Geek Code

Geek Code

The Geek Code is a series of letters and symbols used by self-described "geeks" to inform fellow geeks about their personality, appearance, interests, and opinions. The idea is that everything that makes a geek individual and different from all the other geeks in the world can be written down (encoded) in this very compact format. Then other geeks can read the geek code and work back from that to discover what the writer looks like, what interests s/he has, and so forth. This is deemed to be efficient in some sufficiently geeky manner.

Once created, geeks can use their geek codes anywhere they please. Previous places include emails, websites, letters, art, programming language comments, and even T-shirts. Nowadays, personal websites are the most common breeding ground, particularly any "about me" sections.


The Geek Code was invented by Robert Hayden in 1993 and is defined at This concept is used in many other occupations and groups, such as goths (Goth Code) and furries , and even the Schlock Mercenary webcomic.

A few years before the the Geek Code was published, similar codes existed for other purposes. The Natural Bears Classification System is a very similar code for the Bear community. Like the Geek Code, it generally uses a single letter for the attribute and + or - signs for the grade. It was inspired by the Yerkes spectral classification system for describing stars. Unlike the Geek Code, this spectral classification system uses classes, subclasses & peculiarities for categorization. These systems differ in their orthogonality, the Geek Code is very orthogonal in the computer science sense (may be projected onto basis vectors), where the Yerkes system is very orthogonal in the taxonomic sense (represent mutually exclusive classes).

In some parts of the net, it was once common practice to use a geek code as one's signature, though those times are now long past. One of the consequences of being so old in such a fast-moving field is that much of the geek code now looks rather dated. The World Wide Web is described as "relatively new and little understood" — while the latter may still be accurate, the former certainly isn't.

Robert Hayden's own geek code is:

GED/J d-- s:++>: a--
C++(++++) ULU++ P+ L++
E---- W+(-) N+++ o+ K+++ w--- O-
M+ V--
PS++>$ PE++>$
Y++ PGP++ t-
5+++ X++ R+++>$
tv+ b+ DI+++ D+++ G+++++ e++  h r--


The Geek Code Block formatting, which is optional (though not in Robert Hayden's opinion), is a parody of the output produced by the encryption program PGP. Within the Geek Code Block there is a line specifying the version of Geek Code being used. The next line starts with the letter G (for Geek) followed by the Geek's occupation(s): GMU for a geek of music. Then we get into the geek code proper. For geeks with multiple occupations, a slash or slashes is or are used: GMD/TW, for instance, for a geek of medicine and technical writing. There are 24 occupations that can be represented and 4 special indicators:

  • GO - Geek of other, for occupations that can't be represented normally.
  • GU - Geek of undecided.
  • G! - Geek of no qualifications.
  • GAT - Geek of all trades, for those who can do anything.


There are a number of letters in the geek code, each of which represent a category. So, the lower-case letter t represents Star Trek. The geek code's author has this to say about Star Trek:

"Most geeks have an undeniable love for the Star Trek television show. Because geek is often synonymous with trekkie, it is important that all geeks list their Trek rating."

Meanwhile, the lower-case letter r represents relationships. Geeks are less associated with relationships than they are with Star Trek, and the geek code says this about them:

"While many geeks are highly successful at having relationships, a good many more are not. Give us the gritty details."

The geekcode website at contains the complete list of categories, along with all the special syntax options. The choice of categories (from version 3 onwards) reflects what geeks consider important. Appearance takes up three categories, computers - thirteen, computer-related politics - two, general politics - two, computer-related interests - six, other interests - three, lifestyle and sex - four.

Category-specific modifiers

Although some categories have special syntax, generally each category is followed by a series of + or - signs showing how much the geek agrees or disagrees with the category. For example, t+++ indicates a geek who thinks this about Star Trek:

"I know all about warp field dynamics and the principles behind the transporter. I have memorized the TECH manual. I speak Klingon. I go to cons with Vulcan ears on."

On the other hand, someone who puts r--- in their geek code feels the following way about relationships:

"I'm beginning to think that I'm a leper or something, the way people avoid me like the plague."


The meaning of each category can be changed in subtle or not-so-subtle ways using punctuation marks as modifiers. For example, an @ after a category means that the geek's feelings on this category are not very rigid and can change with time, while a dollar sign implies the geek is in the enviable position of being paid for their work in this category.

Decoding a Geek Code

Originally, geek codes were designed as a quick reference about a geek's preferences for use in .sig files on Usenet and email. Pete Williams wrote a program called that automatically decoded a geek code into the English definitions. In late 1998, Bradley M. Kuhn made Williams' program available as a web service Joe Reiss made a similar page available in October 1999.

See also


External links

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