The word ”prosumer” was coined in 1979 by the futurist Alvin Toffler. Initially, it referred to an individual who would be involved in designing the things she purchased (a mash-up of the words ”producer” and ”consumer.”) These days, the term more often refers to a segment of users midway between consumers and professionals.

Prosumers are passionate about the technology they use for their creative pursuits. ”How much time do you have?” replies Dr. Cyril Mazansky, when asked about his equipment. Mazansky is a radiologist who is also a devoted nature photographer. ”I could happily talk to you about this all afternoon.” For technology companies, they’re tough customers, more sophisticated and demanding than garden-variety consumers, but less experienced and free-spending than professionals.



This kind of prosumer doesn’t necessarily earn money by making music, videos, or photos, but is still willing to invest in more serious hardware and software than the typical dabbler, and spend more time using it.



Prosumers don’t necessarily embrace the term. They’re just using the best technology they can find. But don’t call them hobbyists, either.



Mazansky is a prototypical prosumer. Though he prefers to shoot his pictures on film, he owns a flatbed scanner for importing the images into his Macintosh G5 computer, where he uses the latest version of Adobe PhotoShop to manipulate them. He makes prints on an Epson 2200 printer, but like most prosumers, he’s itching to get the newest model. ”They’ve just announced the release of the 2400, which I’ll be purchasing in a few months,” Mazansky says. ”It has eight ink colors, and it can do more sophisticated black-and-white imagery than my current printer.”



Mazansky has a website, and his photos line the halls of the radiology department at Caritas Carney Hospital, where he works.



Prosumers are usually space-constrained, pressing spare rooms of their homes into double duty. Rob Lee’s music studio is in the basement of his West Medford home, ”next to the fridge and the litter box,” he says. ”The surroundings are Spartan, but if you have headphones on and you’re looking at the screen, you don’t mind the smell.”



Lee, a saxophone player, is the plant manager at Fayerweather Street School in Cambridge, where he also teaches an after-school music group. For one of his recent projects, he used software from Boston-based Cakewalk to create an audio party invitation for his son Tim’s seventh birthday.



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