“Can Our Kids Hack It With Computers?”: Constructing Youth Hackers in Family Computing Magazines (1983–1987)

Meryl Alper


Building upon existing scholarship on media representation of hackers and the social history of personal computing, this essay positions U.S. families making sense of microcomputers in the mid-1980s as central to the history of hacking. Archival material for this project consists of 74 issues of youth- and family-focused computing magazines of this era, within which discussions of hacking were frequent. This essay maps an array of discourses about young hackers constructed in relation to hopes and anxieties about networked technologies. Besides connecting microcomputers to particular family ideals, these magazines also put forth a family-friendly notion of youth hackers. While microcomputers entered the home with notions of hacking attached, I argue that family computing in turn shaped contemporary conceptions of hacking.


children; computing; families; hacker; magazines

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