The Amateur Computerist is a newsletter covering computers, the internet, netizens and the world they are imbedded in.
The Amateur Computerist grew out of a battle against the cancellation in 1986 of computer programming classes for hourly workers at the Ford Motor Company Rouge Factory near Detroit Michigan USA. The newsletter originally dealt with computer issues and labor issues. By 2018 there were 62 issues scanning more than 30 years covering computer and internet history, the development of netizens and netizenship and examples of netizen journalism reporting on events of international importance.
The founding meetings of the Amateur Computerist in 1987, Ronda Hauben, Norman O. Thompson, William Rohler, Michael Hauben, and Steve Alexander discussed what to name the new newsletter. "Beginning Computerist" was suggested. Michael argued that the newsletter would be for all lovers of computing not just beginners. Since an amateur does something for the love of it not for financial gain, his suggestion of Amateur Computerist was adopted.
The first issue of the newsletter was published February 11, 1988. It was dedicated to the Flint sit-down pioneers. Their 44-day strike (Dec 30, 1936 to Feb 11, 1937) gave impetus to the development of the UAW. Articles appeared in the newsletter from one of those pioneers who welcomed the newsletter and the computer, saying, "From the Great Wall to the Great Pyramid, from the hieroglyphics to the screen of the computer, mankind is still progressing." ("Dawn of a New Era", Vol 1, No. 1) The sit-downer pioneers who built the UAW believed that the problems of automation had still to be solved by the upcoming generation.
The newsletter is dedicated to support for grassroots efforts and movements like the "computers for the people movement" that gave birth to the personal computer in the 1970's and 1980's. Work of many people over hundreds of years led to the production of a working computer in the 1940's and then a personal computer that people could afford beginning in the 1970's. This history was serialized in several issues of the newsletter.
The Amateur Computerist was described by Andrew Ross and Constance Pawley in their book "Technoculture" (Univ of Minnesota Press, 1991, p. 125) as follows:
"When worker education classes in computer programming were discontinued by management at the Ford Rouge Plant in Dearborn, Michigan, United Auto Workers members began to publish a newsletter called the 'Amateur Computerist' to fill the gap. Among the columnists and correspondents in the magazine have been veterans of the Flint sit-down strikes who see a clear historical continuity between the problem of labor organization in the thirties and the problem of automation and deskilling today. Workers' computer literacy is seen as essential not only to the demystification of the computer and the reskilling of workers, but also to labor's capacity to intervene in decisions about new technologies that might result in shorter hours and thus in `work efficiency' rather than worker efficiency."In 1993 Henry Hardy wrote: "Interestingly, it seems that most of the material treating the Net from the historical perspective has come from those on the Net itself. Much interesting material has been generated on Usenet and BITNET .. In addition, there are an increasing number of electronic journals which have made important contributions, such as the Amateur Computerist, the Electronic Journal of Virtual Culture and Computer Underground Digest." History of the Net
Articles in the Amateur Computerist chronicled the development and spread of computers and then the Internet. The history of UNIX, the ARPANET, TCP/IP and the role of JCR Licklider were highlighted. The work of Michael Hauben often appeared in the newsletter.
Since its beginning, William Rohler, Norman O. Thompson and Ronda Hauben have been its founding and sustaining editors. Michael Hauben was also a founding editor and gave the newsletter its name. He made substantial contributions during its first 13 years. Jay Hauben joined the editorial team in the 90s.