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As part of trying to evaluate the situation with magazines for the BBC micro, I'm interested in your comments.
The only ones I had ever seen until recently are 'the micro user' (MU) and 'acorn user' (AU). But there were at least these too: A&B computing, Beebug (although advertised as a usergroup, I think it's clear you actually bought the magazine), Laserbug (same), The beebon, Interface (well, this is multiformat actually, with the focus shifting over time, zx80/zx81/atom to atom/bbc etc.), and probably various user group publications. What did/do you think of these magazines? What was good about them and what was bad? I welcome your comments by email, and if the emailer agrees, put them or a summary on this page.
Here are a few comments to get started:
Micro user I find the covers from ca. jan 1985 onwards to be a bit ugly (far too flashy). That reminds me, did any of you also get that feeling of embarrassment picking up and browsing some magazines in a magazine shop as they had such outrageous colours/covers? (thinking in response to what others might think: No, I'm not reading one of those weird comics, this is computer stuff, ok! :-))
Acorn user is ok, but I find it a bit boring; I guess it's the style in which (some/most/all?) articles are written which I don't like. On the plus side, articles usually have more depth than articles in MU (but this is only a slight plus, as one usually needs to read a book for explicit information on eg graphics or floating point algorithms, magazines just can't give enough depth).
One thing in particular I don't like in AU is the Acorn abuser diary. From the letters in the mag, some readers dismiss it as silly, others think it's funny. But I think it's simply tedious. It's over the top humour that gets very annoying and/or boring after a very short while. Also, it relies on a huge amount of extremely detailed context information (the real names of persons, who they are, the situations/goings on and the exact date at which various events happened), to know what in the abuser diary is a joke, and then what it is actually is about. Even in 1984/1985 I did not know many of the persons/situations involved (and in cases I did, I did not find the abuser diary funny), and now it's a lot of work trying to work out what is meant at all!
A&B computing at first indeed
appears (probably due to the style of the mag) review based as KL
noted, but does contain listings and other articles, so not much
different from MU & AU. Style improvements (colour or layout)
could have prevented this impression. A problem too is the handling
of reader's letters, where it's unclear without extremely careful
reading, where the letter ends and the answer of A&B begins...
What's also noticable is the many spelling errors! (and what about
the volume/issue numbering? It's a mess in various places and
For 1983-1985 my preference is: 1.MU, 2.AU, 3.A&B
Later issues (1986-1987): These
generally don't interest me much (after reading I usually put them
on my trade list...), but AU is definitely the better magazine. The
main detraction for me is that MU got too serious, and boring due
to prominent business (yuck!) & education sections.
A&B is strangely suddenly much more interesting to read than MU or AU (due to the latter two becoming so boring or has A&B improved so much? Not sure; it might be that the 'BBC Master' (which I don't like for various reasons) is not featured so prominently in the issues I've seen (jan-sep 86)).
For 1986 my preference is: 1.A&B, 2.AU, 3.MU (haven't seen any 1987 A&B's so I can only say that for 1987 AU is again better than MU)
Beebug: I've read vol. 1 & 2 recently, and it's Ok but I would prefer MU or AU if I were to take out a subscription (I'm dismissing the 'user group' identity completely, a real user group is about people meeting, then producing a magazine to distribute their work/ideas/schedules for meetings etc. This obviously is not the case. The magazine was the product that came first, input from others later; I don't think the discount for 'members' for various articles makes Beebug a usergroup). What's incredibly annoying is that from vol.1 no.9 various items like ads, competitions and even some reviews were placed in a supplement that one was more or less encouraged to throw away (and I thus have not seen any, I've only seen the references in the main mag), as binders were advertised for the main mag (who has never looked up an old ad?). Such separating of current events with material that's more interesting to look up (listings/articles) does not work for non-electronic magazines and is a very bad idea.
As to the actual contents: It's much the same as the other mags, except for very little news, and very few articles. It's mostly reviews, listings, hints (This appears to change in later years, as the issues from 1985/1986 I've seen are more like the other BBC mags, i.e. with more news and articles).
Supplements: Well, I did find one from 1986, and this contained competitions, competition results, hi-scores, Tube compatibility list of ROMs and ads. Hardly throw-away material. Bad Beebug!
5 Nov. 2002: Another update on supplements and the 'group': Reading through 1987-1988 issues, the supplements pages are numbered as part of the main magazine which effectively means you won't remove these from the rest of the mag, and there isn't really any distintion between mag/supplement any more. So why still call it a supplement? Regarding 'user group', Beebug itself mentions other 'professional' user groups to justify its use of 'user group': Any magazine could call itself 'user group' then, by offering any kind of support. And of course they all do, in the form of providing information, replying to letters, asking questions to suppliers etc. Beebug should have called itself Beebclub! Although clubs too have meetings, and beebug mags were on sale from dealers now and then, so my final suggestion: Beebmag.
Acorn programs Started out in December 1983/January 1984 bi-monthly, then from October 1984 on monthly. ISSN 0265-4660. Publisher: ECC publications ltd. This is a magazine with mostly just listings. In later issues, software reviews and news sections were added. I've read a comment on a web page that lists this mag as representing the 'arse end of the market' and this is probably a fair assessment... To be fair, I've only seen 2 issues myself (April/May and scans of October 1984) but what I've seen doesn't make me want to see any more of it...
A & B computing was a large format magazine available from newsagents that seemed more "review" based than informative. I recall not liking it as much as the Micro user which I took with a floppy based subscription by mail. The old 5 1/4 disks used to not take too well to my postman folding the mag in half to get it through the door!
Acorn user I took at the same time as MU and I didn't like it that much but it did have some very good technical articles.
If you agree, disagree or have any other comments, please mail them.
For anyone who has multiformat mags from ca. 1982-1984:
You can mail me anything upto a few MB by attachment, if you want to send more, then please contact me first.
Btw, I'm esp. interested in the 1982-1984 era because:
- I started around 1981 with a ZX80. earlier stuff is interesting from a technology viewpoint, but there is no emotional attachment for me.
- in 1985, with the advent of the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga (Sept. 1985), the BBC was getting 'old fashioned'; this is also why I'm not interested in the 'BBC master' (for the same price you could get an amiga or ST)
- In 1985, coverage of the home computers was diminishing, the PC was taking over in the mags I've seen... (and where not, the MSX abomination got lots of coverage).
Something I'd like more information on specifically: I remember an issue in summer 1984 (upon reflection, this is almost certainly too early, as it doesn't fit with my recollections on various events, and must have been 1985, see also below) of practical computing that had an article on the OS 1.2 ROM, it also said a book was supposed to appear a few months later with a complete disassembly. I guess Acorn put a stop to that as I never heard about that again nor did I see anything in later issues of Practical computing about the OS ROM. I was informed that apparently that book was published as 'the complete BBC ROM disassembly' Does anyone have this book?
Acorn must have responded quickly otherwise this book would have been better known. Anyone have more details on what happened?
UPDATE: I've bought a stack of practical computings, including almost all from 1984 (except August), and Janurary-March of 1985. In the February and March 85 issues there are 2 articles on the OS 1.2 but I'm not sure if April did or didn't have an article on it. The book appears to have been published, and is probably another book than 'the complete BBC ROM disassembly'.
Personal computer world (PCW) (This magazine is still being published)
Btw, Acorn related scans and some scans of other stuff (esp. hardware reviews) from various issues from 1983-1984 can be found on the scan section of this website.
Computer and Video Games (This magazine is still being published)
Which micro? and software review
Can't say much about the contents as the issues I had are lost. I liked them though! (that was when I didn't have a computer yet, and was shopping). Anyone have some of these mags?
I've never seen it. Might be a predecessor of 'Which micro? and software review'.
What micro I've never seen it.
Micro computer printout I've never seen it.
Personal computer news Weekly, I bought one or perhaps a few in 1983. Vaguely remember that it's ok, but not great. I would like to see a few as I don't have any any more!
Electronics and computing monthly Nice hardware projects magazine, with listings. I've got a lot of issues from 1983-1985. There's a robot section for about a year from February 1984 on, then discontinued because of lack of interest... Last issue was September 1985, after which it was succeeded by 'Computing age'.
Computing age First issue was October 1985, successor to 'Electronics and computing monthly'. Almost no hardware interfacing stuff any more. The mag itself claims the number of readers went up 50%, but it seems superfluous in this shape considering mags like 'Practical computing' and 'Personal computer world'.
I think it's time for the next step in BBC computer documentation, which is to list all articles and programs appearing in any magazine...
For this I depend largely on you, the reader to help.
So if you'd like to help, mail me. What I could use and will put on this website, are scans of covers/contents, contents of magazines with brief descriptions of what programs appearing in the magazine do, the actual name of the program in case the contents page doesn't give a name, and perhaps even what the articles are about (usually the contents page from the magazine itself is a bit too brief on that).
Contribute by checking out your collection and submitting your indexes!
Note: After 4 years here have been no contributions. You're supposed to not just use what other people provide but help as well guys...
|To email me, go to this page|
Last modified: Thu Nov 1 23:17:41 CET 2012