22 years ago my home computing experience was defined by my
eldest brother’s "http://oldcomputers.net/c64.html">Commodore 64, along with an
old flat-keyboard "http://oldcomputers.net/atari400.html">Atari 400 (take a look
at that keyboard. Imagine spending hours typing in
entire applications, your fingers pulsing in pain. Now imagine
your neighbour curiously pushing the button that opens the
cartridge cover, an action which hilariously also turns
off the power. That happens to be a very destructive act when you
have no persistent storage). Primary school computing consisted of
programming stick figures bouncing o’s on "http://oldcomputers.net/pet2001.html">Commodore PETs.
These were pretty exciting times in personal computing, with
seemingly endless potential, and a wide range of publications had
appeared to cater to the burgeoning market. One of the most
successful of which was "http://www.atarimagazines.com/compute/index/">Compute!, a
magazine that stood apart by being largely platform agnostic
(versus the rags that catered to a specific zeal, advocating why,
for instance, the "http://www.oldcomputers.net/ti994a.html">Ti-99/4a was the
greatest computer ever).
I headed to the library monthly to read each issue, eager to see
what new innovations were happening in the industry. These scans
are from the February 1984 issue (if you’re price comparing with
today, note that the CPI inflation since 1984 is 1.86x), one of
many that I bought on eBay some time back to use as office wall
art, as obviously this was a very shaping period of my life.
Each Compute! issue featured one or more type-in game or
application (as did most other home computing magazines), often
ported to several platform. Sometimes they were BASIC, while other
times it was a BASIC loader followed by pages of machine language.
Fun times, and I have a great memory of some of these games. I also
have memories of spending hours typing in a game to have it lock up
when we went to run it.
These type-in applications were actually my original motivation
for learning to program. My dream was to eventually submit my own
application, imagining the glory of having thousands of people
across the land typing my work into their computers. I would
be a hero to people everywhere!
Of course the whole type-in fad faded before I had a chance for
such illustrious glory. For a short while there was a standard for
printing programs as 2D barcode patterns, and with the appropriate
scanner you could scan it right off the page. Neat idea, but some
technical difficulties kept it from taking off.
Several trends seem obvious looking through this magazine.
Educational software of all sorts was a huge market in
those days (and it seemed to be the greatest intended use for home
computers), with "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinnaker_Software">Spinnaker
being one of the largest vendors.
"http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=88162624&size=o"> alt="compute_february_1984_fun_to_do" src=
"http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=88274641&size=o"> alt="compute_february_1984_mcs" src=
And of course there were games.
was a significant publisher of games, featuring several ads in
every issue. Though they originally started as a wargame company
(hence the Strategic Simulations company moniker), they began
generalizing into all sorts of (mostly terrible) games.
"http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=88280781&size=o"> alt="compute_february_1984_epyx" src=
It’s also evident that the still struggling “everyone will
be a programmer” philosophy was strong. BASIC, for
instance, was intended as a language that everyone would use to
achieve their computing needs — certainly not as the primary
language of many corporate developers — with the whole family
writing programs to do what they needed to get done.
"http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=88146393&size=o"> alt="compute_february_1984_program" src=
CompuServe was the dominant pre-Internet, allowing users in
several countries to communicate, participate in discussions, and
even play primitive multiplayer online games. Of course it was
insanely expensive, so I stuck to local BBSs.
And of course one of the most interesting sections of these
sorts of magazines were the mail-order shop ads (a trend that
reached its pinnacle with Computer Shopper several years late –
800 pages, 99% of which were full-page ads).
"http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=88269710&size=o"> alt="compute_february_1984_ad2" src=
"http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=88265558&size=o"> alt="compute_february_1984_lyco" src=
I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane, or in many cases
pre-memory lane. I had to scan these images anyways, so I figured I
might as well share. I’ve stuck to ads – rather than actual
magazine content — to avoid copyright issues.