05 January 2010

Your Spectrum / Your Sinclair

Your Spectrum: January 1984 - January 1986
then Your Sinclair: January 1986 - September 1993

Your Sinclair: A Brief History

Your Sinclair began life as Your Spectrum in January 1984, when Dennis Publishing realised there was a market for a magazine which catered specifically to to owners of Clive Sinclair's range of ZX Spectrum owners, with the occasional nod to the ZX80 and ZX81 crowd. A great success, the magazine continued for almost ten years, pausing only to change its name at the beginning of 1986 when Sir Clive looked set to branch out with a new range of computers. As it happened, the Sinclair QL made little impact on the world of computing, but the name change stayed.

The near-decade changed Your Sinclair considerably, and yet somehow the underlying ethos remained the same. Even when Your Sinclair reached the bitter end, its publishers having realised just how few Spectrum users there really were out there, the magazine went out with a bang. The final issue's back cover, showing two of the Your Sinclair troupe riding off into the sunset, was a sad moment for many a geek of the eighties: 'Our work here is done...'

Your Sinclair: A Little More Detail

Your Spectrum was launched in December 1983, direct competition to Sinclair User and ZX Computing. Your Spectrum quickly made its mark with quality games reviews, conducted by the Joystick Jugglers, and a screenshot to go with each one. With their own unique style ('In short, play Ghosts 'n' Goblins and you'll be grabbed by the ghoulies. And as a non-sexist note for that half of the population without ghoulies, don't worry - it'll give you the willies!'.) the Your Sinclair reviews were something special, even if you might not always agree. The magazine itself had plenty of colour pages, and the programming strength of the Spectrum was indulged in with plenty of hardware articles, as well as a focus on both BASIC and machine code programming.

Other popular columns included Hacking Away, which catered for the experimental nature of Spectrum users, dedicating a half page, at least, to cheating in popular games. Jet Set Willy, in particular, was better for this...

There were other delights, too, many focused on the writers themselves. Teresa Maughan, known affectionately as T'zer, became the breaker of a thousand hearts when she married after years of innuendo-laden commentary as the YS editor. Matt Bielby, her successor, did much the same for the rest of the world, and in later years Rick Wilson managed to get a badly-recorded song onto the cover tape. No-one knows how many people fell in love whilst listening to 'Hold My Hand Very Tightly' by Whistlin' Rick Wilson, the Rick Astley mocking alter-ego of staff writer David Wilson, but current estimates centre around zero.

1986, and Your Spectrum became Your Sinclair, scarce months before Clive sold his computing division to Amstrad. Not that it would ever have been known as 'Your Amstrad' - few Spectrum owners were impressed by Alan Sugar's takeover. This was, nevertheless, a period of immense popularity for the Spectrum. In this time, games became the main focus of Your Sinclair, though there remained a large focus on programming.

By 1988, Future Publishing had bought Your Sinclair, taking on a difficult challenge in the process. The 8-bit computer market was, at this point, dying. Games consoles were taking up residence in people's homes, reducing loading times for gamers and making life a whole lot easier for anyone who wasn't seriously into computing. The technical crowd, meantime, were switching to the Amiga or Atari ST - 16-bit computing was taking off. To counter the trend, Future Publishing began offering cover tapes, posters or booklets containing tips. All of which cost money, of course, and in the face of falling sales figures the content of the magazine suffered. By the end, Your Sinclair was considerably thinner, with very few articles actually focusing on new Spectrum games. Not that there were many... the glory days of the Spectrum had clearly come to an end, despite the best efforts of Sinclair, then Amstrad, and finally Miles-Gordon Technologies. The 8-bit era had to end sometime...

Other Fondly-remembered Bits

YS Badge: More prized than a Blue Peter badge, the Your Sinclair badge was a square, metal pin badge with the YS logo in red. It was awarded for having something printed on the letters page, more commonly known as Input/Output.

Doodlebugs: Send in a cartoon, have it printed. There was a new game for any cartoon printed.

SAM Surgeon: A later addition to the magazine, in which Robin Alway answered problems concering the SAM Coupé, including the burning question: what exactly happened to the much-touted machine?

YS Adventures: Text adventures were big on the Spectrum, and this column provided hints and tips for those who were stuck with The Hobbit, had no idea what to do with the crystal on The NeverEnding Story or couldn't cross the river on Mountains Of Ket.

Rage Hard: A look at new or upcoming hardware.

Program Pitstop: The joy of hex! After typing in a hex editor one could enter line after line of code, then eventually run it using the fabled 'RANDOMIZE USR' command. Alternately, BASIC programs were often listed in full, allowing the amateur programmer to type them in, edit them and generally cannibalise the bits they wanted, all to be squirreled away on cheap C60 cassettes.

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