Published on February 19, 2014
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
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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