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Subject: '90s stereotype about computers being "dorky".

Written By: Marty McFly on 11/15/06 at 10:48 am

At the time, there was a theme, particularly in teen movies about how computers were entirely nerdy and uncool (it was there in the '80s too, but they had a modicum of coolness with, say Matthew Broderick using them to alter his grades in Ferris Bueller's Day Off). Certainly through the mid '90s, they had this image of something you'd get bullied or laughed at by most of the school if you were into them.

It was sort of at that middle phase: popular enough for the mainstream (say, in school labs), but not yet big and useful enough to where most people wanted to have one. Once the 'Net became primarly household around 1998 or '99, that stereotype has basically stayed changed. I could see some kid in 10 years watching an old movie and going "No way, people actually laughed at these?!" ;D

In real life, it wasn't that bad, although I can attest that prior to the late '90s, using them wouldn't have won you many cool points either.

Subject: Re: '90s stereotype about computers being "dorky".

Written By: Chris MegatronTHX on 11/15/06 at 11:11 am

I'm not sure if it's cool today but rather far less dorky.  It's more a daily necessity for buisness purposes along with entertainment.  It's become similar to TV, but even if you spend too much time with the TV you can be seen as strange.

I've thought the same thing about owning movies.  I owned a bunch of VHS tape movies back in the 90s and people I thought I was weird, but when DVDs came around suddenly they were the cool thing to have and everyone started buying movies. 

Subject: Re: '90s stereotype about computers being "dorky".

Written By: audkal on 11/15/06 at 1:16 pm

Yeah I would say it's pretty evident.  Probably because since the internet wasn't as popular back then, people mainly used computers for school purposes and work.  Now that almost everyone has the internet, computers are used for passing time, playing games, and researching on celebrities and such.

Subject: Re: '90s stereotype about computers being "dorky".

Written By: Chris MegatronTHX on 11/15/06 at 3:09 pm


There was always a theme in '90s teen movies about how computers and anything involving them was entirely dorky and uncool (this was true in the '80s too, but they had a modicum of coolness with, say Matthew Broderick using them to alter his grades in Ferris Bueller's Day Off). Even up to 1997 or '98, it was almost guaranteed you'd get an *ss kicking or outcasted in school for being involved with them. It's like they were popular enough to be useful and in the mainstream; say, in school labs, but not yet to where everyone wanted to have one yet.


It wasn't cool in the 80s either.  People knew less about the limits of computers, so you could fool many people into thinking that it was an easy thing for Ferris Bueller to hack into his school computer and change his grades, or that the computer from Wargames was near sentient.  Remember that scene from Pretty in Pink where Andrew McCarthy does that fancy stuff with his 1986 computer and sends messages and pics to Molly Ringwald who is on the computer opposite him?  Who today buys that he could do all that with whatever software they were running in that school lab?  But they figured 1986 audiences would accept that the Andrew McCarthy character was so adept with computers that he could do ANYTHING. 

I don't think you would have go beat up for being into computers though.  You were very tech savvy, because computers weren't as user friendly as they are today.

Subject: Re: '90s stereotype about computers being "dorky".

Written By: velvetoneo on 11/15/06 at 4:13 pm


There was always a theme in '90s teen movies about how computers and anything involving them was entirely dorky and uncool (this was true in the '80s too, but they had a modicum of coolness with, say Matthew Broderick using them to alter his grades in Ferris Bueller's Day Off). Even up to 1997 or '98, it was almost guaranteed you'd get an *ss kicking or outcasted in school for being involved with them. It's like they were popular enough to be useful and in the mainstream; say, in school labs, but not yet to where everyone wanted to have one yet.

Once the 'Net became primarily household around 1999, that stereotype pretty much went away. Hell, I could see some kid in 10 years watching an old movie and going "No way, people actually used to laugh at computers?!" ;D

In real life, they were never as bad as the movies made them seem, although I can attest that any time prior to the late '90s, it sure wouldn't have made you "cool" if you used them either.


It's interesting that, just as computers became more mainstream in the mid-'90s, they became dorkier as well. I think alot of it had to do with the emergence of the Usenet newsgroups to discuss "dorky" fanboy topics like Star Trek, conspiracy phenomena, and comic books. I think of "The Comic Book Guy" on The Simpsons as the archetypical loser/slacker/dork type that was a stereotype in the '90s with alot of permutations. "Slacker" ranged from computer geeks to stoner slackers like the image Beck presented.

Subject: Re: '90s stereotype about computers being "dorky".

Written By: Marty McFly on 11/16/06 at 7:39 am


It's interesting that, just as computers became more mainstream in the mid-'90s, they became dorkier as well. I think alot of it had to do with the emergence of the Usenet newsgroups to discuss "dorky" fanboy topics like Star Trek, conspiracy phenomena, and comic books. I think of "The Comic Book Guy" on The Simpsons as the archetypical loser/slacker/dork type that was a stereotype in the '90s with alot of permutations. "Slacker" ranged from computer geeks to stoner slackers like the image Beck presented.


Yeah, I remember newsgroups being really popular in the early 'Net days. The Comic Book Guy is probably more on the video game side of nerdy (I knew a good deal of people like him back then too, albeit not quite that extreme, lol), but I could definitely see him joining some of those groups c. 1996.

I agree a "slacker" could be anyone from Beavis and Butthead to gaming/extreme sports-types, for instance. I think both slackers and nerds/geeks covered alot of ground as to what they could encompass, some of it overlapped while some didn't.


It wasn't cool in the 80s either.  People knew less about the limits of computers, so you could fool many people into thinking that it was an easy thing for Ferris Bueller to hack into his school computer and change his grades, or that the computer from Wargames was near sentient.  Remember that scene from Pretty in Pink where Andrew McCarthy does that fancy stuff with his 1986 computer and sends messages and pics to Molly Ringwald who is on the computer opposite him?  Who today buys that he could do all that with whatever software they were running in that school lab?  But they figured 1986 audiences would accept that the Andrew McCarthy character was so adept with computers that he could do ANYTHING. 

I don't think you would have go beat up for being into computers though.  You were very tech savvy, because computers weren't as user friendly as they are today.


Haven't seen PIP in ages, but I do recall that scene now that you mention it. I think you're right, moviemakers exaggerated their true use since most of the public wouldn't really know the difference.

Perhaps in the '80s they weren't really "cool" as much as they were interesting for being high-tech and even semi futuristic to the average person (the '80s tended to have an obsession with the latest gadgets and tech, since so much was just becoming mainstream).

Subject: Re: '90s stereotype about computers being "dorky".

Written By: Trimac20 on 11/19/06 at 8:23 am

I'll put in my two cents and say that the main reason for the perceived increase in the 'dorkiness' of personal home computers in the 90s (which I have to disclaim I don't totally agree with) was simply the rapid increase in the use of computers and the number of computers in the 90s. In the 80s, the PC was still rare enough to be a real niche interest thing - although the concept of the home computer was certainly existant from the early 70s, it was not til - I would say about 1990 or the late 80s - that the nerds of the day established large-scale computing networks like the Usenet groups, and that it became a symbol of nerdiness.

I think it wasn't so much that computers - the objects - were seen as dorky, but that nerdy types tended to use them that they were dorky. Using a computer itself, of course, has never made it a geek - but clearly, playing early RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons.etc, or writing your own physics models in Basic did. But on the flip-side, playing computer games - even incessantly - was sort of seen as a fairly normal activity for many kids and teens - games like Doom and Quake were embraced by all 'types', and everybody envied the kid with the spankiest computer on the block and a brand new copy of Doom, Wolfenstein or even Monkey Island.

Subject: Re: '90s stereotype about computers being "dorky".

Written By: Marty McFly on 11/19/06 at 4:17 pm

I think it wasn't so much that computers - the objects - were seen as dorky, but that nerdy types tended to use them that they were dorky. Using a computer itself, of course, has never made it a geek - but clearly, playing early RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons.etc, or writing your own physics models in Basic did. But on the flip-side, playing computer games - even incessantly - was sort of seen as a fairly normal activity for many kids and teens - games like Doom and Quake were embraced by all 'types', and everybody envied the kid with the spankiest computer on the block and a brand new copy of Doom, Wolfenstein or even Monkey Island.


I'll agree with this. Computers more became viewed as dorky because of what they were associated with (they themselves seemed interesting to people in a futuristic/technological sense in the '80s).

Isn't it ironic too, that playing video games generally wasn't considered nerdy if it was on Super Nintendo, NES or Gameboy back in the '80s/early '90s? But it sure was if you did them on a PC.

Subject: Re: '90s stereotype about computers being "dorky".

Written By: Chris MegatronTHX on 11/19/06 at 6:07 pm

You guys should watch Revenge of the Nerds---1984.  Computers and high tech gadgets (for that time) were what all those guys were about.

You saw Ferris Beuller use his computer and get a misleading impression about PCs in the 80s, that scene was in there to show that Ferris had more to him that met the eye and that he wasn't the traditional "popular kid".

Subject: Re: '90s stereotype about computers being "dorky".

Written By: Trimac20 on 11/21/06 at 9:27 pm


I'll agree with this. Computers more became viewed as dorky because of what they were associated with (they themselves seemed interesting to people in a futuristic/technological sense in the '80s).

Isn't it ironic too, that playing video games generally wasn't considered nerdy if it was on Super Nintendo, NES or Gameboy back in the '80s/early '90s? But it sure was if you did them on a PC.


You had to be at least a little bit brainy back then to use PCs - whereas the dumbest stoner could pick up a controller and bash at Donkey Kong, or Street Fighter or Sonic the Hedgehog. Indeed, excessive video-gaming was often associated with the stoner-slacker culture of the 90s.

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