Rich 'New Geeks' have shed their anoraks for Armani

But, a study says, the geeks of the 1980s have grown up and are a powerful economic force. Advertisers who did little to attract the pocket money of those not-so-cool teenagers 20 years ago are now calling the monetary clout of their adult incarnations the new "pink pound", in reference to the way in which gay men became recognised as a significant spending force a decade ago.

The "New Geeks" market is now worth £8.2bn a year and they are among the highest-spending social groups in the country, the survey found.

The New Geeks are still obsessed with computer games, but their IT skills mean many are in high-earning jobs with plenty of cash to spend. And where they may once have been bullied for not being fashionable enough, they are now seen as being ahead of their time, with top brands trying to tap into the "geek mindset" to spot the next new trend.

Companies are now increasingly using website pop-ups and interactive technology to attract people who may not read the traditional glossy magazines used by advertisers. Nick Betts, managing director of the Sci Fi Channel, which commissioned the research, said: "This core group represents the new influencers in the mass market. The anorak has finally been ditched and a new, more chic geek has emerged from the bedroom."

He added: "It is clear that in a time of advertising overload, and scepticism, the mainstream is turning to these New Geeks to help them make product decisions. The unique way New Geeks access, absorb and disseminate information has repositioned them as the major players in today's consumerist society."

The report interviewed more than 2,000 people who described themselves as "geeks", based on their fascination with computers, video games and other "uncool" activities. Contrary to assumptions that the classic geek is a solitary young man in his bedsit, the report found a third of them are female. One in five is classed as a high-earner with an annual income of more than £50,000.

And despite 83 per cent of them still being in their thirties, more than three-quarters already own their home. More than half are married and, far from being ashamed of their "geekiness", a third believe their love of technology and computer games makes them more, rather than less, attractive to the opposite sex.

The research also found that, perhaps because they are making up for the time they lost when staring at a computer screen as teenagers, the New Geeks now appear very keen to see the world. They are 52 per cent more likely than the average person to have taken four foreign holidays in the past year and are more likely to regularly go to bars and clubs.

Despite this, the UK's estimated six million New Geeks are still loyal to their childhood passions. One in five has a weblog, and a similar amount say internet chatrooms play a major part in their lives. A quarter spend an average of 20 hours a week playing video games and pay more than £50 a month for the latest releases.

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