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    Galaksija embodies a destratification of today’s technological hierarchy, a tacit ideological assertion that computing machinery should be for the masses, cheap and available to everyone, and that neither money nor technical know-how need be barriers to entry.

    That’s what we have now. A Raspberry Pi is $50 for the latest version. Linus could develop an OS on 386 because Microsoft Windows made 386-based machines incredibly prevalent and cheap on the used market. A modern mobile phone is an hugely versatile communications device and owning one is an acheivable goal for a large part of humanity.

    Anyone can choose between a plethora of free (monetary and licensing) programming languages, and the explanations on how to program in them is generally also free and widely available.

    It’s never been easier or cheaper to access computing machinery.

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      I think you’re missing the point. Most of these technologies require knowledge that is harder and harder to achieve given the increasing scarcity of leisure time. There’ no dark wizard in an ivory tower defending the library where this knowledge is stored. They are inaccessible for structural reasons: time is scarce, work is invading the personal sphere, poverty and misery are more and more common for broader sections of the population everywhere in the West.

      Technological dissemination practices are not trying to solve this problem. Instead, they cater to a small élite of tech-savvy people for whom all these technologies come for free given a specific set of life choices. The fact that they are super-cheap and freely available once you cross a certain barrier (basically being rich and stable enough to invest in having more leisure time and mental energy) doesn’t mean that this generalizes over the whole population.

      The Galaksija was the last piece of the puzzle in a society that was ripe for technological dissemination. Ours is not and the small pieces of the puzzle like a Raspberry Pi will empower just a very narrow part of the population. That’s also the plethora of hackerist alternatives to mainstream technologies are having a hard time to gain traction: they ignore the barrier to entry, the politics of time behind technological adoption. The GAFAM don’t and they offer people a more commoditized experience that offers less friction.

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        It is easy to underestimate how hard it was back in the day, from reading the survivorship bias pieces about spectacular achievers. Remember, no Internet (for your average Joe), very few manuals/tutorials, exorbitantly expensive hardware.

        I met a middle aged enthusiast back then who was unsuccessfully trying to learn 8080 machine code programming: his only material was opcode cheatsheet. After a year he gave up and honestly can’t blame him.

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          +1

          I grew up in Belgrade and my first machine was a Commodore 128 for which I only had a German manual, which I didn’t speak (I was 12 years old). After a couple of months my dad managed to source a second- (more likely third-) hand Serbian manual in very poor condition, but I cherished that book as it was my only source of knowledge for years… We are indeed lucky to be living in a time like this, where access to knowledge is abundant.

          chobeat’s comment is spot-on though, time is a very expensive commodity and is usually taken for granted.

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            I’m not saying what these computers have achieved, I’m just saying what they wanted to achieve. Because it’s easy to project the same values, goals and social structures on very different societies and it would be a mistake. Then yes, my father built computers at home and learned to program as a hobbyist in the 80s, so it’s a story I’ve seen too and it wasn’t accessible at all.

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            I think you’re missing the point.

            Maybe I am. I think the original quote is really hard to understand. Frankly I think it’s just glib bargain-basement “deconstructionism” without much thought behind it, but let’s try to expand on it.

            I think the author is trying to say the same as you (which I agree with): access to computing does not mean access to the fruits of computing in the modern world. Just because someone under disadvantaged circumstances might teach themselves to code, doesn’t mean they can get a job coding, or that they can get access to the capital needed to build a company around coding.

            However, the author seems to believe that in this particular counter-factual case it would have been different somehow. Maybe because a DIY computer under (some value of) socialism would have led to a different outcome than a DIY computer under “capitalism” (i.e. the computing scene in the late 70s/early 80s in the US)? It’s hard to say.

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              I think you’re missing a large part of the point, too. I grew up with these grokable computers, and spent a great deal of my childhood trying to grok them. But, I did that in the 80s, in Australia, at the very bottom of the middle class. If I could even identify a particular book that might contain the knowledge I wanted, it would take me a year to get it.

              Having access to the internet makes everything about programming infinitely easier to get a hold of, even if the machines we use are overcomplicated.

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                I think you’re missing the point. Most of these technologies require knowledge that is harder and harder to achieve given the increasing scarcity of leisure time. There’ no dark wizard in an ivory tower defending the library where this knowledge is stored. They are inaccessible for structural reasons: time is scarce, work is invading the personal sphere, poverty and misery are more and more common for broader sections of the population everywhere in the West.

                I don’t think it’s true that aggregate leisure time is lower today than in the 1980s in Yugoslavia, certainly not obviously true. In any case, the rise of the cheaply and ubiquitously accessible internet (accessible even to relatively poor people) has made knowledge about everything in the world, including the use and programming of computers, vastly more accessible than it was to anyone in the world three decades ago.

                One of the reasons we perceive that time is scarce is because the sheer amount of things that a person can do with their limited time is much more salient now, and that increased salience has a lot to do with first and second-order societal changes brought about by the existence of cheap, ubiquitous computing and networking.

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                  One of the reasons we perceive that time is scarce is because the sheer amount of things that a person can do with their limited time is much more salient now, and that increased salience has a lot to do with first and second-order societal changes brought about by the existence of cheap, ubiquitous computing and networking.

                  But these also brought an increased amount of social work to exist in society and also an enormous amount of distraction: in the 80s if they told you that a company elaborated a complicated psychological mechanism to extract informations from you 24/7 through your phone and that they would conduct experiments to manipulate your behavior always through your phone, they wouldn’t believe you. When people speak about “attention economy”, we are the resources being mined. Those resources in the past could have been spent on something else. I’m not arguing against internet in general, but for sure for how it is now, it’s a net negative for the whole society in terms of contributions to time availability for personal development: for every kid that has access to infinite knowledge, you have 10 workers that have been conditioned into coping with stress, alienation and tiredness by mindlessly consuming content and producing data.

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              That’s a great writeup. Although I grew up in Yu, I was too young to participate. I do however remember recording ZX spectrum games which a radio station broadcast late at night and playing them at a friend’s computer. I had an Amstrad CPC 664 which used diskettes for storage, which were a step up from tapes in all ways except this one. :)

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                Wow, the industrial design is pretty! Olivetti typewriter-as-computer vibe.

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                  Oh wow, this is great. Has anyone made one recently?

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                    I’ve never heard of it before this article, but I’d sure like to build one. A quick google showed these projects, and there are probably lots more:

                    • mikroGalaksija, an FPGA re-implementation;
                    • Lots of schematics posted here, including a CMOS-happy variant, but it looks like the author didn’t finish building theirs yet

                    Seems like the original schematics might be picky about using a modern CMOS Z80 (maybe the clock is a little dirty?) as opposed to one of the older variants, but you can still find those.

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                    In undergrad I took a class where the end goal was to create a fully functioning Z80 computer. I spent many late nights in the lab and honestly just barely got the thing executing basic commands, but one of my smarter friends managed to program in several entire games into EEPROMs in assembly code and using homemade joysticks as controllers. I’d definitely recommend it as a project if you have the time!

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                      I would <3 to get my hands on these keycaps.