They're female, under 40 and have £8bn to spend on hi-tech: meet the new geeks

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Geeks are no longer the pimpled, antisocial computer obsessives of popular lore, according to a major new survey. The "new geeks" are more than likely to be female, under the age of 40 and spend their evenings clubbing, eating out and shopping for the latest gadgets after research on the internet.

An astonishing 6.9 million people in the UK now describe the traditional "geeky" pursuits of computing and video games as a central part of their lives. Between them the "new geeks" spend £8.2bn a year, setting the national agenda on popular music and film while deciding many of the latest trends with their purchasing power.

More than a third of the 2,000 surveyed are women, many of whom cite user-friendly computers and online chatting as big factors drawing them into the previously all-male technological world. A third of the females surveyed by the Sci-Fi Channel are video game fans, spending £50 a month on them and favouring games that involve social interaction, such as dance and karaoke.

Nine out of 10 "new geeks" are the first among their friends to buy new products, with the same proportion being the first port of call for friends seeking buying advice, according to the survey. This position of influence gives them the ability to make or break billion-pound brands.

Amanda Eaton, 33, a business analyst from Hexstable, Kent, said: "More women are becoming geeks because people now use technology to complement their lifestyle rather than being into technology just for the sake of it. Even computers are more female-friendly now, and you don't need to be a boffin to use them. And you're no longer alone when you're online. There's chat rooms, instant messaging and all that stuff.

"There's often a real fusion between people who make music and people who are into technology, and I tend to hang out with them, and that usually means going clubbing. I suppose the only really geeky thing I do is play Dungeons & Dragons on the internet. But even that is social because you can chat with the other players using a microphone. It makes it easier to talk to guys, too, because technology allows you to have more things in common."

Another self-confessed new geek, Rachel Clark, 35, a marketing specialist from Harrow in north-west London, said: "There's a whole bunch of different video games out there for women now. The big games companies are targeting females. There's karaoke games and even dance games that use pressure-sensitive dance mats. I love gadgets - I don't see why they should just be for males.

"Geeks are just people who use technology to enhance their life. Computers aren't just going to go away. They are going to become part of our lives more and more. It's a case of sink or swim, and that includes women."