Saturday, 5 January 2013

I founded a new "oldschool" computer magazine.

Maybe it's a sensible time to tell a bit what I've been up to for the past few months.

In September 2012, I founded Skrolli, a new Finnish computer magazine. This turn in my life surprised even myself.

It started from an image that went viral. Produced by my friend CCR with a lot of ideas from me, it was a faux magazine cover speculating what the longest-living Finnish home computing magazine, MikroBitti, would be like today if it had never renewed itself after the eighties. The magazine happens to be somewhat iconic to those Finns who got immersed to computing before the turn of the millennium, so it reached some relevant audience quite efficiently.

The faux cover was meant to be a joke, but the abundance of comments like "I would definitely subscribe to this kind of magazine" made me seriously consider the possibility of actually creating something like it. I put up a simple web page stating the idea of a new "countercultural" computer magazine that is somewhat similar to what MikroBitti used to be like. In just a few days, over a hundred people showed up on the dedicated IRC channel, and here we are.

Bringing the concept of an oldschool microcomputer magazine to the present era needs some thoughtful reflection. The world has changed a lot; computer hobbyists no longer exist as a unified group, for example. Everyone uses a computer for leisure, and it is sometimes difficult to draw line between those who are interested in the applications and those who are genuinely interested in the technology. Different activities also have their own subcultures with their own communication channels, and it is often hard to relate to someone whose subculture has a very different basis.

Skrolli defines computer culture as something where the computational aspects are irreducible. It is possible to create visual art or music completely without digital technology, for example, but once the computer becomes the very material (like in case of pixel art or chip music), the creative activity becomes relevant to our magazine. Everything where programming or other direct access to the computational mechanisms is involved is also relevant, of course.

I also chose to target the magazine to my own language group. In a nation of six million, the various subcultures are closer to one another, so it is easier to build a common project that spans the whole scale. The continuing existence of large computer hobbyist events in this country might also simplify the task. If the magazine had been started in English or even German, there would have been a much greater risk of appealing only to a few specialized niches.

In order to keep myself motivated, I have been considering the possibility that Skrolli will actually start a new movement. Something that brings the computational aspects of computer entuhsiasm back to daylight and helps the younger generation to find a true, non-compromising relationship with digital technology. Once the movement starts growing on its own, without being tied to a single project, language barriers will no longer exist for it.

I will be busy with this stuff for at least a couple of months until we get the first few issues printed (yes, it will be primarily a paper magazine as a statement against short-living journalism). After that, it is somewhat likely that I will finish the projects I temporarily abandoned: there will probably be a JIT-enabled version IBNIZ, and the IBNIZ democoding contest I promised will be arranged. Stay tuned!

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Anonymous said...

"If the magazine had been started in English or even German, there would have been a much greater risk of appealing only to a few specialized niches." I'm not sure I understand your statement -- by limiting your audience to 6 million, you are excluding 7 billion. I am sad that I cannot read or understand your new magazine, despite being exactly your core demographic (minus Finnish proficiency).

That being said, I am absolutely thrilled that you started this endeavor and I wish you success. There is definitely a "market" for hobbyist computing, something that has been lost as computers became commodity devices. I hope you find working on the magazine as fulfilling as I do working on the machines themselves :-)

Jussi said...

When I saw that cover I also thought that if articles were written with this attitude then it'd be interesting enough to buy.. it'd be much more creative than a magazine just about news and games. Even just to see that snake language course. ;)

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