EXTRA LIFE by David S. Bennahum


Coming of Age in Cyberspace
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Bennahum’s debut is an autobiographical coming-of-age story, told eloquently through his relationship with computers. Bennahum, a contributing editor to Wired and Lingua Franca, digs through his memories of being an outsider throughout childhood, and details a fascination that began with his first Atari computer. The reflections are vivid and often provide cultural commentary on how the computer boom of the 1980s shaped a generation, and how kids— games like Space Invaders and Merlin broke the ground for today’s Internet age. Above all, Bennahum is an accomplished writer, both down-to-earth and inspiring, whether he’s describing the processes of a modem or the beguiling possibilities a child sees in an expansive white carpeted room. He consistently reaches into two of the most incomprehensible worlds (the mind of a computer and the mind of a little boy) and pulls out understandable and identifiable experiences. Bennahum is a storyteller for the kids who were born in the ’70s and grew up in the ’80s—the Atari generation. Adults nearing their 30s now who spent hours bootlegging software from BBSs, playing Pong and Breakout and comparing the merits of a Commodore 64 and a TRS-80 will find justification for and rejuvenation of their childhood fascination with those old boxy machines. Those who grew up alongside them will be rewarded with an insight into a cultural worldview that went largely unrecognized (and certainly unaccepted) because it belonged to kids, freethinkers, and crazy engineers. Just the sort of people Apple computers is applauding in their commercials today. In telling the story of the burgeoning computer culture, Bennahum winds up with a beautifully told story in which he comes to understand how his fascination with computers helped shape the way he thinks, the way he learns, and the way he copes. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 1998
ISBN: 0-465-01235-3
Page count: 248pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1998