Ask 10 IT geeks what the best entertainment in 2003 was, and you're sure to get 10 different -- and very long, technical -- answers.
One thing that most IT geeks agree on, however, is that 2003 was a pretty good year when it comes to things that amuse the IT geek species. It's just that with this audience you have to use an expanded definition of "entertainment."
Movies about Middle-Earth or virtual reality are a natural for technophiles. So are murder-mystery books about techies and long-dead inventors, or stories of bespectacled young wizards.
But hot gadgets and software are also a must in any serious discussion of geek entertainment.
Alan Spicer, a contract network administrator from Tamarac, Fla., describes an IT geek as someone who has a "love for computers and learning how they work -- knowing them intimately -- [and who] spends entirely too much time inside behind a keyboard and a mouse."
He should know. Spicer said that he often covers anywhere from 20 to 30 servers at a time and is on call 24/7. That doesn't deter him from coming home and playing with his computer -- if you define "playing" as staying up until 3 a.m. running virtual PC software or figuring out how Windows 2000 Advanced Server works.
"It's fun for me, it's educational, it's a challenge -- and to the right of me I'm [watching] the Discovery Channel on TV," Spicer said.
Movies, however, are at the heart of the geek experience.
Stephen Dawe, a computer information systems instructor at West Georgia Technical College in LaGrange, Ga., said that this year was a good one for geek entertainment in general, but it was a mixed bag for the big screen.
"I was disappointed by The Matrix [sequels]," said Dawe, a transplanted Briton. "I was so looking forward to seeing the two Matrix movies, and they just let me down."
Dawe loved the special effects in this year's The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, but he said that the characters and story lines weren't up to the quality of 1999's original futuristic thriller.
He found himself going into the end-of-the-year movie season with much greater expectations for the final installment of the cinematic version of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Dawe said he was gearing up for a local film festival that planned to show The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) in the afternoon, The Two Towers (2002) in the evening and the new movie at midnight.
Like any well-credentialed IT geek, Dawe has been made limber for 12-hour celluloid marathons by years of late-night computer work. "I'm a night person," Dawe said. "As long as I get a good morning's sleep, I'll be ready to go."
On the small screen, several IT geeks who wrote in recently to Whatis.com put in a plug for UPN's Jake 2.0, a TV show about a tech support geek who is transformed into a secret agent for the National Security Agency.
Other geeks said television has made technology itself the star of many shows.
"A perfectly geekly entertainment day would be a marathon of Law & Order [and] CSI, followed by Forensic Files and The New Detectives," said Frank Martino, an e-commerce consultant with F&E Plus in Saugerties, N.Y.
Books were also a major form of entertainment for IT geeks in 2003.
Even though it came out last year, Martino gave a thumbs-up to Welcome to I.T.: A Humorous Peek into the World Known as Information Technology, written under the nom de plume "Fred the IT Guy" and published by CDW Corp. The collection of IT service-call war stories lets techies delight in the blissful ignorance of some users, such as the person who sent out an e-mail to let his colleagues know that the e-mail system was down.
In fiction, a number of Whatis.com readers gave their stamp of approval to the mainstream bestseller The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown.
Dawe, the Georgia IT instructor originally from Fleetwood, England, has a soft spot for J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series and its latest installment, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
"The new Harry Potter book was good," Dawe said. "Harry Potter is good entertainment for the younger geeks out there, or even us older geeks."
Sounds like a great book for a geek to take on vacation. Perhaps there will be a few copies on board when techies set sail this spring on IBM's "geek cruise" for Web services developers.
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