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Classic Computing Magazines - Wealth of Information

One of my favorite past-times is scouring through computer magazines from 1975 to the late 1980s. In the 90s magazines started getting a bit tacky and focused more on sales tactics, reviews, slander, and opinion pieces thereby drifting away from hobbyists and instructional teachings. The 90s computer magazines were 300+ pages of glossy paper to get lost in, but amazingly didn’t tell you a whole lot. There are a few good articles sprinkled about but it’s so few and far between and most the information was already being recycled from the past decade.


First Appearance of Altair 8800

Popular Electronics - 1975

In present day, post-2000 era magazines are focused primarily on new-entrants to computing with more of a primary high level run through to hit the ground running. The magazines overlook the basics and are more focused on the classic “hello world” results and instant gratification. And, unsurprisingly, everything somehow ties back to Arduino or Raspberry Pi; or unfortunately, even politics/social-issues - hardly the platform for a technical publication. Of course, the level of material being recycled now is staggering - practically every issue will have some rehash of 3D printers on the market or LED badges. Long gone are the magazines that may have taught you how to build any of these commercial goods. There has definitely been a paradigm shift away from hobbyist to commercialism.

I find the constant tie-back to Arduino and the Raspberry Pi interesting (and obviously annoying), as the now infamous January 1975 article in Popular Electronics that first featured the Altair 8800 didn’t particularly become the end-all and be-all of the publications…. in fact, future issues and other publications were suddenly spurred with an equal balance of not only discussing the Altair 8800, but how to make more by-products of it faster, cheaper, and easier. Tracing through magazines the Altair 8800 article coverage drastically started fizzling out after 2 years, which is a much shorter lifespan than the Arduino/Pi products of today. Anyhow, I digress…

The point is there are reams of information in those magazines, that is succinct and straight to the point. The industry was fresh, ideas were clear, instructions were raw and low level. I find them better than many books of the era - maybe it was the limited amount of pages, maybe it was the typeset, I’m unsure. However there is certainly something fulfilling about reading 44 year old articles and relating to them today - and finding they are still utterly applicable.

That said, I’m slowly going to post articles here that I have extracted from early publications. Maybe it will help some people see my point, or be a bit of a primer/refresher. It may be a bit easier than sifting through the publications manually as even the older publications did have it’s fair share of advertising and lesser articles.

Byte - 1975

Serial Interface - September 1975 - PDF

Write Your Own Assembler - September 1975 - PDF

Recycling used ICs - September 1975 - PDF

Television Interface - September 1975 - PDF

Ins and Outs of Volatile Memories - November 1975 - PDF

Notes on Parallel Output Interfaces - November 1975 - PDF

Son of Motorola - November 1975 - PDF

Computers are Ridiculously Simple! - November 1975 - PDF

Read Only Memory Technology - December 1975 - PDF

Flip Flops Exposed - December 1975 - PDF

Pricing Electronic PCB Projects Fairly and Good Business