Geek chic. For about a week, I thought I might have invented the term. And then I got around to googling it and, um, no. No. It's been around awhile and seems to be in wide use. It gets nearly a million google-hits, in fact.
Be that as it may, I got a taste of what it is to have this mysterious quality a couple of years ago when I worked for Cray. At parties, rather than leading a conga line (tiring) or tying a maraschino cherry stem in a knot with my tongue (impossible), I found I got quite a respectable circle of admirers when I said these four words:
"I work for Cray."
[Inevitably, this would be received with awe and amazement. And confusion: I live in Canada. It wouldn't have had nearly the same effect in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, where everyone works, or has worked, for Cray.]
Responses were along the lines of:
"You mean, Cray as in the supercomputer company?"
"Oh My God Are You Single?"
"Didn't SGI buy them?"
"You guys running Linux on the dual-core Opterons?"
"How many teraFLOPS are we talking about?"
"What the hell are you trying to do with that cherry stem?"
...and so on.
I suppose this says something about the type of parties I go to. Everyone always knows who Cray is. Everyone can quote the Dead Parrot sketch. Many prefer to do complex calculations in hex rather than tired old decimal. And many will happily discuss their recent Risk victories in much the way that Rimmer did on Red Dwarf: "Anyway, to cut a long story short I threw a five and a four which beat his three and a two, another double six followed by a double four and a double five. After he'd thrown a three and a two I threw a six and a three."
I'm sorry I don't work for Cray anymore. The technology was cool, the people were amazing, and I loved those trips to the mid-West, but—in all honesty—it's that look of awe from thin bespectacled male strangers that I miss the most. I just don't get the same sort of attention anymore.
P.S.: Did you ever see that Simpson's episode in which Homer is temporarily replacing Smithers as Mr. Burns's assistant? In one scene, Homer is trying to bring Mr. Burns all the things he asks for and failing miserably. Mr. Burns scorns it all:
"You call this breakfast?" [flinging plates to the floor]
"You call this a tax return?" [sweeping papers off the desk]
"You call this a supercomputer?" [using a crowbar to smash a large machine that is very clearly marked CRAY across the top]
...and on and on. I thought it was hilarious.