[evolve home] [falcon's nest]
santa cruz geeks in the press
the net - january 1996

full page scan (278k)

The Net - January 1996 Vol. 1, Issue 08
Bizarre Site O' The Month

by Wayne Cunningham

Santa Cruz, CA has long been known for it's world-class surfing in Steamer's Lane and its aging hippies on sabbatical from Dead tours. But it now has a new sort of fame: On its shady shores, hordes of computer programmers are renting and/or buying houses together. So-called Geek Houses reflect the unique traits of their various inhabitants. (For those who may wonder, inhabitants of Geek Houses say that the difference between a "nerd" and a "geek" is that the former has no social skills, while the latter is more apt to socialize via computer.)

Certainly, Santa Cruz isn't the only city in which Geek Houses are flourishing. Virtually any region with high-tech companies is bound to spawn some. Check out Douglas Coupland's Microserfs, which portrays Geek Houses that have sprung up in Redmond, WA, conveniently close to Microsoft's campus. Bu the unique thing about Santa Cruz's Geek Houses is their presence on the World Wide Web. Any Web peruser can find members of Santa Cruz's Geek Houses happily parading their twisted home environments on the Web (http://klinzhai.echo.com/~falcon/geeks/geekhouse.html). After visiting many of these spaces, it's become clear to me that when a group of geeks gets together, a geometric progression of odd behavior unfolds, as they encourage one another to hold nothing back.

The Santa-Cruz-Geek-House-on-the-Web phenomenon started at Echo Street, a Geek House founded in 1991. Its inhabitants had ambitions to become the uber-Geek House (or haus, if you want to be consistent). Lacking good, cheap Internet access ( a necessity for geek life) in Santa Cruz, they set up an Internet access company called scruz-net (http://www.scruz.net). The network gave them access to all sorts of fun tools, such as a Web server, and Echo Street was born as a Web site. The business continues to grow today, offering access not only in Santa Cruz but also in nearby towns such as Scotts Valley and San Jose. What makes scruz-net unique, and what has also contributed to the spread of online Geek Houses in Santa Cruz, is its focus on setting up Internet presences. scruz-net has encouraged other Geek Houses to set up servers and buy full-time access from scruz-net. Unfortunately, the current Echo Street Web site (http://www.echo.com/) doesn't have too much going on; it's more like a hub for the residents' homepages.

Another notable Geek House in Santa Cruz is Hyperion (http://www.hyperion.com/), which sponsors The Lurker's Guide to Babylon Five (http://www.hyperion.com/lurk/lurker.html) and The Web Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area (http://www.hyperion.com/ba/sfbay.html). Hyperion has, however, toned down the wackiness displayed by most other Geek Houses in the interest of the 3D modeling business it now runs.

The Marshmallow Peanut Circus (http://www.circus.com/) is a prime example of an actively maintained online Geek House. The house network is located on a Pentium running Linux (a version of Unix that can be run on a PC), connected to the Internet with an internal 28.8 kbs modem and a dedicated SLIP line rented fro scruz-net. Another computer helps run various server applications. Because this network is a site on the Internet, with its own domain name, inhabitants of The Marshmallow Peanut Circus have their own house accounts, which provides them with e-mail and general Internet access. The house Web site has various types of original content to offer; some are individual homepages, while others are group projects from the house. For example, one resident, Paul Ludwig, has a fairly typical homepage: it employs a graphic at the top, then uses linked items to describe Ludwig's personal activities. The house pages include various wacky things, such as Lewis Carroll's illustrated Jabberwocky and a Purity Test for Non-virgins.

Another good Geek House is The Resort (http://www.resort.com/). Formed by a couple of Santa Cruz inhabitants who got tired of living in small houses, it's a seven-bedroom, three-bath house with a pool and a spa on two acres. While other Geek Houses often fall apart in less than a school term, the luxurious Resort will probably keep its inhabitants happy for quite a while.

Besides online Geek Houses, there's a substantial real-life Geek social scene in Santa Cruz. Information about it is, naturally, posted on the Web (http://klinzhai.echo.com/~falcon/geeks/). The calendars of Geek events in the Santa Cruz area make clear that the Geek network is a society as much as a technology. "One of the best things about [the SC Geek scene] is that it can be extremely easy to join in and meet an amazing number of people in a short period of time," writes local Geek scene chronicler Jon Luini, whose social scene page also contains a photo gallery of local geeks and a list of geek parties.

Reprinted without permission.

The Net Subscription info:

phone: 415/696-1661
email: subscribe@thenet-usa.com
The Net is on the web at http://www.thenet-usa.com/

- return to santa cruz geeks in the press
santa cruz geeks in the press