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Geekdom gets cooler thanks to technology

It pays to be a geek.

We know that now - especially in the age of Bill Gates and founder Jeff Bezos. But when techno-journalist Jon Katz researched his book "Geeks: How Two Lost Boys Rode the Internet Out of Idaho," that acceptance was still a few years coming.

In 1996, most major newspapers scoffed at the Internet, and games such as Quake and Warcraft might as well had the sticker "For Losers Only" printed on their boxes. Now, those same papers are scrambling for more up-do-date Web sites. We've come a long way.

Katz, a writer for the Web site HotWired, wasn't just writing about two teenaged boys desperately seeking a way out of Caldwell, Idaho - he was writing about a technological revolution that has spun the entire world on its head.

Katz followed two teenagers, Jesse Dailey and Eric Twilegar, who were soldiers at the frontlines of a rebellion. Katz lets go of the negative connotations observed with the taunting name and invites a new perception of those faces in front of computer screens.

Katz's own definition of the word "geek" redefines the boundaries of what is cool and what isn't.

"Geek: A member of the new cultural elite, a pop-culture-loving, techo-center Community of Social Discontents," Katz wrote.

In other words, geeks have become the elite rebels of the 21st century. People such as Napster's Shawn Fanning have evolved into the new James Deans. In 1996, the early stage of the Internet age, Dailey and Twilegar were still victims of a conformist society that spit on anything different from the cultural norm. Computer geeks were so alienated and tormented, it's a wonder they have self-esteem at all.

In Caldwell, Idaho, a small town with one tiny computer store, Dailey and Twilegar began their excursion into the American rags-to-riches dream.

Katz follows the two boys through their initial decision to leave their dreary existence and find better paying jobs in Chicago via the Internet. Through the bumps, scrapes and their inexperience, Dailey and Twilegar escaped into a world where they could be somebody besides the freaks they had been labeled since they learned how to read.

With a little help from Katz, the boys began to find their nichÇ in life before technogeeks even made a mark on the map. The book also follows Dailey and Twilegar's realization of the need for a college education, and Katz outlines their struggle.

Again, the boys, Dailey in particular, worked their fingers to the bone to get what they knew they could have. For Dailey, it was a low high school grade point average and no knowledge of the college procedure. On top of that, Dailey wanted to study at the prestigious University of Chicago.

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Though every odd seemed stacked against Dailey, people showed a little kindness by letting him in just on the merit of his skills.

Now, geeks are becoming more accepted in society and almost every suburban youth seems to have a personal computer to foray onto the Internet with.

But it wasn't always so, and just as Katz's two young revolutionaries showed, geeks had to fight against incredible odds to gain that recognition and respect.

There's still a long way to go, but as "Geeks" shows, we are getting there.

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