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BYTE Is Coming Back 185

Posted by timothy
from the has-it-been-12-years-already dept.
harrymcc writes "More than a dozen years after its death, BYTE magazine is still the most beloved computer magazine of all time — the one that employees of every other tech mag got used to being compared unfavorably with. And now it's being revived, in the form of a new BYTE.com. The new version isn't replicating the focus of the old BYTE — it's focused on the use of consumer tech products in a business environment — and I'm pretty positive it won't feature Robert Tinney's art or epic Jerry Pournelle columns. But I'm glad to see the legendary brand back in use rather than sitting in limbo."
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BYTE Is Coming Back

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  • Zombie Byte (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Craig Maloney (1104) * on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:06PM (#34653840) Homepage

    So, it's going to be yet another useless publication in an already crowded arena? I mean, Dr. Dobbs is pretty much a parody of itself, and there's few print magazines that are worth the time investment to even open the magazine. What's this new iteration going to provide, other than a stark reminder of the mojo that Byte magazine no longer has?

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Internet killed the need for tech-related publications on dead-tree materials. Nuff' said.
      • While I greatly enjoyed the August issues of the magazine (they were all about languages) and I still have the 1981 August issue on Smalltalk, dead trees are so last millennium.

        We have much richer offerings available over the internet.

        I predict a six month run before another bankruptcy.

      • That's why MAKE magazine still goes on in dead tree format? And elektor?

        Steve Ciarcia's site is still going now almost two decades post-BYTE, and they still publish a dead tree issue.

        BYTE had no mojo left long before BYTE quit publishing, all this sounds like is another cheap exploitation of another once beloved brand name.

    • Yeah... uh, what previous and next posters say... another "slick", glossy, brain dead fluff rag/web site that will feature some new iPhone app or some bit of consumer plastic you can hook up to your xbox? Do we really need this? We even already have that on G4 with "Attack of the Show", which used to be a really great show "The Screen Savers" hosted by Leo Laporte and focused on true geek tech. Apparently that was too geek so they glossed it up to the abomination it is today. As though we really need more m
    • True enough. I remember when Computerworld used to publish information actually useful for writing code, like algorithms and such. Not that you'd know that they ever did such a thing if you'd read it at any time in the last 20 years.

      Hell, I remember when Slashdot was pretty much an All Linux, All The Time forum frequented only by hard-core techies.

      The trend in computer publications seems to be to cater to either consumers or IT managers. For techies, the proceedings are pretty thin gruel. Unfortunately the

      • by hawk (1151)

        >Hell, I remember when Slashdot was pretty much an All Linux, All The Time forum frequented only by hard-core techies.

        Never mind that, I recall Slashdot breaking tech news before the Wall Street Journal (before it became "WSJ Today"). I paid a lot less attention when my morning WSJ reported tech news that would come later in the day here. Now fox & cnn seem to report most things hours or days ahead . . . occasionally I peek, out of some misdirected bit of nostalgia (and occasionally hit a nugget s

  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:07PM (#34653842) Homepage

    Why? Seriously? If you're not going to bring back the whole point of an original magazine then why dump something on the market that's already covered by other publications. It would be like bringing back Commadore Compute, but without having the programs you could copy, edit, and modify for your own amusement. Argh.

    But you know, I honestly think there could be a market for a revamp of things like that. Games/apps/etc, published either online or magazine, where you could show kids and get them involved in things like programming. Hell it worked for me.

    • by sloth jr (88200)
      It worked for me as well - BUT: I think the barrier for entry is too high for kids today; in the early 80s when Byte was truly at the top of its game, there just wasn't a lot you could DO with computers without access to great resources like Byte or Creative Computing.
      • by Mashiki (184564)

        I'd argue differently. I learned to write programs with 5k of memory(that'd be on the old vic20's), until I got an expansion cartridge for well more memory. You can get free vb compilers, you can even get visual C++ for free from microsoft, or if you prefer dev c++ and run it on 'nix.

    • by Nemyst (1383049)

      Actually, it's just like the Commodore 64 resurrection [commodoreusa.net] that's essentially a netbook without a screen that's housed in a case similar to the C64. They're trying to ride off the nostalgia factor to sell you crap, and it might just work. Sigh.

    • by vegiVamp (518171)

      Didn't I read that there was to be a new Commodore some time back ? Only nothing like the Commodore, both in hardware (hopefully...) but neither in spirit.

    • If you're not going to bring back the whole point of an original magazine then why dump something on the market that's already covered by other publications>

      Why? To try to make money off the old name. If for nothing more than curiosity I'll peruse the new print magazine and if I like it I'll buy it off the stand. Then after several months if I still like it I may subscribe.

      Falcon

  • by NetServices (1479949) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:07PM (#34653850) Homepage
    I thought the Computer Shopper was the most beloved computer magazine of all time.
    • by Tetsujin (103070)

      I thought the Computer Shopper was the most beloved computer magazine of all time.

      I only read it for the ads, I swear!

  • by eyegor (148503) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:08PM (#34653854)

    I subscribed to Byte "back in the day" and was disgusted with its slide into irrelevance. More of the same will only further sully any respect I had for what it was in its heyday.

  • It's certainly nice to see the brand getting some use - too iconic a brand to let it go to waste - but this appears to be revival of the name and no more. Reading TFA, I can find only tenuous similarity between this and the original magazine; different focus, different target audience, by the chronological gap between this and the original, probably completely different staff - one might as well change "BYTE Is Coming Back" to "Another Magazine is Using the Name BYTE". As an aside, I wonder how much they'r
    • It's certainly nice to see the brand getting some use - too iconic a brand to let it go to waste

      George Lucas, is that you?!

  • "Reviving" Brands (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:09PM (#34653868)

    There is a whole industry dedicated to trading on familiar names to sell new (and completely unrelated) ventures. Why waste years building credibility when you can buy it?

    IOW, if its not the same BYTE, its not the same BYTE. Does anyone really care about the "brand" so much that they are excited to see it back in use regardless of what that use is?

    • There is a whole industry dedicated to trading on familiar names to sell new (and completely unrelated) ventures. Why waste years building credibility when you can buy it?

      IOW, if its not the same BYTE, its not the same BYTE. Does anyone really care about the "brand" so much that they are excited to see it back in use regardless of what that use is?

      Completely agree. BYTE was a pioneer, something unique, a computer magazine back when computers were an oddity, not ubiquitous.

      BYTE had its time. Like all of us

  • by Massacrifice (249974) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:10PM (#34653880)

    In other words, somebody bought the domain name to byte.com and is now trying to drum up interest in a new website with content unrelated to the original magazine on the assertion that they have the same name. Fail.

    I'm not missing Jerry Pournelle either, but the deep background articles that were THE killer feature of the dead tree publication now live on sites like acmqueue, arstechnica and others.

    The king is dead, long live the king; shame on those pretending to take its throne by taking its name.

  • by cje (33931) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:11PM (#34653892) Homepage

    No reference to Jerry Pournelle is complete without this classic from rec.humor.funny (originally posted on BIX by Edmund X. DeJesus):

    Usees Column by
    Gerry Pourwelle

    When we finally got home from the monthly Rambling Writers Conference (this time in Djemaa-el-Fna), we found Fractal Manor's main hall shoulder deep in brand-new state-of-the-art totally free computer hardware and software for me to check out. Drat. I'll never get around to most of it, of course, and probably will end up dumpstering 90% or more. What I really need to properly handle all of the wonderful things companies send me absolutely free to review and enjoy with no obligation whatsoever on my part, is a trash compactor.

    I thought I'd start by reconfiguring my main computer, the Hyena 986SXDXMCMXCIV. Right now the sectors on the hard disk run clockwise, but I heard a rumor that you can squeeze 0.2% more throughput by running them counterclockwise. It's worth the effort. Recommended.

    I slid the shrink-wrap off version 7.126 of DiskMember Gold (I know, you thought I'd never upgrade from version 4.79, especially after all my bad-mouthing of versions 5.33 and 6.02, but what can I say? Only a Corinthian drinks kevis in a Veronese cantola.) and fired it up. No joy. I reread the documentation to no avail, then scanned the whole manual in, OCRed it, spell- checked the file and uploaded it to BIX with a question mark appended.

    While I waited for a response, I tried the software out on the TriskaDeck 1313. This is the machine Bill Gibson uses when we collaborate. It loaded fine and ran fine, but it seems to have automatically moved every hard disk sector to a random location and erased all the File Allocation Tables. Luckily I had backed up the entire hard disk to a CD-ROM with the new BitByter 7000 CD-ROM Mastering Deck (only $40,000 and worth every penny. Recommended.) so in only 6 more hours I was back where I started.

    While the disk was humming, I checked BIX with the Niebelungen Valkyrie we keep in a corner for when Sandy Solzhenitsyn is here writing. No answers yet.

    On the chance that he might have some insight, I buzzed Bill Gates. He mumbled something about it probably being a hardware problem before excusing himself. That seemed plausible.

    I called Jan Toady, president of Hyena, who indicated that a helicopter of ground-assault technical assistants was hovering near Fractal Manor 24 hours a day and that all I had to do was give the word and they'd parachute in. (Based on my own experience, I think Hyena offers the best service in the business, and not just because I mention their products every month in my column which millions of avid computer buyers read either. I bet you'd get the same service I do. Recommended.) I chuckled and said I'd try to puzzle it out a little more myself. He said okay and then talked me into accepting a free laptop with holographic display and telepathic mouse. A nice guy.

    I also got Mike Spindler, Lou Gerstner and Ross Perot on a conference call, but except for a few offers on tractor trailers full of new equipment they couldn't help me.

    My wife Svetlana (whose reading program can teach anyone with a $3000 computer how to read, and which is now available for PC-compatibles, Apples, Macintoshes and the Cray XMP for only $49.95 plus shipping and sales tax where applicable, have your MasterCard or VISA card ready and call 1-800-555-1212, operators standing by 24 hours a day) stuck her head in to say Hi.

    That gave me the idea to try calling my sons for help. Number one son Bud is now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but when I called him he was busy in the War Room with the Secretary of Defense and some darn nerve gas missile crisis. It's always something with those civilians. Second son Robbie was in the middle of performing emergency brain surgery on the President, but promised to get back to me when he had a breather. Chip was arguing a landmark civil rights case before the Supreme Court when he answered my beeper message, but he seemed to thi

    • by eyegor (148503)

      Yeah, that's pretty much the reason I gave up reading pournelle's column. :)

    • Re:Jerry Pournelle (Score:5, Insightful)

      by QuantumBeep (748940) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:23PM (#34653986)

      A column laced with nostalgia and in-jokes, refreshing to read and great for the ego (since most people won't get the in-jokes anymore, and if I'm missing any of the in-jokes, I don't know about it).

      Recommended.

      • Re:Jerry Pournelle (Score:5, Interesting)

        by cje (33931) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:26PM (#34654012) Homepage

        Speaking of ego and nostalgia, I was also reminded of the story about how Jerry Pournelle got kicked off of the ARPAnet [stormtiger.org].

        • Wow. Just wow. So much meaning and historic perspective in one little thread. I could write a paper.

        • That's... awesome. You don't have to know the players to recognize a good old-fashioned troll-and-flame war, 1980s style. Boil it down, and you've got a typical bash.org conversation. I'll add that to the stories I tell my kids about how things haven't *really* changed since character-based-display days.

          The other one is how I was doing tech support via direct modem dialup to someone's PC in Helsinki, using "Carbon Copy"... while fixing the DOS problems, the (mostly non-technical) lady on the other end wa

        • Speaking of ego and nostalgia, I was also reminded of the story about how Jerry Pournelle got kicked off of the ARPAnet [stormtiger.org]

          Reading that page I didn't recall Jerry being that way. Then I looked at the dates, in the mid '80s. "Ooh, that's why". I didn't read him much in the '80s, only in the mid to late '70s.

          Falcon

          • by hawk (1151)

            >I didn't read him much in the '80s, only in the mid to late '70s.

            He wrote his best SF in the '70s. I don't think he had a peer for the dystopian writing he did back then . . .

            hawk

            • by hawk (1151)

              ack.

              And his introductions to the short stories in the anthologies he edited (There Will Be War, The Stars at War) were more compelling than the well chosen stories . . .

              hawk

    • by operagost (62405)
      I once read an post on USENET (probably somewhere in comp.os.os2.*) in which the claim was made that Pournelle couldn't find his own ass with a map and a flashlight. I would concur, but feel that perhaps if he had access to modern GPS technology he could have found it (with the additional help of a few Boy Scouts that had both the Computers and Orienteering merit badges).
    • Oh how this is sooooo close to the mark, wish I had mod points. Like others I gave up reading JP's column. Well that's not quite true, I scanned it just to see who he would be name-dropping this month.

      Steve Ciarcia's column, on the other hand... that guy was amazing. Not that I ever built any of his circuits, but he certainly added that technical grunt to the magazine.

    • by dpbsmith (263124)

      LOL! But it has an obvious transcription error. "PC-compatibles?" No, to Pournelle they were always "PCompatibles." He was one of those people who loved merging coincident final and initial letters, TraveLodge style.

  • I was unhappy when Byte died. I was left with only PC World and PC Magazine both of which suck. I have a new love in CPU magazine though.

  • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:14PM (#34653920) Homepage Journal

    > it won't feature... epic Jerry Pournelle columns

    Well, it has that going for it.

  • ...unless it has Jerry Pournelle, Steve Ciarcia and others in it. And yes, Tinney artwork on it. Get with the program if you want my subscription dollars. Or my eyeballs.

    • by Gordonjcp (186804)

      I would have modded this up if mods weren't anonymous. Yes, Jerry Pournelle and Steve Ciarcia, and I didn't know who did the artwork but now I do.

      Get it back to a hobbyist computing magazine like it was in the 70s and 80s and I'll buy several subscriptions - one for me and one for each of the volunteer-run techy groups I'm involved in.

    • ...unless it has Jerry Pournelle, Steve Ciarcia and others in it.

      Until I started reading this thread I felt the same, I loved "Chaos Manor" and "Circuit Cellar". However after reading this thread [slashdot.org] I'm not sure about Jerry Pournelle anymore. If I want to read Steve Ciarcia, I can read his own magazine Circuit Cellar [circuitcellar.com], and I do occasionally. I'll go ahead and check out the new print edition of "Byte" but I'll wait a few months before I ever subscribe to it.

      Falcon

  • "Profesional"? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by caius112 (1385067) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:16PM (#34653936)
    It says "Profesional" in the title of the byte.com front page. I'm not optimistic.
    • It says "Profesional" in the title of the byte.com front page. I'm not optimistic.

      Because that's the audience it's aimed at apparently. The article UBM TechWeb Re-Launching Popular Byte.com [prnewswire.com] says this:

      "IT is faced with new, pervasive user expectations – that all technology should work like the technology end users have at home, and that they can actually bring that technology into the work place," said InformationWeek editorial director Fritz Nelson. "This includes smart phones, tablets, social netwo

      • You may already be aware that the correct spelling is "professional" ... instead of what they put up there. And they seem to have lost their apostrophe.
         
        Much like Caius, I'm not optimistic.

  • by QuantumBeep (748940) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:16PM (#34653942)

    it's focused on the use of consumer tech products in a business environment

    Business managers should be expelled from the industry and blackballed for decisions like this.

    There are hundreds - fucking hundreds of magazines that do this already. When some mossy-backed MBA decides to revive an old brand for a new product that nobody is going to buy, there should be a Guild of Historians who can notify the shareholders that the manager needs to be fired and sued.

    Incompetent business decisions are bad enough; bad decisions that have been shown again and again to be bad are criminally negligent.

  • I'm glad to see the legendary brand back in use rather than sitting in limbo."

    You are happy to see someone attempt to get attention by confusing consumers about a product by conflating it with a past one through reuse of the name? I mean I guess if the original Byte people were able to make some money selling the name to this new organization I am happy for them. I guess I am not so happy about them trying to sucker people. If they were trying to create a magazine with similar content and focus to old Byte and using the name for that I'd be happy.

    Its kinda like I don't get all tha

    • Zombie Brands (Score:3, Insightful)

      There is a marketing term for this - Zombie Brand. Basically a name has a certain recognition with people and companies want to capitalize on this. Rather than building their own brand equity, a new company wants to borrow this recognition from its target market.

      Memorex is an example of this. They were bought and disbanded in the 80's only to later become an Imation brand in name only. Who (over the age of 30) doesn't remember the catch phrase "is it live? or is it Memorex". Imation wanted to tap into this

      • by poptones (653660)

        So you're saying that someone bought a cheapass craptastic brand so they could imitate it?

        Kinda like Cadillac buying Kia to trade on their clout, huh?

      • by adolf (21054)

        While I think that you are technically correct, and I thank for for introducing me to the term "Zombie Brand" (which is a concept that I had been recognizing for many years, but about which I had not had any success in succinctly surmising in any meaningful sense).

        I don't know that Memorex is the best example (post-Ford Jaguar seems like a much more likely candidate), but at least now I know how to describe the phenomenon.

  • For some reason, all I could think of as I read the summary was the following Simpsons quote:

    Milhouse: Bart! Alf is back! In pog form!

    While the old Byte is worth remembering, is this new website going to be anything like it? To me, Ars Technica [arstechnica.com] is the Byte of today.

  • If they aren't bringing back a retro style BYTE Magazine (a hardware persons monthly reference), why bother. Call it something else. If they brought a BYTE like publication back that was an electronic publication formatted for e-readers and tablets, then I would be excited.
  • by bfwebster (90513) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:39PM (#34654140) Homepage

    I wrote for BYTE back in the mid-1980s. Nowadays, if I mention that to most people, they look at me curiously -- probably get the same reaction if I told them I had published articles in Colliers.

    And, no, any current incarnation won't be the same as back then, but the personal computing industry has changed massively since then; it's been through at least two crashes (1988-90 and, of course, 2000-2004), and the technology is on a whole different level now -- both the hardware and the system software is less accessible than it was back then. The real barrier, though, is the advertisers. BYTE in the mid-80s sometimes got up to 600 pages per issue total size, because there were so many advertisers willing to chase after its readers. (Cf. the 1988-90 tech crash.) Trying to create an updated version of that BYTE might be possible, but I'm not sure who would advertise in it. ..bruce..

    • by paesano (784687)
      Ha! I remember the column "According to Webster" or something like that. I also remember the class I took on Computers and Society. I still have fond memories of the book "Hackers." Those were the days...
      • I love Steve Levy's book. I'll tell, not ask or suggest but tell, those who use the word "hacker" improperly to read that book to understand how real hackers are, explorers and makers.

        Falcon

    • by lurker412 (706164)
      Yes, I remember reading you in the 80s. A new incarnation of Byte cannot be the same. We aren't the same either. The ads in the 80s were a lot more interesting than many feature articles today. So it goes.
    • by hawk (1151)

      >but the personal computing industry has changed massively since then;

      More people will probably read this thread than owned a computer (or read Byte) in Byte's heyday . . .

      !

      hawk

  • "Details" magazine went through this twice. The original Details magazine, in the 1980s, was targeted to the hip New York City club crowd. The typical Details reader had probably met Madonna before she was famous, while dancing at Danceteria or Area. The people mentioned in Details read Details to see what their friends were doing. Ads were for little boutiques in SoHo.

    Today's "Details" is like GQ or Esquire, with a heavy emphasis on shopping.

    Byte is doing much the same thing.

  • The original Byte was about hardware/software computer development. At that time, it was a useful introduction to interesting technologies, and remained so for many years. At some point, it switched to being just another product review magazine, which was not what the original audience was interested in. Since there were dozens of these already being published, it just faded into the background as just another generic joystick review magazine, as happened to Creative Computing some years earlier. There was

  • My favorite how-to was the article that described changing io.sys & command.com so that it would load altcfg.sys instead of config.sys (thus making virus that altered config.sys/autoexec.bat useless).

  • by theodp (442580) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:51PM (#34654222)

    Christmas 1975 BYTE Cover - Computers: The Ultimate Toys [digibarn.com]. Digibarn has more BYTE covers [digibarn.com] from the '70s and '80s. Outstanding!

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:59PM (#34654276)

    About the same as Atari making a comeback, if by comeback you mean it's a meaningless label slapped onto random games by Ubisoft.

  • ...they finally got enough material for some articles, or is it going to be 800 pages of ads again?
  • by Tetsujin (103070) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @04:02PM (#34654304) Homepage Journal

    Because of the vast changes in computers' capabilities since BYTE magazine ended its run, they've decided to change the name to "BYTE presents: Gibioctet"

  • "focused on the use of consumer tech products in a business environment"

    do we really need more of this? and will they be performing in-depth analysis of how much lost time & productivity comes with misappropriating consumer tech in a workplace?

  • No really, who really cares about 'yet another consumer magazine' that is full of either pure ads, or fake reviews or 'placement' type of advertisements? Don't we have enough of those already?

    I still remember when Byte was a great technical magazine and was something to look forward to getting in the mail box. I also remember its slow painful decent into "consumer electronics", which was really disappointing for engineering types like myself. It would be nice to see a return to the old ways, but even then,

  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Thursday December 23, 2010 @04:35PM (#34654558) Homepage Journal
    BYTE? No, not my favorite. I reached every month for Computer Shopper. Sure, it was 95% (or more) ads, but that was the point. I don't remember a single article I even read in it - really the articles in there were about as memorable as the ones in Playboy - but I found plenty of good deals on RAM and hard drives through that magazine.

    And as an added bonus, a single year's worth of Computer Shopper was a stack tall enough to make an end table...
  • Micro Cornucopia on the iPad? Let sleeping dogs lie...
  • I came across this book around 1993 / 1994. It was a thing of beauty - pretty much the entire history of personal computing up until that point. It didn't just contain flashy articles sure to bring in the mass market readers, but pieces that provided an amazing amount of perspective on the progression of hardware and software. I seem to recall stories on exciting new 20MB hard drives, (failed) networking standards, processor development, along with the usual "Launch of the Mac", "Launch of the IBM PC" and p

  • When I first rad this guy's columns I never knew he was a real writer--I thought his was a comedy bit, sort of like Andy Rooney, where some crazy old guy who kinds knows stuff explains in great and tedious detail how he tried to get something to work and every step he took to do it. Kind of like if the crazy person on the bus who sit next to you yammered on about home networking and defunct printer drivers instead of the goblins who keep stealing his liquor and getting him fired.

  • by geekoid (135745)

    byte.com will be compared unfavorably to byte.

    Seriously without that art, and Jerry, and changing it's focus. It is NOT the same magazine.

  • I avidly read Byte back in the day. There was actually a period in the early 80's when it was part of my job! That and Creative Computing, InfoWorld, Datamation, and a few others.

    But why bring it back now? It was what it was, yes, with Tinney's artwork, and Circuit Cellar, and Pournelle (what a blowhard!).

    I really looked forward to each new issue back then, but please, let it R.I.P.

  • I loved Byte -- I truly did. Indeed, it was part of the reason that I moved to the publishing powerhouse of Peterborough, NH. Yeah, the town is one of those don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it towns, but it housed IDG's suite (A+, AmigaWorld, and others), 73 Magazine (the Ham/CB radio rag), several vertical market magazines (one of which, Sensors Magazine, still exists, and is edited by my ex-GF), and, yes, Byte.

    I used to hang out with one of the founders, Carl Helmers. Nice enough guy, but a classic Asperger'

  • Just reviving the name means nothing. And I don't think there's a chance they will revive the spirit of BYTE.

    Robert Tinney is the touchstone. BYTE went downhill the day they stopped running Tinney's lovely cover art and suddenly started putting big ad-like photos of computers on the cover.

  • No thanks, I'm waiting for CC.

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