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Section :: Rants and Raves

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RIP PC Plus - oh, the fun we had!

after 26 years the magazine is no more
Monday 3 September 2012.

I just heard that PC Plus is ceasing publication. On the one hand, I can’t say it’s a huge surprise. You only have to see how thin the magazine (and many other computer titles) has become when compared with the 400-page monsters of a few years ago. The fact of the matter is that in this Internet-centric world, we now expect to read the latest news on the day it happens rather than weeks later when a magazine finally goes to print. So it must be an increasing struggle for print magazines to retain a loyal readership.

Even so, its end is sad. I spent many years as a writer, reviewer, columnist and video star on the PC Plus cover-disk. For over ten years I was the Delphi columnist, turning out hundreds of programming columns and tutorials. I was, at various times, also the Java and C# columnist.

And I wrote the long-running opinion column, Rants and Raves, which I created way back in 1988 for Computer Shopper magazine. The editor of PC Plus was so keen on the column that he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, so I jumped ship, left Shopper for Plus, and took my column with me. To be accurate, the PC Plus editor made me two offers I couldn’t refuse: 1) he would pay me more money (I’ve always had a weakness for offers like that!) and 2) he would give me a video column on the cover disk. My response was “What’s a video column?” His answer was, “No idea. It’s up to you to figure it out.”

And figure it out I did. The first column was a pretty boring ‘talking to camera’ affair. But within a couple of months it had become transformed into a ten-minute blockbuster movie complete with drama, music and cutting edge special effects (thanks to my director, Wendy Smith). My video columns knew no bounds. On the flimsiest of pretexts we would search for beasts on Dartmoor (my excuse was that I was reviewing a CD encyclopaedia about strange animals), we would record a Heavy Metal tribute to The Village People (I was reviewing a CD music database), and we would go hunting for aliens at Area 51 in the Nevada Desert (um, I don’t think I had even a flimsy pretext for that one – I happened to be at a computer show in Las Vegas and hunting for aliens was just too good an opportunity to miss).

Many of the video columns also featured my then Feature Editor, Mary Branscombe. She was a Village Person in the music video mentioned earlier. I even got some work for BBC TV on the basis of those columns. One day a BBC producer phoned up the PC Plus office, said he was a fan of the videos, and offered me some work – which I very gladly accepted. So, in spite of a few differences of opinion with the odd editor now and again, I owe a lot to PC Plus. The magazine gave me lots of work and lots of fun too, over the years.

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  • RIP PC Plus - oh, the fun we had!
    9 September 2012, by Alan Ralph

    I can’t remember when first started reading PC Plus - sometime in the early 90s, I’m pretty sure it was prior to your moving there from Computer Shopper (where you were instrumental in getting me onto Cix, as I recall ;D)

    I have fond memories of the Rants & Raves columns, and the videos. :) I stopped reading in the late 90s, as the editorial style and content just weren’t doing it for me anymore. I’m actually surprised that it stayed around as long as it did, as it stuck out like a sore thumb amongst all the specialist mags in Future’s portfolio.

    I’m still a regular PC Pro subscriber - albeit in digital form these days, I needed the cupboard space back - mainly because the writing has stayed pretty consistently good for all of the time I’ve been reading it. To their credit, they have text-only views for all of the articles and news items, something I wish other magazines would do for their digital editions. And they’ve started testing out a separate ’enhanced’ digital-only version of the magazine - that makes me suspect they may be looking seriously at a future freed from the constraints of print...

  • RIP PC Plus - oh, the fun we had!
    3 September 2012, by mary branscombe

    I threw mice in the first column; I was abducted by aliens and shrunk down to fit on a motherboard and turned into an opera singer but I’ll never forget punching Huw in the face when we mixed the Avengers and Sherlock Holmes ;-)happy, happy days!

    • RIP PC Plus - oh, the fun we had!
      3 September 2012, by Huw Collingbourne

      My memory of the 1st video we ever recorded was that I had scripted a line where I said: "Cut! Cut! Stop recording!" and, blow me, if my beloved director didn’t do just that. That is one of the risks one takes with cinéma vérité! :-) You were also the femme fatale in the PC Plus film noir, Mary. How is it that Hollywood has (thus far) failed to discover us...?



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