The digital culture we know today can trace its origins back to the 1980s, a time when the first generation of computer-savvy kids began to emerge. These early tech enthusiasts grew up tinkering with homemade programs, unlocking secret computer codes, and battling it out in video game arcades to earn precious "extra lives." Fueled by boundless curiosity, a sense of adventure, and a newfound sense of empowerment, these kids unearthed a world they could conquer, one that often left adults baffled.
In this thrilling and fast-paced real-life narrative, David S. Bennahum, a chronicler of popular media, invites readers to journey with him through the bedrooms, computer rooms, and video arcades of the '80s. He shares his personal initiation into this electronic universe, starting with his encounter with PONG at the tender age of five. We follow his transformation from a video game addict—his Bar Mitzvah gift was an Atari 800 with a whopping 48K of RAM—to his ascent as a master programmer, earning the coveted title of “Super User” in his high school's computer room. Bennahum's story highlights how computers became tools of empowerment for him and his friends, enabling them to create a world uniquely their own. Their geeky pursuits, rooted in role-playing, iterative problem-solving, and systems analysis, ultimately led to a fulfilling and socially vibrant existence—an "extra life" discovered on the other side of the computer screen. With a blend of humor, poignancy, and an abundance of lesser-known computer history, "Extra Life" offers an enthralling digital adventure against the backdrop of the burgeoning information age.