Creative Computing: the amazing, countercultural look-and-feel of homebrew computing zines

John Park writes, "Check out what Tony D just posted at Adafruit after he visited the Living Computers Museum + Lab."

While at the museum I also had a chance to check out their recently renovated collection of vintage computing hardware and memorabilia. Something that grabbed my attention was the impressive collection of early computing literature, like books and magazines from the 70’s and 80’s. I found the artwork for a lot of this memorabilia had a fascinating aesthetic that felt like a bit of 60’s counter-culture, 70’s zine and punk culture, and 80’s technology thrown in a blender. Below are some photos of memorabilia I took to capture some of this aesthetic:

Aesthetic of Homebrew and Early Computing Literature [Tony D/Adafruit]

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  1. I was just a kid when I got 101 BASIC Computer Games, but I never doubted the mix of counterculture and computers. You had to be a freak to think of computers as more than just adding machines. And hey, with illustrators like Robert Crumb, it's no real stretch.

    Computers have always been more of a tool for disruption than for pacification. Hackers got their name because not because they were sleek or clever, but because they were weirdos who did things you weren't supposed to do.

  2. brzap says:
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  3. YES!

    My cousin John clued me into Creative Computing when it was a going concern, in the early 70s. His school had a computer you could fool around on, entering programs on a teletype and storing them on cards or paper tape. During one visit I played a game called DEEPSPACE (which is in one of those Best Of collections, probably). It was text mode; you selected a star system to patrol, selected the weapons for your spaceship, and started battle. You set your velocity toward the enemy, and which weapon systems you fired. Utterly fascinating to 13 year old me. I saved the flimsy brown paper printout of a couple of sessions for years, pouring over the details of these space battles.

    The magazine was a revelation. It printed sci-fi stories, speculation, Trots & Bonnie comics, and what you might call "design fiction" pieces about futuristic gadgets. I first read the poem LOOKED OVER BY MACHINES OF LOVING GRACE there. Reviews of the very first, primitive "home computers," like the Altair, Elf, and Sol 20.

    I remember the ache and longing for access to an actual computer. My high school had a DEC pdp8/e, but it was hard to get time on it or to enter large programs. How cool would it have been to be able to enter and play DEEPSPACE or TREK or HUNT THE WUMPUS any time I wanted?

    I eventually subscribed to Creative Computing, but it was a slick consumer magazine by then. It was sad seeing it go mainstream, trying to find its place among dozens of dedicated home-computer magazines. I remember the shock of seeing the "goodbye" editorial from retiring editor David Ahl. (This was between 1980 and 1982, because I recall reading it in the library of Nassau Community College.)

    When I got my own IBM PC I joyously entered the old Creative Computing vintage games. I bet I have the old BASIC files in an archive somewhere.

    I lucked into a stack of newsprint-era Creative Computing issues at one point. I eventually donated them to a museum of some sort, in Germany. I still have the "Best Of" collections. I looked them over a few years ago; how incredibly archaic!


    FWIW, I looked up David Ahl about ten years ago. He had migrated to conservative Christian politics and collected military vehicles. Very odd, for someone who started up pushing something so revolutionary.

  4. Inclined to agree here.

    I don't think my daughter would agree, but okay. She's not big on "chick" flicks herself and prefers strong, heroic women.

    She had a fun time, although it turned out to be a small affair. Although for the first like, hour or so, we had a power outage... so the kids sat around and played cards for a while...

  5. What the what?

    Is that some sort of personal stream of consciousness or do you think there's an actual connection in a joke about a kid (who happens to be female) growing up so fast it seems like she's a time traveler and a flippant term for movies created to attract female audiences rather than male or male & female together?

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