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Online tests help geeks vent repressed emotions

By Edward Chiao

Feb. 3, 2003 9:00 p.m.

Do you have more than five registered e-mail addresses? How
about more than three AIM screen names? Does the acronym
“DC” remind you of a steady flow of current instead of
our nation’s capital? Are you The Person people ask to fix
their computers?

According to many online geek tests, if you answered yes to any
of these questions, you may be on your way to becoming a
“tech geek,” “dork” or, my personal
favorite, an “engineering nerd.”

Most of us have taken one of these tests before. Just type the
keywords “geek test” into a search engine, and
you’ll strike “Au.”

“Do you have a can of compressed air sitting on or near
your desk? If so, add one point to your geek score.”

“If you know the human hand normally has 0101 fingers,
then add one point to your score.”

As absurd and trivial as these tests may seem, they serve as a
window into the type of humor that we “science people”
have. After all, many of these crude online tests are written by
and for stressed-out science and engineering college students.
Think of these tests as a primitive version of Thespark.com.

The notoriety and life spans of these tests are short lived,
however. It all starts when a student decides to create a test on
his 10 megabytes of free university Webspace, thinking his friends
will get a kick out of discovering they are being called a
“45 percent tech geek” for admitting to reading the
comic strip “Dilbert” religiously.

Last week, I found myself the victim of one of these exams.
After answering 15 questions that could only be funny to less than
1 percent of the nation’s population, by some crude
calculations I came out to be 82.05 percent geek (four sig figs,
impressive). Who knew that being able to recite a few lines from
Monty Python movies would seal my fate as an engineering nerd?

But this is why we take these tests. It’s not so much the
score we get, but rather the kick we get from answering the
questions. It’s never been flattering to be labeled a
“nerd” by society, but somehow it’s hilarious
when you are labeled the mightiest nerd of all by your fellow
nerds.

If we geeks and trekkies can’t laugh at ourselves, how
could we withstand the widespread social ridicule?

To most of our peers, the shortfalls of “tech geeks”
are well-documented: we are short, wear thick glasses, have messy
hair and wrinkled clothes, and are generally socially inept,
shadow-lurking creatures.

The tests are an outlet for self-ridicule, easing emotions which
would otherwise remain bottled up inside of those Friday nights
studying at home and Saturday afternoons in the biohazard lab.

The tests even help build fraternity among suffering students.
Misery loves company, right?

Some students actually take pride in being crowned supreme nerd,
but others cover their tracks to keep their true “geek”
status hidden. For some, the pain of being labeled a nerd, even
among other “outcasts,” is too much to bear.

But there is no disputing that most of the absurd questions
almost always have some semblance of truth to them. There’s
no sense in hiding from who we are, so we might as well embrace it
through these good-spirited tests.

If you’re looking for the king of all tests, then
you’ll want to take the 500 question “nerdity
test” (http://www.lagmonster.org/games/purity/nerd500.html),
which unofficially serves as the standard for all other geek tests
and is not completely limited to science buffs.

This yes/no test, created by students, is meticulously broken
down into 12 parts and takes the better part of a half hour to
finish. There’s a section on computers, education, clothing
and even acronyms. If you know what MODEM and NORAD stand for
““ and are excited you know it ““ then take this
test.

I finished the test with a 47 percent nerd rating, meaning
I’m somewhere between being a closet nerd and being on a
first-name basis with the neighborhood Radio Shack employees.

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Edward Chiao
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