Network: Nerd's the word as geek becomes chic

A new Channel 4 series honours the heroes of the Internet.

IT IS the ultimate antidote to all the conspiracy theories that run rife through Internet chat rooms. It turns out that there is no evil master plan. The technology that is shaping the future of human communication is just an accident and, in the end, it is "the geek" who shall inherit the earth.

A new Channel 4 series which looks at the growing power of the Internet, and of the people behind it, clearly sets out its essentially haphazard development. The Glory of the Geeks is presented by Robert X Cringely, Silicon Valley author and columnist, and is the celebratory sequel to his series on the birth of the computer industry, Triumph of the Nerds.

Once again, Cringely steers clear of technical jargon as he explains this time how the Net spread from its roots among the boffins in the Pentagon in the Sixties to become a key global industry. Talking to luminaries of geekishness such as Marc Andressen, Bob Metcalfe and Scott McNealy (founders respectively of Netscape, 3Com and Sun Microsystems), as well as Bill Gates, Cringely tries to get close to the essence of the geek and find out exactly what makes these disparate billionaires tick.

"They are all extremely smart and, by the very nature of their entrepreneurism, willing to take risks," Cringely told The Independent. "These people are out on the edge."

The increasing power and financial clout of Internet moguls will, he believes, determine the shape of the next century. Yet the influence is likely to be anarchic, rather than sinister. "The money they have means little to society because nearly all of it is on paper and hardly any of it is spendable," Cringely says. "One can hope this group will discover philanthropy, but don't expect it soon. They're still in the fast-car- buying stage.

"What their power means to society is something else, because this is the next important medium we're talking about and I have my doubts that these folks give any thought to news judgement, for example. The result, I fear, is a lot of volatility before the Internet becomes what it is actually meant to be."

The Channel 4 series, which offer the Net novice a glossary of geek lingo, will go on to examine the possible future of the Net by interviewing some of the American students who are potential super-geeks of the future. In episode three, Wiring the World, Cringely visits "Excite", which was started up in 1994 in a Silicon Valley garage when six "nerds" from Stanford University got together. It now employs more than 200 people and is valued at pounds 1.5 billion.

Cringely attempts to cover the historical and technical bases as he charts the growth of the Internet's influence, and yet, it is the impact of the individual, and not the machine, that has emerges as crucial. For example, Cringely salutes the work of Tim Berners-Lee, the British man who is credited with creating the World Wide Web; and acknowledges the importance of Andressen, who created the first browser that enabled the Web to become user-friendly.

Cringely, who started working for Apple Computer as far back as 1977, wrote his jokey best-seller, Accidental Empires: How The Boys Of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition And Still Can't Get A Date in 1992. But in spite of his consistently good-natured acceptance of the sad labels "nerd" and "geek" and all that they imply, he is actually pretty bullish in defence of his own kind. He rejects the suggestion that the persistent surfer on the compulsive programmer is simply hiding away from everyday life.

"That would be to assume that everyday life is offline and that whatever is online is weird. It's not," he argues. "Just as some people spend a lot of time on the phone or reading the newspaper, these people are on the Net. It's not weird. It's just new."

And for Cringely, the newness of his favourite medium is all. Even for an old hand such as himself, the eventual form that Internet communication might take is hard to contemplate, let alone to accurately predict.

"We will clearly be getting all our communication over a single link and I think the prospect of two-way video communication is good. This opens up the possibility that people will have less need to travel, which I think is very good. To hell with business travel. When I travel, I want it to be for adventure."

'The Glory of the Geeks' begins on Channel 4, Sunday 20 September.

A new image for nerds, page 13

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable