Gill Smith
Gill Smith - Comedy Writer & Performer

Gill's Journal, Issue

Quarterly magazine of The ARM Club the Leading Independant
RISC OS Computer User Club.
Having managed to get a mention in two different articles in a recent issue of Eureka, I've been given the chance to explain to you why exactly I agreed to marry a 'spod' (I'm not being rude, he does define himself as one).

My father used to joke that women only went to university to meet husbands who'd become suitably rich. These days the job market for graduates isn't so good, so it had to be a lawyer or a computer scientist, and I‘ve never liked those long wigs!

OK, so he's no James Bond; he doesn‘t have regular high-speed car chases and sleep with a gun under the pillow. But then he doesn't get the girl, sleep with her, and have to kill her either. And leaving the girl alive at the end of a passionate session, and not letting her get held hostage, is something I find attractive in a guy. And, really, car chases are so expensive these days.

I have found out that I'm not the only woman to marry, or be in love with, a spod. I realise that some of you reading this may be spods, still sat waiting for the perfect spoddess, but all is not lost. You just need to demonstrate your talents to someone who'll really appreciate your ability to code in 37 different languages and who gets excited by the size of your hard drive! Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist, has a lot to say about sexy spods (Windows Magazine, May 1995) so to make my life easy, I'll let him explain.

First, he claims it's a Darwinian thing: survival (and getting the girl) of the fittest. So my hint here is to look out for intelligent women, those of us who've spotted the fact that the genes we pass on to our children need to help them live in today's society. So for the kids' sake, the genetic material that ensures they can reconfigure their hard drives at will is going to be far more useful than being able to hunt down and kill an antelope. As Adams points out "That skill is becoming less important every year."

That implies women pick a man just for the sake of the children, and that's not true. Many do it because their parents like him instead. But then, having a man who can not only point out where the Bold button is to your mother, but who can actually retrieve her letter to Aunty Ethel when she misses Bold and somehow hits Delete can only be a good thing. No, she won't ever learn and if she does, they'll change the all important standard protocol. With clever tricks to make Mother-in-law's attempts at using a computer extra easy, the pair of them may even manage to get on!

There's a lot to be said for a man whose job is in something like computing that evolves constantly. Maybe, just maybe, some of the stories he repeats to everyone he ever meets will change once in a while. Well the technology does - there's hope isn't there?Even if they never change or you don‘t understand them anyway, you'll have the art of nodding, smiling and saying "yes, right" convincingly perfected before you have to try it out on your Father-in-law.

Of course there are different categories of spod and some are more sexy than others. It's amazing how much better looking a man is when he's just saved that 5,000 word essay from disappearing into nowhere, than when he's sat around muttering incomprehensible UNIX commands. The top 'spod job' for pulling has to be sysadmin or 'the guy who fixes everything to do with the computer' as the rest of the world call it. This is your chance to meet all those women who might just like a spod.

Once you've got one, you can happily go into the dynamic career path of programming and see the world... wide web. If you're going to be a Sys Admin, just remember, however fascinated she seems to be by exactly what it was that caused her screen to lock, and even if she asks relevant questions about it (some of us do know where the on button is, you know) if you get her to agree to a date - think! Now, once upon a time, when you interviewed for the job, you had a CV. On it, you put a section on 'interests'. You may even have had to talk about them. Think of something that isn't technical and try to talk about it on the date. You must come up with some half-decent conversation before you can revert to the sat still, staring in one direction pose (just like you're used to, but without the eye strain) of the 'good-listener' that she tells her friends about!

Hopefully, I've come up with a few half decent points, and some handy hints for desperate spods but I don‘t think I‘ve really sold you this 'marry a spod' plan yet. So I'm going to borrow another point from Scott Adams. He claims that fast computers have replaced fast cars as the ultimate way to impress women. (Can't you just see Danny from Grease showing off his boot speed and singing 'filks' about it? No?) So this is the way to impress, and to quote Adams again "Soon anyone who's not on the World Wide Web will qualify for a government subsidy for the home-pageless." Girls, pick carefully; if his web page can be read in Lynx, you're getting a better quality of spod. A real spod‘s spod.

Thankfully something is finally being done to improve the image of spods, so by the time he's moved into management, marrying a spod will be normal. There's Natalia, in Goldeneye, who may have been a second-rate programmer but opinion suggests she's a first-rate kind of girl. Now we‘ve got Roz and Beckett in another series of Bugs, regularly saving the universe by knowing how to use a computer. Thank goodness. Without them we'd all sound even sadder. (No - don‘t watch it with a spod unless you really care that 'that wouldn't happen IRL') So now life just needs to mirror art!

If there is anything you haven't understood just turn to the next page for Gill‘s helpful glossary.

art - Pictures, but not just as JPEGs, or whatever they‘re called.
CV - Bit of paper (you know, a print out) of your skills and past jobs.
Danny from 'Grease' - I‘m sure Grease has a web site somewhere.
Darwinian - Darwin wrote a book suggesting we all used to be monkeys. It shows more in some people than others.
desperate - Someone without a partner, who hasn‘t yet given up and started telling everyone that they enjoy being single. It can last for years.
Dilbert - He's a cartoon engineer for a computer firm, with a pet dog who's more cunning than he is. He's likeable, and has recently found a girlfriend.
fast cars - A useful accessory to show that you have too much money which means you need a woman to help you spend it. (cf. motorbike)
Father-in-law - Part of the 'getting married' deal. I'm told offering whisky is a good first move. Often found with the dreaded Mother-in-law. (See below)
friends - Other people that you talk to. The old-fashioned way, using your voice. It helps if you like them. Women have lots and shop with them.
genetic material - Slightly different from the stuff you make cushions from. Everyone has lots, and it explains all their oddities. (Well, maybe not all.)
girl - Those people with skirts on from school? They were girls. They grew up and stopped crying all the time. Try to spot a few differences developed since those playground days.
good-listener - Usually this is a good point, if a woman says it about you. Sometimes it can mean she can‘t think of any good points, and goodbye.
half-decent conversation - Managing to talk (again, not electronically) to another person, on a topic that interests (ideally) both of you.
hard drive - The first thing to remember, is that where women are concerned, size doesn't matter. It's not what you've got, it's what you do with it.
home-pageless - Do spare a thought for all those who haven't yet got a homepage or suffer overcrowding of homepages. Some wait years for their council web site. Not everyone is as fortunate as you.
interests - A section of a CV that can get you a better paid sysadmin job. Think of an activity and browse relevant websites so you can talk about your 'interest' to employers and to women.
IRL - 'In Real Life' If someone says this to you they probably don't have a life, so beware. I suggest you ROTFL (Roll On The Floor Laughing) to distract them, and make a hasty exit.
James Bond - A film character. Bond instantly understands any technology and stops a catastrophe by doing so. He also gets lots of women.
life - An interest (as above), if picked carefully, can come with a free 'life' but not all of them do. Make your choice carefully.
Lynx - An entirely text based web browser only used by people who've been looking at web pages since back when the Electron came out.
management - Where spods go once programming languages have changed too many times for them to be much use to anyone.
Mother-in-law - An unfortunate side-effect of finding someone to marry. There's nothing you can do about it, except learn which bit to take out of the car engine whenever you're due to visit them.
Natalia - A woman in the Bond Film Goldeneye. A Russian programmer, who saved the world by being able to hack into an invincible computer network.
'on' button - Usually the big button on the bottom right of the box under the screen of your computer. It switches it off too.
parents - Your own are usually OK. They improve when you don't live with them.
passionate session - Left as an exercise to the reader!
reconfigure - Something that gets done to the hard-drive. Don‘t ask me what!
Roz and Beckett - Some more amazing people that run around looking great, and solve all the world's problem in just three key presses.
sexy - If you don't know this one, I don‘t know why you've bothered to read this far. Go away and program something.
spod - A spod is male, pale skinned, and lives on junk food and coffee from machines. Habitat is a small cubicle with a computer in it.
spoddess - Usually, a female spod is called a spodette, but that implies being small and clueless. In computing, being female and capable of writing code in C++ deserves the implications of 'goddess' that I rather like!
standard protocol - An excuse for why you can't do things another way. The idea has alternately been exploited and ignored by Microsoft.
'sys admin' - A person who fixes everything to do with the computer, and is worshipped during this, only to be forgotten once the problem is solved.
World Wide Web - The WWW is an exiting place to meet new people, discover interesting things, job hunt, develop a hobby, and do whatever you like. No, it's not a bar in Soho, it's electronic. Sorry to disappoint anyone.

Written by Gill Smith. Published Winter 1998. Reproduced with permission.