User Intervention in the Development Process:

Virtual Communities that Resist Essentialist Technological Development

While general purpose tube amplification has long since given way to transistors for electronic appliances like televisions, the guitarist community has continually preferred vacuum tubes as a means of amplification. In particular, guitarists look to a circuit produced in 1954-1960 as one of the quintessential guitar amplifier tones.

As the deluxe series of amps began travel along an essentialist technological path (employing new materials, manufacturing methods, and additional features), guitarists contiuned to seek out the simplicity of the original design. Primarily, they collected used examples of Fender amps, but as the prices in the vintage amplifier market rose, communities of guitarists begain to develop cheaper alternatives to the original. Individuals and companies begain building reproductions. And many companies began offering “kits” with all of the parts required to build new reproductions, including schematics and instructions.

This resistance began before the internet became a powerful communcation tool, but this virtual community adopted the internet’s capability through email, the usenet alt.guitar.amps newsgroup, and (today) online user communities and forums. The Fender company continued to develop the deluxe series of amplifiers in many incarnations, but only recently begain to realize the call for a return to the basic original circuit.

Dr. Dave Yeats

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