Ode to the Spod.

In British MUD, BB and IRC circles, the word 'Spod' is a well known word but it tends to be fairly localised to the UK. Americans would use the word 'geek' but it's not an exact enough replacement.

The word in its present use was coined by myself in the late days of MIST and looking at the MIST archives, it only appears after about 1987. I heard the word used on television once to describe students who sit studying in librarys late into the night, and coined it as my 'generic player' name. I have had a few discussions in the past as to where the student library definition came from, but no-one really claimed to have heard it before. The original definition of the word has now made the 1999 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, which shows how out of touch with modern usage that the OED seems to have become.

Originally, the term was simply used as the description for a generic player. The MIST abuse list was called 'SPODFREE' and as this grew to cover Bulletin Board and Systems abuse, the word Spod grew to cover a little more as well. The Spod became the term for the long term computer addict who would spend a large proportion of their life on computer based communications systems talking to other Spods. By this time, Spod had become a verb so it was quite possible to Spod, and to be seen Spodding.

The Jargon Dictionary has a horribly inaccurate definition of the word, namely:

spod n.

[UK] A lower form of life found on talker systems and MUDs. The spod 
has few friends in RL and uses talkers instead, finding communication 
easier and preferable over the net. He has all the negative traits of the
computer geek without having any interest in computers per se. Lacking
any knowledge of or interest in how networks work, and considering his
access a God-given right, he is a major irritant to sysadmins, clogging
up lines in order to reach new MUDs, following passed-on instructions 
on how to sneak his way onto Internet ("Wow! It's in America!") and
complaining when he is not allowed to use busy routes. A true spod will
start any conversation with "Are you male or female?" (and follow it up
with "Got any good numbers/IDs/passwords?") and will not talk to someone
physically present in the same terminal room until they log onto the same
machine that he is using and enter talk mode. Compare newbie, tourist,
weenie, twink, terminal junkie.

This definition is amusing in that it was probably written by someone who would be described as a Spod. It limits other Spod's habitats to University terminal rooms and uses obscure terminology such as 'Talk Mode'. It is fairly typical Spod behaviour that they don't really have much of a world view outwith their own environment and the way they do things (to them) is quite obviously the way that everyone else does things too. This description puts the word 'Spod' across as an insult though which really it isn't and was never meant to be. Traditionally, Spods either couldn't care less about the sex of another Spod, or more likely, they would have no concept of a female being a Spod. Asking for "numbers/IDs/passwords" is also not really a Spod trait since Spods were traditionally quite happy doing what they are doing.

The spreading of the word 'Spod' is quite interesting in that it caught on at a time when computer based comminications was in its infancy and caught on in a community that didn't really use Usenet News. In the mid and early 80's most of the University computer departments had their own word to describe the Spod. For example, York University had the word Zog (Zog was an antisocial violent dwarf in an old comic strip) and another used the word Morlock after the antisocial, daylight hating, shuffling creatures from HG Wells' Time Machine. These nomanclatures were quite soon replaced by the word Spod, which in many ways is a shame.

If anyone has any more relevant historical information (Some of the early Spod Of The Year nominations etc even?) it's be quite interesting to see them. I shall try and dig up the old SPODFREE discussions on what various Universitys called their Spods as well.

Michael Lawrie (March 1998).