Magazine cover discs aka shiny little plastic time capsules

Whilst it’s loads of fun tinkering with old Mac computers and playing old games, the experience is inherently in the abstract; it’s 2018 and we’re doing this stuff decades after the fact. But there are ways to immerse ourselves more fully in the moment.

At the absolute heart of my Macintosh collection is a great big stack of Mac magazine cover CDs, something like 500 of the things.

Macintosh Magazine cover CDs

I acquired these quite some time ago across a few eBay auctions that were each listed with little fanfare, the sellers were simply clearing out old tat, and I grabbed them all for pennies. At the time, I bought them more on gut instinct rather than any over-arching plan but eventually I realised that I was sitting on an absolute cornucopia of classic-era Macintosh software. So, I did the only rational thing I could; went through each CD in turn, duplicating the contents into a massive archive of Macintosh shareware games and utilities. That archive formed the initial basis of this very website, some 30GB or so of files.

As I was going through that process of hauling off the shareware stuff, I saw that there was a lot of other interesting stuff on the discs; images, videos, audio files, text files, and so on, but I didn’t have the spare capacity at the time to pay much attention to most of it. It’s now time to make that capacity!

MacFormat 17

MacFormat 17, published October 1994, is one of the earliest cover CDs I have, and it’s typical of the medium; absolute stuffed to the gills with stuff. In the mid-90s, this mindset of ramming as much software and guff onto a CD as possible became derisively known as “shovelware” but, hell’s teeth, am I thankful for it now. Just look at all these categories of shareware!

Masses of shareware!

And take a look at how much stuff was in each category!

A galaxy of shareware!

Like I said, these things are *so* precious. But, looking past the immediate windfall of software, you’ll see the “Reader’s Corner” folder, and within that, “Reader’s Contributions” (well, it’s actually “Reader’s Contibutions” but I’ll assume that’s a typo from the harrassed MacFormat disk compiler…)…

Reader's Contributions

It’s in these unassuming corners of the CDs that the true magic lives; letters to the editor, artwork, photographs, homebrew programs, videos, and assorted general insanity. With the extra space afforded to magazine publishers on these CDs, they needed stuff and what better source than their readership?

Hello and welcome to the second Readers’ Corner! At the time of writing, the last issue has not come back from the printers, so there isn’t much reader’s response yet to publish. That’s the problem with the CD having a deadline two weeks earlier than the magazine. For those who have just found the CD (nearly a thousand people subscribing a month) here is what Reader’s Corner is all about.

1. Send in your own programs, HyperCard stacks or other contributions. Its up to you whether you want to distribute them as freeware or shareware, but remember, shareware must be good quality to encourage people to pay. Please include a Read Me file with instructions and your own details.

2. Got something to say? The letters pages are limited in the number of letters they can take, and almost all letters are edited down. So why not send in your contributions on floppy disk in TeachText format and I’ll put it on the CD in full. Hopefully we can start up on-going areas of discussion. If you want your floppy disk back then please enclose a SAE.

3. How about an art gallery? Send in your pics on disk, preferably PICT format, and we would put them on the CD for everyone to say ‘Gosh’. Well maybe.

4. Ideas for the CD. Already the CD is changing due to ideas and comments from you the reader. For instance, this month the highlights window contains an alias of an application’s folder rather than the program. This is in response to reader’s requests. I do listen, occasionally. So send your comments to Disk Editor, MacFormat, 30 Monmouth Street, Bath, Avon BA1 2BW.

That’s all, enjoy the disk and I’ll see you next month,

Derek Smith
Disk Editor

As Derek indicates, MacFormat 17 was early in the life-cycle of cover-mounted CD-ROMs and they hadn’t really had much opportunity to receive many submissions. That would all change in the near future, and we’ll cover that in due course. In the meantime, here’s the Reader’s Corner of MacFormat 17, stuffed into a self-extracting archive for your easy-access pleasure. Download the file, transfer to your vintage Mac, unstuff, and enjoy!

The main item of note, in my opinion, is what I believe is a fairly unorthodox method of curriculum vitae (résumé for our American friends) distribution by a Mr Sam King of London.

Sam King "Job Application"

Sam King CV

It’s a pretty attractively presented HyperCard stack, with audio embedded in a couple of places, and gives a few samples of Sam’s published writing, and also a slightly edgy critique of MacFormat itself…

MacFormat Critique

I wonder if Mr King ever got any work off the back of this effort? I have seen quite a few similar ploys in later Reader’s Corners, so clearly it became a viable way of getting your CV out into the world before the web really took off and became mass-market.

So, there we have it, these cover CDs are the gift that keeps on giving. I’ll delve into the crates semi-regularly and see what delights we can dig up!

Here’s the full MacFormat 17, in a self-extracting stuffed archive.

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