June 22, 2011, 8:15 AM — During most of human history being a geek was not a good thing. Galileo was almost burned at the stake for it.
Leonardo had to distract patrons with elaborate graffiti on the walls of their dining rooms and science-fictiony weapons that could never work but impressed his patrons, whose judgment was undoubtedly impaired, judging by the way they pimped up wearing codpieces and giant lace ruffles.
[Also see: 15 Fictional Heroes of Geek]
Even Einstein (who should have had plenty of badass cred for figuring out how to blow up the world) had to look like a goofball in photos and pretend to take an interest in baseball to keep members of the Idiocracy from beating him up in the hall between meetings with the president.
Sometime in the late '90s, when lots of people seemed to be getting rich building web sites offering to sell – for a discount and delay of a week in shipping – things you could buy for 10 cents more and a walk to the corner store, geekery became cool.
Then Best Buy added it to the name of their on-site idiot-support service – the Geek Squad, which drives around in specially painted VW Beetles doing housecalls to explain to the Titans of Suburbia why their computers and flat-screen TVs both go off when you kick out the power cord. (Plugging the cord back in costs extra due to insurance requirements and the decision to leave complex repairs like that out of the otherwise worth-every-wasted-penny service plans BB tries to sell for every TV, laptop and AA battery it sells.)
Now 'geek' is so widely accepted and, apparently, valuable, that Best Buy is suing other companies for daring to use the word geek in names like Rent a Geek, Geek Rescue and Speak With A Geek.
It even went after a Wisconsin priest who decided to market either his services or God's (it wasn't real clear who would be handling the service-fulfillment end of the SLA) by painting "God Squad" on his VW Beetle.
"They're using their size to bully people around," according to a WSJ story quoting Dan Bates, a 28-year-old networking professional and veteran World of Warcraft computer gamer. "It makes them look a bit desperate."