When Users Were Makers: Hobbyist Magazines in the Microcomputer Era

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Information about When Users Were Makers: Hobbyist Magazines in the Microcomputer Era

Published on February 19, 2014

Author: floorislava

Source: slideshare.net


Once upon a time, the best way to get games onto an 8-bit microcomputer was to type them in yourself. Magazines for computer hobbyists contained program listings for games that were not only fun to play, but gave a generation of users both knowledge and permission to hack on their machines and become creators themselves.

This presentation looks at some of the magazines that defined the micro era and describe how they fostered a culture of active media participation, creative recombination, and independent creation that is reflected in the current day indie and maker scenes.

WHEN USERS WERE MAKERS Hobbyist Magazines in the Microcomputer Era Josh Lee, Floor Is Lava IndieCade East February 16, 2014

Hi! • • Josh Lee Floor Is Lava • • • • Solar Surfing in Opti Space Voyage of the Starship Lexicon etc. Professional Middle-Aged Grump

Topics Computer magazines as a resource for learning to make games • • • • Evolving relationships between users and computers Maintaining permission to play with games Old stuff is neat and old

Once Upon a Time in the 1980s

What is a computer? • • Mainframe → Mini → Micro Framing shifts with hardware

1970s • • Microcomputer kits Computer as hardware

1980s • • Home/personal computers Computer as software

Booting Up • • Built-in BASIC Programming is the first thing you do

Your First Program

Bare Metal, Day One

Who is the User? • • • Mainframe vs. Micro users Ownership Care & feeding • They didn’t call it PET for nothing

Owner = User = ? • • The owner is the user The user is the... hacker?

Anyone with a computer can and should program it

Getting the Most Out of Your Computer

User = Programmer • • But how do you learn? Manuals, books, etc.

Magazines! • • • Compute!, Byte, RUN, Nibble, Antic, 80 Micro, etc. Resources for hobbyist computer users Defining “hobbyist,” “computer,” and “user”

Articles • • • News and features Product reviews Tips and tricks

Programming • • • Tutorials & Hacks Utilities & productivity Games, natch

Contributors • • • Reader submissions Freelancers Hobbyists – like you!

Code Listings • • Pages and pages of free code BASIC, usually

Multiplatform Programs • v

Machine Language • Crossroads II, Compute!’s Gazette, Dec. ’88

Checksum Programs • Error checking monitors

Doing It Yourself • • Performing magic Labor adds worth

Active participation in the production of media

From User to Maker

Rote Transcription • • Not just mindless drudgery Learning as you type

Possession & Permission • Time + Labor = Ownership • • (not in the IP sense, but who cares?) You built it, you can rebuild it

Playful Modification Play the game / Play with the game • Tweaking, splicing, remixing: Hacking! •

Independent Creation Full command over your computer • • Creating for yourself

Permission to Create • Transcription → Modification → Creation • Promise → Means → Permission

Computer games are a craft medium

What Changed?

Computers Changed More affordable, usable, accessible • • • Less programmable An appliance, not a hobby

Users Changed • • Everyone is a user User ≠ programmer

The Game Changed • • • Professionalization of programming Separation between developers and users Narrative of the tortured artist

Where We Are Now

Sealed boxes • • • Closed platforms EULAs out the wazoo Pay to develop

Opaque dev tools • • • Engines and IDEs distance you from the machine Computers are abstractions, not toys Pro-am game building tools • • • Promise of “professional” quality without coding Constrained, exclusive

Chasing Success • • • Economic and/or artistic Focused on external goals rather than self-satisfaction No hobbies, only side jobs

Making games has become all work and no play.

Let’s Make Making Fun Things Fun Again.

Modern computing isn’t all bad! • • Accessibility, affordability The Internet: near-infinite resources

Maker Culture • • Crafts Hardware hacking Beware professionalization here too! •

• Modding, Sandboxes • • Total conversions Embedded scripting Redstone programming • Transcription → Modification → Creation •

Forking • • Github – intimidating Online sandboxes – fun! • • wonderfl, OpenProcessing, GLSL Sandbox Promise → Means → Permission

Reframing Independence • • • • Permission to mess around Permission to create Permission to explore Permission to play

Go play with your computer.

Thanks! • Josh Lee • • • • josh@floor.is @joshleejosh http://floor.is/lava Internet Archive – http://archive.org/details/computermagazines

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