Here's a complete collection I'm proud of, and I think justifiably so, too -- a complete run of 99'er/99'er Home Computer/Home Computer Magazine, a title that ran from 1981 to 1985 and had one of the loopiest histories I've ever seen in classic computer mag-dom.

99'er, launched in the late spring of 1981, was the only nationally-distributed magazine in the US devoted to Texas Instruments' TI-99/4A, a full-scale computer system that captured a pretty significant chunk of the PC market for much of its early life. (These days, it's known chiefly these days, if at all, for being the first home computer with a 16-bit processor.) It was a pretty eccentric computer, with lots of murky circuitry under the hood and very little public documentation at first, and 99'er was just as quirky from the get-go. It was edited and published by Gary M. Kaplan, a Eugene, OR-based entrepreneur who enjoyed peppering his magazine with long, drawn-out editorials about the computer, the marketplace, and anything else that struck his fancy. (He's not the Gary S. Kaplan who was arrested for offshore-betting shenanigans last year, by the way.)

Gary's magazine experienced its heyday from late 1982 to '83, when 99'er was published monthly and its pages were packed with dozens of teeny-tiny advertisments from garage-based software outlets across America. Like most PC mags of the time, its primary focus was on BASIC program listings, with some software coverage and tutorial content rounding out the book. Trouble began in October 1983, when TI announced the cancellation of the 99/4A series and 99'er abruptly disappeared. It was relaunched in early 1984 as Home Computer Magazine, a book which continued TI99 coverage but also include stuff for Apple, Commodore and IBM systems, making it a multiplatform magazine in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

The magazine begins to achieve legendary status in my mind starting in mid-1984. That's when Home Computer abruptly stops carrying any form of outside advertising, lauding itself by calling it an "unprecedented move" that "will set the standard for editorial quality, integrity, and readability for the entire industry." Kaplan's motives may not have been entirely noble here, however -- the move coincided with the settlement of several lawsuits filed by advertisers who claimed 99'er misled them about the magazine's circulation. (Kaplan simultaneously launched Home Computer Digest in September 1984, a subscription-only supplement to Home Computer Magazine that did include ads.)

Home Computer continued in this fashion until late 1985, when the magazine abruptly went under again. No word was issued from Eugent until April 1986, when subscribers received a letter stating that HCM had folded and their subscriptions would be fulfilled by Home Computer Journal, a new magazine that came with a disk of software. The catch: Each issue of HCJ was valued at $25, meaning that that company could mail a single issue out and immediately settle all outstanding subscriptions, no matter how long. Many customers complained to the US Postal Service about this, but only a few allegedly received any monetary reimbursement. (HCJ itself lasted four issues before closing.)

So in short: crazy publication history, nutty editorial team, tons of goofiness between the pages. What more could you ask for out of an early-80s computer mag?

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He's also an editor at Newtype USA magazine.]