Matthias Merz, a researcher
at the University of Mannheim in Germany, laughed and said
he's familiar with the term.
"Germans also call it 'nerd'," he said. "But no one ever
called me that. I have a lot of other interests. Computers are
only one part of who I am."
Scanning his laptop before making a presentation at the
SC2004 Supercomputing Conference at the David L. Lawrence
Convention Center, Downtown, Merz is one of hundreds of
computer engineers and analysts from throughout the United
States and the world descending upon the city this week.
The conference, which also landed in Pittsburgh in 1996, is
a mecca for anyone who remembers toying with a Commodore 64,
Apple IIE or Atari.
don't quite qualify as metrosexual, today's techies have
largely shed their "Revenge of the Nerds" persona.
When he's not busy monitoring the University of
Pittsburgh's Super Computer, Joseph Lappa, a network engineer,
enjoys blowing glass and biking at Ohiopyle State Park.
No, he isn't glued to the screen on off days, thank you.
"I try to avoid it," he joked.
OK, so they use words like clusterwall, interface and
terabyte; we'll forgive them. Bill Gates isn't exactly a hunk,
but he is the richest man in the world.
According to the Bureau or Labor Statistics, the median
annual earnings of computer software engineers are about
$70,900. For software publishers, earnings are $76,450 and for
scientific research and development services, earnings jump to
The conference, which ends Friday, is expected to draw
thousands of participants from government, industry and
research institutions in 45 states and 45 countries.
Sorry, guys. You're not likely to spot Sandra Bullock
chasing down cyber terrorists. This assembly more closely
resembles Matthew Broderick, a la "War Games."
Boyana Norris of Chicago and Masha Sosonkina of Iowa, were
among the few women attending the conference.
The two software engineers were preparing to present a
lecture on their latest research.
"I think there is a lot more encouragement for girls to get
into this field," Norris said. "But I always had
construction-type toys. I was always building things, so that
must have made a difference."
Both women attended high schools which concentrated on math
"I was in a high school of nerds, so it didn't matter,"
Sosonkina added, "I never minded. It was always cool to
know more than the other students."
So ladies, instead of heading out to the same old smoky
bars for happy hour this week, consider working it at the
Alyson Walls can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or