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Gaming the Iron Curtain: How Teenagers and Amateurs in Communist Czechoslovakia Claimed the Medium of Computer Games

Jaroslav Ĺ velch
Publisher / Label
Mit Press
Publication year
Type of publication
Number of pages



Series Foreword xi
Preface xiii
Acknowledgments xvii
A Note on Translations and Pronunciation xix
Introduction xxi

1 Micros in the Margins: Computer Technology 
  in the State Socialist Society 1 
  Toward Normalization 3 
  Beyond the Quiet Life 5 
  A Revolution That Was Normalized 9 
  The State of the Computer Industry 12 
  Electronization Programs of the 1980s 15 
  Men, Women, and Machines 18 Side Roads to Micros 21 
  Who Needs a Flown Computer? 27 
  Farm Computers and the Courageous Clone 31 

2 Hunting Down the Machine: Trajectories 
  of Microcomputer Domestication 35 
  A Machine That Obeys 39 
  Wandering Programmers 42 
  Spectacle from the West 45 
  Importing the Standard 47 
  The Shiny Side of Retail 50 A Room of Its Own 53 

3 Our Amateur Can Work Miracles: Infrastructures 
  of Hobby Computing 63 
  Cybernetics for Youth 66 
  Repurposing the Paramilitary 71 
  Activist Meshworks 74 
  Tolerating the Man's World 77 
  Build Your Own Peripherals 81 
  Amateur Entrepreneurs 85 
  Starting a Computer Fanzine 87 
  Samizdat Research Institute 90 

4 Who's Afraid of Gameplay? Czechoslovak Discourses 
  on Computer Games 99 
  Playing with Computers 102 
  Forbidden Pleasures 104 
  Bringing Games under Control 109 
  Computer Game Advocates 112 
  The Appreciation of Tomahawk 116 

5 Lighting Up the Shadows: Informal Distribution 
  of Game Software 123 
  From Yugoslavia with Cracks 126 
  The Unregulated (Non)medium 133 
  Lightning-Fast Sneakernet 135 
  Homemade Tape Culture 139 
  (Mis)understanding Games 143 
  A Cottage Arcade Industry 147 

6 Bastard Children of the West: Establishing a Domestic 
  Coding Culture 153 
  Czechoslovak Homebrew Scene 157 
  Ports and Conversions 164 
  What Became of Flappy 167 
  Forging the Shooter 171 
  Second Lives of Indiana Jones 174 
  Hacking Games 178 

7 Empowered by Games: Games as a Means of Self•Expression 
  and Activism 185 
  Hello World! 190 
  Adventure in Your Home 192 
  Spreading Unofficial Culture 196 


  Small Subversions 199 
  A Protest of Sorts 204 
  Taking to the Streets 206 

Conclusion 215 

  Bricoleurs and Tacticians 218 
  We Have Always Been lndie 219 
  Toward Comparative Histories 221 
  Preserving the Peripheral 223 

Epilogue: After the Curtain Fell 227 
  Computers and Games in transition 229 
  A Belated Cottage Industry 232 
  Homebrew Lives On 234 
  The Game Industry Today: Adventures, Army, and Automation 235 
  Where Are They Now? 238 

Important Dates 241 
Glossary 243 
Notes 247 
Bibliography 315 
Index 345