Top ten nerds and geeks

Microchip, microchip on the wall, who is the geekiest of them all? From Nikola Tesla to Bill Gates, we take a look at the top ten geekiest people to walk the planet...

The geek shall inherit the earth, and history has proven this true. From the magnificent lightning storms of the eccentric Nikola Tesla to the time Charles Babbage cooked himself in an oven to "see what would happen", history is littered with nerds who made it big.

But who is the geekiest of them all? Is it Diogenes who lived in a barrel for most of his life, or is it John von Neumann, who was known to get arrested for reading scientific papers and driving at the same time? Will Steve Wozniak steal the top spot for inventing the Apple computer in a garage, or is Linus Torvalds the obvious winner? Crave's votes are in and counted: click through for your definitive guide to the top ten nerds and geeks. -Chris Stevens 

In 1997, Malda (also known as CmdrTaco) founded Slashdot, a touchstone for the world's geeks. Slashdot is one of the world's most popular Internet discussion forums and is famous for its mix of rowdy debate and commentary on developments in science and technology. If you are a geek, chances are you post there. Malda also used Slashdot to propose to his then girlfriend, Kathleen Kent, in 2002. She accepted. That is true geekdom.


Neumann was a fiercely intelligent man who pioneered the computer, helped invent the hydrogen bomb, was a member of the Princeton 'demi-gods' and drank ferociously. Neumann is perhaps the most atypical nerd ever to have lived. Famously, he would hold debauched parties and enjoyed reading books while driving -- a habit that was known to result in arrest. At the age of six, Neumann could speak Greek, and by 25 he had published ten important scientific papers. His other achievements are too numerous to list here, but he's the closest thing the geek community has to an Indiana Jones.

Torvalds' personal mascot is a penguin, he invented Linux using an old 386 PC and he insists he is named after a character in the Peanuts comic strip -- in fact he was named after Linus Pauling, the Nobel Prize-winning chemist. Torvalds' operating system is used by computers all over the world and some believe it poses a serious threat to Microsoft's Windows -- not bad for a lone Computer Science student.


Robinson's elaborate cartoon drawings of magnificent machines and contraptions have made his name synonymous with gadgets. His sketches included such wonders as "The Wart Chair. A simple apparatus for removing a wart from the top of the head". His machines are gorgeous sprawling monsters of impossibility and madness that rival any modern design team's efforts.

A contemporary of Socrates, Diogenes puts modern geeks to shame. If you think being holed up in your room playing videogames is intense, consider Diogenes. He spent many of his years living in a barrel outside the temple of Cybele in Athens, formulating philosophies. Alexander the Great is said to have visited Diogenes in his barrel, but from inside the dark barrel the only thing Diogenes could bring himself to say to Alexander was, "Stand out of my sunlight".


Aside from his obvious geek credentials (inventing the programmable computer), Babbage was extraordinarily nerdy when it came to his everyday life. He is said to have walked around a factory counting broken window panes before writing a study called a 'Table of the Relative Frequency of the Causes of Breakage of Plate Glass Windows'. Using his remarkable powers of deduction, Babbage concluded that 14 were broken by "drunken men, women or boys". He also baked himself in an oven at over 100 degrees Celsius to "see what would happen".


Though not history's most impressive nerd, Bill Gates has come to quintessentially represent our modern concept of geekdom. His bespectacled face and quirky mannerisms are famous across the world. Gates founded Microsoft in 1975, and through a series of ingenious -- some say downright underhand -- manoeuvres, Microsoft went on to make Gates the richest man on earth. Gates has a long-running rivalry with Larry Ellison of Oracle. When Gates bought an F16, Ellison attempted to buy a MiG. And let us not forget he is now one of the world's most generous philanthropists.


Turing is regarded as one of the greatest cryptographers to have ever lived. Not only did he crack many German ciphers during the war, but he cracked the Enigma machine -- thought at the time to be an impossible task. Forget Kevin Mitnick, Turing was a far superior cracker -- he also invented the Turing machine, a forerunner to the modern microcomputer. Turing was hounded by authorities who were intolerant of his homosexuality. He died in 1954, apparently after eating an apple laced with cyanide.



Wozniak co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs. While Jobs was the entrepreneur behind the company, Wozniak took on the challenge of literally soldering together the first Apple in Job's garage. Woz apparently invented the Apple to impress friends at his computer club. He designed a floppy disc controller from scratch, met his wife on a Dial-a-Joke line he set up, and was the first person to buy a Segway PT.

And the grand winner, the greatest and geekiest of all is...


Tesla was a geek of the highest order and remains a hero for high-voltage enthusiasts. His party trick was to send massive amounts of electricity through the air using a Tesla coil. His experiments remain the most visually interesting in the field. In 1901 Tesla constructed the Wardenclyffe Tower, a massive aerial in New York that he speculated could be used as a "death ray". He dedicated his life to outrageous experiments in electricity and is credited with the invention of AC power.

 

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