John Kavanagh is no stranger when it comes to online magazine publishing. Having produced CPC Oxygen magazine for the Amstrad community, he has a strong passion for vintage computers, particularly those of Lord Alan Sugar’s ilk. John is currently planning an 8-bit vintage computer magazine, which is currently on Kickstarter and has exceeded 200% of its goal. At the time of writing the campaign is still under way, and you have 39 days left to back the project. I got in touch with John to ask him a few questions about his background and what we can expect from this new publication.
Paul: Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions John. Firstly, what is your background with 8-bit computers?
John: My background with 8-bit computers? Well it’s the typical story of boy gets computer for Christmas, boy play the bundled games for weeks on end. Finally boy finally opens the manual, types in his first program, saves it, loads it back, it works. The boy’s path in life was drastically altered from that moment on. That’s how it started, from that moment on it was everything computers. The computers got bigger and faster but I kept coming back to the 8-bits.
As far as my background in programming them I did wrote a few BASIC programs and did a bit of Z80 Assembly but nothing that was published in a magazine or anything like that. I do repair broken systems once in a while for the enjoyment of bringing a computer back to life.
P: What is your 8-bit computer of choice?
J: I had a choice? The computer of choice will always be the first one I owned which was the Amstrad CPC 464. My time was split roughly 50/50 between playing games and programming. When I weren’t at a computer I was reading computer magazines or programming manuals. Although I have to say I do tend to sit at a CPC 6128 more often but the 464 is more special to me.
P: What are some of the best games for that system?
J: I could look at the games that really pushed back the boundaries of the system but for me the best games were the ones that were the most fun. What would be considered some of the best games for the system which are also fun to play would be games like Chase HQ, Gryzor, Prince of Persia, Rick Dangerous 2, Turrican 2.
P: What are some of your favourite games on other 8-bit platforms?
J: I’m currently enjoying Maniac Mansion on the Commodore 64 but generally the games I enjoy tend to be available on the Amstrad. However it is fun checking them out on other systems.
P: You have a history with publishing fan made publications. Can you tell us a bit about your history with these projects?
J: In the early 2000’s I started an online magazine called CPC Oxygen focusing primarily on the CPC but also other Amstrad computers too. Similar to Eight Bit Magazine it covered technical articles as well as programming and gaming. A number of other people wanted to write articles for it and it evolved from there. Only Issue 11 and a ‘Yearbook’ made it to paper.
P: What compelled you to create a new 8-bit magazine?
J: To bring back the excitement that I felt as a young kid reaching up to the top shelf and taking down the computer magazine I waited a whole month for. Looking at the cover, seeing the new game releases, wondering what programming articles are within. To actually hold a magazine and feel that excitement and to give that excitement to other people. That’s the ultimate goal. If we can do that we succeeded.
Before somebody asks, I have no idea why Amstrad Action and Amstrad Computer User were on the top shelf next to the adult magazines. ;-)
P: You have stated that this will not be just another gaming magazine. What do you have in mind?
J: There are already great gaming magazines out there. Retro Gamer is a great magazine and there’s also great fan based magazines out there in digital print. We wanted something different. People who collect and use those computers do more than play games and even when they are playing games there’s more to it than that. Sure the games are important but it’s also about the computers themselves. It’s about the touch, the feel, the smell, the sound they make that evokes a certain feeling. People want to use those computers to dial on to an old BBS system, they want to write stories on them, they want to program them and interface them with modern technology in a way the original makers couldn’t possibly had envisioned. They want the whole experience otherwise they would be happy with an emulator on their phone.
What’s important is a sense of community. The magazine must feel like a bunch of enthusiasts sharing their experiences. For example, I know practically nothing about the Jupiter Ace. Sure I could buy one on eBay, play with it, learn about it and then write about it. The article would be good but I much prefer someone who owned one for years to write about it, to share their personal experiences. To bring some feeling and excitement in to the article.
So what do we have in mind? A magazine held together by a sense of community. You’re not just reading the magazine but you’re a part of the magazine.
P: Can you tell us about the team of people you have on board?
J: Most of the people involved are people I met on the forums and previously on newsgroups. We are not sure yet which articles are going to appear in the first issue so no names yet :) I would love to hear from people outside the Commodore and Amstrad communities to consider submitting material for the magazine to keep things better balanced. Ideally we want articles on a wide range of subjects for a wide range of 8-bit formats.
Thanks for the interview
P: My pleasure John!
If you want to back John’s exciting new project then CLICK HERE to go along to the Kickstarter page and pledge your support. A pledge costs as little as $8.94 which is a bargain for a printed publication. If you feel like contributing a little more then you can pledge $14.9 which allows you to contribute 255 words to the magazine.