Skip to main content /CAREER /CAREER

Are nerds people, too?

The private geek:
Surfing of the other kind

Industry Standard

By David Lake

(IDG) -- They were known as "nerds" and "geeks" in high school.

But now we call them friends.

There are an estimated 27 million "technology enthusiasts" in the United States, representing about 13 percent of all adults. And while they're still likely to watch "Star Trek" and play chess, survey data indicates that their lifestyles and interests are much less geeky than one might expect.

graphic Do you see geeks as regular folks?

Yes. I am one.
Yes. I'm not one.
No. I am one.
No. I'm not one.
View Results

To create a profile, The Industry Standard -- an online and print information-economy magazine -- identified a group of tech-focused adults using data from Mediamark Research Inc.'s (MRI) consumer behavior study. MRI polls 26,000 Americans each year about their buying habits and personal lives, and its data is widely used by marketers.

The Standard defined tech enthusiasts as Americans who use the Internet, have a home computer and own two or more high-tech gadgets. When surveyed, these individuals also say they're early adopters of high-tech products and believe technology is important to their lives.

It turns out that -- using these criteria to sort out Mediamark's survey universe -- geeks are rich. Forty-four percent say they have household incomes of $75,000 or more, and 40 percent graduated from college. But they're not that young -- more than half are between the ages of 35 and 54.

Perhaps most surprisingly, techies say they're not tethered to their computers.

•   Their survey responses suggest they're more likely to participate in almost all sports and leisure activities than U.S. adults overall.

•   They travel, and they're heavy readers of newspapers and magazines.

•   The TV show they say they're most likely to watch? Not "Star Trek" spinoffs or "The X-Files," but "Friends."

America's tech enthusiasts

Techies say they're early adopters of technology. They say they surf the Web and own home computers along with other electronic gadgets. They say they're obsessed with electronics. According to their responses to Mediamark's inquiries: INFOCENTER
Related Stories
Visit an IDG site search

  • 78 percent sent e-mail in the past month

  • 51 percent surf the Net for fun

  • 30 percent go online daily

  • 38 percent have a camcorder

  • 27 percent have a home fax machine

  • 23 percent own a home-theater system

  • 21 percent play online games

  • 15 percent have been online for more than five years

  • 9 percent own a minidisk player

  • 7 percent listen to Internet radio

  • 6 percent have a laserdisc player

  • They're big readers

    This group says it's highly likely to read Consumer Reports, Entertainment Weekly, Men's Journal, Outside, PC World, Runner's World, Ski, Spin, the Wall Street Journal and Working Mother.

    They say they're less likely to read Ebony, Harper's Bazaar, Health, Hunting and WWF magazine.

    They're athletic

    Techies say they're highly likely to participate in snowboarding, scuba diving, downhill skiing, whitewater rafting, golf, racquetball, martial arts, hockey and aerobics.

    They're investors

    Tech enthusiasts say they're highly likely to trade mutual funds, use a stock rating service, seek financial planning advice and have an American Express Gold card.

    They're TV junkies

    In addition to "Friends," techies say they're highly likely to watch "Ally McBeal," "E.T. Weekend," "Malcolm in the Middle," "Star Trek," "The West Wing," "Will & Grace" and "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"

    They say they're less likely to watch "America's Funniest Home Videos," "Baywatch," "Candid Camera," Malcolm & Eddie," "Moesha," "Shasta," "Touched by an Angel" and "Wheel of Fortune."

    They're active

    Tech enthusiasts say they keep themselves busy. They're highly likely to make models and ceramics, attend rock concerts, play chess, go to museums, shoot billiards and fly kites.

    They're eclectic

  • 19 percent classify themselves as liberal, 35 percent conservative, 36 percent middle of the road

  • 46 percent say they've bought a lottery ticket in the past 12 months

  • 80 percent own their own home

  • 18 percent keep tropical fish

  • 70 percent say they bought a book in the past year; 53 percent say they read one

  • 4 million go to the movies at least once a month

  • They're globe-trotters

    A third of techies surveyed said they've traveled overseas in the past three years. They say they're are highly likely to have visited France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Middle East, Russia and Spain.

    Here, in chart form, are some more findings of the Standard's breakdown of Mediamark Research data.

    Total 200.6 million 26.7 million
    Male 48% 51%
    Female 52% 49%
    18 to 24 13% 13%
    25 to 34 19% 21%
    35 to 44 22% 27%
    45 to 54 18% 24%
    55 or older 28% 15%
    $75,000 or more 25% 44%
    $60,000 to $74,999 11% 16%
    $40,000 to $59,999 21% 21%
    $20,000 to $39,999 24% 14%
    Less than $20,000 19% 5%
    Postgraduate 8% 13%
    Bachelor's degree 15% 25%
    Attended college 27% 35%
    High school grad 33% 23%
    Did not graduate high school 17% 4%
    Professional 10% 18%
    Executive, manager 10% 16%
    Clerical, technical 19% 24%
    Other employed 26% 21%
    Not employed, retired 35% 21%
    White 84% 90%
    Black 12% 6%
    Asian 3% 3%
    Other 1% 1%
    Single 24% 22%
    Married 57% 67%
    Divorced, other 19% 11%
    One 17% 20%
    Two 15% 20%
    Three or more 10% 9%
    None 58% 51%
    New England 5% 6%
    Mid-Atlantic 16% 15%
    East central 13% 11%
    West central 15% 17%
    Southeast 20% 18%
    Southwest 12% 12%
    Pacific 19% 21%
    Central city 35% 33%
    Suburban 46% 51%
    Rural 19% 16%

    All statements of likelihood refer to a comparison of tech enthusiasts to U.S. adults overall. "Highly likely" means techies are at least 40 percent more likely to be in the specified group; "less likely" means techies are at least 15 percent less likely to be in the group. Tech enthusiasts include U.S. adults who accessed the Net in the past 12 months, own a home computer and have two or more of the following devices: DVD player, digital camera or handheld computer. The individuals must also say they like technology, find technology important to them and are likely to purchase new technology products. Source: Mediamark Research, Spring 2001


    The Industry Standard
    Mediamark Research Inc.

    Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
    External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.


    Back to the top