(2018-04-19) The Untold Story Of Jaime Levy Punkrock Cyberpublishing Pioneer

The Untold Story of Jaime Levy, Punk-Rock Cyber-Publishing Pioneer. In the early ’90s, Jaime Levy, a punk-rock hacker chick from Los Angeles, marched into the Tisch Building at NYU without an appointment. The move was part bombast, part desperation: She wanted to join the university’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP).

Jaime spent her years at NYU experimenting with interactive media. For her master’s thesis, she combined the do-it-yourself ethos of punk with the emerging possibilities of desktop publishing, producing an electronic magazine, Cyber Rag, on floppy disk.

Cyber Rag was the first publication of its kind, built with Apple HyperCard and MacPaint

After grad school, Jaime moved back to Los Angeles and renamed her magazine Electronic Hollywood.

she distributed Electronic Hollywood to indie book and record stores, where they routinely sold out. The novelty got her national media attention, which she leveraged into mail-order sales. After her magazines were featured in an issue of Mondo 2000, the cyberculture’s magazine of record, she was flooded with orders and fan mail.

When Jaime finally moved back to New York, she became Silicon Alley’s first real celebrity, a poster girl for a new generation of 20- something media titans ready to reboot the world.

She got a straight job, commuting to White Plains to do “bonehead interface design” at IBM — in her baggy plaid shirts, she was often mistaken for a janitor. A co-worker at IBM showed her Mosaic, the first browser for navigating the World Wide Web. She experienced it as a conversion: Her electronic magazines were websites, before websites existed, with hypertext navigation and “pages” of sound, video, and text. “Once the browser came out, I was like, ‘I’m not making fixed-format anymore. I’m learning HTML and that was it.’” She quit her day job.

Around that time, Jaime started hosting parties in her Avenue A loft. She called them “CyberSlacker” parties, updating the Gen-X honorific for the wired generation. CyberSlacker was the first of the Silicon Alley parties.

Many people saw the web for the first time in Jaime’s loft, on a Mac II her hacker friend Phiber Optik set up with a 28.8K internet connection.

In 1995, a software company called Icon CMT tapped Jaime, then at the height of her fame, to be the creative director of a new online magazine called Word.

Jaime had the opportunity to set a standard for what publishing could do with this new medium. The last thing she wanted was for Word to feel trendy

At the tail end of 1996, Jaime Levy threw her last CyberSlacker party. In the escalating fever of the dot-com boom, it was hard for her to stay centered. She wandered away from Word after a year and a half to pursue freelance contracts on her own.

Jaime had assumed that when she left the magazine, she’d find another high-paying creative gig, but the landscape had changed. As she tried to scrap together freelance gigs, her annual salary plunged.


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