Jan 232014
 

Softalk was one of the most highly regarded computer magazines focused on the Apple II series of computers, running from September 1980 until August 1984. They’ve been mentioned here before. In the later years, however, the publishers branched out to a couple of other platforms. There was a second magazine called Softalk for the IBM PC, which was—well—Softalk, for the IBM PC. But there was also a Softalk magazine devoted to the Mac, upon its release. This was ST.Mac, which is etymologically “Softalk” with a filetype/extension “.Mac”, although it also seems to have gone by “Saint Mac” as well.

Stmac

ST.Mac launched just after the original Macintosh did, its first issue covered February 1984. Monthly issues followed, although unfortunately not for long—the whole Softalk enterprise pretty much stopped after August 1984, including both the original Apple II Softalk magazine and ST.Mac. So, all in all, there only were seven issues of ST.Mac, which might explain why even Mac enthusiasts often have never heard of it. I certainly hadn’t until pretty recently, despite having loved the Apple II Softalk for over 30 years.

The magazine is primarily focused on the Macintosh, but also considers Lisa within its scope, and it’s one of the best/only places to find magazine print ads relating to Lisa products. It’s also interesting to see some of the contemporaneous discussion, not all of it positive. I can say myself, having been fairly deep into the Apple II world at the time of the Mac’s introduction, that upon my first experience with a Mac (I think it may have been a “Fat Mac”, the second iteration that had 512K rather than 128K), I wasn’t actually swept away in the way people were supposed to have been. As a child (but one already pretty handy with the command line), it felt kind of slow and limited. True, there were a lot of dots per inch, but I still took it to be mostly a toy computer aimed at novices, and I pretty much ignored it for the next five years until I the Macs gained software and traction and speed (at which point I bought the SE/30, which I still consider to be basically the pinnacle of the compact Macs). And some of that kind of reaction can be seen in some the letters that got printed in ST.Mac, too, though of course the focus of the magazine was mostly the positive and new developments on the Mac platform, right as it was getting its start.

Anyway, I have now scanned the entire short run of this little magazine, and it is definitely interesting to read in retrospect. So, without further ado, here they are. The main links below are to the smaller 300dpi scans (around 70MB), and better, larger, 600dpi scans (around 260MB) are linked separately if that’s of interest.

Stmac feb1984 Stmac mar1984
Stmac apr 1984 Stmac 1984 may
Stmac 1984 jun St mac 1984 jul
St mac 1984 aug  
Sep 212013
 

Prompted by discussion on the Softalk Forever!!! Facebook group, itself prompted by the initiation of an ambitious data mining project (The Softalk Apple Project) using Softalk as its base, I present the one full scan I’ve done since the last round at the beginning of the summer.

It’s a nice one to have, though, it’s issue number one, September 1980, which started it all. My copy is not perfect, but it’s not bad. It is, however, a bit aged and quite brittle. So, although the issue is not particularly long compared to what issues would become, it was a challenge to get it to look even as good as this does.

Softalk1980 09

Welcome to Softalk. Whether you’re a hobbyist or a businessperson, a programmer or a nonprogrammer, Softalk is designed for you, because each of you has chosen Apple for your computer; and so did we. (Straightalk, Softalk Sep 1980, p. 3).

Addendum: actually, I’m seeing a lot of compression artifacts in this scan at high magnification. Though it might destroy this issue to go through the scanning process again, I might try once more to see if I can get a cleaner scan. I don’t really think it’s a dpi issue, since my 600dpi version of this has similar artifacts. Might require some experimentation. This version will stay here for now.

Dec 252012
 

Sooner than I’d anticipated, I’m back on the blog. I’ve scanned a couple of my issues of Softalk, and as an experiment, I tried putting them in a shared folder on box.com, since I happened to have a bunch of space available there. But the downloading interface is not optimal, and it pings me every time someone downloads a file. The advantage was that it was browsable, but I’ll replicate that by posting the links here.

Update: I’ve updated August 1982, it is now complete except for the back cover.

What I’ve been doing is extracting selected individual articles (with full-page ads removed) from the magazines, and then (where I’ve done the whole thing) the entire issues. These are searchable images, originally scanned at 600dpi and down sampled to 300dpi, since, as it turns out, the printed resolution is not high enough to warrant 600dpi. I’ve also put bookmarks in the PDF files for the articles, since the additional time to do that over and above the cropping and OCR time was fairly insignificant.

Where I’ve processed the full issue, it’s linked below. I have some articles from issues that I have not scanned in full in here as well. I will update this post when I’ve scanned them in full, but probably also recapitulate it in a new blog post for those.

If you don’t want to wade through what’s below, the full issues are: July 1981 (79MB) and October 1982 (243MB). August 1982 (217MB) is complete except the back cover.

Softalk 1981 July

Softalk1981 07

Softalk 1981 November

Softalk1981 11

Softalk 1982 April

Softalk1982 04

Softalk 1982 August

Softalk1982 08

Softalk 1982 October

Softalk1982 10

Softalk 1984 January

Softalk1984 01

Softalk 1984 July

Softalk1984 07

Softalk 1984 August (final issue)

Softalk1984 08

Mar 252012
 

The Softalk magazine (1980–1984) has become surprisingly rare. Surprising because it used to actually be given for free (at least for a while) to anyone who bought an Apple. And it was a good magazine too. But although many other computer magazines of the 80s have been scanned and made it into various online archives, Softalk is conspicuously absent.

Softalk 1980 09 cover Softalk 1981 11 cover

Scouring the net, I have managed to find a few. Yesterday I found a couple that were hosted in Switzerland and for me at least downloaded very slowly (by my estimate, at about 2400 baud), which prompts me to now host a mirror of those copies of those few that I have so far acquired. Someday I hope to physically have the magazines again, at which point I’ll attempt non-destructive color scans. I still may have some of those physical issues somewhere (I was a subscriber from 1982–1984), but I have not as of yet been able to find them.

So far, I have the following issues sourced in a couple of different places (but I suspect mostly the work of one person). They are not great. For one thing, they are mostly black and white, and (presumably on some kind of principle, possibly legal), the advertisements have been removed. (While I’m sure that it took a lot of time and effort to remove them, I also miss the ads, they’re interesting too, 30 years on.) The covers were also often not included. In at least one place I noticed, a page was duplicated. But, it’s better than nothing, for the moment.

[Addition: Steven Weyhrich has a page of images of many of the covers and column banners posted at his Apple II History site, and for a couple of years has been specifically scanning some of the ads from the pages of Softalk, organized by year and hardware/software.]