Welcome back to our #Microserfs countdown! If you missed Part One, never fear; get yourself a snack, something tasty to drink and remember that you’re soaking in it, and we’re nerds, we back things up here!
Get ready for the top five concepts and passages from Douglas Coupland’s nerdy masterpiece, “Microserfs”. There will be spoilers, so if you have yet to read “Microserfs” or spoilers make you squeamish, bookmark this page and serf this beach later, because this is a tribute to how relevant and prophetic a book released in 1995 is in 2010. #nerdsunite
5. Dan’s Stream Of Consciousness Journal.
Dan is constantly extolling the virtues of being in good with Bill Gates until he leaves the safety of Microsoft’s campus for the start-up Interiority in Northern California. He essentially keeps a dump diary of whatever is keeping him awake at night on his Powerbook. Now that there’s tumblr, flavors.me and Facebook, where this has become incredibly common, even a hobby that unifies people, not unlike #TNTML. His trepidation appears frequently in early dump diaries, which then become bolder, more experimental and less Bill-based as Interiority matures. The theme of one’s body being one’s hard drive and the desire to be a machine, common nerd themes, echo in these elaborate dump logs much like dream journals. Sleep mode is sleep mode for a reason indeed. These journals appear throughout the book and give you oddities to ruminate upon. You’ve probably thought some of these things yourself whether you know it or not.
4. The Politics Of Being Nerdy.
Todd called me a cryptofacsist today.
In honor of this,
I’m formatting this paragraph flush right.
– Dan’s Journal
“Microserfs” flirts with politics because nerds flirt with politics, as seen when Todd and Dusty explore Communism and get dubbed “Boris and Natasha” by the rest of the office. Whether we’re debating the merits of Red Hat VS Debian or Microsoft VS Apple, politics are involved. Some of us have secrets, some of us keep secrets, few are capable of both. We have nerd whistle-blowers! Look at the current WikiLeaks scandal! Some of our hardcore nerd forefathers were incredibly polarizing figures, like Patrick Kroupa aka LordDigital of the seminal, #UnapologeticallyAwesome MindVox.
The beauty of being a nerd is that we aren’t all 31.2 years of age, white, male and disenfranchised. Some of us may be radically political hacker mofo’s, but “Microserfs” isn’t about anger, it’s a paen to how lonely some of us can get among a crowd, a reminder that the human condition is a hopeful one, even if it is fraught with drawbacks, downsides, inequality. To be a nerd is to constantly search one’s hard drive even if the thing isn’t always well-seated. It doesn’t mean you’re going to stop trying, it just means that nobody ever guaranteed you an easy time. Not all political campaigns are about subjugation, many of us do want to leave this world better than we found it, and some of us have found that our nerdy tendencies can help or hurt this desire. We’re like GeoCities used to be; constantly under construction and a little broken, but mostly holding it together.
3. Those Groovy Chyx
Douglas Coupland has written some of most #UnapologeticallyAwesome nerdy ladies of all time. Karla, Dusty, Barcode/Amy, Mrs. Underwood, this one’s for you.
When I came into my own as a young nerd, I held these ladies up as role models, especially Amy and Susan. Our own @JenFriel has definite Susan characteristics, which is one of the many things I adored about her the first time we met.
Susan eschews traditionalism and the lull of Microsoft security by throwing caution to the wind, leaving the campus and braving the wilderness of venture capitalism and tech chic in the Silicon Valley with the rest of the group in the name of forming Interiority, chasing the dream of self-suffiency through one shared passion. As the project progresses, she forms “Chyx”, a website which requires all members to be female, fluency in at least two computer languages, and the belief that Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards in a slinky pantsuit is the worldly embodiment of God.
Susan goes on to score television interviews, designs a custom Chyx handshake which involves a few slick moves from “Charlie’s Angels”, and of course, getting mobbed at the Consumer Electronics Show near the book’s climax.
When Michael sends Dan to meet a potential recruit called BarCode in Canada at the University of Waterloo, it is revealed that BarCode is Amy, a 20 year old female. Previous to their meeting, BarCode was simply an entity comprised of intelligence and potential. Upon revealing Amy’s gender, it is established that she is what Karla, Dusty and Susan are going for; tough, evolved, witty, capable of elegant, efficient code. Having worked as an Ipt-Scrae technician on something called The Palace a long, long time ago, I understand what it’s like to go about the web without wanting to reveal my gender or age.
I’m Sid in that picture, yes, my animal is smoking, no real animals were harmed or harassed in the making of that avatar. Sid Vicious has no comment on the situation, but I did win “best avatar” awards for that baby many times over. I couldn’t have been more than 14 at that time and female, which wasn’t something I advertised. My buddy Skeezil got busted for being under-age before I did, which I’m still grateful for. I owe you one, Skeez.
The women of “Microserfs” are complex and have issues to work out, especially with their bodies and understanding that their nerdiness is nothing to hide behind, but something to embrace. When we meet Karla, she is rail-thin and reveals to Dan that she once went through a phase where she wanted nothing more than to be a machine, extolling the virtues of being nothing but a logic box sans emotions in wake of growing up in a family where traditional gender roles weren’t applicable. Karla’s germination throughout the book is a triumph in light of these revelations that allude to a once serious eating disorder. We are all capable of growth, maturity, and learning to love ourselves. It helps us love others, and being a woman who is nerdy is not a weakness, it’s a gift.
- Ada (defense contracting code)
- Neil Peart (drummer for Rush)
- Hugo and Nebula Award winners
- Sir Lancelot