1984년 미국 이민간 친구의 편지 | A letter in 1984 from a friend moving to the USA

이 편지는 중 3때 미국으로 이민간 친구가 내게 미국의 마이컴 소식을 보내준 것이다.

Below is a letter from my friend, who emigrated to America when third grade in middle school, writing about microcomputer-related news there.


English translation follows below. (영어 번역본은 아래에 이어집니다.)

A friend\'s letter from the USA, 1984.01.13. p.1.

A friend\'s letter from the USA, 1984.01.13. p.2.

이 친구와 나는 중학교 내내 세운상가를 들락거렸다. 세운상가에는 신기한 게 많았다. 전자회로, 무선조정 자동차/비행기, 오디오와 앰프, 알 수 없지만 매력적인 품세를 갖는 기계들, 거기에 야릇한 것을 권하는 아저씨들. 서울에서 중학교를 다닌 내 주변에는 대략 세 그룹의 세운상가 키즈가 있었고 쉬는 시간마다 서로의 ‘작품(?)’을 자랑하곤 했다.
편지에서 볼 수 있듯이, 1984년 미국의 중학생들은 애플IIe, 코모도르, 그리고 아타리를 사서 모뎀 연결을 막 시작하던 때이다. 편지를 보면 미국 학생의 컴퓨팅은 라디오쉑을 기반으로 한 생활 컴퓨팅과 취미 컴퓨팅이다. 반면 한국의 84년은 애플IIC 복제품이 세운상가를 중심으로 퍼져나갈 때였다. 프로그래밍이 ‘놀이’로 소개되던 시점이었다. 돌이켜 보면 82년과 83년에 보급된 z80 등의 IC 칩은 회로제작의 패러다임을 바꿨다. 더 이상 트랜지스터를 조합하기 보다 칩 내부를 이해하고 활용하는게 해킹이 되었다. 영어가 한계였고 자료가 걸림돌이었다. 그리고 84년을 전후로 한 마이컴의 보급은 회로제작을 완전히 가상화하였다.
당시 세운상가 키즈에게는 세 개의 정보소스가 있었다. 1. 국내잡지: ‘라디오와 모형’, 그리고 얼마 있다 출간된 ‘마이크로소프트’ 등의 국내 잡지, 2. 일본잡지: 일본 내수용 컴퓨터를 기반으로 한 ASCII와 같은 잡지 등. 3. 미국 잡지: 실리콘밸리의 따끈따끈한 소식이 담겨 있는 BYTE 같은 잡지들이 그것이다. 시작은 국내잡지였지만, 부족함은 해외잡지로 채워졌다. 하지만 해외잡지에 나온 설레이는 프로젝트를 구현하기엔 어려움이 많았다. 국내에서 구할 수 없는 부품들, 회로를 설명해줄 전문가들이 주변에 없었다. 그래서인지 어느 싯점에선가 세운상가 키즈들은 하드웨어를 포기하고 프로그래밍으로 전환한다. 이 세대들이 다음커뮤니케이션, 한글과컴퓨터를 만든 주인공들이다.
오랜만에 편지를 다시 읽어보니, 이때가 세운상가의 ‘부품시대’가 끝나고 ‘소프트웨어 시대’가 시작되는 시점이었던 것 같다.


[Exerpt of the letter]

Dear Lee Jung-sik

how are you today? I’m doing fine. How about your family… I additionally wrote a letter. Here, there is a sort of supermarket, which looks superior to Sewoon Sangga [electronics market in the neighborhood of Cheonggyecheon] in Seoul, where they sell electronic parts. They have parts we couldn’t even procure at Sewoon Sangga. (for example, solar cell and IC starting with LCA something.) There are poly-containers (for making only) we were always lack of, a range of gear box (for robot arm etc.), wireless devices, TV kits, VTR kits and so on. I think of restarting at here, but don’t have books at hand. I’d like to ask you a favor. It doesn’t matter whether “Radio and Model” you enjoyed reading or 007 some things I gave you. I can send something missing in Seoul. What’s your answer? Parcel will be good…

Nowadays there is a boom of subscribing to computer modem friend among us. We can copy each other’s homework through it. The connection between Comodore and Texas is possible, though they are different machine. Actually there’s no problem when just copying text between different ones. I am supposed to purchase APPLE ‖e as September 1984 is approaching. My father suggested me to buy ATARI (900$ including body + MONITER + disk drive). But, isn’t the APPLE best? Wish you will buy . (for the international modem.) 10 out of my friends have bought computers. 1 did comodore, 1 atari, 1 apple ‖, 1 Texas, 1 ADAM, 1 EPSON, 1 RadioShack, 1 APPLE ‖e and 1 NEC. Only 5 have modem. So! it’s yet hard. Some of them use it not only for homework, but for collaboratively coding game. Some days later we will have modem in School, then we can use school com. What I mean is, in our com class, teacher sometimes (well, often) goes somewhere, then we call to the home for the game program … (hr hr hr)

… … …

13 January 1984. America


With him, I very often came in and out of Sewoon Sangga [electronics market] when we were in middle school. There a number of marvelous things interested us: electronic circuits, wireless control automobile/airplane, audio and amp, unknown but curious machines, or even touts crowding around us and offering erotic stuffs. Among middle school students in Seoul were Sewoon Sagga kids, who showed off their “works of art” every break in the classroom.
As in the letter, in 1984, American middle school students were about to connect modem to their Apple‖e, Commodore or Atari. Their uses were either Radio Shack-based daily computing or hobby. Contrarily, 1984 in Korea was the time when Apple‖C clones went diffused out of Sewoon Sangga. And programming was introduced as a kind of ‘play’. Retrospectively, IC chips like z80 diffused in 1982 and 1983 changed the paradigm of circuit-making. Not tinkering with the transistors any more, people rather began to look and hack into the inside the chip. To us, English was an obstacle and references were lacking. Before and after 1984, the microcomputer distribution made the circuit-making a virtualized process.
For Sewoon Sangga kids, there were three references. 1. domestic magazines: ‘Radio and Model’ and computer magazines like ‘Microsoftware’; 2. Japanese magazines: computer-related ones like ASCII; and 3. American magazines: those like BYTE covering the hot issues from Silicon Valley. Most started with domestic magazines, but overseas ones made up for the unsatisfaction. But we had a difficulty in conducting many fascinating projects introduced in overseas magazines, since there were a lot of parts we couldn’t domestically procure, and no experts near us who could explain what those new circuits were. Around that time, kids began to give up hardware and move to the world of programming, some of whom played significant roles in creating Daum Communication, Hangul & Computer Co. and so on.
While I read the letter again after a long time, I think this period was the ending of ‘parts era’ in Sewoon Sangga and beginning of ‘software era’.
translated by DongwonJ.

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