Like a Geek God

updated 09/04/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/04/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Even as a kid in Pflugerville, Texas, Tony Northrup knew he was different. In retrospect he blames his father, an electrical engineer. "He was always bringing home equipment," Northrup says. "I'd get a build-your-own radio kit for Christmas. I was soldering from the age of 6 or 7."

Now, good solderer Northrup, 26, a software "solutions architect" for a Burlington, Mass., company that manages Web sites, has a title to impress all those kids who played Little League while he was reassembling old computers. He is, in his peers' eyes, the Sexiest Geek Alive.

Northrup, 6'1" and 175 lbs. (without pocket protector), won the title earlier this year after entering an online competition sponsored by the entertainment Web site Among the questions: Explain Heisenberg's uncertainty principle—"I looked it up," Northrup admits—and list your favorite Star Trek captain (he picked Kirk).

At the finals, in a bar in Austin, Texas, with fiancée Erica Edson, 27 (a financial analyst who describes him as "pretty laid back"), cheering him on, Northrup defeated 11 men and women for the title. "There were some pretty cute girls," says Northrup of the competition, culled from more than 18,000 entrants. "I would have voted for them way before I voted for myself."

Although the title didn't come with a prize—not even some extra RAM—Northrup says it has brought occasional dividends. Nowadays when coworkers tease him, he says, "for the most part it's 'Hey, Sexy!' " Which is, of course, an improvement on "Hey, Geeky!"

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