Early UK Computer Magazines

Early UK Computer Magazines

In the late 80s, having decided that the Amiga was the way to go, I started accumulating the many titles that sprung up to support this machine. Apart from the American magazines and the coverage that had begun to be included in titles such as Commodore Computing International and the ICPUG newsletter, the field for a dedicated UK periodical was first filled by the Amiga User Group newsletter which had originated from the staff at Cavendish Computer Centre in Leicester. This was a return to the glorious days of the photocopier though later editions were printed directly.

For the 1987 Commodore Computing Show two new publications were available: a special UK edition of the Canadian Transactor for the Amiga magazine had been put together with a promise of a regular UK version coming soon; and a totally new title called Enigma that looked very professional and boasted several good articles including an interview with R J Mical, one of the original Amiga engineers. Like many at the show I parted with £20 for a subscription to Enigma but no more issues were forthcoming as, apparently under the pressure of producing the magazine, the young publisher did a runner, skipping the country to avoid having to return the money collected. Enigma later turned up as an Italian magazine!

Around 1985 the Commodore Computing International magazine started producing an occasional CBM business supplement, mainly catering for the many PC clones that Commodore was producing at the time. It started to include Amiga coverage and, by 1988, the supplement morphed into a full magazine, Amiga User International, dropping the PC stuff on the way.

1988 was the boom year for Amiga magazines. Transactor finally appeared (subscription only) as did Amiga Computing. The latter's first edition had a somewhat unfinished look as both part of the CBM logo and some text that should have appeared under the main title were unintentionally missed off. The other start-up that year was ST/Amiga Format which had the unenviable task of catering to both the Atari ST and Amiga crowds - both of which tended to snipe at each other about the various pros and cons of each platform. This title had a cover mounted floppy which was dual format - if it was put in an Amiga, you saw Amiga programs but stuff it in an ST and you saw ST programs - this was probably more amazing than you'd imagine as these machines used completely incompatible disk formats. There are tales of uninformed shop assistants referring to the magazine as Saint Amiga Format. A year later, rising sales and revenue had enabled the title to split into two, much to the relief of the readership!

The magazine previously known as VIC Computing and then Commodore User had developed a split personality calling itself CU 64 and then CU Amiga. Initially very games biased, as belied by its reliance on the C64 market, it slowly became more mainstream and a serious rival to Amiga Format and those two were last UK Amiga magazines on the market with CU ending in October 1998 while AF struggled on until May 2000 when the resources used to produce it were transferred to Linux Format.

In 1991, Future magazines, which produced Amiga Format amongst others, saw a market for another Amiga title aimed at the more serious user and so Amiga Shopper was born. Its first issue was a supplement given away with Amiga Format in April as a taster for the full edition that was published a month later. Like the similarly named Computer Shopper it was initially produced on cheap paper in order to keep the price down to just 99p. It lasted until 1997.

After Commodore had died a messy, prolonged death in 1994, no one in their right mind would have thought of producing a new magazine title dedicated to the platform. However, that's exactly what did happen as, in June 1994, the first issue of Amiga Pro appeared. Unsurprisingly, it only lasted a few issues before succumbing, having lost out in the shrinking market to the already established titles.

For more on both the Amiga computer and the magazines try the Amiga History Guide. Also, many of the computer magazines mentioned in this article can be downloaded from the Bombjack site and Mike Naberezny's 6502.org site - the latter is now hosting some of my scans.

Okay, so this has been a somewhat biased and patchy history, and I expect it probably missed out many of your favourite mags (like Zapp 64 or Amiga Power, especially if you are a gamer - which I'm not). But, for the younger generation out there, it should give a small idea of what the UK computer magazine market was like back in the dim and distant past! For more information on any of those magazines just try Googling.