Gen Xers like to complain about not having the flying cars they were promised. But it was the Boomers who were promised flying cars. Unless you're that old, the joke goes, you were promised a cyberpunk dystopia: presently under construction for the Millenials to enjoy.

To kids growing up in the 1990s though— born in an empty space between these "generations" of entertainment marketing—such grand concepts were drowned by the mundane reality of the early web. Too young to be on the pre-AOL net, when it was still cool, but old enough for it to remain a new and strange land, this thinly-sliced cohort experienced a certain yearning bathos, a search for the real in a medium freshly proven otherwise.

In Breathing Machine: A Memoir of Computers, Leigh Alexander captures a powerful scent of what it was like to be born into computer gaming's golden age, to have a taste of a "world bigger than the one you can touch" only to spend adolescence in a world of chatrooms, terrible internet speeds and false frontiers.

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