The PCW Show

To round off this PCW Show report, here are two very different perspectives on the five days at Olympia: from former CRASH editor ROGER KEAN, and from reader Anthony Bailey, a homegrown-software programmer who hit the big time there...


I FIRST visited The Personal Computer World Show in 1983, just as we were setting up CRASH. It was held at the Barbican Centre near the City Of London — a rather nicer venue than ancient Olympia, but not big enough for the burgeoning show, which had already been going for five years. The reason for growth was obvious enough: the sixth PCW Show had a healthy helping of games software houses exhibiting for the first time.

Wandering around, one couldn’t help overhearing the displeasure of the business-computing community as seriously-besuited pinstripes grumbled about the noise emanating from the entertainment exhibitors so unwisely scattered willy-nilly among their sober stands.

The move to Olympia in 1984 gave the organisers far more room, and the layout of the National Hall and Olympia 2 meant the noisy exuberance of the leisure side’, as it was becoming known, could be contained in just one side of the vast hall. Since then, with each year, ‘PCW’ (as it’s called) has got larger, the number of visitors greater and the enthusiasm of the trade higher. This year the tenth PCW enjoyed a 38% increase in the number of exhibitors and had the busiest Saturday and Sunday in its history.

As with any undertaking of this complexity, there are always moans. Olympia isn’t the easiest exhibition hall to erect stands in, with its several floors, lack of lifts and appalling facilities.

Also, this year I quickly detected the dissatisfaction of games software houses who felt the organisers were not exposing the leisure industry to the noncomputer press as effectively as they were publicising the business side. And it was this disaffection that East Midland Allied Press (EMAP), publisher of Computer & Video Games, Commodore User and Sinclair User, tapped into when it announced that next year its exhibition arm would organise a games-only show in competition with PCW.

It caused what was probably the biggest buzz of the show, and forced everyone taking part to think deeply about PCW and what it represents. But uncertainty about EMAP’s mid-August date and the venue, the Alexandra Palace, eventually weighed against the newspaper and magazine giant — soon after PCW, EMAP abandoned its plans.

And many of the bigger software houses had little faith that the enormous international goodwill built up over years of PCWs would be switched to another organiser, at another venue and in the height of the holiday season. For those attending PCW, the two trade days are the most vital. That’s when the international business deals are done that enable British producers to spread their influence and sales, and thus allow them to continue developing expensive games which can be sold here in Britain at reasonable prices.

But while all this behind-the-scenes activity raged, the National Hall thronged with visitors, and judging by the reactions from those who caused traffic jams round the two Newsfield stands up on the first floor, the public’s regard for the show is as high as it ever was.

Perhaps there weren’t many startlingly new games to see, but there was a lot of high-quality product about. ‘Wild Bill’ Stealey, American ace fighter pilot and MicroProse boss, drew huge crowds round his company’s stand, as he offered Gunship flights in a real simulator machine — an indication perhaps, that next year’s show would do well to offer more interactive fairground-type events.

For us at Newsfield, the sticker war that threatened on Saturday flared into open battle on Sunday as Your Sinclair attempted to cover everyone in sight, and CRASH personnel valiantly fought back by oversticking the slogans with FRAGILE and SOLD stickers. Thanks go to our deep-cover agents who went boldly to the very jaws of the Your Sinclair stand to neutralise bestickered visitors at the point of infection. We’ve offered Your Sinclair an official intermagazine custard-pie fight next year. See you then...