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Extra Life: Coming of Age in Cyberspace by…

Extra Life: Coming of Age in Cyberspace

by David S. Bennahum

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0465012353, Hardcover)

Bennahum writes a rich account of what it was like to be among the first to grow up with computers as an important part of daily life, where the critical parts of the most coveted toys are electronic rather than mechanical. What lends Extra Life such poignancy is that it ranges far beyond mere push-buttons and keyboards to incorporate the new electronic world into the larger life of a boy growing up in New York. Bennahum delves into his own psyche to show how the computer revolution dovetailed with other revolutions surrounding his coming of age, such as coping with his parents' divorce, emerging from being an outsider, and youthful (sometimes illegal) strivings for adulthood.

However enthusiastic he gets about his electronic extra life, he doesn't overlook the dark side of experience. When he violates a system-access rule, for example, he discovers a serious system flaw and must now wrestle with the ethical issue of whether to report it and protect the system when doing so would reveal his violation. If Bennahum sometimes seems overly self-congratulatory for being part of his generation, that's easily forgiven as he shares his childlike wonder in the electronic new world that grew up alongside him. --Elizabeth Lewis

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:22 -0400)

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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.… (more)

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