geek party.

  101. @#125

    As someone born in 1990, I experienced Star Wars, pinball, and arcades the same as anyone before me


    I’m assuming you mean you saw A New Hope in the theater. Which means you saw the digitally “enhanced” version. Which means the first time you saw it, among other Lucasfications (Lucasphemies?), Han didn’t shoot first.

    Not the same.

    But having said that, I’m completely jealous that I’ll probably be twenty years gone when you’re hoverscooting around the senior citizens’ home in Moon City Alpha.

  102. Nesbitt, thanks for reminding me – I was outside playing and my Dad called me inside to watch the moon landing. I barely remember it, and I wasn’t very impressed, but I’m so glad my father had the foresight to make sure I saw such a momentous event.

  103. @#125 POSTED BY ARCHIMEDESX, MAY 14, 2009 7:03 PM

    As someone born in 1990, I experienced Star Wars, pinball, and arcades the same as anyone before me, with the addition of a massively expanded gaming world and plenty of good sci-fi, like iterations of Star Trek and Firefly.

    You didn’t experience the pioneering aspect of any of this. When Star Wars came out nobody knew it would be so popular/successful. It was really a magical film that came out of nowhere.

    Pinball and other electro-mechanical games were based on novelty and ingenuity using limited resources. Now it’s quaint, but back then it was cutting edge.

    Gaming worlds nowadays require you to never leave your home to play games. Back then even copying games meant getting out of the house to visit a friend. Or if you were into role playing you had to gather with people and deal with them face-to-face.

    And yes, you had iterations of Star Trek… Like Enterprise… I relish the days when I watched the same 1960s original Trek reruns all the time without the threat of Scott Bakula coming into the frame.

    Sorry kiddo, you missed out.

  104. If you’re a real geek, every year is the best year to be born, there’s so much new awesome every year for an interested, curious mind. :D

  105. @Cowicide

    – Born 1969

    – Saw Star Wars in Cinema age 8. Was as awesome as all old dudes here say it was, if you are too young please don’t try and pretend it doesn’t matter, it does, deal with it.

    – Desperately wanted to see Alien in cinema age 10. Absolutely forbidden. Read my first adult novel, Allen Dean Foster’s “Alien”. Awesome.

    – Played tons of Space Invaders, Galaxian, Galaga, Moon Cresta ‘n stuff.

    – Mid-teens to early-thirtees
    Long blurry period where I saw every movie, without question, stoned.

    – Early-thirtees on.
    Trying to / Having kids, STONE COLD SOBER. For Christ’s sake turn the news off, its making my brain melt.

  106. YEP! 1971 here and this rings pretty damn true. how about the computer game Tunnels of Doom. The atari 5200. being able to pick up tabloid / treasury edition oversized comics at toys r us!
    the FIRST “regular” action figures then the first star wars ones came out. I did have a lotta magic shit i guess

  107. @Cowicide – actually the bit about Star Wars kind of reads like it is directed at you personally and is needlessly aggressive. Its actually meant to be directed at ArchimedesX, and be needlessly aggressive, in a fun, playful, vaguely condescending, way.

  108. Nope, your all wrong, my Grandmother wins. She was born in 1917, saw the Red Sox win 4 world series, and got to watch the world go from blimps to aerospace.

    She went from writing letters to sending text messages.

    From a brownie camera that you had to hold still for, and mail in the film. To instant cameras, to cameras in cell phones.

    It got better, she remembers the first person in her neighborhood to get a phone.

    She could do complex math in her head, and as an adult thought people who used calculators were being lazy. She can’t stand spell checkers either, when she was a girl you learned to spell, not let the computer spell for you.

    Now being a geek means you get the Scfi channel and know the difference between Star Trek, Star Wars and BSG.

    She got to read SF in the 1940 and 50’s when doing so was ‘weird’ She got to hear radio for the first time, and see TV when it was not something people wanted to avoid.

    She grew up before people really knew what a geek was, but she was one.

  109. @ #126

    No, I saw Sputnik- I was 5 years old, in 1st grade and already reading books on space (an early reader), and my father took me out in the yard with binoculars. It made an impression, probably because it was such a big deal to him. It’s one of my earliest memories.

  110. My grandmother was born in 1916 and remembers the first time she saw an electric light. I was born in 1971 and remember listening to astronauts on a ham radio that Dad (Grandma’s son-in-law) built.

  111. Well since I was born in 1977 that CLEARLY means I am too young to be a “real geek” and should just give it up now and stop being a poser, right?


    Just saying, saying there is a “best year” to be born a geek is really.. rather.. insulting.

    People born of different generations likely have different “geek” experiences, and that is fine.

    But “best”? I think not. Or.. perhaps it could be argued every generation of geeks has some advantage over the previous – as technology advances. Makes one wonder.. who were the geeks of the ’60s? the ’50s?

    Just a thought.

  112. nota bene:
    While someone else pointed out that
    Dungeons and Dragons’ first edition released in 1974. I sincerely doubt that a 3-year-old was playing it.
    Crankypage pointed out my other concern.

    However! the early 70s are distinctly the geek genius loci.

  113. It just seems to me that a person who calls themself a geek because they witnessed things or purchased things or admired things that geeks did is sort of like a groupie thinking they are the rock star.

  114. #138 POSTED BY TALIA
    Well since I was born in 1977 that CLEARLY means I am too young to be a “real geek” and should just give it up now and stop being a poser, right?

    I sense a fair bit of tongue in cheek in most of these comments- certainly it’s my intention. Generational experiences are different. I do wonder about things like learning math with a slide rule, which is visible and lets you see mathematical relationships in a way the calculator doesn’t. I probably understand things differently because of that experience.

    The best geek experience (in my opinion) is being able to make something new work. Some of the comments here are about being a consumer of gadgetry or media- but the ones that ring true for me are where people got to build something.

    I’ve recently had to research some machining and metalworking techniques, and I’m in awe of the level of precision skilled craftsmen were able to achieve well over a hundred years ago with tools they essentially made themselves. There have always been geeks.

  115. One of the major advantages of having been born in 1970, and early 1970 at that: the Unix epoch just makes so much more sense that way.

  116. I was born in late ’67 and found that to be an entirely delightful time to be a geek, for all the reasons you mention (and when I saw Star Wars in the theatre at 9, it was in its first run, not the re-release!).

    But… my brother, ten years older, got to do all those things too, just not at the same age. But he also got to see the original Star Trek in its first airing, and hear Beatles records before they were “classic rock”, and see Pink Floyd play The Dark Side of the Moon, and when those great early video games came out, people his age got to write the damn things, not just playing them. So I think he could make a pretty good argument for ’57 being an even better geek-year.

    But you know what? My nerdy little seven-year-old–who has, since he was four years old, had a computer in his bedroom that the Navy would’ve traded a battleship for when I was his age, with a high-bandwidth connection to an incomprehensibly vast storehouse of digitial information–a computer, let me add, that I bought surplus for twenty-five bucks from the local university–spent an hour this afternoon playing a free online version of Super Mario Brothers, then took a break to draw pictures of tesseracts in TuxPaint, and followed it all up with a couple of chapters of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I bet he’d tell you that 2001 was a totally kick-ass year to be born a geek.

  117. @127: Yeah, I suppose I’m at a disadvantage with Star Wars, but I think digital “enhancement” is among my lesser criticisms of the trilogy anyway. I can’t speak to the presumed euphoria of being part of the original experience, but I’d also be cautious about building my geekiness too heavily around my 8 year old self.

    @129: There are still things being pioneered. Sure, I missed things like Star Wars, but I nearly learned how to read on Gaiman’s “Sandman” series. I won’t touch “Enterprise” here, and getting into which series I think is best seems irrelevant, but you do know that the reruns are still on, right? What’s more, they’re on anytime you feel like streaming them, and I can’t imagine they lack visual quality over the TVs of the ’60s.
    Role-playing isn’t dead either, and it only grows in its collective culture as time passes.
    I also really hope you’re not coming out against the immersiveness of today’s games because they keep you from waiting in lines with quarters in your pockets. If the younger generation has games that are too enjoyable to be bothered with superficial socializing, I think that’s a lucky problem to have.

  118. Oh for pete’s skae. This whole article was so designed to be devisive. Can we just all agree that all years are great to be geeky in their own way?

  119. 1985.

    I share my birthday with the original US release of the NES.

    I had a NES, Gameboy, SNES, N64 and now own a Wii. All amazing pieces of technology!

    I was still in primary school when Google first hit the Web.

    When I first started using photoshop, it was worth using and I was young enough to learn it quickly.

    I got to drag my computer to school on weekends and have 30 player LANS when Counter-Strike was first released.

    I’ll more than likely still be alive in another 50 years to see all sorts of crazy stuff, at which point I’ll say that 1985 was the golden age to be a nerd and people will consider me an old man stuck in the past.

  120. July 17, 1971 is also my birthday. And I loved pinball. I remember seeing Star Wars at the theater and ET and my very first Apple computer with a cassette tape drive and learning BASIC in Computer Club.

    It was a good year to be born.

  121. Unless you are born and raised in a crappy (war)zone, doesn’t every non-depressed person at some point or another experience a Panglossian realisation that they are living in the best of all possible worlds?

    1970… Old enough to read see 2001 while still a toddler, and read Arthur Clarke’s faux-serious reviews of orbital hotels and spherical swimming pools, and to watch Skylab come crashing down on Australia, and become *convinced* that there space hotels. Imagine my surprise upon finding out a few years later that in fact there was no such thing. Worse than Santa!

  122. 1968 wasn’t that bad either.
    As we in Germany are always about 3 years behind the US, it’s a perfact match!

  123. It’s always good!
    1950, here.
    Duck and cover
    Got to stay home from school to watch Alan Shepard’s first US flight.
    Paid $.25 + 6 bottlecaps to see movies during the summer, like Roger Corman’s “Poe cycle” & Ray Harryhausen stuff
    Barbarella (w/Jane Fonda) was new when I was a teen
    IBM Summer Camp
    Rock and Roll
    Certain, uh, chemical novelties invented
    Got to work in computers when it was mostly fun
    Got to retire when computer work became too focused on security/management so I could stay home, where computers are still fun
    Got to know, as cutting-edge, CPM, C-64, Unix, OS2, (although never cutting-edge – DOS, Winders)

  124. 1972 here, grrlgeek. Growing up in a town with a less than 200 population in rural Canada, still had access to D&D at 8 yrs old. Wasn’t keen on it. Saw Star Wars/Empire double bill, wasn’t impressed.

    Reason: Dad was a real scifi guy. Born in 1944, worked for IBM doing real high-tech computer work. By the time I was 6, I could add, subtract, multiply and divide in hexadecimal almost as fast as in decimal. I wish I had been entered in some kind of competition, cause I would have won.

    Later computers — Commodore PET, Apple IIe, Commodore 64, IBM PCjr, all were a strong influence, though Dad’s visits to the office with his cube-neighbours software library were most influential.

    In particular, I remember a text-based game called COFFEE, complete with voice modulation! (from a terminal, in the early-80s)

  125. Star Wars and pinball machines are cool, but they aren’t defining. They won’t dramatically and eternally change human life as we know it. The internet and personal computers will, and that’s why being born in 1979 like, ahem, yours truly was, was the best time to be born a geek.

    * your childhood witnessed the PC explosion. As your motor and cognitive skills increased, so did the complexity of gaming platforms.

    * you had massive computing power at your fingertips from an early age.

    * you are old enough to have belonged to (and downloaded porn from) local BBS’s and remember when AOL went to unlimited time because you couldn’t log on to chat with your sweetheart.

    * yet, you are young enough to have no concept of adulthood without the massive, total, connectivity of the internet.

  126. 1973 standing by…..
    It has all been said above, trs-80, nuclear fears, LOGO, cb radio, but I can beat you on one count. I saw Star Wars for the first time as a little tyke on my neighbours movie screen. Apparently he “torrented” it out of the back of some guys Buick down town, amazing bandwith that celluloid/station wagon combo, took him about a minute to download it to his passenger seat. Young enough that I thought it was cool but a little weird that the good guys(Luke and Obi Wan) were fighting with a fluorescent light tube(Light sabre).

  127. Having your birthday on July 17 means you could have seen the Skylab-Soyuz Test Project link up on your birthday (1975).

    You also share your birthday with J Michael Straczynski (Bab 5) and The Hoff.

  128. Yesterday’s geeks went to Radio Shack to pick up some diodes and rheostats. Today’s ‘geeks’ go to Radio Shack to pick up a cheap cordless phone and a universal remote.

  129. I have to agree! Even in
    Asia, it was great timing to enjoy all SF and personal computer revolution!

    And it makes my life.

  130. I was born in 1980; a pretty good year for a geek to be born in. One of my first memories is my dad getting our first computer (A BBC), and got to experience 8-bit gaming on that, learnt to code before I hit puberty (in BASIC), had the web created and become commonplace while I was in my mid-teens. I was pretty much the right age for sense-of-wonder when Star Trek: TNG came out- nine or so, I think. And Red Dwarf! And Babylon 5! I was in my teens for the Golden Age of Vertigo comics- Sandman, the Invisibles, Preacher, Transmetropolitan, etc- and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And acid house broke when I was only eight- a little young, perhaps, but still…

  131. I don’t think so that 1971 was the great year because every year men get destroy by natural disasters and in criminal activity. Every year men get some good achievement in technology, computer and discovery. That means all year are important to us and all year have good or bad moments.

  132. Born in 72. Saw Star Wars when I was 5–my first movie in the theater. Played all those games, too.

    I was a bit young to appreciate punk/post-punk, so were I born in, say, 65, I could have had it all.

  133. Real nerds look forward, not backward!

    The best year to be born is that year when technology that allows you to experience, to the fullest, any moment in history comes about. :)

  134. Also, chemistry sets, Basic (w/ chits) and AD&D (MM, PH, DMG). All this by age 7, iirc. “Cosmos” blew my mind as a small child; it really shaped me. I would have been 7-8 for that.

    Sputnik must have been incredible for a child.

    What a great thread. Thanks. Off to watch Wonder Years…

  135. To a great degree, it depends on *where* one was born.

    Out on the great plains of North America, I might as well have been born in 1893.

    — MrJM

  136. @125 ARCHIMEDESX

    You didn’t experience the pioneering aspect of any of this. When Star Wars came out nobody knew it would be so popular/successful. It was really a magical film that came out of nowhere.

    Yeah, Star Wars was really awesome when it first came out, but now it’s gotten old and moldy. There’s nothing special about Star Wars now. Since you didn’t see it when it first came out, obviously it couldn’t be magical for you either. Duh.

    I saw Star Wars in the theater. You know what that makes me? That’s right, a pioneer. Seeing Star Wars in the theater during its original release is really pretty much just like homesteading. You didn’t see it in it’s original theatrical release, ergo, you are not a pioneer. We all want to be pioneers, but only some of us can be because we were born at the right time. Sorry, sucks to be you.

    Pinball and other electro-mechanical games were based on novelty and ingenuity using limited resources. Now it’s quaint, but back then it was cutting edge.

    You can tell that pinball machines are just quaint now because I’ve stopped playing them. If they were still using novelty and ingenuity to make pinball games then you’d be able to tell that because you’d see me playing them. I’ve moved on to newer flashier things, so obviously today’s pinball machines are crap. I should know: I don’t play them.

    Gaming worlds nowadays require you to never leave your home to play games. Back then even copying games meant getting out of the house to visit a friend. Or if you were into role playing you had to gather with people and deal with them face-to-face.

    Today’s kids all role-play using text-messages and Twitter. They’re required to be at home in their bedroom if they want to play games. They aren’t even in a basement. How can you pretend to be in a dungeon if you aren’t in a basement? And the cool video games, how non-geeky. Back when I was a kid, I had a machine which we called a No-Friend-O, but using it was profoundly social experience. It was, after all, in the living room, unlike the similar video game systems you have now. Plus, I used to pirate PC games when I was young. I couldn’t just pirate them over the internet, you had to pirate them by copying them from your friends. It was way more social. I was practically a social butterfly. I was the belle of the ball with my game copying. It was a magical experience, the likes of which you will never know because being that you are younger than me and have the internet instead of floppy disks, clearly you have no friends.

    And yes, you had iterations of Star Trek… Like Enterprise… I relish the days when I watched the same 1960s original Trek reruns all the time without the threat of Scott Bakula coming into the frame.

    Goddamn that fucking Scott Bakula. Back when I was young, Star Trek was pure high grade stuff, but with all these new ones mixed in, there’s too much cut in the product. I hardly get high any more. I’ve taken to injecting episodes of the original Star Trek directly into my neck, but it’s barely enough to stop me from going into withdrawal. And ST:TNG, don’t even try to sell that to me. I want the real shit. If someone didn’t understand these complex human emotions, then that someone should be a Vulcan, dammit, not an android. But back when I was young, there was nothing but the original, and it was so pure and raw and I got so high. Those were good days, man. Today’s kids just can’t get that. Not with motherfucking Scott Bakula around.

    Sorry kiddo, you missed out.

    That’s just the way it is. Things go bad. If you didn’t watch Star Wars in the theater and then rush out and buy the soundtrack on 8-track then it’s shit. If you didn’t watch Star Trek reruns when they were in syndication, then you may as well be sucking off Scott Bakula.

    Movies, television, music, and video games, what do they all have in common? They rot and they do it quickly. Their shelf life is like a week-and-a-half. If you didn’t get it while it’s fresh, you might as well just stare at the wall instead. And nothing made after I was 15 is worthwhile, so don’t even suggest that. My formative years were just better than yours, full stop. I’m sorry that my childhood was so much better than yours, but it was, so you’re just going to have to live with it or kill yourself.

    The fact of the matter is: you are late to the party. You have arrived after all the cool people got turned into zombies and now they’re trying to eat your brains. This party was awesome at 9:30. But now it’s 10:15 and it’s zombie hell. Sorry, kiddo, but that’s just the way things are.

  137. I was born a week after Cory (and am thus exactly 7 days younger, better looking and more dynamic than him). Koster is right. Deal with your pain all those not born in 1971.

    StarWars. Pinball. Home computers. Man on the Moon. All good stuff. But earth-shaking? Um… sure.
    I watched Ed Sullivan announce “Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles!” As I watched the fabulous moptops grab America by the balls and the music industry by the throat, I thought to myself “I think I’ll wear my hair longer.” So did millions of others.
    That single performance rocked this world like nothing before or after. America- nay, the world changed then and there. The Youth of the World congealed into a lobby, a demograph, that became self-directing, and moved out of Momma’s basement that day.
    I’m still flying my ‘street flag’.

  139. 1964: old enough to remember Star Trek: TOS when it was originally shown, as well as the Apollo 11 mission, and saw Star Wars when I was thirteen. Thirteen. I say “bah” to you ’71 kiddies.

  140. Oh, another thing about 1967. I’m old enough to remember a time when there were people walking around on the moon. Match that, 1971 weenies.

  141. 1973, because

    1) Apple computer rolled into schools while I was in 2nd grade.

    2) The web was born my freshman year of college.

    3) Never lived with Nixon as president.

  142. I was born the year Linus Torvalds wrote the Linux Kernel.

    From then on, I grew up in a world granting me access to (nearly) all the information I wanted. Yep, the popularization of the internet was during the 90’s.

    Pinball? I grew up owning n00bs in quake3…

    D&D? I was the perfect age to play rpg’s when WoW came out.

    Star Wars? When the first prequel came out, I still was young enough to think that JarJar Binks is funny!

    When I want to know something, I look it up on Wikipedia.

    I win.

  143. Optimal geekdom would have to be defined by being old enough to have programmed using punch cards and a using a rotary dialed phone modem. Membership in the first school computer club. Younger than that, a second generation geek. And yes, I’m a harrumphing codger.

  144. One more vote for ’69 being as good a year. Somewhere out there is a picture of me, just a couple of weeks old, propped up in front of the tv with the moon landing behind me :)

    But, yeah, it would have been cooler to be old enough to appreciate it at the time instead of just in pictures later.

    I’ll give a shout out for the first(?) generation geeks, too. I spent some great times at work years back hearing great stories from the punch card days from a consultant old enough to be my grandfather ;) You guys rock, too!

  145. I was born in 1971 (November 26) and while some of that was indeed awesome, I don’t think it was at all optimal.

    In our childhoods, being a geek was NOT cool. If you had a computer, or even were interested in them, you were obviously some kind of social failure. You were supposed to like classic rock or Van Halen, muscle cars or crotch rockets, and football. There were no “gamers”, only nerds.

    In short: no.

    We have yet to see the geekiest generation.

  146. @gpeare: “Optimal geekdom would have to be defined by being old enough to have programmed using punch cards…”

    I used to program an English AccuraTurn lathe by putting little pegs into a pegboard. How cool is that?!
    My wife was working in a cold room filled with computer equipment in the early ’70’s. Now she hates ’em! She doesn’t understand that I need another new one. I’m running AutoCAD 2004 on Windows 98. Can’t see most of these videos.

    And yes, I too am a harrumphing codger.

  147. @147: Nobody’s being divisive, we’re just arguing with the express purpose of determining which group has an exclusive claim to greatness.

    Seems to me that as long as the old ways are remembered, whoever is born closest to the future is in the best predicament.

  148. added patina points for playing that Atari, age age 7-8 on the TV that was born before we were!
    (65 here)

  149. 1970 here. Didn’t do much of the computer stuff; got 1 semester of programming in junior high but was hopelessly bad at it (the fact that i didn’t have a computer at home to practice on didn’t help). Big space travel geek as a youngin’, exacerbated by Star Wars, Star Trek, etc.

    But the true path to Geek for me was science fiction and fantasy media. Started with Bakshi’s “The Hobbit”, with Brother Theodore as Gollum. My sister was reading the whole series, which I promptly swiped. Same with Bradbury’s “Martian Chronicles”. Then in ’79 a family friend bequeathed me his Sci-Fi book club collection, and that was it for me. Lots of short story anthologies, some (now) classic novels, exposing me to the likes of Ellison, Le Guin, Silverberg, Zelazny, Bishop… Years later, reading magical realism in college didn’t faze me. I’d already read R.A. Lafferty, so Julio Cortazar writing about time travel was nothing. Still read both genres, and am delighted with the podcast format.

    I can has geek now?

  150. Glad we got the ball rolling on 2001… John Lennon wanted to create a temple where the film was to be played in a loop, without interruption, forever. According to 2001: The Filming of the Future, at the film’s premiere, a 5 year old kid stood up in his seat and shouted, “This is God!” during the StarGate sequence. No LSD required, indeed.

    This was the version with 30+ minutes of additional footage, mind you. Now, seeing that would be amazingly geeky, but I think only about 50 people ever did.

  151. Reminds me of Homer Simpson claiming “everyone KNOWS rock was rock-n-roll was perfected in 1974, it’s been scientifically proven!”

  152. I’ll argue for 1957 as being a good year to be born a geek, even if it sounds old to many. Reasons are:

    I got to see 2001: A Space Odyssey when I was about 10. Those were mind-blowing special effects that overwhelmed my sense of wonder. I was in college when Star Wars came out and I was again overwhelmed. Remember that adult scientists were likewise overwhelmed and tried to work out the theories that would create a light sabre.

    I got to play with computers back with punch cards, and got to peek and poke on PET micros, and my first real pooter was an apple ][+, on which I did way too much programming in assembler and BASIC.

    I got to build Heathkits. They were pretty well gone by the time anyone born after 1965 would’ve had a chance to build them.

    I got to play real pinball machines, and video games from the start, and in real arcades. Asteroids and Galaxia were old hat by the time someone born in 1971 was tall enough to play. PacMan came out in 1981.

    Fandom was already beginning to become a media circus by the early 80s. I got to read the various -punks as they came out, and got to read their roots, too. I also had the opportunity to meet some of the Golden Age writers, so to me this was the best of both worlds.

    I missed the start of D&D by a few years. I didn’t start playing until 1976. Anyone born in 1971 would’ve still been in diapers at the start of D&D.

    Actually, I won’t claim 1957 as the perfect geek birth year. I really don’t think there is one, as each year added or subtracted things. In many ways, the perfect geek year would’ve such that you were old enough to work on the ENIAC, and that was way before I was born.

    Another would’ve been when you were old enough to work with Grace Hopper to invent COBOL. Alas, I was in diapers at that point. However, it does exemplify my point. Anyone for the Babbage Difference Engine? :-)

  153. 1971, definitely. And, it’s not just because I was born on July 14, 1971. I just happen to agree with everything you listed!

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