By Harry McCracken | Thursday, November 20, 2008 at 6:17 am
Computer Gaming World (1981-2008)
Publishers: Russell Sipe, Ziff-Davis
What made it special: In its early days, it was an uncommonly thoughtful, earnest magazine about the nascent world of electronic gaming. Then it became both authoritative and wildly successful–a sort of PC Magazine of gaming that reached 500 pages an issue.
Random factoid: The presence of a “World” in a tech magazine’s name is most often a cue that it’s published by IDG (see: PC World, Macworld, Computerworld, InfoWorld, Network World, Amiga World, NeXTWorld, and others). CGW was the one World published by IDG nemesis Ziff-Davis–it’s sort of as if Burger King had introduced a sandwich called the McWhopper.
The final days: In 2006, Ziff signed a licensing deal with Microsoft and rechristened CGW as Games for Windows: The Official Magazine. That bought it another couple of years in dead-tree form, but it was a shame to see one of the great names of gaming journalism disappear.
Current whereabouts: Games for Windows lives on as a component of Ziff’s 1Up gaming network.
Publisher: Info Publications
What made it special: .info–originally devoted to the Commodore 64, although it later shifted emphasis to Commodore’s Amiga–was a delightfully nerdy, feisty magazine with passion for the topic that oozed off of every page. It was less slick than competitors such as IDG’s Amigaworld, but its home-made feel helped make it engaging.
Random factoid: Back when desktop publishing was a hot topic but most computer magazines were still put together with old-school equipment like typesetting machines, .info practiced what it preached: It was an Amiga magazine that was published using Amigas.
The final days: .info was small and independent, and when Commodore ran into trouble, so did it. (A larger publishing house might have shifted its emphasis to PCs, but an .info that wasn’t about Commodore machines wouild have been unthinkable.) When it closed, its assets were sold off at an auction.
Current whereabouts: Bryce, a comic strip drawn on a computer back when that was a radical notion, is available for your perusal here.
Publishers: Dennis Publishing, Ziff-Davis
What made it special: In the 1980s, the Mac platform supported two of the best computer magazines, period. Macworld was kinda weighty and high-minded. MacUser was more informal–maybe even a little snarky, although I don’t think the word ecisted yet. The competition clearly made both mags better and left Mac users richer.
Random factoid: Strangely enough, the British edition of MacUser was never discontinued.
The final days: In 1997, some very smart people were very confident that Apple Computer was on its deathbed, which made it tough for the market to sustain two publications. In a rare instance of coopitition, archrivals Ziff-Davis and IDG merged MacUser and Macworld into one publication called Macworld, which they jointly owned for a spell. The MacUser crew who stayed on included Jason Snell, a former intern who eventually wound up as editorial director of today’s Macworld.
Current whereabouts: IDG eventually revived the MacUser name and URL for a successful new Apple blog that’s a good read.
What made it special: Mostly that it was a well-done computer magazine, with especially good how-to content. (Early issues also included articles by celebs such as Paul Theroux and John Updike–for a long time, every tech magazine went through a period of publishing stuff by noted authors before learning that nobody wants to read it.)
Random self-indulgent factoid: Longtime Editor-in-Chief Paul Somerson was a student of my father’s at Reed College in Portland, Oregon in the 1960s.
The final days: In 2000, when magazines about the dot com boom were…well, booming, Ziff-Davis revamped PC/Computing into one and gave it a new moniker with more words than I’ve ever seen in a magazine title before or since: Ziff Davis Smart Business for the New Economy. It didn’t help, proving for the umpteenth time that changing the name and focus of magazines never helps and usually hurts.
Current whereabouts: It’s unusually dead for a dead computer magazine-go to PCComputing.com, and you’ll get an ignominious “Directory Listing Denied” error. At least the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine preserves some of its history.
What made it special: Everybody thinks that “new economy” magazines were a byproduct of the dot com boom that got rolling in the mid-1990s. Everybody is wrong. Upside was the original new economy magazine, and it launched in the 1980s, when the Internet was still an obscure place where commercial activity was forbidden. It was a wonderful, wickedly funny magazine, too–especially in its early days, when it drew obvious inspiration from the then-red hot Spy and applied it to the tech world.
Random factoid: In its later years, Upside‘s CEO was David Bunnell–the same guy who founded PC Magazine, PC World, and Macworld.
The final days: Upside may have predated the dot-com boom, but it couldn’t survive the dot-com bust: It was annihilated along with The Industry Standard, Red Herring, and the original version of Business 2.0.
Current whereabouts: Very dead indeed–Upside.com goes nowhere.
What made it special: The Industry Standard neatly encapsulated the roller-coaster ride of the original dot-com boom it covered in printed form. Its well-reported pages are the definitive record of the era, from its humble origins to the period of absurdly great expectations and overinvestment in companies with no business model to the post-millennial collapse.
Random factoid: At its highpoint, so many startups wanted to advertise in the Standard that a spinoff, Grok, was launched to handle overflow ads.
The final days: In the end, the Standard became the story it covered: In 2000, it sold the most ad pages of any magazine in America. And in 2001, as the companies it covered were dying all around it, it went bankrupt and ceased publication.
Current whereabouts: In 2008. IDG revived the Industry Standard name for an all-new site that features news, blogs, and a futures market that lets folks wager on such technology questions as whether Bill Gates will be Barack Obama’s CTO.
More at Wikipedia.
Any memories of any of the above magazines? And which great tech publications did I forget?