About Your Computer Online
The valiant attempt at eloquence that you see below is simply my views on Your Computer, why I have attempted to publish the magazine onto the web, and various other gibberings pertaining to layout, images and what not. I will understand entirely if you wish to cut to the chase. Therefore please find below links to the magazine proper – broken down into years – which I would urge you to use if you wish to avoid my lyrical waxings…
Your Computer – 1981 – 1982
Your Computer – 1983
Your Computer – 1984
Your Computer – 1985
About Your Computer Online
Your Computer was a personal computer magazine published by IPC between 1981 and 1988. Initially aimed towards fans of calculators and kit-based computers it soon blossomed – in tandem with the industry at that time – into a bulging magazine covering all aspects of personal computing and across all platforms.
The magazine lacked the camaraderie and flippant approach of many of its contemporaries such as Zzap, Crash and Computer and Video Games. Indeed, it could be argued that it was self-consciously high-brow and eschewed the populist approach of many other magazines.
Yet, this did not impact on its popularity. The contributors to Your Computer consistently provided its readership with thoughtful and insightful material and often the magazine would publish ideas that were at the very least at the forefront of the technology of the day, and in some cases very much ahead of its time.
I loved Your Computer as it felt to me that in reading this magazine I was more informed than my contemporaries. By this I mean that rather than simply consolidate my appreciation of my own computer (a ZX Spectrum) I was very much aware of what was happening on different platforms. I believed that I was part of a community that viewed the computer scene as a whole rather than out of any partisanship to one platform over another. Of course this was and remains to a large extent nonsense. I did not refrain from debates with the few in my circle of peers that owned Commodore 64’s or BBC B Micro’s. I was however, able to approach such debates with an air of affected superiority.
Your Computer provided an opening for those who wished to look into the computer industry. Articles were published on all manner of subjects and much effort was made to look at the impact (negative and positive) of computers on society. Also, as a record of how the computer scene evolved within the United Kingdom, it is pretty much unrivalled.
Inspiration and Aspiration
I was inspired by two sites in particular in throwing my retro-hat into the ring: The Your Sinclair Rock ‘N’ Roll Years and Crash Online (this attempt is in all honesty a poor imitation of those sites). In both instances magazines have been typed up and then uploaded in order to allow the reader to sift through pages that they wish to look at. This is a far better approach than simply scanning images of the magazines and uploading as JPEGS or even PDF documents as the reader does not have to wade through tons of advertisements and unrelated material to get to the article they wish to read.
I have taken a similar approach to The Your Sinclair Rock ‘N’ Roll Years and Crash Online websites. Most of the articles uploaded here have been typed up (whilst I track down some decent OCR software). Realising that the magazine ran for eight years and on some occasions an issue could be approaching three-hundred pages, the implications are obvious. This is a mammoth task and is very much a work in progress, and will likely remain that way for some time to come (I admit that I have reservations about whether I will ever conclude this, but I am determined to enjoy myself whilst attempting this). Therefore I have concentrated initially on the major articles in each magazine. These will include reviews of new hardware and software and the features that Your Computer ran such as their investigations(s) into computer piracy. This does not mean that I intend to quietly forget about the news clippings and letters but rather that as with most things in life I need to prioritise. In my opinion and with all due apologies extended, a review of a Vic-20 or ZX Spectrum is more important than Ms Blogg’s latest debugging program for the Aquarius.
Type Ins, Listings and Videos
Likewise, it is my intention to publish the full listings that like most of their rivals, Your Computer published every month. As can be imagined this is quite an involved process but it is one that I feel is of utmost importance as it is with the type-ins that we really get an idea of how quickly and deeply the computer bug (see what I did there?) inserted itself into early eighties society. In short, thousands of people decided that they would attempt to rewrite Space Invaders or develop a new scroll routine and offer their work up for all to see. More often than not the results were less than I imagine was originally intended or expected, but the effort is there for all to view. Your Computer was blighted like many other magazines of the time by publishing listings that either did not work (that is they had not been tested in the IPC offices) or were subject to a typo. That said, they were by no means the worst for this and when all is said and done most of the listings that they supplied were of a very high standard. I loved them, and it is through such programs and the arduous seemingly endless task of typing those lines of code in that I finally and formally fell in love with computing.
There are undoubtedly people out there who can view a piece of code and picture how it will look when being run. I am not one of those people. Therefore, out of curiosity and where time allows I have typed the listings into an emulator, run the program and recorded what happens. Please note that I will intially conentrate on those machines that I am most familiar with: such as the Zx-81, Spectrum and C64. Those listings for things like the Pet and Atom will be put on the back burner. The programs, once recorded, are then uploaded to Youtube (to save on precious WordPress space) and then embedded into the relevant article. Of course, if as is likely and as precedent has taught me, I cannot get the program to run, I will attempt to debug it. The article will then be posted without the video and updated later once the programming hitch has been corrected.
Names and Addresses.
One of the things that I have pondered whilst preparing this site is what to do with the myriad names and addresses that are dotted throughout the magazine? It needs to be remembered that particularly during the early eighties, many of the suppliers of software (and occasionally hardware) operated out of their own homes. This is also true of the thousands of people who submitted their thoughts or programs to the magazine. The obvious impulse is simply to remove them from text before uploading, however, one of the aspects of this period of time that I find so fascinating is the disparate way the industry grew across the country.
This was a time of industrial strife and the move away from an industrial age into a technological one. Particularly if not exclusively the north saw mines and other aspects of heavy industry being wound down, more often than not followed by the communities that had built up around them (this is a statement of fact not a political sound-bite). Into the breach – albeit partially – a newer, hitherto untried branch of entrepreneurs stepped. Reading through Your Computer and especially the small ads, it is immediately apparent that many, many people were willing to try their hand at this new fangled computer technology thing. This is amply demonstrated by the plethora of bedroom coders some of whom went onto greater things.
Of course most of these companies went out of business and the properties are now likely to be occupied by people who have and want nothing to do with computers or computing history. As such I have decided that I will include names where supplied in the original text as I feel that this accords a degree of recognition for the person involved. But exact addresses – that is, door numbers, house names and telephone numbers have been removed. This is no doubt an unnecessary step but I feel that it is better to be safer than sorry.
Layout, Images and errata.
I was keen to keep the original pictures that were displayed in the magazine when posting articles. This has meant that there has had to be some judicious tweaking of pictures as often they would be splayed across two pages or presented in a way that they are overlapping. As such, some of the images on this site have been merged, joined, trimmed or in some way amended. I lack any sort of skill with Photoshop and so would like to extend my gratitude to the Lobster for taking the time to assist me with this matter.
It is not only in Photoshop techniques that I am found wanting. I also am not by trade a web designer. I want this project to be accessible to all and have therefore opted for a simplistic and some would say, drab, design. Please remember that the premise behind this site is for ease of access and readability. I am however more than willing to listen to ideas on how this site can be improved.
I do not own many copies of Your Computer and have therefore sought to source the material elsewhere. For this, I am deeply indebted to the unsurpassed World of Spectrum website which hosts scans (in Jpeg format) of numerous issues of the magazine. Those magazines that I do own (or will later track down) will be scanned with the help of OCR software which should ease the translation and transfer into a web page. The image scans will be typed up and it therefore needs to be acknowledged that any typographical mistakes are almost certainly down to me.
Your Computer is an essential piece of source material if, like me, you are fascinated by technological developments within the computer industry during the early to middle nineteen-eighties. Within its pages the reader can view – with attendant arguments, developments and follies – the evolution of an industry that impacts on every aspect of our life today.
I hope to record this evolution and make it accessible to all and sundry. I run the risk of sounding pompous when I say that magazines such as this are the computing equivalent of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History. But, that is exactly what this is. Your Computer Online is a record and collection of source material of a developing industry that has now reached a stage where there are few if any aspects of our life that it does not impact on. Even at this early stage of development I have been fascinated by some of the views and ideas expressed within the magazine. I hope that you are as well.