jrodriguez@mercurynews.com

MOUNTAIN VIEW -- Geeks are now cool.

"I'd agree with that," said Austen Allred, a 23-year-old geek working on a new website Saturday, which just happened to be worldwide Geek Pride Day. He sure looked cool wearing a red T-shirt and red pants and sporting a short, spiky haircut that looked more dramatic after sleeping in his car overnight.

"The geek world is secular and has its own culture," he said at Hacker Dojo, a high-tech workshop in Mountain View.

"You can live and work within that culture and never see the real world," Allred said.

Which helps explain why he and none of the other geeks at Hacker Dojo knew about Geek Pride Day. A Spanish blogger is widely credited with establishing it several years ago on May 25 to coincide with the anniversary of the first "Star Wars" film and Towel Day, which is observed by geeky fans of the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," a best-selling book.

Isai Damier, a computer scientist and electrical engineer, shrugged when he heard the news.

"I have been a geek forever," said Damier, 31, of Sunnyvale. "We don't celebrate it."

Apparently, real geeks don't wave flags, shoot off fireworks or march in parades, not even in Silicon Valley, the world capital of geekdom. They probably don't barbecue, either.

The geek world is also one still mostly populated by men. Only one female geek was spotted at the workshop Saturday morning.

In any case, geeks just aren't what they used to be.

According to Wikipedia, geek is a slang term for "odd or non-mainstream people" who are often too smart or dumb for the rest of us. By the way, Wikipedia is an Internet encyclopedia created by geeks in 2001.

Thirty-years before, the tough-guy wrestler Freddie Blassie kicked sand on the oddballs with "Pencil Neck Geek," a hit song on the radio.

You see if you take a pencil that won't hold lead,

Looks like a pipe cleaner attached to a head,

Add a buggy whip body with a brain that leaks,

You got yourself a grit-eatin', pencil neck geek.

But today's geeks have erased that definition.

A new -- and modest -- survey supports the notion that there's been a cultural shift in how Americans see geeks.

About 58 percent see geeks as extremely intelligent, 76 percent define them as hard workers and 58 percent as confident people.

A surprising 68 percent of respondents said they would date a geek. And more would rather be seen as a geek than a jock.

"Being a geek has gone mainstream," said Jack Cullen, president of Modis, an information technology company that commissioned the study. "It's now chic to be geek."

But don't go thinking geeks are life-of-the-party types. Only 34 percent of respondents associated geeks with good looks, while 69 percent thought of them as awkward.

Still, the evolving coolness factor pleases John Curry, a 21-year-old DeAnza College student from Sunnyvale who was learning how to write code at Dojo.

He explained how other kids in grade school used to tease him for liking mathematics. "They were just messing around," he said without any lingering resentment.

Curry intends to join a startup after graduation, or maybe even before. "I'm just having fun," he said. "I like computers."

If anyone on world Geek Pride Day reflected the dashing, handsome, risk-taking image of Steve Jobs -- maybe the first cool geek -- it was Allred.

He said he left Utah for Silicon Valley without much money, sleeps in his small car in Palo Alto, and is working in a new computer field called "growth hacking." He described it as a blend of coding and marketing to drive up visits to websites.

It doesn't matter much that he doesn't have his own apartment, a fancy car or expensive watch. He's got an innovative idea and he's found his calling.

"I don't think I'll ever leave the startup industry," Allred said. "My goal is to become a growth hacker."

Very cool.

Contact Joe Rodriguez at 408-920-5767. Follow him at Twitter.com/JoeRodMercury.