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Terrible Nerd (e-Book)

Posted: October 8th, 2016, 9:11 pm
by scotland
Terrible Nerd by Kevin Savetz

Published: November 2012
E-book price: $3
Physical price: $15

Thumbs up on Terrible Nerd.

I had not known who Kevin Savetz was before reading this. Among other things, he was the AOL Answer Man in the 1990s, but more to this community's interest, he is the driving force behind Classic Computer Magazine Archive and all the classic computer books at While not the largest digital archive of old computer magazines, his philosophy was to secure all the rights before posting. As a young nerd, I devoured magazines like Compute!'s Gazette, so its a delight to have a digital archive of them (as I have no physical copies of that magazine anymore). Back then, the 8 bit computers were for hobbyists, and it was about so much more than the games.

The book is auto-biographical. The first half or so of the book covers his journey through gaming consoles and computers, like many of us. His first console was the Channel F, and then he was an Intellivision kid. Later he fell in love with Atari computers, and that helped form friendships with other Atari computer kids. I do recall a gentle tribalism - I was a Commodore guy, but I had friends on other computers, and we were often at their houses (although we always thought ours were better, we were still all computer nerds together. There just weren't enough of us to really get that fanboyish about).

Like probably all of us, he got involved in hobbies new and old. In the 1980s, who would have thought film photography would soon be a dying art? He talks about how digital is so much better in so many ways, but there was some element in craftsmanship in developing film, and even a social aspect to it, that is lost. Just because many of us - then or now - like modern things, the old things also have charms. Not everything new is better in every way.

Where his experiences start to get less nostalgic are where they get more personal. His adventures on bulletin boards and then his technical writing and his AOL days. This is where I had to make a decision as the book shifts from enjoying someone engaging in a common experience, or if I wanted to continue to read an autobiography. However, he wrote engagingly enough and seldom belabored any particular time or event, that I did keep reading. Glad I did because I appreciated learning how the digital archives of magazines and books came to be. He also discusses how The Computer Magazine Archive at came to be, although with a different philosophy of not securing rights ahead of time. That archive, by Jason Scott, is far more comprehensive.

Terrible Nerd is an easy and fun read. If you grew up with the 8 bit computers or Bulletin Boards, it might tickle some enjoyable strings. Its also nice to learn about a person who is keeping the history of our hobby safe. I count homebrewers in that group too, making new games for old systems instead of new systems, and our very own Dave the Critic too - for making new reviews of these old games. Plus all of us people playing and discussing the old games, even debating how bad E.T. was all these decades later - all helping to keep our hobby healthy.

Re: Terrible Nerd (e-Book)

Posted: October 26th, 2016, 6:16 pm
by Retro STrife
I second this recommendation. I read this book a few years back and really enjoyed it.

The author's experiences, such as using Atari computers in the '80s, was before my time. But for me, those experiences in the book were the highlight for me, because they were something I hadn't experienced. I grew up on NES and SNES and PS1. If this was a book about someone reminiscing on those systems, I think I would have enjoyed it less. See, I had those experiences myself, so I have little interest in reading 200 pages of someone else's time playing NES. I'll use a video game reference-type book if I want to reminisce on NES games, because then I look at the pictures and conjure my own memories. But Atari computers... that's something I never experience, I didn't live during that time... so it was cool for me to get a first-hand sense of what that was like. For that, I'm more than happy to get into the author's shoes and have that experience. Maybe that's weird, because I think most retro gamers prefer the "reminiscing" over the "learning something new", but that was my personal highlight. Like you, I stuck with the book even in the later chapters (beyond the gaming stuff), and still found it interesting.

Re: Terrible Nerd (e-Book)

Posted: October 26th, 2016, 8:41 pm
by scotland
I get where you are coming from. I remember reading "Hackers" back in the mid 1980s about the folks making Space War at MIT in the 1960s and more. I have enjoyed reading about 'phone freaking' too, which is also way before my time. Its a good point about learning as opposed to nostalgia. I have Hackers on a 'should I buy a new copy' list, but I have a book backlog just like a video game backlog. Silly hobbies, they get in the way of each other.

Thanks for the reply too. I had a post at another site that got trounced, so getting a nice reply here was very timely. This really is a pretty nice group of gamers. Glad Dave has managed to keep it going for so long.