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Thick as a brick

August 2nd, 2020 · Posted by Skuds in Life · No Comments · Life

This week came the news that Argos will no longer be producing their catalogue in paper form. The legendary ‘laminated book of dreams’ will be a thing of the past, but what a past! To be honest, its a surprise it has lasted this long, because it is out-of-date almost before the ink is dry. In this modern world of surge-pricing, Black Fridays and online price changes Argos were always vulnerable to competitors waiting for the catalogue to come out and then making sure their prices are just below and so for 6 months Argos appears below then when using Google Shopping to find the best deals.

A little reminder of where the ‘laminated book of dreams’ came from: Still funny now, but absolutely bloody hilarious when first seen sixteen years ago.

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In another end-of-an-era moment, the last ever copy of Q magazine arrived in the post this week. It was a shadow of its former glory, and no longer the essential read that it once was, though it had been getting better over the last few years. I will probably have to migrate to Mojo magazine now, though Uncut is tempting.

I read Q magazine from its first edition. There were a few years when I only got it sporadically, probably when I was reading Word magazine, but when that folded I decided to subscribe. Reading music papers or magazine is a habit I picked up in about 1976. It was always NME but sometimes Melody Maker, Record Mirror or Sounds as well, depending what was on the cover. Apart from Q there was a while when Select was quite essential because of its amazing cover-mounted cassettes.

What was reallyinteresting was seeing the cover picture for the last Q magazine. It was a photo of a teetering stack of old ediditons, and you could see that many of them are about twice as thick as the last few years’ output. Nowhere near as thick as the Argos catalogue of course, but still pretty substantial.

Which all got me thinking about those other now-defunct magazines, some of which were almost of Argos catalogue thickness, the computer magazines of the 80s and 90s. Back then I worked for a computer manufacturer, so read all the trade papers like Computing and the other weekly one – Computer Weekly was it? – but really enjoyed the consumer ones.

I used to get Crash for everything about Spectrum Games, but when I started to be in the market for ‘proper’ computers I got into Personal Computer World (PCW). Now that was thick as a brick in its heyday. I’m feeling really nostalgic for that and would love to get my hands on an old copy just to remember what it was like.

As I remember it was about an inch thick, and a lot of this was taken up by adverts. Companies like Software Warehouse would produce their entire catalogue over 50+ pages in the magazine. Every month. I can’t even remember all the companies that used to take up massive blocks of pages – Elonex? Time? I do remember being in Ealing for some reason and they had a bracch of Software Warehouse. I couldn’t believe how tiny it was.  I was expecting something far bigger to hold all the stuff in their adverts.

One thing that those computer magazines had in common with the glossy music magazines was how the covers would push the number of reviews and announce new things as if the publishers were responsible for them personally.

It all seemd so important at the time. With hindsight and perspective I can see that it was all pretty ephemeral, but still enjoyable.

The only magazines I couldn’t see the point of were the internet ones. It just seemed a bit strange to fork out for a magaize that filled its pages with telling you how its much better to get everything online instead of through old-fashioned magazines. Yes, of course I still bought some of them, especially for the cover CDs full of software. When the Internet was all dial-up 32baud modems it was probably quicker and cheaper to install the latest Netscape from CD than to download it!

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