From a 1992 Boston Globe article on cyberpunk, a premonition that eventually cyberculture would disappear under the weight of its ubiquity:

It was nearly midnight deep inside Venus de Milo, a dark and sweaty Boston dance emporium. The Shamen, a British musical duo augmented by an assortment of digital gewgaws, was unleashing a storm of high-energy technopop that was cyberpunk through and through. "We can see tomorrow in each other's eyes," they sang at one point as the bouncing crowd raised its collective fist, presumably in the direction of cyberspace.

But what was most interesting about the 800 or so raving souls in attendance was that they didn't look like they'd stumbled in from the set of "Blade Runner." Instead, they were merely members of the Lansdowne Street night shift: postpunks, Eurokids, college students, young professionals, twentynothings, geeks, nerds, Rastas, slackers and even a few bodybuilders in tank tops who appeared to have taken a wrong turn coming off the Tobin Bridge. Considerably more beer was chugged than the high-nutrient "smart" drinks that are touted as the cyberpunk libation du jour.

So you are forgiven for wondering if cyberpunk is an authentic subculture or a media buzzword.

Actually, it's both.

Forget for a moment that it was born as a word to describe a dark, morbid, near-future science-fiction movement of the 1980's. "Cyberpunk" is now more commonly a handy term for combining the related cadres of techno- bohemians-primarily hackers, crackers and phreaks (see primer) – who populate the computer underground. But the word is also used to describe the trappings of this cantankerous, decentralized, and antiestablishment subset that have surfaced in popular culture. It is the hairy-eyed, obsessive wizards of today's computer netherworld who personify cyberpunk's foremost futuristic theme: the merging of man and machine.

For better or worse, the popularization of cyberpunk has made it analogous to surfing. A handful of computer jockeys have spawned a style and an attitude. It's no coincidence that Mondo 2000, a glossy quarterly magazine that trumpets the pop version of cyberpunk, likes to talk about "surfin' the new edge." Way cool.

And consider: Cyberpunk is only a corner of a much broader cyberculture- at-large, which includes an online worldwide population of middle-aged couch potatoes, wheezy academics, corporate pooh-bahs, govermnet drones, and on and one. "In the future it will be everywhere, but it won't be called cyberculture," says Stranger, a 17-year-old Miami high school senior who, like most hackers, prefers his computer handle to his real name. "It will just be called culture. A few years ago, people used to talk about 'the emerging TV cuture.' We no longer talk about a 'TV culture' today. It's a given. Somdeay soon, no one will talk about 'emerging cyberculture.' Because it will be a given, too."

Nathan Cobb, "Cyberpunk — Terminal Chic?," originally published in the Boston Globe (24 November 1992, pp. 29, 32), now reprinted online in various places.

(Hat tip to my former student Josh Buhs)

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