Charter for the alt.amateur-comp Newsgroup

Alt.amateur-comp is a conference where readers and writers can discuss the articles and subjects that appear in the electronic and printed newsletter "The Amateur Computerist". The Amateur Computerist was born out of the battle to continue computer programming classes for workers at the Ford Rouge Factory in Dearborn, MI after Ford and UAW officials ended the classes in February 1987. In our first issue we wrote: "There was an effort by administrators of the UAW-Ford program at the Dearborn Engine Plant to kill interest in computers and computer programming. We want to keep interest alive because computers are the future." ("Introduction", vol I, no. 1)

The first issue of the newsletter was published February 11, 1988 and dedicated to the Flint sitdown pioneers who began the UAW. Articles have appeared in the newsletter from some of those pioneers who welcomed the newsletter and the computer, saying, "From the Great Wall to the Great Pyramid, from the hieroglypics to the screen of the computer, mankind is still progressing." ("Dawn of a New Era", vol I, no. 1) The sitdowner 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. Hard efforts 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 in the 1970's. This history has been serialized in several issues of the newsletter.

Most recently the newsletter has begun an online edition that is available free. We are beginning to document the progressive impact of democratic developments like usenet news and the internet and we plan to have a supplement dedicated to these developments.

The Amateur Computerist was described by Andrew Ross and Constance Pawley in their recent 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."
The newsgroup will also make available the electronic version of the Amateur Computerist when a new issue is published.
One of the reasons for proposing this group is that there is currently no place on usenet that we know of where issues involving computers and workers are dealt with.

If you wish to directly contact the editors, write to either

Ronda Hauben at

Jay Hauben at Take me back to view the Amateur Computerist Corner
Michael Hauben / hauben@columbia.edu