BOSTON (04/03/2000) - Saturday may have been April Fool's Day, but the Geek Pride Festival taking place here was no joke. Geeks of all ages met to celebrate and revel in the joy of being, well, geeks, at this weekend's first annual festival.
"The idea started as sort of a joke," explained Tim McEachern, the festival's founder. McEachern was hosting a radio show called "Geek Nation" when a friend called and jokingly asked him when Geek Pride Day was held.
"At first, it was just a couple of friends in a bar," said McEachern. "Then we thought, why hell, if we can do this, we can do it even bigger."
Andover.net, a popular Web site among the Linux community, signed on to sponsor the event, as did SwitcHouse, an online swapping site, VA Linux, and Addison-Wesley Professional. All that was left was to gather attendees, and they turned out in droves.
The festival included a Stump the Geek Trivia Contest, a Quake 3 tournament, chess matches, classic video games, and musical performances. In the spirit of the open source movement, everything was free, everything was swapped, and anyone was welcome to attend, whether or not they considered themselves a geek.
Not that most of the attendees at Saturday's festivities had any qualms about admitting that. Some of the most popular garb at the show was a plain black T-shirt with one word across the front: GEEK.
Attendees were treated to midnight screenings of the movie The Matrix, starring Keanu Reeves as a computer guru. They also got the chance to act out scenes from the movie. One booth at the festival allowed attendees to don a long black leather coat, similar to the one worn by Reeves's character in the movie, and stand on a stage attempting to avoid the bullets. These were made of Styrofoam and were fired by Nerf guns, but nevertheless, many lined up for the chance to play Keanu.
Among the Geek Gods
In a tribute of sorts to a real-life Geek God, a dramatic presentation entitled "What Would Linus Do?" recognized the contributions of Linus Torvalds.
Although Torvalds did not show up, some Geek Gods were in town and mingled with the festival's attendees.
Rob Malda, founder of Slashdot, a Web site described as "News for Nerds," spent the day hanging out among the crowds. Malda, 23, and Jeff Bates founded Slashdot almost three years ago, as a type of daily journal and a place to post source code on the Web. The site took off in the Linux community, and was acquired by Andover.net last summer. It is now considered by many to be the leading source of Linux information on the Web. And Malda is now a very wealthy geek, living the life that many of those in attendance here can only dream about. "I have a sweet job," Malda says.
Those who came out to celebrate Geek Pride this weekend may not have the same luck, but they can still revel in the coolness of all things geek.
"This is way more than I expected. I'm very happy," founder McEachern said, looking around at the crowds of attendees.
Don't worry if you missed this weekend's festival. A Geek Pride Tour could bring it soon to a city near you. "We're thinking about San Francisco, Austin, Denver. Maybe London," said McEachern. "Why not make it international?"