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Early UK Computer Magazines

During the home computer boom of the early 1980s there was a similar boom in published magazine titles - followed by the bust as the bubble burst around the middle of the decade. With the restructuring that occurred later on, another small boom occurred nearer the end of the decade with many titles dedicated to the newer 16-bit home machines such as the Atari ST and Amiga coming to the fore (see page 4).

A few of the new magazines attempted to fill perceived niche markets - for example, Computer Answers (first in the gallery below) relied primarily upon questions sent in by readers (um, and who wrote them for the first issue?). Others tried to muscle in on areas already covered by the existing titles - What Micro tried to pull in the punters by giving their first issue away free.

Others, however, some took fringe subjects as their theme - below is the first edition of Practical Robotics - appearing bi-monthly for just a short run of four issues, it was really ahead of its time. The same subject had already been unsuccessfully attempted by Your Robot, a short-lived supplement in Hobby Electronics (itself a relatively short-lived sister magazine to ETI).

One interesting subject was the title: Computing Age. This came about by renaming an already existing, averagely successful magazine, Electronics and Computing Monthly, and dropping much of the electronics side of the content. This appears to have produced the unenviable situation of quickly alienating its old readership and, as far as I can recall, the whole thing folded within months.

Attempts to cater for the computer professional, as opposed to the home market, could be seen by the arrival of SOFT in 1983 though, like the liquid Apple II on the first edition's cover, the title had melted away under a year later. In 1987, Program, renamed Program Now by the second edition to avoid 'confusion' (their word - they probably meant to avoid legal problems) with another title of the same name, aimed itself fairly and squarely at those developing programs. Initially, it tackled programming on any available platform but migrated almost wholly to MS-DOS/Windows later on. Although it hung around far longer than SOFT the title finally died in 1994.

The early 1980s also saw the rise of the weekly magazines, a trend started by Personal Computer News which was followed by Popular Computing Weekly and Home Computing Weekly. Costing just 35p an issue when launched in March 1983, the initial 116 pages (including an 8-page supplement on the anatomy of the BBC micro) soon slimmed down and the price had risen to 50p by the end of the year. PCN disappeared after two years as did HCW, althought Popular lasted until the early 1990s. Micro Mart and New Computer Express also tried the idea in 1985 and 1988 respectively. While the former is still going, the latter folded in October 1991.

The only magazine shown in the gallery above that is still with us is Computer Shopper. Born in March 1988 and, apart from the cover, printed on cheap, non-glossy paper to keep the price down to a highly respectable 78p, it is still one of the more popular titles today.