If you could find the subscription list of Personal Computer World Magazine (PCW) in its startup year, 1978, you’d have a Who’s Who of the UK tech business today. The mag has died – killed by the banking recession, and Private Equity leveraging – but the industry it kick-started will always remember it. I was a founder …
I too remember PCW...
And you're right, it was required reading. I still have the Windows 3.0 review edition somewhere in the void. PCW was far and away the most important and best written magazine of the era.
Like every other mag, it went through the bloated phase: 1+ inches thick, 95% adverts for horrible generic PC clones with their CPU speed hard-wired on LED displays, and I went right off it. Where were the articles? Lurking forlornly somewhere around page 357, but too hard to find!
But I'm very sorry to read of its passing.
I, for one...
Would like to offer my condolences.
I think I can safely say that without the guidance of PCW in my formative years I would not be where I am today.
I may have to go and dig out the old floppies and shed a tear over them (as I can't actually read them anymore due to complete lack of a floppy drive!!)
RIP, Personal Computer World.
p.s. On the gillette front, surely at that stage 90% of the male readership did not care for such things as razors, proudly stroking their bushy beards as they wrestled over opcodes?
I wouldn't be where I am today....
... without PCW. It was a formative part of my love affair with all things computer related.
I remember buying the IBM PC issue like it was yesterday. I remember all the excitement about transputers, the rise of hard disks and the inexplicable failure of 1Tb storage devices to become available ... until recently. I also remember that the BBC Micro smashed all the benchmark records for the day when it could do a "for 1 to 1000 ... next" loop in exactly 1 second. The last time I tried that on a modern computer, I had to make it a 1 to 1,000,000 loop just so I could measure it...
Thanks for the memories.
bloody hell, she never got mentioned. This is the first I heard of her and I went to a 2-day talk held by Steve Furber and Ivan Sutherland (that Ivan Sutherland) on the attempt to make a clockless ARM [*] and I'm sure her name never came up.
And even did the beeb basic <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophie_Wilson>. Give it a while loop and it would have been about perfect.
(a bit later) Ah. Mystery solved. Clue's in the wiki page near the end. Hmm. Well, best of luck to her.
PCW - well, I read you for a long while but it became obsessed with flashy new computers on the front cover so I dropped you decades ago. Needed a bit more meat on the bone. Not your target demographic, I guess.
[*] Does anyone know why this failed?
Wow, I didn't know Felix had a hand in PCW -- tangentially speaking, that explains a number of things that puzzled me about the way the Computer Shopper folks ran things in the early days (another Dennis project).
Oh yeah: I still have an ICL One Per Desk in the attic ...
I haven't read PCW in years. But I'll raise a pint to her (it?) tonight.
and I was just about to get a subscription....
I've been reading this since as long as I can remember, my dad bought it first. Sad to see it go as this was one of the better pc magazines. I have noticed that the adverts have been getting thin on the ground....
Hope it comes back when the market is better!
The penguin because well I'm not sure....
I have every issue of PCW from issue 1 up until mid-1993. They make fantastic reading.
Thanks for the memories guys.
I remember your name from when I was a nipper in shorts.
And I remember the machine the mag reviewed that had two 5.25" floppy disk drives whose motors had variable speeds so you could play tunes on them.. Now what was that called?
Ahh, nostalgia is not what it used to be
As a 14 year old I devoured every word of PCW every month. Great stuff.
Owned all the usual suspects - zx80, vic-20, electron, BBC, Archimedes. Still happily coding and sometimes in ARM assembler.
Ahh, where's my pipe and slippers
a surprise. The quality of the content and reviews in this magazine had been going downhill for a while. There were a few exceptions to this, Guy Kewney being one of them. The UK edition of PC Magazine was a far better magazine, with more in depth reviews and details of technology. That went by the wayside ages ago now though. Printed media is struggling and in The Reg is an example of the way things have moved on.
When I were a lad......
Ah! the bad old days of computing.......RIP PCW, fondly remembered.
So long ...
and give my regards to the chimp.
You're shitting me.
PCW gone the way of Practical Computing? Say it ain't so, Guy!
PCW. Takes me back.
You'll be telling me that Datalink folded next.
I still have a copy from 1989 knocking around here somewhere which carries a review of a Games Pack I wrote for the Psion Organiser II.
Sad news :(
As an avid subscriber since around 1990, I've enjoyed the magazine and reviews.
The last 6-10months thou has seen the magazine thin down somewhat to the point that I thought it would become a pamphlet :(
Very sad to see the mag go :(
PCW changed my life
Chris Bidmead's '32 Bit' and later 'Unix' column introduced me to Linux. Twelve years on I'm paid to swear at Redhat based web servers, and my home machines all run Debian.
Without PCW I'd still be fretting about whether I'm updating malware scanner's pattern files frequently enough.
I have to disagree with the author. I grew up on home computers in the 80s and PCW was universally known as being crap. If you had a Sinclair you bought Your Sinclair. If you had a BBC Micro you bought Micro User, if you wanted general microcomputer news you bought the real PCW (Personaly Computer Weekly).
What amazes me is that it lasted this long when far better publications called it a day decades ago.
Much as I hate to see something that harks back to the retro days finally folding, but I think the author is probably a tad too close to it to realise how little it really mattered :( Sorry.
Sad demise of an institution
Sad, but inevitable.
I remember, as a teenager, rushing to the newsagent for each new edition. I was ecstatic when a family friend/geek gave me an older stack including PCW#1-20 and some editions of Elektor.
Started with a Microtan 65 (remember that?), and moved to a BBC Micro, and PCW remained an essential purchase... until the market basically became this months PC clone which was 100HMz faster than last month's. The irony is that I think the computer market is about to get interesting again...
I've spent most of my career as a software developer in mobile telecomms, and PCW was definitely a large part of what got me started.
I remember PCW, I used to read it as a child when we went to my parents friends house.
I can't believe it lasted this long,
and that it's now gone.
It was awesome!
Free software with every issue - type it yourself BASIC or if you were really lucky, a hex machine code dump. Checksum? What's that then? :o)
I remember fondly the 80s/90s issues. But saying that 'PCW did nothing for the British computing industry' is a bit like saying Financial Times has done nothing for the London Stock Exchange. Sure, PCW didn't directly influence, but it kept a whole generation of up-and-coming technophiles informed and on the cutting edge.
And the 'new-box-on-the-cover' thing is a no-brainer (retrospectively). I'm a sucker for motorcycle magazines - and what do you think sells those? You won't see a single one without the latest, shiniest bike on the front.
PCW has had it's day - no surprise that it's died - but thanks for the memories :)
A race to the bottom
Well all IT is done in India and there is little left for us in the UK to do now, apart from formulate debt repayment and exit strategies. I loved PCW and PC mags in general, would not buy them now as 'Programming' well thats not done here, nor is x,y or z.
May as well release 'Popular Aluminium Smelting' or 'Car manufacturer monthly' we have won the race to the bottom, now what?
Ah, I remember PCW well. Growing up with the fast paced change in the computer industry in the 80's, PCW was essential reading.
Like many, I think I stopped reading it when the PC compatible finally won out over the varied and interesting 'home' computers. Probably around the time Windows 3 came out...
I still have a few copies lying around somewhere. Probably underneath the BBC Model B, Archimedes (I loved that machine) and Cambridge Computer Z88 (that I used at school, much to the consternation of some teachers) in a cupboard at my parent's house!
Possibly the most significant one in terms of modern day computing is the June 1990 issue. Cover star was the first colour laptop (from NEC -- bloody expensive, and a pretty hopeless screen!), some new fangled 486 computers (from RM and Compaq -- I think they were about £16k each, with 4MB of RAM!), a group test of sound cards (the cheap but low quality one from some new start up called Creative came dead last), a report on some fancy 'multimedia' thing called DVI (which transmogrified into DVD, I think), and a report on CD-ROMs -- what could we possibly want to do with all that space! And Guy's NewsPrint column -- do you still wear those natty bow-ties?
Ahh, fond memories...
Remember the Sig-Net?
Yes. One that I had in the attic went off to Bletchley Park.
Give them a call and see if they can use the Dragon, Oric Atmos, Newbrain, Archimedes and any other early loft-insulating clutter *before* your personal demise. Some of their examples of early computers they keep running so that youngsters can try them.
And if there's to be a wake for PCW, which is surely fondly remembered by many, why not float the idea of putting together a commemorative DVD and donate the profits/rights to Bletchley? Maybe the government won't help them (despite the recommendation by the Lords) but I'm sure that enough of the industry figures who would feature could justify a contribution to the production costs on expenses.
RIP PCW. You will be missed.
I used to read this magazine religiously from being 8 years old (in 1978) and read it until a couple of years ago when it was sadly overtaken by t'internet.
I still bought the odd issue but even though I don't read it regularly I will still miss it.
A nice obiturary by one of the PCW stalwarts
First BYTE, now PCW... <sigh>. Wish I had bought PCW more often in the 80s, when everything was new and exciting. It was probably about 10 years ago I stopped reading it, after the PC industry became commodified and homogenised, the people writing for PCW didn't really have much of a clue about what they were writing about any more, and the magazine grew to telephone directory proportions with all the advertising. By the way, "Newbear Computers"?! - I think you mean Newbury. And of course, Sophie Wilson was actually called Roger in those days.
I have fond memories of PCW. I think the first issue I read was an old issue from about 1984, I must have been about 8 or 9 (so it would have been about 1987) when I read it and I was fascinated with these stories about weird and wonderful computers such as the Memotech, MSX and the Dragon (I had a CPC 464 at the time). Being fairly inexperienced with computers at the time I never could get my head around benchmarking, of course now I realise what it is but back then it was a foreign concept to me, I thought was something to do with a workbench!
When my dad got a PC, PCW was one of the many publications we bought alongside Computer Shopper, Micromart, ST Format and Practical PC (I have fond memories of that one, including a review of Windows NT, pressing CTRL-ALT-DEL to login seemed like such an alien concept, and they mentioned it in the review).
I seem to remember PCW being more of a serious magazine but I still enjoyed it and did regularly buy it up until I guess the late 90's.
It's a shame that the magazine is closing but I guess these days a lot of people get their fix of IT news and reviews online and I guess a lot of the less technical IT stuff is covered by the likes of Computer Active.
I'll certainly be buying the last issue of PCW on 18th June, even if it's just for old times sake.
When did this go under? I've still got a subscription and am fairly sure I got a copy a few weeks ago.
In fact, I've had this subscription so long they still go to my parents house.... PCW taught me a LOT when I was growing up. I suppose it still did.
Very disappointing news. I still liked reading Mark Whitehorne's DB columns, and Barry Foxes monthy rant. And of course Mr Kewney - you are a legend in your own lifetime.
Best of all though was the page at the back where they re-printed the old covers from 5 or 10 years ago and you could play the "ooh I remember that one!" game.
The first issue had a picture of a Nascom 1 (my first computer) on the cover.
I think a lot of the other PC magazines out there would never have happened without PCW as a target to aim at. I do think -- sadly -- it forgot how to stay ahead of the crowd a while back, probably around the time I abandoned it for PC Pro, but it trod useful ground between the too-geeky and too-American Byte and the many, many "Computers for housewives" titles that have come and gone over the years.
You are, of course, far too modest to mention that many of us kept buying and reading it precisely because of your contributions.
(I think my ex-wife may still have my old Intertec Superbrain in her loft. I wonder if it still works?)
That was the ACT Sirius. 1.2M floppies in the early 80's using variable speed drives.
Monkeys on the cover
I've still got a stash of 80's era PCWs up in my Dad's house, next time I'm up there I must dig through a few, if only for the comedic value of the old adverts.
Admittedly I did stop reading it a long time ago after it had become just another PC of the month magazine.
Yes MrJOD, I do remember the Microtan 65, that was my first computer too.
Yes - I remember it well.
Always my first read of the monthly IT mags
Sorry to see it go.
I still have issue #1 somewhere
... being the sad git that I am.
However, it's interesting to see how it went downhill, from being a technical magazine in the pre-PC era to basically being a framework to hang advertising off.
I don't know which came first, the gradual move away from being a technical publication (a la Byte, Dr Dobbs) which brought in a new, less technical, more swayed by gloss, readership - or if the new band of PC owners weren't interested in making things and writing code - merely wanting reviews of a buch o' flash-bang-gore games and wizzy add-ons to spend their pocket-money on.
Personally I stopped reading it when the reviews lost all their credibility - to the point where nothing ever got less than a 3 out of 5 stars. (and possibly never less than 4 if you were an advertiser). I can't say if this impression was borne out in fact, but that's what it seemed like at the time.
Maybe it's as well that the mag. has gone. After all, PCs nowadays are pretty much generic. There's very little "new" about them - either in terms of tech, additions and even the games & apps are much like they were 5 years ago. (Just with better graphics, faster frame rates and higher prices). In fact, given the ubiquity of the 'net it's surprising that printed computer magazines still exist at all.
Maybe they just ran out of new superlatives for all the near-identical reviews?
"PCW was universally known as being crap"
Really? I think you are universally known as being a prat.
PCW was simply the best magazine in 80s. Well written and in depth articles. AC was probably some spotty kid who wanted to copy some broken code from one of the code magazines into your ZX81. You probably found the long words in PCW a challenge to you.
Guy Kewney is actually the only computer journalist I have ever remembered because I found his articles interesting and well written. (I was most amused when he appeared as a Nigerian IT guy on BBC2 a few years back). No disrespect to the other journos, its just Guy that I remember.
I believe I still have some early PCW magazines. Including the BBC Micro review. A well thumbed edition. I think I may also of the ZX Spectrum review.
It was certainly was a golden age of personal computing. I used to work on weekends in a computer shop (a rare thing at the time) and remember the odd ball machines that never really made it, uhm Lynx? Memorex? Jupiter Ace (a computer whose programming language was Forth and was manufactured out of Yogart cartons).
They were fantastic times and I think made all the better by publications like PCW.
At some point PCW lost its interest for me. But I generally stopped reading computing mags. When I did pick them up again I did find PCW a bit stale and found PC Pro more interesting. Cant remember why but anyhow it is sad to hear that PCW is gone. It was certainly an institution.
My first money as a programmer...
I got "Program Of The Month" in the June or July 1984 edition of PCW for a BBC Micro game. It was a delicate balance between adding enough REM statements in the Basic to boost your earnings (£100 a page if I remember rightly) while still allowing the program to fit in the Beeb's memory once the graphics had eaten most of the RAM. Sorry to see PCW go though.
Am i the only one.....
.....Wishing it was a different Personal Computer World (PC World)?
Gates....well because he's got them eating out of his pocket
Zzap 64 rules!
loved it, PCW was too full of boring adverts about motherboards and fans.....and my Dragon 32 was a dream machine in 1982...ahhhh whirlybirds.....
Sad to see it go ...
... especially as I renewed my subscription only one month ago. Do I get my money back?
A different world
I still have the Nascom II I built from a kit dating from about the era of PCW. I seem to recall the Nascom being reviewed in one of the early editions - was it number 2? (although it might have been a Nascom 1). In those days real computer nerds soldered their own machines together and everybody knew what Kansas had to do with data and program storage...
Things were different in those early days - now every computer rag looks much the same as every other one with computers being just another consumer gadget and acres of comparative reviews of identikit PCs where differences in brands hide interiors all built from the same international "Lego block" portfolio of components. Back in those pioneering days there we huge differences between machines - fundamentally different architectures and software environments, not replaced entirely by the near mono-culture of Windows with a side-field of Macs, and a tiny market garden of Linux to give some minor nod to choice. In those days there were distinct processor architetures from Zilog, Motorola, Intel, MOS Technology and (later) Acorn - not just the near universal Intel architecture.
However, PCW was a (literal) lightweight in comparison with Byte magazine which pre-deceased it by more than a decade.
Good bit of nostalgia. Remember it fondly. Wonder if they'll PDF the last issue?
.. was the name of David Levy's abortive attempt at a games-oriented home computer:
A trip down memory lane
I don't remember judging whether PCW was good or not, it was 'the guv'nor' - the authoritative voice of the writhing chaos that was the fledgling home computer industry. They made or broke systems by what they said about them. And benchmarking was great, type in the PCW routines and you too could run a computer lab. Love dancing down memory lane. Remember the first hard drive I had, 10 megabytes for a hundred quid! And more storage than I could ever use! My first computer, a trash-80. Upgraded to 32k at vast cost. Why was it such fun playing text only adventure games? A dvd of the best of PCW would be a great thing.
I miss Byte more to be honest
But that went down the bog even longer ago, sadly. I remember fixing a printer by poking some timeout variables as per their recommendations.
Memorex - ahh yes - I had one of those. I even had the 'size of a small table' double floppy unit for it.
I actually bought the first issue of PCW while waiting outside a courthouse for a hearing to start. The mag was the high point of the day :-). I'm pretty sure I owned every copy up to Sept 2001 when I abandoned the sceptred isle. Sad to see it go - it actually managed to combine real journalism with an understanding of the tech, a feat which is all too rarely seen. Do they all still hang out on CIX or has that gone the way of the dodo as well?
..for those who had substituted a fascination with computer technology over stuff like girlfriends :-)...actually speaking for myself, being enrolled in a single-sex school didn't help
Anyhow, yeah ..what an era! I was indeed a collector of what became an increasingly chunky publication into the mid-90s, eventually i had to chuck em all away (something like 75 issues), PCW did indeed chart the progress and innovation in the industry, those front-covers are embedded in my memory, Steve Jobs' NeXT machine, the Windows95 launch issue, the first Pentium machine, it almost seems like we're in a resting lull from the march of progress now, i say "almost", it may be an illusion which afflicts nostalgic people of my age, progress just ain't what it used to be these days though.
Still hunt around from time-to-time for the benchtest of the Agilis Modular System...a very cool and unique piece of hardware, be nice if VNU put the whole of the archives up on the net for free...
Take a trip down memory lane here:
http://www.old-computers.com/news/default.asp and click on the Museum Tab.
I used to work for Dixons late '70s to late '80s and I had a great time selling and playing with every new computer as it arrived in stock.
Some favourites for reasons unrelated to their virtues:
Tatung Einstein, one of the first "serious" looking home computers. Very competent, ran CPM, had a good monitor, no-one cared.
Oric 1, quirky, powerful and easy to program - had anyone bothered to.
Apricot F1 (which I still have!), about a year ahead of IBM on every front. 3.5" disks, double default RAM, colour support, 8086 chip, etc. Oh, it even included a voucher to upgrade to Windows 1.0 in the box.
Sanyo MBC Series, first budget PC compatibles that really weren't. WordStar & CalcStar were good enough bundled apps. Very reliable.
Sinclair QL, awesome performance, superb software bundle courtesy of PSION, 80% initial failure rate but the microdrive proved remarkably resilient.
Apple Macintosh, my first sight of WYSIWIG combined with NLQ dot matrix printing. I was privileged to see the future before most.
Amstrad PCW8256, because I earned sh*tloads of money selling them. C'mon, a complete system that worked straight out of the box, just add paper? They were pretty reliable and the third party software explosion added to the sales. Thank you if your parents bought one.
Many others, but I still have fond memories and nightmares about the above - work out which...
Paris because one day she'll get old but remain thoroughly usable...
Sad to see PCW go, I used to buy it a lot during the 80,90's when there was a lot happing in the PC world. Still it lasted longer than Byte which was my favourite magazine with all its Technical articles and themes. In those days you felt that the magazines educated you. Today they don't as one PC is much the same as another and nobody bothers with in-depth technicalities like Byte and Dr Jobbs did.
Under the covers....
As someone endlessly fascinated by how things work, I always appreciated PCW's 'under the covers' photos which continued well after the time when computer buyers weren't expected to take the lids off...
However whenever they tried to explain any hardware technical details, there were very often laughable errors that revealed the author really didn't have a clue what they were talking about. ISTR reading an explanation of how floppy drives work with an internal picture with the stepper motor labelled something like 'electromagnet - this creates the magnetic field used to write data to the disk'.