OK -- so choosing the late Steve Jobs for a list of the year's breakout nerds is a little like, say, declaring Eric Clapton to be the best blues-rock guitarist of 2011. The Apple co-founder and visionary behind such world-rocking innovations as Mac, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad would have merited such a distinction just about every year for the past three decades. But 2011, alas, was the year that Jobs powered down at the too-young age of 56, and that event triggered a whirlwind accolades and emotion that established beyond a doubt that Jobs was the Michael Jordan of nerds, the standard by which all other geeks should be judged.
But it wasn't just the candlelight vigils, mementos left outside Apple Stores, and the memorial "iGod" T-shirts for sale on eBay that confirmed Jobs' status as the geek of all geeks [sources: CNET, eBay]. It was his 2011 authorized biography, by Walter Isaacson, that set in stone all of Jobs' nerdish eccentricities. For example, the book describes how Jobs, even as he lay terminally ill and sedated in the hospital, insisted upon critiquing the design of the oxygen mask on his face; after ripping off the mask and refusing to wear it, he demanded that nurses bring him five different options for the device, so that he could pick the design he liked best [source: Gladwell]. Oh, Steve Jobs, you will be missed.