Good-Bye Computer Shopper

Once upon a time, in the late-80s to the mid-90s, if you cared one bit about PCs, you read Computer Shopper. You might only get a copy once or twice a year when you got the bug to buy or put together your own computer, but when you wanted to get deep into PCs, Computer Shopper is what you got. That was then. This is now. Today, Computer Shopper announced that it was going online only.

It just won't be the same. There was a time when Computer Shopper had more than a thousand, tabloid sized pages. It was the Goliath of the magazine rack. And, I'm proud to say that I was a contributing editor and columnist for the magazine back in those days.

I started writing for Shopper in 1989, just before Ziff Davis bought it and I wrote regularly for it for the next six years. It was a great run.

Part of what made it great was, despite all the jokes about Shopper being a catalog that masqueraded as a magazine, it actually had many wonderful writers and editors. As Dan Rosenbaum, a former Shopper senior editor and currently SEO Strategist for Conductor put it, "There's an old poster that compiles a genealogy of British blues bands. Every band that's worth a damn could trace its way back to the Yardbirds, at one point or another. Shopper was the Yardbirds."

He's right. If you're in the technology press it's almost certain, you either have worked with Shopper at one time or one of your co-workers have. That's certainly true at Computerworld where Barbara Krasnoff, a former Shopperite, is Features & Reviews Editor.

I'm also sure that I'm not the only one who will miss the passing of Shopper's print edition. Over the years, I've met hundreds of people who loved that bulky, old magazine. For them, it was a dream book of computers.

The magazine was also, and I still find this surprising, amazingly influential. I've met ISP (Internet Service Providers) engineers and Linux programmers, who've told me that it was thanks to my Shopper stories on the Internet and Unix that they got into their fields. I know my fellow Shopper vets have had similar experiences.

Thinking of 'missing' though. I have to tell at least one of Shopper's most famous stories. Once upon a time, at a Comdex, when Comdex was the trade show of trade shows, some of Shopper's editors and writers went to a Las Vegas gun range with a pile of issues.

Now, you need to remember in those days, a single copy of Computer Shopper, was a couple of inches thick and weighted more than a pound. Despite that though there was, as Rosenbaum recalled, "general surprise when we discovered that even the thickest Shopper couldn't stop even a .22 -- but a .45 made a spectacular pile of newsprint confetti."

Ah, those were the days! I'm sorry to this day that I missed that trip. And, I'm going to miss the print magazine. Shopper will still be online, and it's been years since it was in its monster size edition, but still a magazine rack just won't look the same without a copy of Computer Shopper on it.


Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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