Extra Life: Coming of Age in Cyberspace

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Basic Books, 1998 - Computers - 238 pages
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Today’s digital culture traces its roots to the 1980s, when the first computer generation came of age. These original techno-kids grew up with home-brew programs, secret computer access codes, and arcades where dedicated video gamers fought to extend their play by earning “extra life.” In that era of gleeful discovery, driven by a sense of adventure and a surge of power, kids found a world they could master, one few grownups could understand.In this fast-paced, real-life tale set in the bedrooms, computer rooms, and video arcades of the ’80s, popular media chronicler David S. Bennahum takes readers back to his initiation into this electronic universe, to his discovery of PONG at age five. We follow him from video game addiction—his Bar Mitzvah gift was an Atari 800 with 48K of RAM—to his ascent to master programmer with the coveted title of “Super User” in his high school’s computer room. Bennahum reflects on how computers empowered him and his friends to create a world of their own.We see how their geekiness, grounded in roleplaying, iterative thinking, and systems analysis led to a productive, social existence—the “extra life” they found on the other side of the screen. Hilarious, poignant, and packed with little-known computer lore, Extra Life is a grand digital adventure set against the background of the emerging information age.
 

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Extra life: coming of age in cyberspace

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By seventh grade, Bennahum (now a contributing editor at Wired and Spin, among others) was well on his way to a life of petty crime, sexual experimentation, and escalating drug use. Fate intervened in ... Read full review

Contents

Pirates Cove
1
Pong
7
Space leva ders
16
Experience Points
42
Extra Life
53
Atari
70
Dungeon
90
Super Users
116
Breaking In
134
Symbiosis
154
Cheese
178
Hide the Geek
205
Beyond Zork
220
Epilogue
235
Ackno wledgments
237
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About the author (1998)

David S. Bennahum is a contributing editor for Wired, Spin, Ligua Franca, and I.D. magazine. He is also the publisher of MEME, and online newsletter on technology and culture. Readers can contact him by email at davidsol@panix.com and view his website at http://www.extralife.org/

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