The end of computer magazines in America (and elsewhere)

In the mid-to-late 80s, my excitement used to culminate by the end of the month when BYTE’s new issue would hit the newsstands1. In my small Italian hometown, only one, sometimes two, newsstands would sometime get a copy (BYTE was published in the US and copies sent abroad were scarce; only major, close-to-the-train-station stands had a chance to receive it). I wasn’t the only kid in town interested in that elusive one issue; I had an anonymous competitor. The race was on every third week of the month, give or take. You see, the thing is, back then, computer magazines were the only source of reliable, precious information on everything hardware and software. I could barely read English at that age. Yet, I spent whole afternoons stubbornly reading the magazine cover to cover, probably understanding only fifty percent of its content. Rather than at school, I learned most of my English by reading computer magazines.

This morning, these memories were brought back to me while reading The End of Computer Magazines in America by Harry McCracken. He was involved with the computer magazine industry in its golden age, so the article has exciting insights. I also appreciated the several former colleagues and competitors who commented, helping frame the period. Computer magazines are dead indeed, and it’s a bittersweet sensation. Quoting McCracken’s closing words:

I do remain grateful that computer magazines existed. Their time has passed—but what a time it was.

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  1. This is a story I probably already mentioned on this site, but hey, it’s my site; I can afford to repeat myself. [return]