Imagine yourself competing in the geekiest of all game shows, facing off against the geekiest of geeks—those characters of pop culture whose intellectual excellence you aspired to as a child and still seek to emulate in present day. Could you hang? Could you hold your own in such rarefied company, matching wits with the best of ‘em? Sadly, we can never know that, but Maximum PC’s annual Geek Quiz is a pretty good indicator of brain power in its own right. And you don’t even need to be first to the buzzer or frame your answers in question form. So what’s stopping you, smarty pants? It’s time to get your Quiz on!
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Geeky Greats of TV and Movies
Submitted for your approval: 17 of our favorite geeks from pop culture, past and present. We left out a bunch of worthy nerds, so make sure to send us some angry letters about our most glaring omissions!
Remember the Twilight Zone episode where the computer programmer is cyber-stalked by his own machine? Played by Wally Cox, the character James Elwood in “From Agnes—With Love” was likely America’s first introduction to the computer geek stereotype.
Quartermaster Major Boothroyd
Better known simply as “Q,” this character from James Bond mythology supervised the R&D for such gear as a garrote-loaded wristwatch, the “Little Nellie” one-man attack chopper, and a touchpad-driven remote control for Bond’s BMW 750iL. Gadget badassery at its finest.
He’s into comics. He plays Rock Band. He riffs on Schrödinger’s cat. He’s one of the very few TV characters who proudly rocks a PC instead of a Mac, and he openly discusses the joys of defragmentation and alternative OSes. Don’t knock The Big Bang Theory. This show (and its lead nerd) capture geek culture with legit authenticity.
Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott
Spock knew more nerd stuff, but lacking human passion, he wasn’t a geek. Scotty? He lived for technology. This line from “The Trouble With Tribbles” says it all: “Thank you, sir! This will give me a chance to catch up on my technical journals!”
A high school computer enthusiast (let’s not call him a “hacker”) accidentally engages a military supercomputer in a game of nuclear brinksmanship. That’s the plot of WarGames, which catapulted super-high-functioning teenage computer nerds into the pop-culture lexicon.
The Lone Gunmen
This eclectic trio of network hackers from The X-Files brought conspiracy theorization into the geek culture mix. We think our own Gordon Mah Ung would have fit in well.
The physicist from Lost studied the Kerr Metric, Casimir Effect, and Carter-Penrose Diagram to transport consciousness across time. Sure, we never saw him work on a PC, but still.
Comic Book Guy (AKA Jeff Albertson)
Best. Simpsons character. Ever.
Fans of Jurassic Park will remember that it was sys-admin Nedry who shut down the park’s security apparatus, causing the dino doody to hit the fan. He’s geeky, yes, but it’s his taunting, animated response to failed password attempts that gets him on this list.
Professor Roy Hinkley
The Professor was the voice of reason, logic, and intelligence on Gilligan’s Island. And aside from his inability to construct a boat, was there anything this guy couldn’t hack together with bamboo and coconuts shells?
C3P0 and R2D2
The tall one is fluent in more than 6 million forms of communication and can instantly calculate the odds on almost anything. The short one is an astromech who can hack an X-Wing fighter in mid-flight. The geekiest characters in the Star Wars universe aren’t even human!
Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley
Much like her equivalents in the U.S. military, Warrant Officer Ripley of Alien-series fame served as a technical expert with the Colonial Marines. Whether flying space vehicles, firing pulse rifles, or operating a powerloader, she was a hardware geek of the highest order.
His Poindexter personal style reinforced slanderous geek stereotypes, but there’s no arguing that the Family Matters TV star was a nerd inventor extraordinaire. Consider the Urkel-bot, Wacky Tacky Glue, and exploding “vegetable bombs.” Yes, Steve, you did that.
This General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot (Class M-3 Model B9) brought some much-needed geek cred to the Lost In Space mythology. And he was polite, too: “My micromechanism thanks you, my computer tapes thank you, and I thank you.”
Just as Bond has Q, Batman has Lucius Fox, a gadget-creating engineer of epic proportions. He helped outfit his batty friend with the Bat Suit, the Bat Grappler, and the Bat Pod—among other bat-themed gear and contraptions.
Doctor Emmett Lathrop Brown
If not for the time-traveling experiments of Doc Brown in Back to the Future, a nation of geeks wouldn’t hold the DeLorean DMC in such high regard. The Doc might have had a sucky car, but his mastery of flux capacitation was without equal.
Never forget that before he became the flying kung fu artist we know in The Matrix, Thomas A. Anderson was a programmer by day, and a hacker named Neo by night. He lived in a barren hovel of an apartment, and typed at command prompts in the middle of the night. That’s geeky.