Geek Code

When we “meet” somebody online, it’s often hard to assess the other person at a glance. In real life our brains are hard wired to instantly judge everyone in a split second while we don’t even realize it. We do this based on the other persons appearance and body language. But on the internet? The only thing you often have at your disposal is a profile picture, and sometimes a bio.

So how can we make the most out of that short description? This is where Geek Code comes in.

What is Geek Code?

Geek code is a series of letters and symbols that self-define you. It can look something like this:

GED/J d-- s:++>: a-- C++(++++) ULU++ P+ L++ E---- W+(-) N+++ o+ K+++ w--- O- M+ V-- PS++>$ PE++>$ Y++ PGP++ t- 5+++ X++ R+++>$ tv+ b+ DI+++ D+++ G+++++ e++ h r-- y++**

Geek code was created by Robert A. Hayden in 1993 as a way to concisely describe oneself on an online forum, or in an email.

Each letter describes a specific trait, for example the letter a depicts ones age. The -- behind the a shows that the person is quite young (20-24). tv+ means that the person watches television daily. R+++>$ that they are an expert role-player, are trying to get even better at, and have earned money from it. And so on, you get the idea.

How it came to be

I could try to sum up an interview with Robert from the Washington Post, but you should honestly just go read it. It was written in 1996 and I think it perfectly captures the vibe of “the good ol’ days of the internet.” Here are some passages I found the most amusing:

A Web search engine found 30,000 pages mentioning it, then overloaded and stopped looking.

Just… lol

He graduated from high school in 1989 and discovered the Internet a year later. “It was all downhill from there,” he says.

The idea of “discovering the Internet” is so funny and alien to me. It’s almost terrifying how quickly we’ve adapted (or maybe I’m just way too young).

“I’ll do it until I die or get a life,” Hayden says.

I guess he got a life after all.

The downfall

It seems to have been super popular in the years 1993-1997 – people were unironically using it on their webpages and at the end of their emails. The internet was so “small” back then that it made him a personality. On the whole Web, people knew about his creation. That’s hard to imagine for a youngster like me.

Alas, nothing lasts forever and it seems that the Geek Code met the bottomless pit of irrelevancy around the year 2000. Sadly I was unable to find much info from that era.

The original website at www.geekcode.com is down, but there is still an overwhelmingly large number of old personal websites mentioning it.

The resurrection

There have of course been attempts to resurrect this wonderful idea. There is a whole page of stuff on the website of Joe Reiss (please go check that page out, it’s amazing).

There are many implementations of a Geek Decoder, such as the one made by Joe, or another one by Bradley M. Kuhn.

There is also a large number of variations, such as the Personal Growth Geek Code or Acorn Code.

The most recent thing I was able to find is Geek Code 4.0 – RFC from the Tel Aviv Hackerspace.

Ok, cool, what about it?

Nothing much. I just think it’s a lovely bit of internet history and I wished to share my excitement from discovering such a niche thing. For anyone interested, here’s my Geek Code based on the newest RFC:

Version: 4.0
GCS/M/SS a-- b-- c- d+:- C++ ULP+ LC#++/p+ FE- BE+ M-@ PGP+ E> H+> PS+/!E TR&M+/TBB--/SW+/LOTR+ B++>/kX+ e-

If you also think this is cool, send me yours! I’d love to see it.

28. 02. 2022