Cybertek: The Cyberpunk Technical Journal (now Cyber-Tek Zine) had its first issue released in March of 1990. It started as a “technological survival” zine, covering both high-tech subjects such as hacking, phreaking, radio and electronics, along with low-tech articles on survivalism, self-reliance, and preparedness. The premise of the whole thing was that the world was heading towards a dystopian decline accompanied by various natural and man-made disasters. Sad to say that we were right about that. Cybertek was not a hacking zine, although we did talk about hacking. Cybertek was not a survivalist zine, but we did talk about survivalism. Cyberpunk was its own thing, high-tech low-life, and I think we were were considered, by both Wired and Factsheet Five, the Technical Journal of the Cyberpunk movement, as so much as there could be a movement from a literary genre. Yet, the street finds its own use for things, and 31 years ago we did. So what is Cyber-Tek now? It’s still its own thing, but it can be best described by some of the people who have ridden along with us over the years because their stories are what best describe what we attempted over the years, and will continue to try in the future. To respect people’s privacy, we’ll only mention two fellow travelers who are no longer with us.
We’ll start with Benny Gillette. He suffered from Narcolepsy back before there were effective treatments for it. He researched alternative treatments, took frequent trips down to Mexico for pharmaceuticals that were legal down there yet unavailable in the US, and homebrewed his own gamma hydroxybutyrate back when the FDA was just beginning to research it as a treatment. He concentrated on small systems he would encounter during his day job, such as microcontrollers or office business systems, or cheap mail-order surplus. During his trips down to Mexico, he would visit the electronics manufacturing plants in Matamoras and social engineer chip samples. I know he was successful at least once. He wrote about his Mexico experiences in his Issue #6 article, Nosotros Somos Hermanos.
Dave Wildflower was an electrician in the Air Force. After his ETS, he went to work in his family’s marina where he was responsible for keeping the place’s infrastructure working (a difficult job in a saltwater environment). He was the quintessential junk hacker who scrounged most of his stuff from curbside, Goodwill, and odd-lot stores. He also collected old tech books, and was responsible for the Doomsday Disks. Until just before his passing he was a frequent contributor to the zine. He literally used to build stuff from junk and spare parts. He last experimentation was with home-built crystal radio sets.
Self-Reliance, preparedness, alternative medicine, collecting old tech books, and junk hacking are just a few of the common hobbies among the zine’s fellow travelers over the years. Electronics and computers always figured heavily into things, as they are powerful and easy to get into. The Arduino and Raspberry Pi make it even easier than it was back in the day.
To what end all this? As we learned over the years, technological survival isn’t so much as dealing with some TEOTWAWKI-type disaster as it is with learning, enjoying oneself, living free, and being ready for the minor and no-so minor mundane disasters which occur frequently enough that one wants to prepare for them.