ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

YIPL and TAP —

Entry written on August 11th.

Like a healthy, extended walk in the woods, a browse through the TAP/YIPL archives is always good for the soul. I recommend a little jaunt through them about once a year. I shirk away from calling them “The Original Hacker Zine”, or “the beginning of it all”, because that isn’t the case, but in terms of bulletin board system culture, they were pretty influential, with transcriptions of articles from its run appearing on BBSes (often without citation).

If you’ve not encountered these issues before, then let me say by way of quick introduction that there was a New York City-based pamphlet for the Youth International Party (the Yippies), which became, over the course of time, a photocopied “zine” that blossomed into a sort of general hacking magazine, before ultimately going under and having its audience mostly replaced by 2600 magazine, which continues to this day. In all, roughly 93 issues of this magazine were created in the years 1971-1983.

There’s multiple ways to see them; probably the most convenient for the general populace is the PDF version, which compiles pretty much every known issue of YIPL and TAP and even a few flyers and related materials. My copy of this collection is located here (It is also 28 megabytes).

I started on coming up with alternate ways to browse the issues, including this still-in-progress sub-page, which is basically broken. Vertical sheets in a horizontal-screen world is still an annoying, clumsy process, for no good reason.

Variations exist; one of my heroes, Bioc Agent 003, presented this transcribed version of YIPL #1 for people to look at, including attempts at capturing the layout and flow of the original using ASCII.

But what makes this little endeavor so interesting, so worthwhile to click through again and again?

Mostly, it’s a combination of how-far-we’ve-come with a dash of the lost attitude and hubris.

A lot of the early issues are hand-written. Many after that are the product of typewriters. In most cases, you can see the result of hand-assembling/gluing in the strips of print into place. Circuit diagrams are sketched, headlines and reprints show tell-tale black lines of the cutouts. In a world where you can create a picture-perfect, beyond-the-capability-of-1980s-publishing-companies document, just realizing how much manual effort was required is worth the trip.

But more than that is the writing. These are angry screeds in some places, pissed off at the dominance of AT&T, the profiteering of war and the common man, and the repositioning of one’s self and technology when the world conspires to use you up. Within a short time, however, everything’s up for grabs; TAP presents ways to mess with most anything out there, and the latter-days artifice of textfile and zine, “for informational purposes only” starts to raise its head.

It wasn’t always for informational purposes, you see. It was originally to fight a power that looked to be crushing freedom and bilking citizens of their wealth and voice. We were, to some small amount, at war. That much is obvious in the initial issues of this zine.

Later, however, things are more clean-cut. The peace sign is given furtively in between “fitting in”. Better to smash the system from the inside, you figure. Pick up an OK paycheck but work peacefully. Cause a little trouble, but deal with the way things are, as best you can.

Obviously I’m reading a tad into the trends of the magazine, but that’s part of the gift of it; read it yourself and you’ll find your own interesting meanings and roots in it. After all, it’s free.

Speaking of which, this collection has been up for sale for years. Decades, really. There’s some punk who sells copies of it in the back of 2600. My friends and I used to call it the “2600 Index”, because you could figure out the trading value of hackerdom by how much was being charged for this collection. Currently the index seems to be at zero, with no copies being sold. Quick! Dump your shares!

Enjoy the walk through the woods. I highly recommend it.

Categorised as: Uncategorized

Comments are disabled on this post


  1. Although I’ve never seen the YIPL and TAP issues until just now, it is interesting to me how familiar they seem. Some of the articles I remember reading verbatim on BBSes — obviously typed in by hand and spread, uncredited, electronically. And the ones I haven’t read, I’ve read text files similar in spirit. It is obvious that YIPL and TAP obviously inspired a generation of like-minded textfile writers — some of them, like me, unknowingly.

    My favorite article so far (issue 9, maybe?) is the one that talks about the death of hacking — the gist being that while hacking is dying/dead, phreaking will live on forever (while basically the exact opposite happened). I’ll bet that if you looked hard enough you could find an article claiming the death of hacking or the hacking scene every year for the past 25 years.

  2. Jonno Downes says:

    I was inspired by your complaints about reading scans online, and also by the fact there were online indexes of Computist but no way to jump directly to a single page (so you couldn’t look up a single softkey or article without downloading a 20MB PDF) so I have been working on a site for archiving scans that allows page by page navigation and also allows for people to add any number of ‘topics’ to a scan, so the pages can get searched and indexed.

    Still a work in progress but would appreciate any feedback on what I’ve got working so far. Currently the site is hosted at