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In-depth Amstrad CPC reportage, 1985-1995.

The first magazine ever to come from Future Publishing and dedicated to the Amstrad CPC range of computers, Amstrad Action was launched in 1985 by Chris Anderson, an out-of-work magazine editor with £1,000 in the bank and an idea to fill a gap in the market. Although at the time the CPC range of computers was three best-selling machines strong, it was still woefully under-represented on the newsstands, that's a market-gap about three miles wide. At least, it is in the cut-throat world of publishing. :)

After putting his plan into action in June, 1985, Chris spent three months trying to secure an office, a handful of optimistic staff writers, a printer and distributor willing to do business with a fledgling company, and a £15,000 bank loan. The first issue was launched in September boasting a hundred fun-packed pages on a print-run of 40,000 copies, of which only a disastrous 16,000 got sold.

Had it not been for the fact that it took three months for the news of the first issue sales figures to become available, Amstrad Action would have stopped right there. Fortunately, in those three months, the magazine had improved, the sales figures picked up and, thanks to the innovation of introducing a games-packed, cover-mounted cassette, the bank loan was easily paid off. The magazine continued to come bundled with free software every birthday and Christmas issue until the tape was introduced as a permanent feature in April 1993.

The first few issues of Amstrad Action had a distinctly rough-and-ready look to them, featuring pages adorned with single-panel cartoons amongst the text and a strange blob on legs called Toot who appeared beside the page numbers with a glib comment or wacky antic. Plus all the usual computer magazine requirements were happily fulfilled; games reviews, technical advice, special features together with BASIC program listings for those who only like to play games if they've spent four hours meticulously copying them from a magazine.

And so it went on, being at the forefront of every major development in the life-span of the CPC (and some of the tragically minor ones as well) for a hundred and seventeen issues, throughout its heyday, sticking by it when the games reviews section meant maybe one or two poor-quality budget releases a month, even when the machine had effectively died commercially and all that remained was the hardcore user-base that kept the life-support machines on with public domain software and home-grown hardware specialists. The magazine lived far longer than any other magazine would have and, after the release of the hundredth issue, saw circulation figures that the keen business-minded publisher wouldn't even begin to tolerate. But AA (as it was known, not to be confused with the breakdown service or teetotal society) existed alongside Future Publishing, they were twin sisters, sharing the same birthdate so sentimental value assured it's survival. For a while, at any rate.

In June of 1995, ten years since the idea first popped into Chris Anderson's head, Amstrad Action was finally laid to rest just before the computer market forgot about the 8-bit machines altogether in favour those with sixteen and even thirty-two bits. But a decade of magazines and a publishing empire isn't a bad legacy to go leaving behind...

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