To write a feature on the history of a magazine - or indeed anything
- it’s usually advisable to allocate the work to someone who knows the subject matter particularly well. Who better,
we thought, to write this ZZAP! feature than Lloyd Mangram? Take it away, Lloyd...
So. we’ve finally done the ton. Personally I’ve never doubted we’d make it: I've always had faith in the C64 as a machine, and just as much in ZZAP!/COMMODORE FORCE as a publication. Having been with ZZAP! since the beginning. I thInk I could honestly say I’ve seen it all, editors come and go, much-awaited releases turn out to be turkeys... and of course letters. Think of a number that’s pretty darn big and you'd probably not be thinking of a sum higher than the amount of letters I’ve opened.
‘So what’s the point in a ZZAP! pull-out’ I hear you cry. 'ZZAP!’s dead, isn't it - COMMODORE FORCE took its place'. To answer: COMMODORE FORCE incorperates ZZAP!64. We're 100 issues old now, and we'd like to pat ourselves and our many readers - contributors or not - on the back with this mini commemorative issue. I've no doubt some people may sneer at that: my advice is - don't knock it. We're here to entertain, and we've received bundles of mail requesting a ZZAP! lookback. To those people: here's the lookback, hope you like it. To those who chortle behind their hands cos they think it's too self-congratulatory - big fat hairy rasps, you ignorant fools.
Ahhh, that's better. No matter how satisfying it is helping out a troubled reader, it's even more fun insulting the occasional idiot. Perhaps that's childish of me to think that but, hey - back to the point, and on with the (mini) issue...
A CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION
In the beginning of time there was darkness. There was no light, no life to
speak of. If you think there are too few games releases these days, just think what It was like back then! Anyway,
after the world appeared and went through all that tiresome evolution business and stuff, something wonderful happened.
That’s right - ZZAP! 64 was launched.
May 1985, and Britain was Britain as usual. Politics were still being talked, money played its familiar, important role, and religion still dictated the way of life for millions worldwide. But although life seemed to continue to revolve in a continuing circle, there were many - seemingly insignificant - revolutionary happenings.
At the time, the subject of computers and video games was hardly a topic for dinner party discussions - in fact, nobody could have really expected the widescale growth of the computer industry as a front-running source of entertainment. Most machines (such as the Atari VCS, or the early ZX machines) didn’t have the power to sufficiently impress; the first computers were basic and sadly primitive in their design. Subsequent to the launch of the Spectrum and C64, things changed. Initially, Sinclair got it right. Commodore’s insistence on portraying as ‘more than a games machine' almost led to an early death for such a promising piece of games hardware. Eventually, things began to take off, and the only thing that the Commodore lacked was decent magazine coverage. Early compute titles - with few exceptions - were jargen filled and not as easily accessible as recent publications; the scant games coverage and emphasis on ‘serious’ software a definite turn-off to a fair few C64 owners. So, was that an opportune moment for an interesting, well-written and - above all - games orientated magazine to hit the market?
You bet your shoes it was.
All systems go
Having already launched the Spectrum magazine CRASH, to fantastic response from the growing software industry and buying readers alike, Roger Kean, Oliver Frey and Franco Frey and a talented editorial team started a new C64 project. Originally, it was to be called Sprite and Sound, but a last minute change of heart lead to the name ZZAP! 64 - eventually, the first issues hit the news-stands. The initial group of writers consisted of Chris Anderson (who’s he?), Gary Penn, Julian Rignall and Bob Wade.
Issue Three saw the departure of Chris Anderson and Bob Wade - both couldn’t accompany the magazine in its move to sunny Ludlow. It was at this point (well, Issue Four) that I (Lloyd) joined, having worked on CRASH since the beginning. No stranger to the world of computer journalism (or working for peanuts, for that matter), I’d write various articles before I eventually took the reins of the letter page... ZZAP!’s seen many editors, art editors, staff writers - many have moved on to pastures new or, occasionally, to black voids from which they’ve never returned. Whatever did happen to Mark Caswell? Writers for ZZAP! - as a rule - were always talented and much sought-after journalists.
The new age...
As ZZAP! continued through into its eightieth issue and beyond, it had changed into a magazine almost unrecognisable from its original form. Although it still catered for C64 users, it had changed in so many ways - its full-colour pages and ‘mega’ tapes being notable examples of just how different it was. However, after the results of ZZAP! last reader survey had been collated, it was decided that, although readers were happy with ZZAP!, it was time for a change. COMMODORE FORCE - incorporating ZZAP! 64! was born. The name placed Britain’s brightest C64 magazine in line with its sister publications - namely SEGA FORCE, AMIGA FORCE and NFORCE -and the first edition hit the shelves to meet a tremendous response. Ten issues later and we’re still going strong, with our huge amounts of readers proving the world of the ‘64 is still very much alive and kicking.
Of course, much of the exposure would never have been exposed if it wasn’t for the one magazine that has now become a milestone - ZZAP!64. So next time you’re just flicking through a back issue or the latest COMMODORE FORCE, stop and think. Not only is it the best mag for C64 users, it's also the most experienced. And now, there’s nothing more to say than... happy birthday ZZAP!64 (oh, and COMMODORE FORCE too!).