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Sinclair User


1982-84: Nigel Clark
1984-86: Bill Scolding
1986-88: David Kelly
1988-89: Graham Taylor
1989-90: Jim Douglas
1990-92: Garth Sumpter
1992-93: Alan Dykes

The oldest Sinclair magazine was Sinclair User (1982-93), published by the media giant EMAP. It started off covering the ZX81, expanded to cover the Spectrum (eventually its sole focus) and also covered the QL for a while from 1984-86.

The magazine went through three distinct phases during its decade in publication, readily distinguishable by the changing appearance of the cover:

  • From 1982-86 under the editorship of Nigel Clark and Bill Scolding, Sinclair User aimed itself at the "serious hobbyist". Games were only a relatively small element of SU's coverage (unlike CRASH and Your Spectrum / Your Sinclair). Far more emphasis was put on worthy articles on serious applications such as business computing, education and especially programming. The magazine regularly carried a dozen or so pages dedicated to type-in programs submitted by readers, which proved popular enough to give rise to two spin-offs - Sinclair Programs (1982-84), which was entirely filled with type-in program listings, and the short-lived Sinclair Projects (1982-83), devoted to DIY electronics projects for the Spectrum and ZX81.
  • At the end of 1986 under the editorship of David Kelly, Sinclair User underwent a dramatic redesign to position it firmly as a games magazine, with Your Sinclair clearly being seen as its main target. "Serious" content became increasingly scarce, although Andrew Hewson's perennial Helpline column continued for until the end of 1989. In 1988, SU, Crash and Your Sinclair began a vicious circulation war as the readership of 8-bit magazines crumbled with the rise of the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga. A tape containing half a dozen or more back-catalogue commercial games was now given away free every month with SU and Your Sinclair (and eventually with CRASH too), but the extra cost of the tapes caused a drastic cutback in the editorial content of all three magazines, with the number of pages halved inside a few months. The tape wars were eventually ended by the software industry, worried that the glut of free software would affect their own sales.
  • Sinclair User's last design change occured at the end of 1990 under Garth Sumpter's editorship, although the magazine was now little more than a vehicle for the cover tape. Compared with five years previously, the page count and the number of staff writers had dropped by more than half. The 8-bit micros entered a period of terminal decline at the start of the 1990s, reflected in the falling sales of the companion magazines. CRASH ceased publication in April 1992 and a year later, after 134 issues, so too did Sinclair User; Your Sinclair hung on a little longer but it too bit the dust in September 1993, finally bringing down the curtain on the Spectrum magazine industry.

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Chris Owen 1994-2003