The Def Guide to Zzap!64

Letter to James Price
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Author:  Iain [ Wed Nov 28, 2012 11:25 am ]
Post subject:  Letter to James Price

Here's a letter I found on my Amiga that I sent to James Price after his appeal in the last issue of Commodore Force:

Dear James Price,

I read your editorial in CF issue 16 (March 1994) and being a reader of ZZap!! / Commodore Force since 1989 or so, I thought I'd write in with my views and ideas. It's pretty obvious now, unless you happen to live in a cocoon, that the C64 is on its last legs (at least commercially). Every time I go into a computer shop the space for C64 stuff gets smaller and smaller and eventually it disappears. I was on holidays in London at christmas and I must say support for the C64 was virtually non existent! Out of all the computer shops I visited I found about 2 that actually sold C64 stuff on a on going basis. Thankfully the situation in Dublin hasn't been quite so bad with most of the computer shops stocking C64 stuff but unfortunately the beginning of the end is coming as many of them are now selling off their C64 stock at ridiculous prices to clear stock once and for all. I suppose the advantage of owning a dying computer is the fact that software can be picked up for next to nothing, from C64 carts from £4.99! to tape games from 50p. Over the past few months I must have bought at least 100 new C64 games for around 30 or 40 pounds!

Well getting back to the subject of CF, this issue was the first ever issue of ZZap! / CF with no game reviews and considering that ZZap used to be a "games mag" it's obvious you need to head in a different direction, I had heard you were planning to close up shop but thankfully that seems to have been put off, for at least the moment.

Personally I think you need to become more of a fanzie type of magazine, with a lot more input from readers and more general articles. Over the past few months its been nice to see some great games on the front cover, unfortunately I tend to have bought them a long time ago but at least it's nice to have them on disk rather than my old tape versions and seeing as how the C64 market is worth less month by month hopefully that should mean you can buy up these games a lot cheaper. But I have one thing to say about this, please do not do a Crash job and just become a tape with a free magazine! I buy CF for the magazine not really the tape, or disk as in my case.

Following is a list of the articles that I would suggest you could do. I'd really like to see a round up of all the 'famous' C64 coders and see where they are now and what they are up to, eg Andrew Braybrook, Jef Minter etc. I don't know about other readers but this type of article I would really enjoy as I often wonder what ever happened to the 'great' coders.

Another idea is, feature way more PD in the magazine, the small PD section you used to have seems to have disappeared and is greatly missed. Do in-depth reviews of PD utilities and games as well, not forgetting demos of course. Provide some of the things you review in the pd section on the cover tape / disk. I don't know how many of your readers would have a modem or access to one but how about an article on comms? getting online and BBS's etc. I run a BBS for the Amiga and also the C64 so I'm always on the look out for C64 users, although it's hard to find any with a modem. A mention of my BBS in the magazine would really make my day! :).

Just in case you do decide to mention it, it's called "The Highway To Hell" Online times 10pm to 8am @ +353-1-xxxxxxx, although I don't have loads of C64 stuff online, if I actually got C64 callers I'd greatly expand it, if you do decide to do an article on comms (please do!) I'd be able to help you in any way possible as I think I can safely say that being a Sysop I know a fair bit about comms. I don't actually have a modem for my C64, but rather have one for my Amiga 1200, yes! You read right, I own a ultra cool 16.8 million colours Amiga 1200 and still use my C64!

The Amiga's role in life is Comms and general other stuff, and I use my C64 for programming (haven't done any in a while thou :( ) and also for games, the way I look at it, why spend 30 pounds on an Amiga game which you'll only play for an hour or so when you can spend a couple of pounds on a C64 game and play it for a couple of hours. The amiga's a brilliant machine but I won't be throwing out the C64 for quite a while!

Also I notice the news page has gone, not really surprising since there isn't any C64 news EXCEPT for the C65! yes indeedy I've heard rumors that 600 C65's where actually made and SOLD! so James? Where is all the news, all the specs and pages and pages on the C65!? Okay so there isn't going to be any C65 games (not with only 600 owners!) but I'd love to read just what it is and every detail about it! Surely you have C64 contacts in the trade etc. what you could find this information from, I think some place in the UK is selling C65's for around a 100 pounds, and that includes a 3.5 inch drive. Well for most users that would be a waste of money buying a C65 but for 'hackers' like myself it would be a worthwhile investment, just imagine coding for such a beast! So PLEASE find out more information about the C65 and print it!!

Well that's my lot finished, hopefully you'll think about some of my points and perhaps act on them. But do not give up on the 'ol C64, there's still a very large following and the C64's role in life will be as a hobbyist machine, let the 8 year old game players go to the consoles! Just one last thing, why do you never report on the state of the C64? eg is it still being produced, how many C64's were sold last year? All information of this kind would make for very interesting reading.

Yours Diehard C64ingly,
Iain Black

I sure used to write a lot in letters and emails back then! Fascinating for me (at least) to read all these years later. I wonder if it made it to James before the mag closed...

C65's for £100???! Damn why didn't I buy a handful of them! :-D

Author:  debit [ Wed Nov 28, 2012 9:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Letter to James Price

Nice one Iain, thanks for posting.

At the risk of going around in circles with what's been said in other threads, I do wonder what sort of magazine Commodore Force might have been if there'd been more awareness of the homebrew/European scene. Commodore Format had a good go towards the end, but freelancers aside - the mag simply wasn't being staffed with writers who had enough awareness of the C64 in general. So many errors. He was very hard on himself on these forums, but at least with James, Commodore Force had somebody who'd played a lot of Commodore games and knew the machine.

All so long ago now, eh? So very long ago. I played a game of online Fifa earlier and from the guy's profile I saw he was born in 1994 - ie the end of Zzap/CF. All this retro gaming's starting to make me feel doddery! :)

Author:  andy vaisey [ Wed Nov 28, 2012 10:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Letter to James Price

Thanks for sharing that slice of history!

Author:  Professor Brian Strain [ Thu Nov 29, 2012 1:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Letter to James Price

Don't remember anywhere in the UK having access to the C65, and certainly not at that price. Grapevine in the U.S sold off at least two hundred prototypes (not guaranteed as working) and they were charging more than $200 a piece.

Having freelanced on Format and Force at the time, it was frustrating trying to get ideas across and get them into print...

Author:  Iain [ Thu Nov 29, 2012 5:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Letter to James Price

Not too sure where I got that £100 price point I mentioned in the letter, I assume from a forum somewhere or maybe just in conversion with someone.

It would have been nice to have more news in the mag all right but as I think James said somewhere in here, he or others didn't have any access to the net to know what was happening.

It was great reading the old letters and emails that I found on my Amiga a while ago, I sure used to write a lot back then!

Author:  Professor Brian Strain [ Fri Nov 30, 2012 1:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Letter to James Price

Used to write my columns on the C64 itself, and send a printout in to the office. Last couple of issues of Format I was able to copy to a PC disk.

Author:  Mayhem [ Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Letter to James Price

Heh, very similar... before the PC I was using Vizawrite on my C64 to write reviews and my A-level project reports...

Author:  Ian Osborne [ Sun Dec 09, 2012 9:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Letter to James Price

Letters sent to Commodore Force often went unopened until the end of the schedule, with the section then being padded where necessary with letters that were made up. Even if your missive arrived in time, it's unlikely to have been considered for the mag. Sorry.

[Edited for clarification]

Author:  Iain [ Mon Dec 10, 2012 12:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Letter to James Price

Really? :-o T'was a bit pointless him asking for the readers to get in touch with ideas then.

Were the letters on the readers' letter page totally made up then? :(

Still, at least I read it 18 years later!

Author:  Professor Brian Strain [ Mon Dec 10, 2012 12:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Letter to James Price

You also have to remember the lead time to get the magazine ready, back then an issue had to be sent to the printers nearly two weeks before publication. So even if the letters page was one of the last things done, it could take a couple of issues to react to a letter depending on deadlines.

Author:  Ian Osborne [ Mon Dec 10, 2012 9:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Letter to James Price

Iain wrote:
Were the letters on the readers' letter page totally made up then? :(

Not all of them. Looking through the last few letters pages, some were made up and some seem genuine. The section was padded rather than invented.

When I was drafted back to Commodore Force a few weeks before Impact closed, I remember finding letters that hadn't yet been processed. If yours arrived in the last few weeks, I might have picked it up myself, but I don't recall it (unsurprising considering how long ago it was).

Author:  Sixteen Plus [ Tue Dec 11, 2012 4:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Letter to James Price

It could always make it in issue 108.

Author:  Professor Brian Strain [ Tue Dec 11, 2012 3:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Letter to James Price

True story. As Professor Brian Strain I got a letter from the person who wrote the technical column in Commodore Format.

Author:  debit [ Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Letter to James Price

Professor Brian Strain wrote:
True story. As Professor Brian Strain I got a letter from the person who wrote the technical column in Commodore Format.

What was it about?

Author:  Professor Brian Strain [ Wed Dec 12, 2012 1:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Letter to James Price

Think I still have it somewhere, but it was done as a joke - how do I connect a joystick and other simple stuff.

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