['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which documents the history of video game magazines, from their birth in the early '80s to the current day.]

amicomp0100001.jpg   AmigaComputing73001.jpg

Mort, the guy in the UK who's made it his mission to digitize as many old UK game and computer mags as he can, has just wrapped up his latest project -- Amiga Computing, one of the first Amiga-exclusive magazines in the UK and also one of the longest lasting.

Launched by Europress in January 1988, AC debuted at a time when the marketplace for personal computers in Britain was still squarely focused on 8-bits. The Commodore 64 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum were kings, and for a lot of home users, the Amiga was too expensive to seriously consider. That didn't really change until 1991 or so, when Commodore released the cut-down Amiga 500 and sold enough of them across Europe to make it the most important game platform in the PAL region for several years.

Until then, the 16-bit market was devoted more to the cheaper Atari ST in the UK, something you can see in the number of European ST mags that launched very early on in that system's history. (Future Publishing's Amiga Format, the last major Amiga mag to die out in 2000, originally started out as a combination ST/Amiga publication. The two mags weren't split up until 1989.)

From the beginning, AC had a reputation for technical coverage. Every issue has game coverage, but that was in the back of the mag -- the front side is more devoted to hardware reviews and tutorials on topics like programming, graphics and modem communications.

Amiga Format, by comparison, was less for active coders/artists and more for "average" PC owners. Future bridged the gap by launching Amiga Shopper in 1991, a spinoff mag that competed with AC more directly.

Starting with the August '89 issue, Amiga Computing came packed with a coverdisk (sometimes two) filled with shareware, freeware, and demos of commercial software. (There were also some exclusive "demos," like the one seen above.) Giving away software with mags was something UK mags did on-and-off starting in 1986, but by the end of the '80s, pretty much every successful publication came with a disk taped to the cover. For publishers, it was a vital way to advertise their new and upcoming releases, especially in an age without the Internet and instant information at your fingertips about any given piece of software. It was a two-edged sword, though, especially towards the end of the Amiga's lifetime when the mags pretty much became the coverdisk and a pamphlet attached to it.

Amiga Computing was one of the few really international Amiga mags, thanks to a US edition that launched in '95. This was brought about when IDG -- producers of Amiga World, the foremost US magazine devoted to the computer -- bought Europress's magazine lineup in late 1994. That year was a rough one for Amiga owners, with Commodore bankrupt and nobody sure where the Amiga's future lay, and IDG decided to stop producing Amiga World and send US subscribers a version of Amiga Computing with ads from American outfits.

AC lasted until October 1997 in the UK, by which time it was 56 pages long and had a circulation of about 7000. I'm not exactly sure how long the US edition endured; the last one I have in my personal collection is March 1997 and it doesn't mention anything about closing. Flipping through it now, it's a consistently high-quality magazine, one that combines well-written technical articles with the sheer zeal for the platform that's a trademark of most Amiga mags. If you're well-versed in Amiga mags, I'd say that Mort's DVD collection is worth it; if you haven't read a UK Amiga mag yet, I'd recommend starting with CU Amiga first.

[Kevin Gifford owns over 8000 video-game and computer magazines. Despite this, he is capable of sustaining a conversation with a woman for at least three minutes per go. He runs Magweasel, a really cool weblog about games and Japan and "the industry" and things, and in his spare time he does writing and translation for lots of publishers and game companies.]