Friday, November 05, 2021


Somehow the term "pro-sumer", as it was originally used in commercial electronics like cameras and computers to describe high-end gear that was affordable by hobbyists but had features in common with professional equipment, has gotten absorbed into the term "prosumer", which was coined by Alvin Toffler back in the '80s as a portmanteau of "producer" and "consumer".

I blame old-school Apple fans.

After the original departure of Steve Jobs, the most expensive Mac models kept trending upward in price. In 1990, the top of the line "wicked fast" Mac IIfx cost. like, ten grand. In great big 1990 dollars, not itty bitty 2021 ones. 

You know what else cost ten grand in 1990? A base frickin' Camaro RS.

Now, there were plenty of artsy people who loved doing artsy things on Macintoshes, but they weren't likely to be able to lay out new car money for a computer, especially if it weren't a business expense. 

They could maybe swing used car money, though. Hence cheaper Macs, which may run the same professional software, albeit slower, could be afforded by hobbyists. And, hey, if you did some desktop publishing for the church bulletin or family newsletter, weren't you producing something? Therefore a prosumer?

I know if you go back and look at the earliest days of a site like Digital Photography Review, back around the turn of the millennium, the term "pro-sumer" meant cameras in the ~$1000 price class. It was used to refer to cameras like the Coolpix 990, which had features in common with advanced pro cameras but price tags more approachable by the hobbyist user.

People rarely "produced" anything with these other than vacation pics, and "pro-sumer" was clearly being used to indicate pro features at a consumer-friendly price, but that usage seems to have largely withered away. You have to wander into the dusty corners of Wiktionary to find it referenced.

"Pro" in camera body terms is used to refer to big cameras used by pro photogs and built to withstand the occasional out-of-bounds NFL cornerback.