Looking back on my younger years I remember acmlm's board and other niche forums getting insane traffic and lots and lots of activity every day. Now the culture seems way smaller than back in the day.
What happened? Did we grow up, get real jobs to eat most of our free time and never got a new generation of young ROM hackers to complement us?
How do we make ROM hacking great again? With all the high-level ultra-abstracted languages around today, your think we'd have more active users than ever before. Strange
We DO really. It just may not necessarily be reflected on a now antiquated forum medium. Remember, most of the world moved on to social media. There are more visitors to RHDN than any other ROM hacking specific site in history. There have been increasing visitors every single year with this year over 7 million unique visits thus far. Same thing with submissions. We have over 7000 this year (this is why you need to cut submission reviewers a break for mistakes and inability to keep up!). Much of that may be a general widened audience versus active ROM hackers though. It's hard to distinguish between the two. However there is a topic somewhere on the forum where somebody also tallied the number of releases to show there have been increasing releases most years as well. The data doesn't seem to suggest anything otherwise.
Perhaps foggy memory, or simply migrating activity is to blame. Acmlm's board probably reached it's peak during the mid 2000's when there was no other central ROM hacking forum or social media to even go to. That was one of the reasons this site was created at the time. And I'm sure activity migrates away from this forum at times for various reasons too, but it doesn't necessarily go away.
Even with being antiquated, this forum should see activity levels this year that have actually been the highest since 2009. I don't know how the trend has been at other sites/forums nor what you want to make of that. Either way, it doesn't seem like there is any data supporting a smaller ROM hacking community. I've been hearing that for near 20 years and it never pans out!
I think the difference is that most of the people who grew up with the consoles that receive the most hacking are now in their 30's and 40's and no longer have time for this hobby due to stuff in the "real life" like family, careers, etc. A lot of these people were probably most active when they were in their teens or college years.
This is true and certainly the ever increasing average age of the general ROM hacking community has effected the community in a number of ways. It's hard to say exactly how. Every time I think some things might be fizzling out for some of the older consoles, I am met with the contrary. I encounter new 'old' people just getting into the hobby for the first time as well a healthy dose of intelligent young people actually interested in consoles before their time. I'm always reminded that the world is a very big place. With billions of people on this planet and only millions known to be involved in ROM hacking, there's plenty of room to shuffle new blood in, and see new trends develop easily depending on the other billions!
I know a guy at work whom spends his time reconditioning and using antique typewriters made well before he was born. Why? I don't know, but there's something out there for everybody. Multiply that by a few billion and a few people are bound to stumble on ROM hacking on a regular basis.