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RCR Topic for discussion: Homebrew Software

Hawk

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Oct 22, 2007
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Adelaide, Australia
The other day I realised that one of the things I love about our old computers is seeing new software being written for them. Often this software far outstrips the games written back in the day, both technically and aesthetically. I have always referred to this software as "Homebrew". But then I got to thinking..."What is Homebrew?" (Not the alcohol ;^)

I've always considered that Homebrew software was written by people at home for pleasure, not for profit. But then some of the modern Homebrew is being sold through online stores. Is this software still Homebrew?

Many of the software packages back in the day were written by young programmers in their bedrooms and then sold to distributors. Was that Homebrew?

If more than one person is writing it, is it still Homebrew? There are some fantastically coordinated development teams these days that write awesome software for fun (not profit), are they writing Homebrew?

How would we define "Homebrew" software? Is it anything that is not written by a company by salaried employees?

I'd be interested to hear what others have to say on this matter.

Cheers,
Mike
 

Robbbert

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Jan 10, 2019
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Generally, I consider a homebrew to be free, and either an original work or a hack of something existing.

With arcade games, the situation is fairly simple. Companies produce and market the games in their cabinets. Someone else might make a homebrew kit that can be fitted to the cabinet, replacing the game that was there with a new one. More recently, the roms get dumped and added to an emulator. Someone else sees how the hardware works and makes up "roms" to fit the emulator. I'd call that homebrew. It's easier than making a physical kit too.

Lastly, someone might not be satisfied how a certain arcade game works and wishes to alter the parameters. An easy one is the pacman speedup hack. These are most likely homebrews too.

Then, on to famous consoles, particularly Nintendo ones such as the NES. Uncountable numbers of homebrew carts have been written for it, although again more for the emulators rather than the real thing.

Most consoles and many computers have had software written for them from the garage or bedroom. So there's lots and lots of homebrew out there.
 
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commodorejohn

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Generally, I consider homebrew to be software written and released not under the auspices of a full-fledged business; usually freeware, simply because the software market is dry enough even for full-fledged businesses these days, but I've definitely seen commercial releases of varying degrees that I'd still consider to fall under that umbrella. It seems like something that's more about the independent spirit than the specific circumstances of release.
 

Hawk

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Adelaide, Australia
Generally, I consider homebrew to be software written and released not under the auspices of a full-fledged business; usually freeware, simply because the software market is dry enough even for full-fledged businesses these days, but I've definitely seen commercial releases of varying degrees that I'd still consider to fall under that umbrella. It seems like something that's more about the independent spirit than the specific circumstances of release.

So you think the modern term of "Indie Games" is equivalent to the Homebrew idea?
 

Tor

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I've never heard the term used (for software) either. Counting from the late/mid-seventies when I got into programming.
 

Hawk

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Oct 22, 2007
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Adelaide, Australia
I don't know if they still do, but Retrogamer magazine used to have a Homebrew section each month, showcasing the latest homebrew releases. It used to be the first section of the magazine I turned to.
 

commodorejohn

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So you think the modern term of "Indie Games" is equivalent to the Homebrew idea?
It definitely started that way, although it's achieved enough popularity and commercial success that that market is beginning to be taken over by commercial studios as well (basically it's reached into the tier where, aeons ago in the late '90s/early '00s, smaller studios like Parallax Software used to dwell, before a handful of megalithic behemoths like EA started buying everyone out, running them into the ground, and then taking them out back to put a bullet in their heads.)
 
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