Archive for the ‘1980s’ Category

David Deutsch’s quantum computing

March 14, 2017

Acorn User form October 1986 with the Spider curve-plotting program

A discussion of quantum computing is not what many people expect from a blog about magazines, but then they forget that magazines have a habit of going anywhere and discussing anything.

Back in 1986, I commissioned an article for Acorn User magazine, which was later dubbed ‘Spider Power’, from David Johnson-Davies and David Deutsch. The blurb on the contents page read: ‘The Davids present their Spider curve-plotting program to plot almost any equation.’

The Spider was an incredible BASIC program that really did do what it said it would. It was my favourite program – even over the breakthrough fractal routines and Mandelbrot listings we ran. You could type in an equation – even a mix of cartesian – x and y – and radial – r and θ – and still it would print the equation. Raise x to the power of θ, y to the power of r, whatever you typed in, the Spider plotter went away and did it.

One example it plotted was a a set of circles arranged at regular intervals. Don’t ask me to remember the equation. But get hold of a copy of Acorn User from October 1986, issue 51, on eBay and you can see it all there. Type the listing into a BBC Micro emulator and you can run it too.

It was worth buying a £400 BBC Micro just to run this program. There was nothing like it on a £3000 Apple Mac. You’d have had to go to a minicomputer. The only problem was the time it would take – days, weeks even. I gave up on several plots. Even with a second processor attached (which probably tripled the processing speed).

David Deutsch quantum computing

David Deutsch – ‘father’ of quantum computing

But what about quantum computing? Well, the Davids behind the program were the MD of Acornsoft and a researcher at Oxford University.  David Deutsch, the latter David, was tricky to get hold of because he never got up till 3pm (typical student I remember thinking!). When you did get hold of him, you learnt of his theoretical world of computing using the states of atoms for computation and data storage. Given the billions of atoms in a grain of sand, the possibilities are incredible.

Deutsch had recently published his landmark paper on the topic –  ‘Quantum theory, the Church-Turing principle and the universal quantum computer’ – and today he’s regarded as the father of quantum computing. The only problem with such machines, I’m sure someone told me at the time, was that they might disappear because they had moved into another dimension (unlikely, but theoretically possible).

All this has been sparked by The Economist‘s quantum computing  technology quarterly (QC in TQ). The TQ is entitled ‘Here, there and everywhere’ and I read it on a a plane from from Sydney to Hong Kong. The theme of the articles is that the technology is at the stage where it is about to be commercially exploited.

But keep hold of that 1986 Acorn User magazine because it gives an insight into the thinking of one of the greatest minds of this century. When Dr Deutsch wins a Nobel is probably the time to sell it.

‘First’ Madonna magazine cover sells for £180

March 5, 2017
Madonna cover from i-D dated March/April 1984

Madonna on the cover of i-D dated March/April 1984

A copy of the March/April issue of i-D from 1984 has sold on eBay for £179.99. It was marketed as ‘MADONNA’s 1st magazine cover’ and the listing went on:

This is the super collectable and rare Madonna issue. It was her VERY FIRST magazine cover. Spotted in a club in Paris, and photographed by Mark Lebon when she arrived in London. There’s no interview as such, a couple of quotes, including these snippets: ‘I moved to New York because my father wouldn’t let me date boys… I was 17 when I saw my first…’

But this ‘first cover’ claim seems dubious when No 1 magazine had her on its cover dated February 4.

The first Madonna magazine cover - No 1 from 4 February 1984

Madonna magazine cover – No 1 from 4 February 1984

And Smash Hits followed 12 days later. This magazine also sells well across the world, fetching £28 in the UK and $49 recently in Australia. In addition, a collection of 31 Madonna magazines described as ‘all mint’ and ‘some very rare’ from 1984 to 2017 sold in Oz for $407, attracting 13 bids. The lot included the 1984 i-D., as well as Playboy, Face and Tatler Madonna issues.

A different look for the cover of Smash Hits, also in February 1984

Smash Hits, dated 16 February 1984

The March/April issue of i-D may well have been on sale in February, because monthlies usually come out towards the end of the month preceding the cover date, but as early as  the 4th, No 1‘s cover date, seems unlikely.

Even so, the Madonna i-D magazine seller, Vintage Magazines, has listed another copy on eBay – but upped the price to £250!

Despite Madonna’s popularity in the music press, the first reference I can find to her in newspapers is in ‘Eurythmics singer brings his studio’, a feature by Todd Webb in the
16 August 1984 Daily Oklahoman, an American paper. The profile of Dave Stewart mentions that:

his travelling notebooks – cassettes containing miles of taped songs, song fragments and melody lines – have yielded three songs for the new Tom Petty album, a new song in the making for Madonna, and plans to ‘experiment in the studio’ with [Lou] Reed

No doubt, Madonna experts will be able to identify the track – and this press cutting is undoubtedly one many fans aspire to as well. Just a few months later, The New York Times of 6 January was talking of how:

No phenomenon illustrates more pointedly how pop music history seems to run in cycles than the overnight success of the 24-year-old pop siren known as Madonna. The month before Christmas, Madonna’s second album, Like a Virgin sold more than two million copies (‘Madonna’s siren song’ by Stephen Holden)

It takes another six months before Britain’s mainstream press picks up on a phenomenon that swept its pop magazines before anywhere else. Surprisingly, it was The Times that leapt in, though with a highbrow angle about women’s liberation:

The United Nations decade for women reached its climax here with Playboy and Penthouse rushing to beat each other to the newsstands with nude pictures of pop star Madonna. For those who do not follow the pop scene closely, I should explain that Madonna is not a successor to the Singing Nun but the very latest sex symbol. Her stage costume consists of lacy underwear, bare navel, micro-skirt and crucifix. (‘Liberated – with frills attached’ by John O’Sullivan, 13 July 1985)

(I should explain that the Singing Nun was Jeanine Deckers, a Belgian nun – with the stage name Sister Smile – who beat the Beatles to No 1 in 1963 with Domenique, but became addicted to drink and drugs and died in 1985.)

A month after its decade for women article, The Times was quoting Madonna’s press team in a piece about pop and film soundtracks, saying ‘she’s the hottest crossover dream to burn up the charts since Elvis’. From nowhere to Elvis in a year, not bad going – and then she hitched up with actor Sean Penn and the anti-Madonna ‘flirt rock’ reaction kicked in.


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


 

On this day in magazines: Private Eye celebrates in 1981

February 13, 2017
Lord Goodman jumps out of a giant birthday cake on Private Eye's 500th issue cover in February 1981

Lord Goodman jumps out of a giant birthday cake on Private Eye’s 500th issue cover of 13 February 1981

Private Eye registered a sales figure last week at just over a quarter of a million copies an issue for the second half of 2016. Under editor Ian Hislop, it claims the high ground as the best-selling news and current affairs magazine.

The circulation per copy breaks down as 105,077 through newsagents, 142,833 subscriptions, 2,214 bulk sales and just 22 copies free. It total, that’s three million copies a year from its fortnightly mix of satire and investigative journalism. While the newspapers keep jacking up their prices – arguing readers will pay for quality reporting – but lose sales, the Eye holds its price at £1.80 and buyers and subscribers keep coming.

The cover above is from 13 February 1981, when the Eye was celebrating its 500th issue with a Willy Rushton cartoon. Out of the giant birthday cake festooned with writs jumps Lord Goodman – an early ally of Private Eye. Rupert Murdoch can be seen waiting on then editor Richard Ingrams in the top left and Gnitty, the magazine’s mascot Crusader, is also seated at a table. Around them are foes, friends and characters from the magazine.

A punning advert from Letraset for Private Eye's celebratory issue

A punning advert from Letraset for Private Eye’s celebratory 1981 issue

Although the magazine had survived many legal battles, such as the 1976 onslaught from James ‘Goldenballs’ Goldsmith who issued 60 writs against the Eye and its distributors in one month, many more were to come, including those with Robert Maxwell and his Not Private Eye. In 1990, Private Eye was threatened with closure when Sonia Sutcliffe was awarded £600,000 in libel damages. Hislop said that if this was justice he was ‘a banana’. The sum was reduced to £60,000 on appeal.

Inside the anniversary issue are many supportive advertisers, including Letraset, the makers of dry transfer lettering, a revolutionary British invention in its day, but now a French-owned brand mainly selling marker pens.

Private Eye‘s title was an early success for Letraset – the typographer Matthew Carter did the design, which saw its first outing on 18 May 1962 and is still in use today.


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design


On this day in magazines: Now! Talbot! 1980

February 8, 2017
Now! magazine from February 8, 1980

Now! magazine from February 8, 1980

Today out of my archive comes Now!, a magazine launched by the business tycoon Sir James Goldsmith – ‘Goldenballs’ as he was known to Private Eye – as a right-wing news weekly. Ridiculing the Queen is rarely a good idea for newspapers and magazines – even Kelvin McKenzie could not get away with it at the height of his powers as editor of The Sun. And Now! had a powerful enemy on its back – Private Eye.

Private Eye ridicules the launch of Goldsmith's Now! (9 September 1979)

Private Eye ridicules Goldsmith’s Now! (9 September 1979)

Private Eye and Goldsmith had fought vicious legal battles and from the outset the Eye ridiculed Now! , though never using its proper title, instead dubbing it ‘Talbot!’.

Before the first issue came out on September 14, 1979, the Eye ran a page ridiculing the magazine and its journalists under a reversed-out headline in Now!‘s title type, saying WHO?. A subdeck asked ‘Up what part of whom are these seedy looking hacks gazing in admiration?’ The first paragraph read:

You won’t recognise any of these people(except possibly John Lander, who used to be on News at Ten years ago). Others are better known in the bars and betting shops of Soho. But all of them have one thing in common. They are all anxious about the future. That’s why they’ve all decided to invest in the James Goldsmith Pension Fund of Funds.

Private Eye celebrates the last Now! magazine (5 May 1981)

Private Eye celebrates the last Now! magazine (5 May 1981)

It goes on to set out the reasons of all the hacks in sycophantic terms. One of the editors has a speech bubble saying: ‘If you know a better hole, look up it!’ (A reference to the Bruce Bairnsfather cartoon character Old Bill, whose most famous cartoon has the grumpy First World War soldier stuck in a water-filled shell hole and saying to a colleague, ‘If you knows of a better ‘ole, go to it!’)

Such was the Eye‘s venom that as well as frequent articles, it even ran a regular strip cartoon, called Focus on Fact – Talbot!, ridiculing Goldsmith and the magazine. When Now! folded with a final issue dated 24 April 1981, Private Eye ran a celebratory cover ‘Talbot memorial issue. A nation mourns’ (5 May).

 


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 


This month in magazines: holographic cover

February 6, 2017
Newton hologram on the cover of New Scientist in 1988

Newton hologram on the cover of New Scientist in 1988

Front covers don’t come much rarer than this one from 4 February 1988. A bust of Newton is looking at itself in a hologram that is embossed on the front cover of IPC’s New Scientist.

The hologram discs were originated by Advanced Holographics and Markem Systems. The covers were then printed as usual with a space left for the disc. At Malvern Press, the covers were then stamped with the holographic foil disc using a ‘hologram registration unit’.

There was a lot of interest in the technology at the time. A couple of years earlier, Venture, a magazine run by Redwood Publishing had stuck a hologram on its cover. Later in 1988, National Geographic did a whole cover hologram (December issue) and it had done a smaller hologram cover in March 1984 and November 1985.

Last year, Another magazine did a Karl Lagerfeld hologram for its 150th issue. Like lenticular covers, the concept is expensive and gimmicky.

The Jonathan Ross Collection lists 12 magazine covers with holograms.


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 

 


Magazines in the movies: Playboy in Steven Seagal’s Under Siege

December 28, 2016
playboy_1989_7jul_880.jpg

Playboy magazine, July 1989, as seen in the film Under Siege

A few weeks ago, it was James Bond reading a copy of Playboy magazine. Tonight, it’s a sailor goggling over a copy in Under Siege. The crew of the US battleship Missouri are anticipating the arrival of the July 1989 Playboy playmate of the month, Jordan Tate. In fact, the playmate that month was Erika Eleniak, who actually plays the Jordan Tate role in the 1992 film. She ‘wears’ a captain’s dress uniform, something that she also does in the movie, when she jumps out of a giant cake in front of Steven Seagal, playing the ship’s cook, Casey Ryback.

Eleniak also had a role in Baywatch, a TV series that later produced another popular magazine pin-up, Pamela Anderson.

It’s far and away the best Seagal film, and was followed three years later by Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, which takes place on a train. Watch out for the cameo role for an Apple Newton. This was the US company’s first attempt at an iPad-type device, though called a personal digital assistant in the jargon of the time. It featured handwriting recognition and was built around a British-designed ARM chip, the processor powering just about every Apple product since.


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


 

An evening with Andy Strange and the Seafoxes (and George Martin)

March 9, 2016

Beatles producer George Martin on his Desert Island Discs page from 1982 Beatles producer George Martin on his Desert Island Discs page from 1982

I was with record producer Andy Strange yesterday evening to listen to some tracks he is laying down for the up-and-coming Seafoxes. Andy learnt the ropes from working with George Martin for 15 years at AIR Studios. We talked a bit about Martin over a few cans of Polish lager, so it was eerie to be woken up by a clock radio this morning telling me that the legendary Beatles producer had died.

Andy had just listened to a George Martin tribute on the Robert Elms show and commented this afternoon:

Working with George was always a special experience. He was a true recording legend who everyone had the utmost respect for. He created a friendly family environment at AIR Studios that clients and staff all enjoyed. A real gentleman who always had a good laugh making records. His role was to help the artists realise their musical dreams and, more often than not, make their music far better than they could have ever dreamt of. He did not make records that sounded like George Martin records, he simply made many great records with many great artists. His musical sensibilities and influence on popular music will be with us forever.

Martin was brilliant on TV and radio – today he would become a David Attenborough of music. I remember him on Desert Island Discs and a documentary where he talked about the importance of the silence between notes in music. I checked out his Desert Island record choices from 1996 and it’s a eclectic mix, including Ravel, the Liverpool mopheads (of course, with ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’), Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, Beyond The Fringe, a Mozart Oboe Quartet, Britten and Gershwin (‘Bess, you is my woman now’, his overall favourite). His luxury was an electric piano.

But I also saw he’d also been on Desert Island Discs in 1982. The record choices then included Debussy, Flanders and Swann, a Cimarosa concerto for oboe and strings, two Beatles tracks (‘Here, There and Everywhere’ and ‘In My Life’), Peter Sellers, Bach (St Matthew Passion, his overall favourite) and Britten. His luxury was a clavichord.

Although no track appears in both lists, there are strong themes (besides the Beatles): French romantic composers (Ravel and Debussy); humour (Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, Beyond The Fringe, Flanders and Swann); oboe pieces; LSO recordings; keyboards. In both cases his book choice was very practical: how to build a boat and a manual on practical engineering (I always thought such useful choices weren’t allowed – wasn’t someone refused a cat as a luxury because they might eat it!)

Among a list of credits that’s as long as your arm, taking in Elton John, Michael Jackson, Joni Mitchell, Celine Dion and building a recording studio for Robbie Williams, Andy was one of the engineers on In My Life – a CD Martin did to mark his retirement. It’s mainly cover versions of Beatles songs that he produced originally – Robin Williams and Bobby McFerrin on ‘Come Together’, Goldie Hawn signing ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, Jeff Beck playing on ‘A Day in the Life’ and Sean Connery’s singing ‘In My Life’.

Andy was telling me last night how revolutionary it was when Martin left EMI in the late 1960s to set up AIR (Associated Independent Recording), unleashing a movement towards independence in music that is still happening today. The first studio was in London’s Oxford Street, high up in a building that was the headquarters for the Burton tailoring chain. Andy has a couple of framed letters from the 1970s, both from the building manager complaining about the noise and nuisance from the studios. One is about the Sex Pistols (the building manager had obviously just seen their TV interview with Bill Grundy!) and the other about projectiles coming from the rooftop studios – tomatoes! I wonder what Martin replied?

The Hitler Diaries – the farce of the century

February 6, 2016
The Observer Magazine cover shows Alexei Sayle as the Hitler diaries forger in the 1991 TV series Selling Hitler

The Observer Magazine cover shows Alexei Sayle as the Hitler diaries forger in the 1991 TV series Selling Hitler

I mentioned the farce of the Hitler diaries the other day, and how in 1983 the German news magazine Stern, Newsweek in the US and the Sunday Times were duped into paying a fortune for the rights to publish what was supposed to be the find of the century – Adolf Hitler’s personal diaries. The Observer, a rival Sunday paper, must have great fun running this cover on its supplement about the 1991 TV series – Selling Hitler – made about the fiasco.

The cover shows Alexei Sayle as Hitler fanatic Konrad Kujau, the forger who called himself Peter Fischer; Alan Bennett as Hugh Trevor-Roper (Lord Dacre), who authenticated the diaries for the Sunday Times, and Barry Humphries (best known as Dame Edna Everadge) as Rupert Murdoch. The choice of such comic-leaning actors shows how the programme took a mocking line.

The series was based on Robert Harris’s book Selling Hitler: The Story of the Hitler Diaries. This is a brilliant exposé of how Kujau touted the diaries to veteran Stern reporter Gert Heideman (played by Jonathan Pryce), who believes he has stumbled on the literary find of the century. The managers at Stern try to pull off a scoop – paying $5 million in secret over months for the 60 volumes of diaries, which Kujau can hardly make up fast enough. However, they ignore tell-tale pointers that the diaries are crude forgeries because they are blinded by greed.

The scandal has become a Fleet Street legend and made the Sunday Times and Times the butt of many a joke in the 1980s and since. It is often referred to – as in the example below. During the bitter battle between Robert Maxwell and Private Eye magazine in 1986, the thieving newspaper owner bought out a spoof satirical magazine showing Hitler with Eye editor Richard Ingrams as Göring.  Note the strapline: ‘Definitely authentic’ – Lord Dacre.

Maxwell's Not Private Eye: note the strap 'Definitely authentic' - Lord Dacre'

Maxwell’s Not Private Eye. Note the strap: ‘Definitely authentic – Lord Dacre’

See more on: UK newspapers

Not Private Eye

A newspaper’s last big story

February 6, 2016
The last edition of London's Evening News on 31 October 1980

The last edition of London’s Evening News on 31 October 1980

As this splash on London’s Evening News demonstrates, a newspaper’s last big story is its own demise. This front page was 31 October 1980. That day, the copytaster – the person who watches the news agency wires to spot any stories the paper should be carrying – was Robin Elias, and he was the first of the staff to know of the closure. It must have been particularly galling for a paper in its 99th year. Luckily for him, he got a job as night editor on ITV’s News at Ten and went on to become managing editor there.

It was a surprise reading that your paper would be closing from the Press Association! Yet, that may well be the situation many journalists are expecting at the moment as cost-cutting proprietors wind down their print editions in favour of digital.

Last issue of US picture weekly Life (29 December 1972)

Last issue of US picture weekly Life (29 December 1972)

The US picture weekly Life took a different tack to the Evening News, with no mention of the closure on the cover of its last issue (29 December 1972). However, this may well be because the cover was ready before the closure was announced by its owners, Time Inc. Instead, editor Hedley Donovan carried a full-page editorial on the weekly magazine’s closure on the first inside page.

Editor Hedley Donovan's final editorial on Life magazine's closure

Editor Hedley Donovan’s final editorial on Life magazine’s closure

As he says readers have reminded him, the magazine had not failed. It had, after all, lasted almost 40 years and been one of the biggest-selling titles in the US for that time.

Last issue of Rupert Murdoch's Today newspaper (17 November 1995) 

Last issue of Rupert Murdoch’s Today newspaper (17 November 1995)

Today took a similar tack to the Evening News with its closure in 1995. This would have been less unexpected, given that it had outlived its usefulness to Rupert Murdoch in helping him break out of hot metal in Fleet Street and into the electronic makeup era at Wapping. It was a paper with a short history – having been launched by Eddie Shah on 4 March 1986. Shah had won a vicious industrial relations battle against the NGA, the print union, in his Warrington freesheet newspaper group and then launched Today as a national colour tabloid using new technology. It had a target sale of 1.2 million copies, but rarely exceeded a third of this figure. One editor, David Montgomery, resigned after printing an apology to readers for the poor quality of the paper.

Promotional copy of the Sun inside the final issue of Today - with a message from Tony Blair

Promotional copy of the Sun inside the final issue of Today – with a message from Tony Blair

Murdoch wasn’t going to lose Today’s readers easily though and inside was a promotional copy of the Sun – complete with a top-of-the-page story written by Tony Blair and headlined ‘Why Labour readers are turning to the Sun‘. Today had taken a leftish editorial stance, while the Sun was traditionally rightwing, but switched allegiance when Blair established a rapport with Murdoch.

>>>UK newspapers

 

Magazines go mad at Christmas

December 29, 2015
Christmas covers dug out of James Hyman's archive

Just four of the Christmas covers dug out of James Hyman’s archive

The people over at Radio Times were really helpful digging out scans of the magazine’s covers when I was writing my magazine design book. I discovered in my researches that the best-selling magazine yet was the Christmas 1988 cover of the Radio Times – it shifted 11 million copies!

There are no Radio Times covers in this list of Christmas magazine covers past, but James Hyman dug out some great fronts from his archive for the piece by Anna Doble, BBC Newsbeat‘s online editor. It just shows how magazines go mad at Christmas.