In 2013 the steampunk community learned of the passing of steampunk artist and maker, Richard Nagy, from a car accident.
For many, Rich, possibly better known as “Datamancer“, and his amazing work were their first visual and tactile experience with steampunk. His fully functional keyboards and computers were among those founding moments in the mid and late 2000s when steampunk began to really grow from its literary roots.
Whether it was a laptop case modification, a keyboard, The Clacker, or The Nagy Magical-Movable-Type Pixello-Dynamotronic Computational Engine, Rich’s creativity grabbed our collective interest and imagination. He brought steampunk computers from the stories and novels into our real world, and in doing so, shaped an aesthetic we have come to expect.
His work was elegant, practical, functional, and as important, it conveyed an idea, a feeling, a willing suspension of disbelief coupled with profound imagination. For some of us, it wasn’t just that we wanted his keyboards and his computers, nor just that we wanted to be or become steampunks, it was that we *knew* we were steampunks, and in that moment we could easily, clearly, and confidently see ourselves in our beloved future-that-never-was owning and using such devices as part of our everyday world. It was Rich who made us believe.
By all accounts, Rich was kind, patient, and generously shared his knowledge and enthusiasm with others. For those in the community who didn’t know him long nor well, he still left us with a gift – he inspired us.
It would take the rest of our days to recount all the stories and comments of how he affected people and their lives. From enticing them with his handiwork, to opening a gateway into the community, to encouraging people to express their own creativity in ways they hadn’t considered, Rich left people with a motivation, a drive, to participate and be engaged – in some way, in any way, in something, especially in themselves.
Our community is a little poorer for his passing. We won’t be able to see amazing new creations from his workshop, and he will certainly be missed, but we can ensure that he and his work are not lost or forgotten. Each of us in our own way can remember his tremendous contribution and impact, to our community, and to us as individuals. Each day, we can pass along the excitement and interest he engendered within us to similarly make someone else’s day, perhaps their life, better. That can be our best way to remember Richard “Doc” Nagy.
Please also read these tributes to Rich and his work:
The Maker Movement Loses its Datamancer by Gareth Branwyn
Richard Nagy a.k.a. Datamancer has passed into the Æther by Marcus Rauchfuss
Kevin Steil is the creator of the steampunk news and information resource website, Airship Ambassador, the annual month-long global blogathon, Steampunk Hands Around the World, and is the curator of the online Steampunk Museum. He has been a guest and speaker at a number of conventions, contributed to several books, and has consulted for national media programs and events. He can also officiate your wedding!