I’ve long been a reader of magazines.
Back in the day, I would spend ages perusing the various titles that graced the shelves of WH Smith before deciding which one I was going to spend my meagre amount of disposable income on. My main interest back then was electronics and publications such as Hobby Electronics, Practical Electronics and Everyday Electronics would invariably find their way onto the growing pile of glossy literature stacked in the corner of my bedroom.
But then I started work and suddenly had more money than I knew what to do with. Greggs benefited greatly from this new-found wealth of mine, but then so did many other shops. As well as sausage rolls, I developed a taste for photography and Hi-Fi, Amateur Radio and the newly emerging trend of home computing.
In the following years, WH Smith’s shares probably went through the roof, as I single-handedly emptied their shelves each month. Practical Photography, Popular Photography, Photographer, What Hi-Fi and Hi-Fi Choice joined their Electronics counterparts on the pile, along with the likes of Practical Wireless, Ham Radio, Short Wave Listener and Television magazine. Personal Computer World, Computer Express and just about anything with a picture of a ZX81 on the front also joined the throng.
And if my nerdy reading appetite wasn’t fully sated by that little lot, I’d occasionally throw in an Omni magazine or a New Scientist.
But, things have changed. Many of those periodicals no longer exist and those that do seem to have gone up in price dramatically in recent years. I stopped buying the photography magazines on a regular basis as I came to realise that over a period of 12 months or so, many of the articles or tutorials in them were just being freshened up and repeated.
I stopped buying the Hi-Fi magazines completely: being married with kids now means that I no longer have the time or the money to invest in the latest all-singing, all-dancing piece of audio kit. And I rarely have the time nowadays to just sit down and listen and enjoy a piece of music, like wot I used to do.
My interest in Amateur Radio was killed off when we moved to our new house: I put my aerial up and found I couldn’t pick up a single thing as I tuned around the 2 metre and 70cm bands. Even the normally rampant data modes were deathly quiet. The surrounding hills were preventing me from getting any signals and had pretty much rendered me deaf, in amateur radio terms.
Television magazine has now passed on, I believe, but I stopped buying it before it disappeared. The advent of digital TV and flat screens had rendered home TV repair quite redundant.
And computer magazines, like the photography ones, are all saying the same thing. I buy them rarely now, just occasionally to keep up with what is out there. A new one caught my eye the other day: dedicated to Windows 7, it’s front cover promised to teach me lots of tips and tricks to keep my machine running fast and clean. Wrapped in cellophane – as many of them are, nowadays - I was unable to scan it’s contents, but intrigued, I splashed out a fiver on it. What a load of rubbish! I read it from cover to cover and learnt just one useful tip. Which, now I think of it, I can’t remember.
Sadly, there are now only a couple of the amateur electronics magazines left out there, and the best of these (IMHO), Elektor, has now gone bi-monthly and costs a whopping £7.50 to buy! Seven pounds and fifty English pence! For a magazine!
Of course, much of the content of these magazines can be found online, nowadays. But it’s just not as enjoyable. Sitting down with a mug of tea and a couple of biscuits and losing myself between the pages of a nerdy magazine has always been a most satisfying ritual. Doing it in front of a computer screen just isn’t the same.
Even for me.