With virtual sex, smart drugs and synthetic rock 'n' roll, a new $ counterculture is surfing on the dark edges of the computer age

In the 1950s it was the beatniks, staging a coffeehouse rebellion against the Leave It to Beaver conformity of the Eisenhower era. In the 1960s the hippies arrived, combining antiwar activism with the energy of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Now a new subculture is bubbling up from the underground, popping out of computer screens like a piece of futuristic HYPERTEXT (see margin).

They call it cyberpunk, a late-20th century term pieced together from CYBERNETICS (the science of communication and control theory) and PUNK (an antisocial rebel or hoodlum). Within this odd pairing lurks the essence of cyberpunk culture. It's...

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