The only major British 8-bit
magazine to change its name during the 1980s, Your Spectrum
/ Your Sinclair still retains a special place in the affections
of many Sinclair users. The magazine was the last to bow out,
in September 1993, when its publishers allowed it the dignified
exit denied to its competitors. Based in "Castle Rathbone"
(a somewhat run-down office building off Oxford Street in
London), it cultivated a self-conscious naffness which could
be irritating but could also be, at best, extremely funny.
It liked to describe itself as "crap in a funky skillo
sort of way", which pretty well sums up its approach.
A History of YS
- Your Spectrum was launched in December 1983
as an antidote to the staid Sinclair
User and ZX Computing. The difference
in its approach was apparent from the start: lots of colour
pages, a screenshot accompanying every game review (hard
to believe this was once regarded as an innovation!) and
many heavy-duty articles on machine code programming and
hardware add-ons. According to its own mission statement,
YS was "for those who are eager to step beyond
basics". In effect, it was the Spectrum hackers' magazine;
it even had a long-running column called Hacking Away, dedicated
to cheat routines for games (an idea quickly adopted by
As with all the other 8-bit magazines, games reviews
and previes quickly became the most prominent feature
of YS. Unfortunately this was, for a lengthy period
during the mid-1980s, the magazine's greatest weakness.
On too many occasions it would give two-page reviews and
a "Megagame" award to a new game despite the
game itself often being dreadful. Prize turkeys such as
A View To A Kill and Friday the Thirteenth
were the target of blatant puff pieces, raising the suspicion
that the magazine was effectively trading rave reviews
for exclusive first access to a major game. As the editor
admitted on the letters page a couple of months after
the review of A View To A Kill, "our review
was much better than the game itself". And that was
far from being an isolated example.
The launch of the QL in April 1984 had prompted the addition
of a short-lived QL User supplement within the pages of
YS, but by the end of 1985 a range of new Sinclair
machines (including the long-promised Pandora)
was on the horizon. To reflect this, YS was relaunched
in January 1986 as Your Sinclair. The name
change was rather mistimed, as it turned out; only a few
months later Sinclair sold his computer business to Amstrad.
The next two years were perhaps the most successful period
for YS, at least in terms of quality of editorial content.
The magazine now focused primarily on games, although
large type-in programs also continued to be a feature.
- In 1988, Future
Publishing - today, Britain's biggest publishers
of computer magazines - bought YS from its founders,
Sportscene. Future faced a difficult challenge, as by this
time the 8-bit computer market was in decline, under pressure
from two directions - the Sega/Nintendo games consoles and
the 16-bit Atari ST and Commodore Amiga computers. (At this
stage the PC was little more than a bit-part player in the
British leisure computing market). The decline was especially
hard on the 8-bit magazines, all of which found themselves
chasing a shrinking market. Fierce competition prompted
them to offer an increasingly gimmicky range of give-aways
to entice buyers.
YS was no exception, first offering posters and
tips booklets taped to the cover. In 1989, a full-scale
circulation war broke out between Sinclair
and YS, with each magazine giving away a tape containing
half a dozen or more back-catalogue commercial games every
month. Rumour has it that the contents of some of the
tapes resulted in serious legal complications with the
games' original publishers. The extra cost of the tapes
caused a drastic cutback in the editorial content of all
three magazines. The figures for YS tell the whole
story: between 1989 and 1992 the price of the magazine
rose 56%, from £1.60 to £2.50, while the page
count fell from about 150 to under 50, a fall of more
CRASH fell victim to the tape wars when both
magazines were acquired by EMAP, merged and abruptly killed
in April 1993. YS continued for only a few more months
before Future decided that it too was no longer viable.
Unlike its former rivals, YS at least managed to
receive a dignified send-off when Future agreed to publish
a final wrapping-up issue (inevitably, the biggest-selling
issue for several years.) Its back cover featured a picture
of two cowboys riding off into the sunset over the caption
"Our Work Is Done". Indeed.