A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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“Save a turkey. Eat a taco” (11/26)
“Save a turkey. Eat a pizza” (11/25)
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Entry from June 16, 2008
Nerd Bird

In 1992, American Airlines began flights from San Jose, CA ("Silicon Valley") to Austin, TX ("Silicon Hills"). The flights were filled with high tech industry employees (often carrying laptops and cell phones) and the flight was called the “nerd bird” by at least 1995.

The high tech bust of 2000 reduced the demand for some of these flights, but the “nerd bird” nickname still is used whenever high tech employees fly from one destination to another.

PC Magazine - Encyclopedia
Definition of: nerd bird
An airplane that regularly flies a high-tech route such as between San Jose, CA and Seattle, WA, or between San Jose and Austin, TX. See nerd,

Word Spy
nerd bird n. A flight to or from a high-tech hub, especially Silicon Valley.
Earliest Citation:
American Airlines will put a third ‘Nerd Bird’ in the air on Nov. 3, providing another link between Austin and Silicon Valley.
—R. Michelle Breyer, “American plans 3rd ‘Nerd Bird’,” Austin American-Statesman, September 16, 1995
The original nerd birds were flights between Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas, the home of Dell Computer Corp. and other high-tech firms. This is reflected in the earliest citation I could find for nerd bird (see below).
A closely related term is Barbie bird, which refers to a flight between Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, which often has a high ratio of “actresses” and “models” who fly to Silicon Valley to work as booth bunnies in technology trade shows.

Urban Dictionary
Nerd Bird
An airliner that flies between two high-tech cities. It is likely that the majority of the passengers will be nerds.
I’m taking the Nerd Bird from Austin to San Jose.
by Lumpy76 Dec 8, 2005

Dallas (TX) Morning News
Author: Alan Goldstein, John Kirkpatrick Staff Writers of The Dallas Morning News
Publish Date: October 23, 1995
Here’s one more indicator that Austin is a high-tech capital: American Airlines next month will add yet another nonstop route between Austin and the Silicon Valley. American currently has two daily nonstops between Austin and San Jose, and they’re so popular with tech types that the flights have been dubbed “nerd birds.”

Fast Company (December 1996)
Flight of the Nerd
By: Gina Imperato
In the mid-1980s, the era of hostile takeovers and junk-bond mania, Wall Street’s movers and shakers loved to fly the Concorde. They’d hurtle between New York and London, planning the next big deal. In the mid-1990s, the era of Internet capitalism and IPO fever, different people are calling the shots—and they frequent a different flight. So fasten your seat belt, cover up that gravy stain on your corporate-logoed polo shirt, and take a flight on the Nerd Bird.

Twice a day Monday through Thursday, and three times a day on Friday, American Airlines operates the only non-stop flight between Austin, Texas and San Jose, California—the world’s two leading centers of semiconductor manufacturing and software development. The three-and-one-half hour, 1,471 mile-long flights are crowded—and always overbooked. Talk about frequent flyers! Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), the semiconductor giant with headquarters in Silicon Valley and big factories in Texas, generates more than 20,000 trips per year on the Nerd Bird.

For the engineers, salespeople, and executives with Dell, Texas Instruments, IBM, Motorola, Intel, Schlumberger, and all the other companies living at both ends of the digital pipeline between Texas and California, the Nerd Bird is the commuter flight of choice and a natural extension of the workplace. It boasts perhaps the highest laptop-per-person ratio in the airline industry. As one flight attendant complained, “People are so busy working on their laptops, I can barely get the meal service done!” It’s also a strangely quiet flight. “I can’t talk about confidential stuff on-board this tube,” explains Chris Lewis, a sales manager for Applied Materials. “All my competitors are here too!”

For “Fast Company,” the Nerd Bird offered an up-close look at the habits and culture of the flying nerd—including digital celebrities such as computer entrepreneur Michael Dell, chip czar Andy Grove, and spook-turned-technowizard Bobby Ray Inman. We recently took a round-trip flight from Texas to California and handed out hundreds of questionnaires to the jet-propelled propeller-heads. Here’s the hard data—and the digital dish—on what we found. 

15 December 1997, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, “Techies know the way to San Jose” by Lori Hawkins, pg. A1:
It’s known as the Nerd Bird, American Airlines’ twice-a-day nonstop flight between Austin and San Jose, Calif.

14 June 1998, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, “Austin’s High-Tech Evolution,” pg. D4:
1994—Austin gets a direct connection to Silicon Valley when American Airlines begins nonstop service between Austin and San Jose.

San Mateo County (CA) Times
Silicon Valley commuters take trips on the Nerd Bird
By Liz Garone
Monday September 6, 1999
SAN JOSE—Despite the cell phones in the crooks of their necks and the laptop computers hanging from their shoulders, the dark-suited men beat everybody else down the boarding ramp. They’re motivated by a single goal: entry on the Nerd Bird.

Sometimes daily, some times weekly, these commuters from Silicon Valley’s myriad high-tech firms take Alaska Airline’s first morning flight at 6:40 a.m. from San Jose to Seattle, aka Silicon Forest. No one knows where the Nerd Bird moniker came from, but it’s more familiar to the passengers riding it than to the Alaska em ployees servicing it.

“I’m from San Jose, and you hear it all the time,” said Bill Stambaugh, a telecommunications director heading up to Seattle for a mid-morning meeting. “People tell you they’re taking the Nerd Bird, and you know exactly what they mean.”

December 2004, Texas Business Review:
American Airlines made news in the fall of 1992 when it began direct flights from Austin to San Jose. In what have come to be known as “nerd birds,” these ...

Google Books
Insiders’ Guide to Austin
by Hilary Hylton and Cam Rossie
Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot
Pg. 18:
In 1994 the daily “Nerd Bird” flights began between Austin and Silicon Valley, California. The city that had called itself the Third Coast in the 1980s now was kicking around the name Silicon Hills. In 1995 Tivoli Systems issued stock, and Lockheed closed its doors in Austin—software was in, military hardware was out.

Austin (TX) Business Journal
Thursday, July 27, 2006
American Airlines bulks up ‘nerd bird’
Austin Business Journal
Responding to increased demand among its corporate customers, American Airlines announced Thursday that it will add 188-seat Boeing 757 aircrafts to its Austin-San Jose, Calif. route.

American currently flies three times a day between the two high-tech centers with 136-seat MD-80 aircraft.

Beginning Dec. 14, American will switch two of the three daily flights to the larger 757 aircraft, with 22 first class and 166 coach seats on most planes.

“Demand on our Austin - San Jose route continues to be very strong,” says Henry Joyner, American’s senior vice president of planning. “These larger aircraft will help us meet the increased demand and provide more opportunities to upgrade or purchase first class seats.”

American has flown between Austin and San Jose since 1992. Because of the large number of high-tech business in both cities, the flights quickly became popular with business travelers on both ends, who nicknamed the planes “nerd birds.”

Houston Chronicle - Loren Steffy (A business blog)
February 05, 2007
The return of the “nerd bird”
Back in the salad days of the tech boom, flights between high tech centers like Austin, San Jose and Boston were full of traveling geeks, earning the planes the title of “nerd birds.” I thought of that term as I watched this demonstration on the Cranky Flier blog of the inflight entertainment system that Virgin America has developed.

Austin (TX) Business Journal
Tuesday, June 16, 2009, 9:42am CDT
American to end San Jose-Austin ‘nerd bird’ flights
The Austin-San Jose “Nerd Bird” will stop flying on Aug. 25.

American Airlines has announced that as part of its cost-cutting it will end the two daily non-stop flights it has offered between San Jose and Austin since 1992.

The flights were usually filled with tech workers, hence the nickname “Nerd Bird.” Direct flights between Mineta San Jose International Airport and other tech hubs including Boston, which also gained the nickname, have been curtailed in the ongoing downturn in air travel, as well.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Monday, June 16, 2008 • Permalink