A leading theory on the derivation of the word nerd is that Dr. Seuss created the word for his story, “If I Ran the Zoo, in 1950.” In it is a creature known as a Nerd from the land of Ka-Troo. Others claim the word began as “knurd” (before arriving at its current spelling) by researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the late 1940s. Students who partied, and rarely studied were called “drunks,” while the opposite – students who never partied and always studied – were “knurds” (“drunk” spelled backwards).
I wouldn’t be surprised if the term nerd were invented by researchers at RPI. Those people are pretty big geeks. It is my impression also that it is really cold at RPI. I think it is somewhere farther north than any human being should live. That is probably why there are so many geeks there. Because if you are truly an ubergeek in the original supercomputer sense of the word, you want to be somewhere cold so that your cpu doesn’t get overheated. Of course, you could have your computers all in a cold room or use a customized water cooling system, but these are all a lot more expensive than just living in a very cold place. A counterexample to this argument is the prevalence of ubergeektitude in the San Francisco Bay Area. I think I can incorporate this counterclaim by saying that RPI and other cold places are more likely to have vestiges of geekiness from 40 years ago since back in the day it was more important and more difficult to cool large computers. The Silicon Valley, on the other hand, is responsible for the progression of software that used large computers more efficiently, which eventually decreased the need for them (and increased the need for smaller computers), and hence extremely cold temperatures were no longer necessary in the geek world.