Early UK Computer Magazines

Early UK Computer Magazines

As my first computer system was a Commodore PET I started to investigate the Commodore-specific magazines that were available.

Initially, there was the club newsletter, with the laborious name of the Commodore PET Users Club News, put out by Commodore themselves in 1979 (the third edition is first in the gallery below - I don't possess the first edition). Despite its cheap, dour appearance - a poorly produced, dot-matrix printed affair - it held a wealth of interesting information for the CBM programmer. Articles that cut to the heart of these machines, especially those by Canadian computer guru Jim Butterfield, tantalised us with what these early devices could be made to do. However, very little of it was actually practical - these computers were really nothing more than glorious toys (but that was not necessarily a bad thing).

Under the later guidance of Pete Gerrard, the magazine's title became shortened to the simpler Commodore Club News and started to look far more professional. However, I seem to remember reading that Commodore wanted to be rid of the responsibility of producing it and so, in 1981, Gerrard, in conjunction with Nick Hampshire, continued independent publication under the title: Commodore Computing - the first edition (3rd in the gallery) lacks the International in the title that appeared on the second and subsequent editions. Much later on, this title was to spawn Amiga User International though, by that time, the publisher had changed, and both Gerrard and Hampshire had moved on to indulge themselves in various other publishing pursuits.

1979 also saw the beginnings of IPUG, the Independent PET Users Group, created to provide PET users with a voice that was not affiliated with Commodore. Like the official CBM newsletter, the IPUG equivalent was initially a non-professional, photocopied affair that slowly grew to be more professional, though the frivolous newsletter cover was retained for many years - some of us were sorry to see it go and the later, sanitised version was far from inspirational. During 1982, after the advent of the VIC-20 and with other new CBM machines such as the C64 and 500 and 700 series looming, the name of the publication was changed to ICPUG dropping P for PET and replacing it with CP for Commodore Products. Many names 'famous' within the Commodore arena could be found in its pages including Mike Todd and the aforementioned Jim Butterfield. I even managed to get a few things published there, too. The newsletter flourished through the years that the original Commodore managed to keep its head above water but, a few years after its demise, the C in ICPUG stopped representing Commodore and stood for Computer. Today they still have a website but the newsletter is no longer published.

The other Commodore-related publication that appeared in 1979 was originally just called Printout. Initially very thin - the first edition was only 20 pages but cost 95p which was expensive compared to PCW or Practical Computing which only cost 50p back then - it was a well-produced glossy right from the beginning and catered for all levels of PET users. By 1982 it had added Microcomputer to its title and with the arrival of the VIC it started to spread its wings initially to that computer and then further afield to encompass computers outside the CBM range. The magazine was one of the first to include a column that took the mickey out of the industry - one of its favourites was to call the Computing Today magazine Computnig Toady, a term that was also occasionally to be found popping up in other magazines. It is therefore ironic that Microcomputer Printout was later taken over by and merged into Computing Today not long before CT itself folded.

During 1981 VIC Computing arrived, initially published by the same company as Printout as a joint venture between themselves and CBM UK. The cover, shown above, is from the first edition that was published for that year's Commodore Computing Show (which was still called the PET Show back then). The title then appears to have changed hands with the official volume 1, number 1 appearing in October 1981 though after 12 issues it transformed itself into Commodore User, the first edition cover of which can also be seen above.

During the 80s many new titles appeared aimed at the Commodore 64: Commodore Horizons (later absorbed into Commodore Computing International) was always rather on the thin side; Your 64 initially had 'and VIC-20' as part of the title though this disappeared as the 64's elder brother fell from fashion; Your Commodore seemed to fill most of its pages with user-supplied programs, usually reams of incomprehensible machine-code dumps that, once labouriously typed in, would result in something that usually either crashed immediately or, if it did run, was never quite as good as the title and screen-shots suggested.