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[personal profile] krpalmer
The news that Macworld magazine would no longer be printed (and that most of the people who'd also contributed to its web site would be losing their jobs) was one of those unfortunate announcements which all the same make a certain hard sense in hindsight. I had bought one issue earlier this year for its "thirtieth anniversary of the Macintosh" article and thought the whole thing awful thin; before that, the previous issue I'd bought had had a twenty-fifth anniversary cover story. For that matter too, I know PC Magazine and PC World had already stopped printing issues, so one can hardly suggest "the smaller platforms go first, even if at last." Even so, its continued existence might have served as a personal link back to the days when my family had left the "8-bit era" by buying a Macintosh LC II for our home and we'd started buying the magazine just months before the typeface of its cover logo changed (after which it didn't look as attractive to me). There's also the little complication that even in an age where the instant information of web sites may have obscured the value of a more permanent month-by-month record, I've managed to start going back to some of the earliest issues of Macworld...

As I dig up more information about old computers, including archives of scanned magazines devoted to various systems, I have got to thinking I could stand to know a bit more about the early days of the Macintosh from sources biased towards it. As much as I understand the basic current narrative that its early adopters spent a year or more struggling with infamous hardware limitations as sales went soft and Apple Computer itself went into a crisis Steve Jobs was ritually purged over, I'm certain not all of those users responded with an obsequious special column in an early issue of Amiga World magazine asking Commodore to be magnanimous in victory. The only problem, of course, is that Macworld, having been published until just recently, would have been trickier to scan and place online than a magazine that folded twenty or thirty years ago. I wound up turning to online auctions, and probably paid more money than I had to, but I've managed to assemble a pretty complete set of the first two years of the magazine with selected issues from later years of the 1980s.

It was interesting to see the ad coverage start picking up and developing from "physical add-on gadgets" to "clip art and fonts" (the early third-party fonts seemed to follow the lead of the system fonts in being named after cities) to actual advanced software, but there too I did find myself thinking that while there were certainly articles on desktop publishing and Aldus Pagemaker, the magazine didn't seem to wind up as narrowly focused on that topic as Amiga World seemed to wind up focused on video production by the early 1990s. For that matter too, I did get the impression the early adopters weren't stuck waiting for the Macintosh Plus, that even if you needed special tools to pry the case open there were small companies willing to take your computer and "hack the hardware" to install an internal hard drive or a multi-megabyte memory board. It certainly might have been easier to upgrade a PC, but it wasn't impossible to work on the Macintosh. I also happened to notice that the "subsidy to pay for the first advertising blitz" was trimmed back off the price of the original Macintosh when the "512K" model was introduced, as much as the best thing to do with the original model did seem to be to add that extra memory.

As I've approached the end of my month-by-month accumulation, though, I have got to wondering if the magazine really got into anything that might be called "defensive" in reassuring users they'd really made the best choice. There was certainly a bit of apprehension in the crisis year of 1985 and an editorial I was very tempted to call "sour grapes" saying that the colour capability of the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST didn't really matter in a business environment, because colour printers weren't very good (back then) anyway, but I am curious now as to what other sources did exist. Somebody got around to scanning all of ST.Mac, Softalk's Macintosh spinoff; however, this might have been possible because the whole publishing company went out of business in 1984 (and the thought getting the spinoff off the ground until its own advertising pages were just starting to fill out in its last months might somehow have played a role in that does leave me troubled at the thought of Apple II partisans jumping on it). There was a smaller enterprise named "The Macazine" that ran for several years, although I know little more about it than that, and I do know that MacUser magazine, bankrolled by another other big publishing concern, had been intended to compete head to head with Macworld. Years later, when MacUser merged with Macworld, MacAddict magazine suggested the just-departed magazine had started as "the irreverent challenger" even as it helped itself to that label. I certainly found that magazine heartening appearing as it did in a darkest hour (complete with special story about how Gil Amelio would save the day), but have to admit that something went wrong after it started tossing in "bashes" of the new Star Wars movies. I did subscribe for years after that as it changed its name to "MacLife," but at last had to face how I just couldn't bring myself to look in it any more, always imagining another unpleasant and unfunny comment at an unexpected moment. However, I did happen to pick up a few later issues off the "free" table at a local user group meeting. Whether things will change there with respect to Macworld issues is another question.

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