Commodore Format fan Neil is now a journalist living overseas. Here, he remembers how his love of computers turned into an obsession with Commodore Format and the industry he now makes a living in.
Ever since I can remember, I was fascinated with computers. Not really the dirty nuts and bolts of it. Just what they could do. I remember reading Jaz Rignall saying he even found calculators cool in the 1970s, and I imagine I’d have been the same. Technology’s neat.
Anyway, the plain reality for me was that I grew up on a pretty dark council estate in the North East of England. My ‘rents and family were happy enough in our own way but we did not have any spare money at all – ever. I’d sometimes stay over at my friend’s houses for tea and end up annoying them because I just wanted to play on their Spectrums, C64s or – and this is how desperate I was – Amstrad CPCs. I wanted more than anything to have my own computer.
And then one day in the summer of 1990 my Dad won a competition in the local paper. I ended up with the Commodore 64 World Cup Pack, and I remember struggling to load utter crap like Adidas Championship Football on my new C2N datasette whilst everybody else was watching Gazza crying in the semi final for real.
I didn’t mind, though. I had my own computer. And just a few weeks later, with almost theatrical timing, I saw Commodore Format 1 in WH Smith. I went in to buy a budget game but came out with the magazine that would set the tone of my entire C64 owning life.
What I liked about CF was that it wasn’t just a magazine – it was almost an agenda. It really was the cooler older mate popping over once a month to let you know what was going on. It was awesome that I could find out how good Midnight Resistance or Creatures 2 was, but better still that I could play a level on the covertape. And if I bought the game and utterly failed at it, I knew within a few months the magazine would guide and cheat me through it.
I used the A-Z of classic games in those early issues to hunt down some real star buys at local carboot sales and secondhand shops. I bought the exact mouse Jason Finch recommended to use with Lemmings. CF taught me everything.
By the Autumn of 1995, I was 18. The shy computer obsessed kid was gone, Britpop was happening and I had a girlfriend and a college course and a taste for Guiness. But I’d carried on using my C64 – I utterly adored it, I really did – and even though it was obvious the magazine was on life support it was utterly heartbreaking to see my newsagent hand over issue 61 and spot the words “THE END”.
A big part of my life had gone. No more monthly visits from my mate. I was destined for university later that month anyway, so the computer was packed away forever. It was accident rather than design, but Commodore Format existed for almost the exact number of days I’d been a C64 user myself.
So thanks, CF. For every dark winter’s night you helped to fill, for every maths homework I didn’t finish, for the jobs in journalism you inspired me to chase in later life.
You made this kid very happy. You still do. CF