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Geek Love: Techie Couples Make It Work

Geeks aren't very good at love.

At least that's what the mainstream entertainment industry would have us believe. Consider the Academy Award-nominated movie The Social Network, wherein über-nerd Mark Zuckerberg invents Facebook after getting dumped by a pretty Boston University undergrad (or driving her away, depending upon your point of view). Or the popular CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory, wherein geeky physicist Leonard needed two seasons to win over the girl next door, but then lost her within half a season.

In real life, though, many geeks find romance -- often with other geeks. To celebrate the triumph of the techie in matters of the heart, Computerworld sought out couples who have successfully merged romantic love and tech love.

We tracked down five two-nerd couples to get their take on what works, what takes work, and what advice they have for the lovelorn techies in our midst. Their responses have been condensed and edited for clarity and brevity.

Diane and Gerard

Diane Chapin Cerchio, 54, managing partner, CircleSoft LLC

Gerard Cerchio, 58, managing partner, CircleSoft

Hometown: San Francisco

Years together: 15

How they met

Gerard: We met on a geeky expedition in the South China Sea to view a total eclipse of the sun. The expedition included an astronaut, the head of the Griffith Observatory, and Sir Patrick Moore, the world's first televised science populist.

These are not the types of cruises where people get drunk and pick up chicks. Most of the day is taken up with scientific lectures. But I got lucky when I started talking to Diane. We married two years later on a different solar eclipse cruise, and the wedding was reported in Sky and Telescope magazine.

The best thing about a being in a two-nerd relationship is...

Diane: I never have to explain myself. Other boyfriends would see all my stuff -- my science, religion and philosophy books -- and that would be the end of it. When I first saw Gerard's place, with every corner crammed with books, I felt like I was walking into my own house.

Gerard: We fly an aircraft that we built ourselves. We have lifetime subscriptions to Lord of the Rings Online. We run two technology companies together [CircleSoft LLC, a software consultancy, and OB1Net LLC, a boutique ISP]. We have two weather stations on the roof of our condo, and we broadcast our data [at OceanBeach.org]. We have two of every type of high-tech gadget.

Diane: Well, we only have one mass spectrometer.

And the most challenging part is...

Diane: Typically in a relationship someone -- usually the woman -- is supposed to do all those social niceties like remembering people's birthdays and socializing and entertaining. With two nerds in the house, that just doesn't get done.

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Share your own true tales of geek love!

Gerard: You know that old joke, "May God bless and keep our families... far away"? That would be us.

Advice for others looking for geek love

Diane: When people tell you that you need to do things that are outside your normal sphere, they're wrong. I tried to go out dancing and those other things, adult education classes. If what you want to do is play Dungeons and Dragons, you should.

Gerard: If you're a nerd and you look the part, I would advise you to avoid bars. They're full of guys who are more socially adept than you are. Try a museum instead.

Jonathan and Laura

Jonathan Lassoff, 22, operations engineer at Square

Laura Khalil, 30, tech writer, chief nerd herder at Dorkbyte.com

Hometown: San Francisco

Years together: 1.5

How they met

Laura: We met at our local hackerspace, Noisebridge. I was there learning Python, and he was making cool objects on [the] 3D printer. I also taught French at Noisebridge, and he came to one of my French movie nights for the class.

The rest is history. Seriously, I can't imagine anything nerdier than a man and woman falling in love over an evening of hot solder and a soldering iron.

The best thing about a being in a two-nerd relationship is...

Jonathan: We can share our experiences doing the things that we both enjoy. It's a great feeling to be able to experiment and build things together.

Laura: We get to do all the things we both love together -- from building a kinetic chandelier out of junk, to making robots, going on puzzle hunts, playing with amateur radio and lugging our telescopes around California stargazing.

And the most challenging part is...

Laura: Deciding who gets to use the soldering iron first, arguing over minutiae related to the Star Trek universe, and competing to see who can type more words per minute on a Dvorak keyboard.

Advice for others looking for geek love

Jonathan: Find what you truly love to do. If you enjoy getting into the details of technical pursuits or just enjoy geek culture, live it and love it. Then, find outlets to connect with people that share the same interests. Hackerspaces, shared workspaces and hobby shops are a great place to meet people that love what you love.

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