Product: 6502z80 Magazine #1
Publisher: Fanzine
Compatibility: BBC/Electron
Reviewed by: Dave E
Originally published in EUG #45

If you've been with the Electron User Group since the very beginning, you'll know that the first eight issues of it were produced in a handy little A5 magazine spaced out with clipart pictures, screen dumps and headings in different fonts - all produced by Will Watts on a trusty Electron. A paper-based magazine has the obvious problem of any utilities or programs submitted needing to be typed in by each one of its subscribers instead of being instantly available through a menu - so it's unlikely we'll ever see the days of a paper-based EUG again.

Having said that, there is a glimmer of hope in a new magazine called 6502z80 which is entirely paper-based and billed as "a new 8 bit publication for the new Millenium" [Millennium of course has two 'n's but that's just being picky - Ed]. It claims to support the whole spectrum of 8 bit machines from the Oric to the SAM Coupe - and is available from the address at the top of this article for three quid an issue.

To see what you get for your cash, I'll quickly run through the contents of Issue #0 (April 1999) which are The Ed's comments, a review of some '16-Bit Shelving Which Can Also House A Spectrum', a list of Amstrad CPC books, an article on disks and drives, reviews of classic C64 software, letters from readers, a review of a RAM Music Machine, a PD library for the Spectrum, Small Ads (free) and a 'Stop Press' section of new happenings for 8 bit computers. The rest of the magazine is adverts selling things or offering services and like the old EUG, it's an A5 black and white number.

You may note immediately that although we have the microprocessor of the title, 6502's contents don't seem to include us. Indeed, not even our big brother the Beeb! Well, it may pretty much be the case but it isn't entirely; if you don't know how your disk drive works, the article on page 15 makes interesting reading (although Electron User covered it in much more detail) and page 28 is dedicated to revealing how you can incorporate joystick control into your programs via the First Byte Joystick Interface on the "ELECTRON/ACORN". [Acorn ELECTRON! Isn't it a simple enough title to get right? - Ed]

These aside, there's nothing else for Elk owners if they aren't also into other 8-bit computers. And to digress, I should actually point out VIC-20, Jupiter Ace, MSX and Oric computers aren't actually mentioned at all besides on the front cover! I can't help but think subscribers with these machines would feel ripped off.

It's still early days for this magazine but in comparison to the old EUG, it does fair badly. It claims to be produced using a professional DTP package on a 24-bit machine - it's not a good advert for whatever machine or package. The text is hard to read in places, especially the white on 'bitty black' sections, the photographs are blurry and some pages look extremely cluttered. The C64 games' reviews are the most poorly designed with text, surrounded by bad scanned images of the logos, so big that very little is said about the four games even though it fills two pages! When text is columnised it isn't justified, the contents page refers you to page 38 (which doesn't exist) and there are gaping holes where summary information is definitely required. The RAM Music Machine doesn't mention any computer it's compatible with beside a Spectrum!

The magazine's best strength therefore comes through the collation it offers on the 8-bit scene. There are a lot of advertisers offering a good few products - so if you're looking for something in particular, you immediately have the leads you need on where to find it. However, if the advertisers I contacted represent the whole, don't expect to get it very cheaply!

It's a 'clean' magazine - if it were a film, it would be a "U" certificate - and, as I mentioned, it's only in its infancy. But to say it's aimed at all 8-bit computer owners regardless of their machine is not doing justice to the large bias it shows towards Spectrum and Amstrad owners over the rest. This isn't a bad thing - just seven years ago, the Sinclair Spectrum was the most popular computer in England so it may be inevitable that this is the case. The main problem of 6502 therefore is really with the front page claim to support all 8 bit computers when it simply doesn't; in fact, page 7 makes a plea for those neglected owners to contribute articles! If they do, of course, this problem will be solved. If not, it won't.

Another problem looming for this multi-format mag though is that it is very difficult to get a game or utility which only requires minimum changes for it to work on different formats. Any listings like this are basic, in BASIC and generally boring in execution. Just look at the Usborne series of books if you require further proof! So will it ever be worth its cover price?

8 Bit owners need a magazine such as this and it's a valiant attempt to provide entertainment. It simply needs to be formatted a little more professionally, the scanned images removed/tidied up and a spellchecker optimised to pep up its target audience. To Elk owners it's just not as inspiring as the old EUG's and its articles are just cribs of information available elsewhere.

The next issue is due in September so I may then have a better idea of its capabilities. In the meantime, I would have on balance to advise Elk owners against buying a copy of it. It is not another EUG and doesn't claim to be, yet it's interesting if you love the 8-bit scene, it is informative and provides a wealth of contacts. I wouldn't throw my copy away now I have read it, yet three pounds is pretty steep for what is just eight sheets of double sided A4 paper. I'm in two minds and if you buy a copy, you probably will be too.