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Welcome to the Cyberware District!

This is a shrine to one of my main interests: digital technology. This includes old and obscure software and hardware, skeuomorphism, unique and innovative long-forgotten programs, free software, 90s/2000s UI design, and everything related.

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On here, I will review and showcase individual pieces of software that I personally dug out from who-knows-where. Those programs might be old, obscure, or perhaps just so unique or innovative at what they do that I want to take time showcasing them.

I also want to use this as a place to gush about what I like about chunky, skeuomorphic hefty design, the 1990s hacker aesthetic, free software and why computers should be playful again; this site also contains the Cyber Revivalist's Manifesto.

1. My Hardware Projects

Fujitsu Lifebook E6550

Vintage laptop running an old Gnome version on Red Hat Linux.I bought this used laptop online some years ago, starting off my collection of truly vintage hardware. Originally, I planned to use it to experiment with a real, bare-metal installation of an operating system of the same time, since installing those on modern hardware is to me at least almost impossible. Technology built into modern devices obviously did not exist at the time old operating systems released, which means that most modern hardware is not supported by old operating systems at all, usually without a way to patch it in afterward.

So, the first thing I put on this was Red Hat Linux 7.1: a process that was surprisingly easy and not at all what I expected. In some ways, I even consider it superior to many distributions we have today. Especially surprising to me was the beautiful and useful software selection process during installation; something that in my experience almost does not exist anymore probably due to the abundance of internet capacity. This was a fun experience, especially because I had never used the old Gnome version before that came with it: the only old desktop environment I had ever worked with was KDE.

Close-up screenshot of the same desktop.On the Red Hat Linux 7.1 installation, I discovered a plethora of interesting software, most of which does not exist anymore today in any capacity. The sheer amount of customization options and quality of life features astounded me especially compared to today's desktop environments. I ended up installing a native GNU/Linux version of Sim City, which ran surprisingly alright.

SimCity on the laptop.Later, I found myself wanting for another challenge; so I decided to wipe the Red Hat installation and instead try my hand at installing a modern operating system on this old hardware. Since the Linux kernel is pretty lenient with keeping drivers for old and obsolete devices, I did not expect or encounter any issues with hardware support, fortunately; much more troubling however were the low hardware specifications: only 385 megabytes of RAM, which was already upgraded from the factory-issue 256 megabytes, was the main issue, along with the inbuilt Pentium III processor. I was determined to put a graphical system on it, since a text-only terminal would not be particularly impressive; but in a world of widespread memory standards far surprassing even 8 gigabytes, most modern desktop environments have system requirements landscapes beyond 385 megabytes.

The most popular "minimal requirements" GNU distributions that you see recommended everywhere for such projects are Puppy Linux and TinyCoreLinux. However, Puppy Linux is not a single distribution but rather a collection of tons of little specialized sub-distributions, which was a tad too fragmented for me; besides, a distribution specifically made for minimal requirement computers was not particularly exciting. TinyCoreLinux, in addition to also being an obvious choice, also had the issue that it's designed around a memory-only operation, meaning it is only installed to an external storage boot device such as a USB stick or a DVD, and loaded into RAM every time you use it. It has a really interesting way of supporting permanent data storage and even a bare-metal installation, but I felt like they were an afterthought, or clearly not what it was designed to do.

So, I bit the bullet and just went with a minimal installation: over time, I had installed several big-name generic distributions on the machine in minimal configuration, and added all packages I needed manually. I tried out Arch Linux first, and later moved to Devuan (Debian without the controversial systemd software); both times without any issues. On my Devuan installation, which is the current one, I decided on Window Maker as a window manager (not because it couldn't handle anything else, but because I love Window Maker), and installed some non-mainstream software for most use cases.

Autumn-themed Window Maker installation. Screenshot.Some fun issues I ran into were for example that while the laptop did come with a single USB port at the back, it was a very early version of USB that either due to hardware or BIOS, did not support booting from. That is why all of the installation media I used ended up being DVD-Rs; because, surprise, DVD-RW was not supported either! Other than that, I also had to use a physical ethernet cable because the laptop did not have any inbuilt WiFi capabiltiies, something that somewhat defies the purpose of a portable device. I eventually solved that in late 2023 by purchasing a WiFi PCMCIA card that I specifically chose because it had a chip whose drivers are still part of the mainline Linux kernel, and I was delighted to see it blinking away, working as intended out of the box.

When I use the Lifebook nowadays, I usually use it for chatting on IRC (Libera Chat) or writing in a distraction-free environment using XEdit. Browsing the web is also possible using Dillo or text-based browsers, which is also a great way to test how your website stands up to such software setup challenges.

If the little preview images are too small, feel free to click them to open them in full size.

2. Software Showcases

WIP as of November 2023

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3. The Cyber Revivalist's Manifesto

As I previously detailed in my blog post about the Web Revival, I additionally coined the term "cyber revival" as a name for an expansion of that subculture, one that not only focuses on the World Wide Web, but technology as a whole.

Throughout the past few years, I have, as is abundantly clear through this shrine, made it one of my hobbies to not only collect and discover old hardware and software, but also to use it as much as possible in my daily life. Although a certain degree of hipster mentality is indubitably part of the reason why, I feel like it is something "more"; something that, just like plenty o' other people in the Web Revival, I would like to put in the shape of an informal, personal 'manifesto'.


Software and hardware exists in a constant state of flux: any technology does. New design paradigms and technical possibilities are introduced, old ones fade out of relevancy, and entirely new concepts enter the stage as productive forces in the tech industry grow and grow.

It is without a doubt that progress in the digital world has been an overall force for good: increased processing power, visual and audio quality, better accessibility and ease of entry, alongside a decrease in loading times and uncomfortable usage paradigms are all areas that have seen massive improvement. And yet, some cannot help but consider certain developments a regression. For example, an increasing amount of software packages are monetized with an exploitative subscription model, and a drive for maximum profit impacts both product design, product marketing and product conceptualization. Where once, free and open source software was at the forefront of all computer development for a time, nowadays only a few major projects can truly be called libre software amid a sea of proprietary programs. The World Wide Web fosters a culture of misinformation, toxicity, negative mental health impacts and cruel bullying at a neverbeforeseen level out of the desire to maximize website engagement at the cost of ethics.

Design choices are often no longer made by an individual creative with a vision, but overseen and steered by a board of profit-oriented marketing specialists. This led to an overwhelming prevalence of minimalist, generic styles that are engineered to appeal to the lowest common denominator, but lack the creative expression and risky artistic daring that many older user interfaces used to have. With the unending growth of an industry, its individual engineers and creatives end up having less and less of an influence on the big picture of a whole project: a process called alienation of the worker from their own labor. This is also the reason why mass-produced furniture will not be particularly unique or reflective of its producers' personalities, and an individual worker at a furniture factory does not have an inch of influence on the design of the finished product. Hand-made furniture at the same time reflects its creator(s) in every fibre and every curve.

In an emergent, young market such as software or hardware as it was before the turn of the millennium, such experimentation and radical change was more prevalent, because nothing had been set in stone yet. This led to plenty of oddities, curiosities and unique approaches within the market, many of which rightfully failed and entered obscurity, and some of which prevailed. In an already established, well-researched market like the technology industry today, only a few leading paradigms keep being iterated upon with barely any room to diverge - partly due to risk aversity and sticking to what worked, and partly due to technological debt. This leads to the tendency of older software offering a lot more diversity: for example, desktop environments in 2023 either tend to emulate either the Windows dogma (task bar at the bottom, start button to the left, stacking windows with minimize-maximize-close control button layouts, desktop icons and so on), or the macOS dogma (floating dock, big icons, bright and colorful design language, a global menu bar, ...). In the past, experimentation led to a great diversity in UI concepts: such as Window Maker's dockapps, Compiz' fancy 3D effects, kiosk-style fullscreen-only desktops, completely keyboard-driven, Emacs-adjusted window managers such as Ratpoison, or iconification and pagers instead of minimization and a task bar.

These are just some of the reasons why the Cyber Revivalist occasionally considers old software to be superior in some ways to modern equivalents: they tended to be more creative and full of experimental risk that paid off in personality and unique style.

Not just a call from the past

But: for the Cyber Revivalist, old technology cannot be viewed without the context of the time they use it in, a context in which the technology in question is already obsolete.

Used at the time it had been first released, much of the hardware and software we now appreciate as 'vintage' could actually be considered frustrating partial steps backwards. From the relatively free and open academic nature of the early internet grew corporate dominance: from the free IRC protocol came ICQ and MSN, after GNU as the de-facto standard for computer nerds emerged the same old Windows that is now hailed as the "good times of vintage computing" as a despicable monopoly. And when people these days praise Netscape Navigator as a pinnacle of "the times computers were still good" without acknowledging the accompanying browser wars that destroyed any semblance of logical HTML standards and accessibility, the subculture's mantras might ring a bit hollow, or naive, even.

The Cyber Revivalist usage of vintage hardware and old software must therefore be inseperable from the contrast it provides to the rest of today's computing world. Its character is now that of counterculture, while originally it was simply everyone's newly coveted thing, and as far from counterculture as you could get. This context gives it a new quality. While vinyl records' fragility and easily triggered dust-related distortions were annoyances that led to digital music being the revelation that it was, they are now a nostalgic part of the appeal of listening to real vinyl records. Using vintage software and browsing a vintage-inspired web is not the same experience as it used to be, with loading times minimized and data caps not being a thing in most parts of the world. Pieces of interactive vintage technology such as revived social media systems tend to have a considerably different user base than they had during their original lifetime: their users are more likely to share interests related to (old) technology, tend to be more diverse due to the nature of the Cyber Revival's largely queer and neurodivergent demographics, and use the technology in a different way since its role as a novelty feature rather than a tool of necessity inspires different usage patterns.

If the original old software was a thesis, the modern software world with all of its differences is its negation, the antithesis. But if we take the thesis and fuse it with the antithesis' cultural and technological contexts, something new emerges: the synthesis, the Cyber Revival. If I use Red Hat Linux 7.1 today, 20 years after its inception, it is not the same experience as it was those decades ago. It is now inextricably fused with my 2023 life, with the experiences I made, my technical knowledge, the advances in surrounding technology and cultural differences that have been achieved in the meantime.

The Cyber Revivalist is a rebel against today's computing paradigms. They consciously integrate technology into their day-to-day life that by all means has no major technical advantages over contemporary alternatives, or might even have objectively less features, simply because they enjoy its (for today's time) unconventional design and the aesthetic of its use. They reject the idea that advanced technological prowess automatically is more desirable, and embraces the usage of technology that is simpler, smaller, more open, more personal.

Why even use old software and hardware?

But what is so fascinating and endearing about old software and hardware? The answer may vary considerably from person to person. Personally, I feel like the involvement of individually influencial designers led to more playful, happy, lifelike design; like the old story of Pokémon, where the (adult) developer was inspired by his (admittedly fucked up) hobby of catching bugs and letting them fight each other; and wanted to bring that cherished experience of his to children all over the world. The Wii had a pinboard that kids could use to communicate with each other, share screenshots and write each others letters on; borne out of the desire to provide to children great memories for their childhoods that the designers wish they would have had during theirs. Those decisions would be made by committee today, and since no meeting room is full of homogenous individuals, only generica and lowest-common-denominator economic decisions can be made there, a muddled mixture of personal experiences that represent everyone and noone.

Consider skeuomorphism, a design practice that integrates real world objects into digital design, such as software buttons that look like real 3D analog switches and make a clicking sound when you trigger them, was an influential movement during the mid-2000s, making software feel cozy and relatable. Old software and the culture around it caused many themes and icon packs for desktops to imitate popular shows, games, realistic materials, nature or art styles; not to mention gratuituous animations, sound and visual effects. In the same space, you now find almost only minimalist dark themes that try and one up each other in boring sleekness, as if to voluntarily emulate corporate design.

Or the sobering experience of refusing to use a smartphone that can do anything, one which would be hijacking your attention at almost all points, and sidetracking you whenever you actually sought to do something different. Carrying a walkman when going out listening to music that you consciously bought yourself, or having a physical notebook for jotting down something insignificant, or an e-book-reader to read at the beach, or a watch to tell the time, and a PDA/Pager to receive short messages... those separate different parts of your life from each other, allowing you to turn off the internet and appreciate the simplicity of having one tool that does one job well. Or not carrying portable devices at all, refusing to be available to everyone at any time. Making web browsing a conscious activity not unlike a hobby, sitting down in front of a slow computer, and savoring every minute consciously, instead of "doomscrolling" endlessly through Twitter or TikTok. Using less convenient technology can lead to a more deliberate, focused, fulfilled life.

There are more boons to the Cyber Revivalist; the solemn experience of discovering a piece of software by a singular developer who has not touched it in decades, and reaching out to them to thank them for their work. The feeling of using something that probably no person has touched in at least ten years, and making a point to keep it alive. The happy relief when getting to compile a program whose 1998 source code you found on some obscure forgotten FTP server, and exploring what it is capable of. Listening to the whirring of old fans and the nostalgic, high-pitched buzz of a CRT. The cozy feeling of finally being at home when turning on a beautifully beige computer with a wood grain siding and booting into a digital playground full of your favorite programs, with all the swooping animations and beeps and boops, bouncing desktop widgets, a little animated mouse cursor pet and a bright pink theme to top it off.

And last but not least, using technology that was made before the ubiquity of spyware, subscription services and extortion of every penny from the consumer; using an off-line DRM-free audio player that can simply organize your entire music library in custom playlists, without any ads, paid features, recurring costs or the fear of being removed whenever the licensing runs out. Truly feeling like you own your own software, being able to look at its code and tweak it if you find any issues; and sharing that modified version with others to make them a little bit happier. The feeling of community, the feeling of social solace; and the feeling of being part of something bigger, a lost cause perhaps. Using software from a time where the best developers were in the public and educational sector, hacking away for a cause at a university, for a better world full of software freedom and the right to repair, and the naive optimism about what technology can bring the world, or whether technological advancement can solve all of our problems eventually.

But, they say, is old technology not insecure to use, especially when connected to the internet? Is not a HTTPS-less internet a scourge on the web? Perhaps - but who seriously still deploys and hosts exploits for decades old operating systems in a way easily tripped over during casual web browsing and the usage of offline programs such as text editors? And even if that is a realistic danger (it might be), where is the risk in being exploited in the first place, if no personal data is hosted on the system in question, no important accounts logged in that could be stolen, and the entire operating system may be set up anew at any point if it is infected? You may ask yourself - why be afraid of malware if you do not do your banking using a computer, or save your entire private life "in the cloud"? How have we gotten to this point in the first place?


Old technology was arguably more playful and fun, which is now often considered tacky and ugly. Sound effects in your OS, translucent colorful plastic electronics, "realistic" visual themes, spinning text and crazy fonts on websites. But is that perception not a product of a society that is too afraid of individual expression and whimsy? Is not the reason why adults do not go on slides anymore, or choose usernames like "xX_d4rk4NGEL_2X", or use colorful feature phones, is the reason not the fear of being labelled "cringe" and being laughed at? Is not one of the only reasons why we consider incredibly boring, blurry, minimalist design "sleek" and "stylish", is the reason not that that kind of design language robs us of all individuality that might be misconstrued as weakness or vulnerability, in a way toxic masculinity tells us to suppress all of our emotions or be inferior?

The Cyber Revivalist resists this social trend, one inextricably linked with the fascist concept of an in-group and out-group, and the suppression of individual expression. We embrace technology made before ubiquitous spying, toxic social media, DRM and uncountable streaming services, before the Web was a necessary annoyance instead of a fascinating cyber world of wonder.

We allow ourselves to be free of what corporations expect from us, we reuse and recycle, and we take back at least a little piece of our personal expression, of our digital rights, and of our computing freedom. And we have fun doing it.