I was blessed (or cursed) to go through my undergraduate years from 1989 to 1993, and at that time, I’m sad to say, there wasn’t a lot of nerd chic. I did my degree in Mathematics. The computer science student on my dorm floor ended up gainfully employed programming mainframes at Safeway. It was not, shall we say, a glamourous time for young nerds. On the other hand, the pressure wasn’t exactly on.

What do young nerds today make of the examples before them, the Brins and Pages and Zuckerbergs? Is there a sense of performance anxiety? Does the start-up zeitgeist weigh on them?

Reading articles about how Mark Zuckerberg screwed his college employers, I am torn. On the one hand, is the satisfaction that the guy who did the actual work and had the particular, detailed vision of the social network got the reward, not his moneyed waspy employers. On the other hand, he clearly screwed them in a very premeditated fashion. What led to this kind of anti-social behavior? The lure of the Big Score? With Brin and Page in the back of your mind, maybe becoming a 20-something billionaire doesn’t seem so far fetched? Maybe it’s worth violating some social norms for?

Anyhow, now Zuckerberg is part of the pantheon. And it makes me wonder what the psychology is, today, in the nerdly dorm rooms? Is it still OK to go work for Safeway? Or is everyone secretly hoping they can spend a couple years drinking coke, working in the garage, and making it to the NerdBA?