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The Net - January 1996 Vol. 1, Issue 08
Bizarre Site O' The Month
anta 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'
Another notable Geek House in Santa Cruz is Hyperion
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
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
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.
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