We have received several letters from readers complaining about naughty words in CRASH No 7 (August), which appeared in my Editorial pages and in the news item about the collapse of Imagine Software. Quite a few of the correspondents linked the appearance of these words with falling standards in computer journalism. It seems to me to be an entirely irrelevant argument. Standards in any form of journalism are to do with accuracy, interest and, above all, honesty of expression — not with the occasional use of an expletive. I’m well aware of the moral that using swear words is a failing of proper expression and generally applaud the sentiment, but I think society at large is today capable of accepting that at selected times a simple word can express a range and strength of personal feeling that a well constructed paragraph cannot. If the pages of CRASH were filled with expletives in the profusion to be found in colour supplement magazines, then I would accept that our standards were slipping. The editorial piece about Imagine was written from an impassioned point of view, and as such I regarded the use of the word bull**** (censored for fear of further upset!) as appropriate. I’m sorry if it offended readers, but I do not apologise for using it in the context.
In the case of the news piece on Imagine, the expletive was used by Bruce Everiss over the telephone in conversation with our reporter, and its repetition in the article is entirely justified as reportage. CRASH does not swear lightly or conveniently. If I’m not mistaken, Mr. Everiss used precisely the same sentence when speaking later the same day to a reporter from Popular Computing Weekly, and they too reported his words verbatim.
Plans are well under way for a CRASH CHRISTMAS SPECIAL edition this year. This will be a bumper bundle (as they say) of competitions and articles. There will also be a giant free double-sided poster, which also acts as a calendar for 1985, included in every copy. Because of the amount of work and material going into it, it will cost a bit more than the usual CRASH (although subscribers will receive it as part of their normal subscription). It should prove good value, however, due to the large number of interesting competitions we are arranging together with many software and hardware houses, which will mean prizes for hundreds and hundreds of lucky winners. Out on sale on the 13th of December, price £1.25, the Christmas Special is in practice the January issue of CRASH — but we promise you it will be a very different and special edition.
I’ve gone on quite a bit about the price of software in past issues, and in the last one I mentioned that CRASH would be behind any software house that could produce really good programs at a cheap price. Now I have seen three games from Atlantis Software that I really do think are worth the asking price and that haven’t been written down to match the price. All three are reviewed in this issue.
In the main, however, I still remain to be convinced that really innovative games can be properly developed and marketed at such low prices. The argument that illegal tape copying would lessen if all the games were sold at £1.99 seems sadly unfounded, judging by the response to date of our piracy questionnaire. The problem remains...
ACG Key winner, Malcolm Berry (14) from Rayleigh in Essex, travelled up to Ludlow together with his mother, father and sister, to receive his trophy for winning the Ultimate Atic Atac Map Competition. The Berry family were invited to lunch with CRASH Editor Roger Kean and Art Editor Oliver Frey before the presentation was made. Malcolm’s mother told us that he’s always drawing and designing things. The striking version of Atic Atac’s cover had apparently been done long before the competition was even thought of and Malcolm thought it would come in handy for the Map.
After lunch Roger Kean presented Malcolm with the ACG Key trophy in the very room where the competition judging had taken place some weeks earlier.
The same room is now piled high with maps for the Sabre Wulf Map Competition, which looks like being an even harder judging job than that for Atic Atac! The Sabre Wulf winners will be announced in the next issue and will receive a trophy of the ACG Amulet, which Ultimate is having made up now. Like the ACG key, the Amulet will be completely unique.
There you sit with your ‘game and watch’, wondering what to do next. Suddenly your dad bursts into the room with a new Spectrum. ‘Wow,’ you think, and set it all up. Ah, now what? Thrown into disarray you decide to do the first important thing — get a computer magazine. Off you go to the newsagents, open the door and BANG! Multitudes of sparkling, glossy magazines wait to drag you into their world. Behind the thousands of magazines you manage to catch a glimpse of a daily newspaper.
Such is the banality of computer journalism today. It isn’t new anymore; bring out a magazine thick and glossy enough to outshine the other shelf-inhabitants and it’s a sure-fire hit. Another way of attracting potential buyers is to emblazon half the contents of the magazine across the front of it — and don’t forget the exclusive reviews and competitions.
Flicking through the prehistoric magazines of 1981 (yes, dinosaurs were just nearing extinction then) the conservatism in them is amazing. For instance, the letters page is full of letters which read as though they were written by university students studying ‘Emotional and Physical Psychology as told by Dr. Arbuthnott’! No sarcastic comments or (heaven forbid) funny letters. Letters instead with such headings as ‘Erroneous Factorials’ and ‘Portmaneau Word’ — don’t look at me, I’m just as confused.
Things began to pick up with the arrival of the Genie from Lowe Electronics and the ZX81. But, later on came the games! An adventure for the ZX81 would set you back £14! Thank God the Spectrum wasn’t around then! Most home computer magazines today carry the weight of about ten or more software reviews. Not so earlier on in the revolution! One software review appeared in a magazine of December 1981. The software in question was for the Commodore PET and cost £400 — and you lot complain about the price of Sabre Wulf!
As time went on there were more adverts and by the time the Spectrum arrived software houses began to establish themselves with a sudden influx of money to fund one or two glossy adverts in an equally glossy magazine.
So we arrive at the present day and find that magazines become thicker, the adverts glossier and larger and the editorials longer and seemingly subtler. But already slanging matches between magazines in the main running have begun. Editors calling each other’s magazines names and even beginning to swear in their editorials. When it is necessary for an editor to swear to make his point known, then it is time for him to give up journalism. I am not offended by swearing at all — but in a computer magazine? It is more effective for a journalist to twist his words rather than using twisted words.
What does the future hold for computer journalism? Who knows? Three or four years ago there were about five or six computer magazines for sale. Today there are about twenty to twenty-five. Will the fledgling industry be crushed by its own development? For our sakes let’s hope not!
ROGER KEAN replies: ‘I’ve already covered the point about the swearing earlier, but I must confess to being puzzled about Jason’s logic about swear words appearing in computer magazines — he says he’s not offended by swearing AT ALL. Again, one might refrain from swearing in a church because of the context, but are computer magazines to be compared with churches? What’s so special about computer magazines and the writing contained in them that so sets them apart from other written material? It’s a neat aphorism to talk about twisting words rather than using twisted words, but to my mind one of the biggest failings of any form of journalism is the way in which words are constantly twisted to imply a different meaning to the one supplied originally.’