The Cult of Coder – when did tech become fashionable?

Lorna Hughes

26 Nov 2015

As I sat there having my mind blown by Mr Robot’s final two episodes, it dawned on me: “I am getting over-excited and WhatsApping everyone about a TV show focused on a coder who works 9-5 at a security software company… how did this happen!?”. When did tech become dramatic and exciting enough to appeal to a mass audience? Ten years ago, we’d be watching the likes of The West Wing, ER or Lost – dramatic shows about pretty people in heroic and/or hugely powerful positions. Now, three of the five most popular shows across Netflix and Amazon Prime in the UK are The IT Crowd, Mr Robot and the Big Bang Theory – all of which focus on people in the tech world, not Presidents or George Clooney.

There are those of us who would say tech has always been exciting… the 30+ people sitting around me at Harvard PR as I write this, for example. But no-one can argue that there has been a shift.

Technology is no longer part of everyday life, it’s part of its foundation. Ok, calm down any technophobic people reading this. I’m not saying people are going to stop speaking to each other. Our children are not going to be replaced by androids… yet.

What I mean is that the days of people using their ‘computer’ to do a bit of work and using their phone to ‘call’ people are pretty much gone. The average person reaches for their phone at 7:31am in the morning and they check personal emails and/or Facebook before they get out of bed, shower and eat. This isn’t because we put technology before living. It’s simply what society now is.

Tech – from wearables to coding – is vital to living, whether we are shopping, banking, doing business, speaking to a doctor or building a mobile app in our spare time because YOLO. This means it is desirable and techies have become fashionable and increasingly powerful as a result.

A couple of months ago I asked my six-year-old cousin what he wants to be when he’s older, expecting “fireman” or “footballer”. I got “in school we’re learning to code so I want to be in the army to use computers to save people from being hurt.” It was fascinating to me on two levels: one, he sees techies as heroes and wants to be one, and two, he can code WAY better than I can and I should really buck up my ideas.

Even techies with questionable morals are seen by some as society’s heroes. When Anonymous announced it would be targeting ISIS, people got more excited, and in some cases openly more confident of defeating the extremist group, than when governments around the world made the same kind of statements. Even if people suspect that in reality, there is little Anonymous can do to help other than taking down websites and Twitter accounts, could it be that the general public feel that a group of hackers may well have more power and intelligence than the government? Surely not!

But whatever people think, the shift in perception around ‘tech’ and its role in our lives that means the media (Wired has a higher readership than any of the UK’s national press), TV (Mr Robot et al.), film (Steve Jobs, The Martian) can confidently focus on ‘geeks’. Because there’s really no such thing anymore. We are all ‘geeks’ and tech is simply part of who we are.



Photo credit: Deadline