Roy McNeil was 15 when he had the honour of writing the last ever article in Commodore Format. Here, he tells us how he fell in love with the C64 and the mag he’d end up writing for. “I had never seen anything like it before”, recalls Roy. “It was bright, colourful, interesting and most of all rather funny. That was it – I was in love!”
My love affair with CF began largely by mistake.
Cue dream sequence…(wibbly wobbly wibbly wobbly – Ed)
It was early nineteen ninety something and I had had my C64 for a few years. It was second hand first issue machine with a crack next to the power light, but nonetheless it was a fantastic birthday present – it was originally meant to be my ‘big’ Christmas present, but I had found it, unfortunately I had left all the tell-tale signs that I had found it. This meant my Mum and Dad very cleverly decided to hold it over till my birthday in early January. My disappointment on Christmas day could not be hidden and when I eventually asked where it was they told me they had been storing it for a friend and, “wasn’t their son very lucky to be getting one!” Clever sods!
Anyways… I had never really had any contact with a ‘computer magazine’ before – except if you include the 52 issues of ‘INPUT’ by Marshall Cavendish which had come with my machine. If you have the chance, have a look for it on archive.org – but beware – it’s drier than the moon. It’s a fantastic part work, with amazing artwork, but includes lots of typing and long passages explaining why and how it works, when you really just want to see it work.
Then one day I went round to a friends’ (who had a shiny new C64c, disk drive etc.) and we were playing Treasure Island Dizzy. Damn, it was hard. One life? One life?! Who thought that out? Then he opened up Commodore Format for a ‘cheat’. I had never seen anything like it before. It was bright, colourful, interesting and most of all rather funny.
That was it – I was in love!
I began to buy the mag every month religiously. I wasn’t stupid, I knew the C64 was on its way out, but CF kept it alive for me. The one thing which still stands out to me today are the little comments in tiny text by the page numbers – they are hilarious and worth every penny of the cover price.
As time progressed though the magazine became harder and harder to find and eventually my Nan agreed to order it direct with the newsagent and buy it for me every month. I could really start to see things go downhill though. It was still CF but seemed to have lost all its charm.
Then came the internet.
For some reason (known only to them), BT or ‘British Telecom’ as they were called by all my school teachers, had decided to invest millions – yes millions – in our inner city comprehensive in Liverpool. We had everything – upwards of 50 PC’s, 30 Acorn RISC PC’s, satellite TV, 5 laptops, PSION handhelds and an editing suite, but most of all an ASDL connect to the internet. Now this was 1995’ish and for a down and out school to have all this equipment and connectivity was quite a coup – and one of which we shouted quite a lot about.
CF duly printed their email address, so I was allowed to setup a personal email account at school and began to build up a rapport with the editor, Simon Forrester. I was writing something for my IT project about light pens (remember them?) and emailed him a copy. He seemed impressed and asked if I would like to write an article for an upcoming issue entitled ‘Ultimate Hardware’. I couldn’t believe it! I said yes and began preparing and researching for my upcoming masterpiece… I scoured all my CF’s, sat in (WH) Smiths for hours reading other mags and even visited my local library to obtain all the info I needed.
NOTHING LASTS FORVER
But, my love affair was now turning into a stale marriage.
I still got the mag every month but could see the cost cutting and downsizing was really starting to spoil what had been a brilliant mag. I don’t think I even loaded the last few Power Packs. I remember reading one issue, retrieved from the newsagents, on the ever unpredictable delivery date, before I had even got home. This wasn’t a trek across the Himalayas but a 10 minute walk. It was a shame.
But I had completed my article, which admittedly was a little rough round the edges (I was only 15!) and duly emailed it off. I received a reply from Simon advising me it would be included in issue 61. Little did I know that I would write the last ever full article for Commodore Format. I waited as issue 60 was published, then with baited breath for issue 61. Eventually issue 61 arrived at the newsagents, but my immediate excitement was tamed by its cover ‘THE END’. I’d be a liar if I didn’t think it was coming, but I didn’t expect it to come then.
I opened the magazine, and there was my name in Technicolor on the contents page (unlike the article which was in black and white). Simon had very kindly tweaked it for me, which I am forever grateful – and I was amazed I had got something into print – and on the very last issue of my favourite magazine.
End of dream sequence…(wibbly wob…etc – Ed)
Looking back I am quite proud of it.. It’s a shame that CF went the way it did though – should it have been put out of its misery before issue 61? I would have said no then, but with age and maturity (my friends would say stupidity), I would say yes.
But every now and then I still go back and read every issue of CF from back to back, because deep down I know I will love it forever!
To end on a more positive note, it took me weeks to get paid by Future. I had to call them every day – the number is still imprinted in my brain. But for some reason, when the eventually paid me (and don’t tell them) they paid me for four pages, which at 15 was a hell of a lot of money.
I blew every penny. CF