These days, using a computer often seems like it's less about actual computing and more about touching and dragging your way across the slick, safe UI of a mysteriously sealed, glowing rectangle. So much so that it's easy to mistake a love of retro computing and doing things "the hard way" for a kind of anachronistic, old-fart nostalgia. But the Commodore 64, a machine emblematic of early home computing which celebrated its 30th anniversary this month, continues to transcend such reductive classification.

The C64 was equal parts tool, entertainer, and teacher, and many of those who grew up with it shaped the worlds of computer games, graphics, and music. But those amateur programmers, artists, and musicians are more than just people who've stayed in touch with an old friend after the class reunion: they represent an entire generation of users who were truly empowered and transformed by technology, at a time when using a computer and learning how it worked were the same thing.