"Computer nerds," "geeks," "code junkies" — call them what you will, they typically don't enjoy the limelight unless they are starring in the Hollywood classic Revenge of the Nerds. But those nerds are actors. They aren't true nerds who live and die by "the code," so it doesn't count.
But take note: A revenge of sorts is bubbling in this city.
It stems from Houston's long-standing and well-earned reputation as a town of "mature" technologies, with world-class experts in energy, medicine, transportation, manufacturing and the like. The kind of meaningful, yet not-so-sexy achievements that don't command coverage by the deep-cleavage-baring and soon-to-be-departing Nancy O'Dell of Access Hollywood. Nor are they feats likely to get mentioned by the gadget king himself, Apple's Steve Jobs, in one of his Sermons on the Mount: "I'd like to share with you our latest invention, a truly magical and revolutionary device that I'm really excited about. It's called the iPipe, and it's going to change the way we drill for oil." No, that's not going to happen.
So while we have plenty of nerds in Houston, they don't enjoy the same kind of cool factor as the "app pushing" Red Bull-junkie developers dotting California's coffee houses and garages from San Mateo to Gilroy.
That may all soon change, because this past weekend marked a movement afoot by Houston's hippest nerds: They gathered en mass at a rave-like space in Midtown next to Coffee Groundz on Bagby (a big shout to Coffee Groundz for their support). A Geekle of more than 200 Houston-based iPhone technology fanboys jammed together for the city's first 48-hour "iPhoneDevCamp Houston" code-a-thon.
The purpose of this and similar iPhoneDevCamp events held around the world is for beginners and experts to come together to learn how to build, price and market apps for Apple's iPhone. Props go out to Freetime Studio's Nathan Eror; ChaiONE's Ben Shierman and Marc Nathan; Startup Houston's Kurt Stoll; Social Mobility's Scott Riggins and FuzzyLuke's Michael Gile as the main sponsors.
This is significant because to date, Apple reports the sale of more than 40 million iPhones around the world supporting over 140,000 customized applications or "apps" with more than 3 billion apps downloaded - including CultureMap's very own own app. And at last week's iPad unveiling, Steve Jobs claimed that Apple is the largest revenue-generating mobile devices company in the world. All hype aside, the iPhone and other mobile devices are impacting the way we find, use, share, and even create information and entertainment—they are changing our culture in ways unimaginable only a few years ago.
What was so impressive about this event was that supporting the steady glow and hum of iPhones, MacBook Pros and iPods attached to every appendage (there was even an old Newton being humorously pawned off as an iPad) was an army of seasoned to up-and-coming iPhone developers hungry for innovation in Houston and beyond. Such committed focus and passion by this many people can only do good things for Houston's technology reputation, because building apps that better inform or simply entertain people in ways that are new and valuable, well, that's just cool.
Houston-based companies who design, build and deploy applications for Apple's iPhone (if you know more, please provide URLs in comments):