THE PET® GAZETTE
THE EVOLUTION OF A MAGAZINE
by Len Lindsay
April 1978 marked the beginning of the PET GAZETTE. It was begun by an enthusiastic, active, involved dreamer. There were, of course, high hopes, but it's beginning was quite modest. A little background about it's founder may be of use.
WRITING. When I put together the first PET GAZETTE, I had a background that helped to get it started and grow. I previously was the editor, typist, etc. for a college newspaper. Thus at the beginning I knew how much time and effort a newsletter takes. (It is estimated about 10 hours per page for a newsletter editor, if he doesn't do the typing — I did the typing too!) I also was familiar with printers and camera ready copy. But a good writer I was not. In fact, my college English professor said that I was one of the worst writers she had ever seen. But maybe that was one of the reasons the GAZETTE grew. It was not stuffy and gramatically precise, but rather down to earth. I believe what one says is more important than how one says it (as long as your readers understand what you mean).
DECISION. The decision to specialize in the PET was made after analyzing the information in all the magazines and 5 full file cabinet drawers. It appeared to be the computer of the future, for the everyday person. The decision to buy a PET was made, and the first issue of the PET GAZETTE was compiled. My PET did not arrive until MAY of 1978. Thus, my first issue was written, printed and mailed before I even had a PET.
DISTRIBUTION. The first issue was mailed to every name and address that could be found connected to the PET via an article or ad. News releases were sent to various publications. I was determined to provide information for PET users free of charge.
PROGRAMMING. I did not know BASIC very well when the PET first arrived, but learned PET BASIC very fast using my PET to help me. I don't know any other computer language. However, most PET users also seem to be in that position when they first get their PET so my articles may have been more relevant to them.
THE EVOLUTION BEGINS. The PET GAZETTE was originally to be a resource guide, to give all PET users one place to look to find any PET company's address, a list of products for the PET etc. The first issue listed two PET groups and 4 magazines. A list of 15 PET related magazine articles was printed. The list of PET related products amounted to only 4. The software list included 11 known sources and a FREE cassette program exchange was announced along with some guides for programs and their submission. Peoples' Computers Graphic and Special Character LISTING conventions were mentioned and supported. This trend of proposing standards to help the user avoid the trap of everyone doing it a bit different was continued in future issues.
SECOND ISSUE. The second issue was twice as large. This issue contained one half page ad. The Software list increased and listed specific programs and prices. The number of PET groups listed doubled to 4. The list of PET accessories increased from 4 to 11 companies, and there now were 3 pages for standards and Cassette Exchange information. This issue was published in May 1978, just before I received my PET. I had no PET programs myself, and luckily no one had submitted programs for exchange. I did worry about what would happen if delivery of my PET were late. Fortunately, I received my PET in time. And when I was embarrassed that in my second issue, one of my programming suggestions to improve readability of BASIC wouldn't work on the PET. I had advised indenting the inside of each FOR ... NEXT loop by one space. But I found that the PET ignores all extra spaces between the line number and the start of the commands. Thus you could leave the extra spaces as you typed in the program, but when listed they would be gone. I wonder how many of my then almost 100 readers realized that at the printing of my 2nd issue of the PET GAZETTE, I still did not have a PET?
ISSUE THREE. The growth trend continued. The third issue was three times the size of the previous issue, now weighing in at 24 pages. Advertisements now took up about 8 pages. Advertising rates were kept extremely low as an incentive to get a lot of ads. I felt the PET users would appreciate being able to see all the PET products advertised in one place. There were now 2 full pages listing PET related magazine articles. The Software list expanded to 2½ pages. Now that I had a PET I began carefully looking at programs on the market for the PET. My reviews covered 4 pages, and began what was to become a main emphasis in the PET GAZETTE — informing PET users what to expect from programs purchased.
FOUR BRINGS PROBLEMS. This was my last monthly issue. It's 40 pages presented a problem: collating it by hand and then stapling it together. This wasn't too bad before with fewer pages and less copies. But my mailing list continued its trend of doubling each issue. 400 copies to collate, fold, staple, address, and mail is quite a chore. To save on postage, I acquired a bulk rate mailing permit. I retained the size to keep it a handy little reference publication. The mailing list was put onto metal addressograph plates. A printer in town was kind enough to do this for me. He also had collating and paper folding machines. They helped, but it still took a few days of solid work for myself and the couple of people that I talked into helping me.
Sound capability was now being added to the PET and when this issue came out, at least 3 methods, all incompatible, were being used. The simplest one was chosen to be proposed as the convention for adding sound to programs. All it took was 2 wires and a speaker/amplifier. And the programming was rather simple too. This convention did become standard and is often referred to as the GAZETTE sound convention. Almost all programs using sound use this convention. This kept the exchange of programs compatible.
This issue also began my WARNING. *** Never buy a product unless you are sure it exists ***. This was right on the cover of the issue. Every issue from this point on contained a similar warning on the cover or 1st page. This of course made product reviews very important. It also helped PET users to be wise buyers. I never printed a review of a product that did not exist. In addition to the reviews, PET programming tips were expanded. The GAZETTE was now more than just a guide to PET resources, it was an information guide as well.
LAST OF THE HANDY SIZE
This issue was the first where I had too much material to print, and could not afford to print and mail it all. Only about half of the material was chosen to be printed. The list of PET companies now covered 3 pages, with 4 columns on each page. Listing of PET programs began in this issue with FILE MANAGER, a program to help users with data files. Now, the bulk of the GAZETTE was helpful information and programming tips. My mail was increasing and many people were sending in information to print for the benefit of my readers. I was very happy with the generally enthusiastic and friendly attitude of most PET users. It really seemed that we had a PET community.
A MAJOR TURNING POINT. I decided to double the size from 5½×8½ to 8½×11. The GAZETTE had by now become a magazine. I converted my mailing list and arranged for another company to manage it for me.
Advertisers in this first large size issue were lucky. They paid for a full 5½×8½ page ad and received an ad twice that size, due to the page size doubling. I now had over 25 reviews printed, and several more that didn't get included until the next issue. The cover now was a beautiful photo of the PET in outer space, which I designed. I am very happy with that cover photo. The workings of the PET were also uncovered and a machine language program listing was included.
Perhaps the most significant change was that I now was using my PET to do my magazine. I had a Word Processing Program and printer. If it weren't for that I would not have been able to keep up the GAZETTE.
THE BEST. Due to requests for back issues which no longer were available I decided to compile all my previous information together with my new information and publish a BEST OF THE PET GAZETTE. I printed 4,000 copies of this 100 page book. It included over 100 product reviews, 20 program listings, and a ton of information. Company addresses were printed along the left side of 9 consecutive pages so as to be easy to flip through to find any company's address. Copies of this excellent resource and information guide are still available from COMPUTE at $10 each.
SPRING '79 issue. The GAZETTE now included art work and parts of it were typeset. Almost 60 more products were reviewed. I now was receiving reviews in the mail from enthusiastic readers. Some reviews came on tape, which provided data for my Word Processor Program. I then could print out the review on my printer in any size column to fit the space available on the page.
SUMMER '79. This issue brought all the problems to a head. It took almost 2 months to get it back from the printer, and another month before it was mailed by the company managing my subscription list. I had no control over all these delays, and was very frustrated. This, combined with being overworked and having to spend the majority of my time with "business" rather than with "computing" led to a sad state of affairs. The quality of my writing could not remain high when I had only enough time to put out first drafts, which were then printed. This is far from ideal. But by now there were thousands of PET users depending on the GAZETTE and I did not have the heart to just quit. Small System Services called. What do you know! They were interested in publishing the GAZETTE. After a few letters and phone conversations it was decided that they could carry on the GAZETTE and improve it immensely. How could I refuse that? The GAZETTE now reached its turning point, and it looked like a turn for the BEST.
THE NEW PET GAZETTE. Small System Services now is publisher of the PET GAZETTE. They decided to change its name to COMPUTE, the Journal for Progressive Computing. Emphasis on the PET remains, but other 6502 computing systems will also be covered, including the new, not yet released ATARI! In addition to all that, COMPUTE will have its own booth at three major fall computer shows (Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia). The fall super issue of COMPUTE looks promising indeed, with about 10,000 copies to be distributed. All this, and it should get even better. Watch for my program review roundup in the next issue. I'll be here hope you will be too.