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.
In the last "Gill’s Journal," we concluded that it’s somewhat unlikely that spods will ever be the coolest people in the world. So let’s not try to aim so high.

Instead of having you all turn anorexic (as well as tomato-phobic) to join the ranks of ultra-skinny fashion victims, I’m going to introduce you to ‘Geek Chic’ (say it - it works better.) Now don’t get too excited - remember, we’re not expecting to see this on the catwalks of London, Paris and New York by this time next year. Madonna will not be desperately trying to get hold of a copy of this article on her next UK visit. Posh Spice is unlikely to be searching these pages for next season’s must-have designs. But then, fortunately, nor will Bill Gates, so that’s at least a start.

Want to be a cooler Spod? Gill Smith offers you a complete geek chic makeover. But first get rid of that nodding dog in your car or it's all just for information.
So, what’s going to make you, the spods of The ARM Club the coolest gurus of Geek Chic that digital technology has ever been owned by?

Let’s look at hair styles. And the great thing about them is, this is a pretty cheap aspect of cool that any spod, even within the Acorn market, can afford. One option is to grow your hair long, and tie your split ends back in a pony tail. Or, if you prefer, you can go for the "Shaggy" - no, not like that, Druck - like the buffoon from "Scooby Doo." This is the haircut that shows signs of once having been a nice smart, short haircut, tidily styled so that it does suit you. However, after many weeks of forgetting to go to the barber, it turns into the badly-in-need-of-a-haircut look, as when Toby gets particularly quiffed, and starts to look like Elvis without the hair gel.

There are dangers with both styles. The "Shaggy" can have the undesirable side-effect of getting your mother worried that maybe the wife / girlfriend / secretary / total-lack-of-any-of-those isn’t looking after you properly, and she may then decide to come and visit you more often. The pony tail can make you look like a goth. Particularly as the only cool skin colour for a geek is a slightly-glowing off white, due to reflected glare from a 17" monitor. Of course, if you happen to be a geek-goth, this is fine. If not, you might want to avoid dying your hair black. While you’re there, resist urges to wear all black, and do your best not to cover yourself in too much dark make-up. Think you can handle that?

Cartoon: Spod is the new Black While on the subject of make-up, the only cool make-up for the chic geek on the street is none. Don’t do it. Unless you happen to be female, and even then, don’t over do it. Male geeks are baffled enough by you, so please don’t confuse them into thinking you have some strange disease that turns your fingernails funny colours, or causes your skin to be all a consistent, even, spot free tone of anything other than pure white.

Now on to clothes. Yes, please do wear some. I suppose you want more than that? OK then. No shorts, ever - you’d be able to land planes from the glow from the average spod’s never-seen-the-sun-before legs. Jeans should be slightly baggy - as in misfitting, not the cool sort of baggy - because of your phobia of trying things on in shops. If possible, they should be older than you are.

And as for t-shirts, they should be faded due to being washed badly, and either be something to do with a TV Sci-Fi series (Red Dwarf, Star Trek TNG, X Files) or have a series of UNIX jokes and other ‘geeky’ slogans. Examples are - generally incomprehensible to the rest of the population. But I’d particularly recommend "I joined a dotcom and had to buy my own lousy T-shirt" for any of you still hoping to make your fortune in dotcom shares, along with "viral marketing just doesn't work - tell your friends . . ." There’s also the general "the geeks shall internet the earth" and "no, I will not fix your computer." This sort of delights can be found all over the internet, including, where they also sell girl’s T-shirts. I spot something of a flaw in their market research -

To complete the spoddy outfit, there are various options. Glasses that react to the light are useful to ensure that the world doesn’t suddenly get brighter, and confuse you. Compulsory is a belt, to which can be attached all or any of a pager, a mobile phone, a handheld organiser / computer, a penknife complete with a cross-headed screwdriver.

Music is an important part of being cool. Having analysed the recent trend in music styles, including a friend expressing a preference for ‘kitchen’ music (‘house’ and ‘garage’ apparently not being specific enough!) I’ve decided to help make sure you ultra-cool geeks lead the way with a new style of your own. This will be generated, of course, by computers. I’m sure there are programs that can do it. I’m still considering exactly what this music trend should be called. Given the craze for naming musical trends after buildings, gradually getting smaller, I can’t decide between "carport" music and "shed." Preferences on a postcard to -

Suggested band names include the ultra-cool "19 degrees" (server room temperature) and "Mr Clippy’s Demise" for those of you who have ever had to use MS Word. But the odds on favourite for a number one hit has to be "Binary" with their album "How about hex?" and hit single "010111010100101011." Sadly, I think The ARM Club committee are a little too old to form a boy band for you all to support. And besides, Mr Chairman singing is almost as bad as me doing so. I wouldn’t wish a duet between us on my worst enemy. Or even Microsoft. Ah well, perhaps that’s not an issue - I wouldn’t get into a boy band, and anyway, the committee wont be a vocal band. No, they’ll all be on keyboards.

Cartoon: The spod has always been at the forefront of fashion Geek Chic also involves a whole slang for spods. Like Ali G, no one who isn’t in the cool gang should be able to understand a word of what a cool geek is saying. Now you could claim to be "gettin down wi da boyz in da sever room," or "hangin wi da code monkeys," but I think there are better ways for geeks to baffle those less cool than themselves. For starters, a good discussion about preferred network routing systems, and the pros and cons of various broadband providers can lose all but the most ‘happening’ spods. However, there’s more to it than that. Would you know to be offended if someone describes your personality as "404" (missing)? Could you find your "file mangler" if you needed to? Perhaps you’re cool enough to be "ambimousterous"?

If you’re old fashioned enough to think that "Black Thursday" is merely something that happened on Wall Street in 1929, think again. It was in 1998 that Acorn cancelled all future machine production, causing a wave of depression to spread rapidly across - several geeks. Since that day, the internet dotcom bubble has also burst, leaving many "Marketroids" jobless, to the great delight of all true techies, who had suffered years of pointless colour changes and redesigned logos purely at the whim of a new marketing manager, who wanted to look as if they did any work. Sometimes these cosmetic changes are easy to deal with. But occasionally, they’re "decidedly non-trivial" (complicated to the rest of the world.) and might involve "code monkeys" (no, no explanation of that!) working really hard. Of course, once they have made the changes the "Lusers" (computer "Users" with an "L" plate) wont actually notice. Which was what the highly knowledgeable computer "gurus" and "wizards" expected anyway.

For "hysterical raisins" (historical reasons) or possibly laziness, a lot of computer knowledge is about understanding the abbreviations and acronyms that abound on the internet. These include WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get); YAFI-YGI (you asked for it - you got it); AFAIK (as far as I know); LOL (laugh out loud); ROTFL (roll on the floor laughing); RTFM (read the ‘friendly’ manual); IMO (in my opinion) and various versions of IMO, including IMHO (in my humble / honest opinion) and IMNSHO (in my not so humble opinion.) So if you can drop those into any conversation - real or on the web, that would be marv (marvellous). If you aren’t cool enough to understand them, well, that’s just trag (a tragedy). I’m sure I’ve missed plenty more acronyms, but I think we can probably all live without them for now.

Don’t forget, of course, that the exact slang, and details of your particular brand of Geek Chic depends on which gang you want to be in. It’d be awful if you happened to be an UNIX geek, and got stuck in a gang of network geeks. Now that would be foolish. You’d end up in all sorts of bizarre and baffling conversations. (As if you don’t already!) And if you know any NT geeks, be really careful about letting them in the gang. While of course, any other geek is better than a non-geek, if you’re an "Ops" (operations) or Sys Admin (System Administrator) geek, then you are a whole different level of geekdom from "code monkeys" and way above "web designers" that we don’t even bother to come up with a funny name for. But be nice to all other geeks in public. They’re still way better than PHBs (Pointy Haired Bosses - a phrase from the Dilbert cartoon ( meaning any pointless managerial type) and less terrifying than "Marketroids." Geeks are the best you’ll get, as far as "Cow-orkers" are concerned (another Dilbertism - Co-workers, with the hyphen slipped!)

Cartoon: The new craze of Acid Kennel party. Film 7D1 (2001 in hex!) - the geekiest films to be seen at a cinema near you! Well, OK, not the current films, or you’d only be able to have a life for a few days this month. I’m going to be much more helpful and generalise. A big No-No is anything to do with computers. Lovely as Sandra Bullock might be, having her dashing at high speed around secret bases and breaking into their computer systems by getting their password at two guesses - it’s just annoying. Anything involving seven year old children breaking into the Pentagon’s main system, discovering the distressing news that aliens do exist, and then saving the world from the by a carefully created computer virus - just no.

OK, you are excused going to see ‘Tomb Raider’ just for Angelina Jolie, (pretending, of course, to see how well they’ve made it, compared to the playstation game) so long as you make a faint attempt at general culture and go and see Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge - I’m presuming half-dressed women count as an attraction to see a film? (For the girls, there’s Ewan McGreggor!)

The coolest of films for spods to be rushing out to see - and in terms of TV entertainment too - has to be animation. As more and more gets computer generated, I suspect that this particular attraction is because spods like to think that, had things worked out differently, instead of getting rid of bugs in accountancy software, they could be chief techie on the next big animation film. Go on, own up, who wouldn’t have liked to have worked on ‘Shrek’ or the amazing ‘Walking With Dinosaurs’?

In spite of this optimism, and the "Making of -" programs, I have my suspicions that animation isn’t as easy as you’d all like to think. Otherwise, why would the BBC hand out awards for ‘New Talent’ in web animation? I think perhaps you’d better stick to appreciating the technical complexities of it all. And while you’re doing so, go and admire; see the animations of Howard, cartoonist for this article, and click on the big pink award to see his winning entry in BBC Talent’s Web Animation category.

So, what else can you do to make sure you’re big chief spod of geek chic? Let’s start with the car. What ‘toys’ have you got in it? I don’t mean nodding dogs. (If you have one, then this article is for information only - it’s not going to help!)

Cartoon Howard & Cartoon Award What I mean is have you got satellite navigation? Does your car have a GPS system, to help you get where you want to be, while comparing the planned route with all the last few hours of traffic news? It’s an absolute must, when the only journey you actually do is three miles up the one road to get to and from work each day. Playstation in the back? Just because you don’t know enough people to carry passengers is no excuse! Of course, you can’t beat the car Toby spotted in New York on a recent visit - registration UID 0. Luckily, I was able to shuffle him into the huge toy store FAO Schwarz and distract him with nerf guns. (Another "must-have", I’m told - guns that fire foam darts about the place. I’m just glad they were for work, or we wouldn’t have any china left in the house -

I wondered what else would make sure that geeks are right there at the cutting edge of ‘chic’ - or at least their own little version of it. So I’ve come up with a few fashionable cocktails for you to try. I accept no responsibility for them being utterly repulsive - I’m not stupid enough to actually try them!

The "Screwdriver" - this is a pretty common cocktail needing no inventing by me. Just vodka, ice and orange. However, for those computers, you need a "Cross-headed Screwdriver," so all you need to do is add a touch of lemon - screwdriver with a twist.

For the Acorn enthusiast still waiting for ARM machines to take over from PCs we have the "Rose Tinted Spectacles" - vodka, gin, lemonade and a dash of grenadine.

For those who have to use PCs and end up with a headache, here’s one of the usual reasons for it, with much the same effect - the "Blue Screen of Death" - double blue Curaçao, lemonade, Cointreau and a dash of Angostura bitters.

And for the devoted ARM Club members, we have the "Acorn" - a delightful shade of Acorn green. Or possibly just a mucky mess. Do let me know which, if you try it. Just combine several measures of Advocaat and a roughly equal number of Absinthe (symbolic in that it’s pretty tricky to get hold off - you can use crčme de menthe instead, if you’re desparate for a "Acorn".) until you get to about the right colour. And of course, if it wasn’t quite the right colour when you drank it, it might have changed by the time your stomach takes a dislike to it!

Written by Gill Smith. Published Winter 2001. Reproduced with permission.
Cartoons © Howard Read Reproduced with permission.