Old Issues of Mac World

Add another item to the museum: I’ve begun collecting old issues of MacWorld. I just picked up 12 issues from 1998 and 12 issues from 1997 on eBay and I will be receiving issues from 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1999 soon. I’ll be adding these to my collection of 1999 – 2006 issue from the years that I had a subscription. Ironically I decided to stop right around the time the original iPhone came out. At that point I was getting all of my news from the internet as it happened and decided that I didn’t need a monthly magazine to summarize it all. I purged about half of my magazine collection, only keeping the issues where Apple introduced a new product. I really wish I hadn’t.

So why would I want a collection of old magazines? Two reasons. The first is that while the internet is a great place to get news, magazines provide a great summary of news from a time period. The magazines may not be very useful the month they come out, but they are extremely useful a few years later. They provide a historical perspective about what was going on at the time – not only in the Apple industry, but the technology industry as a whole. Even with the power of today’s search engines, it can be difficult to get a full picture of a moment in history. A magazine sums it all up in 100 pages a month. It’s easy to know what was going on at a specific time by just looking at the cover stories. Through the product reviews, op eds, help articles you get an idea of what things were like at the time. For an Apple fan like me, that sort of history is priceless. And the advertisements, oh how they paint a picture of what technology was like! The prices, the speeds, the marketing behind it all. It’s amazing to look back and see what was cutting edge and droolworthy from the past compared to today.

The second reason is that it becomes more difficult to find older material as time goes on. Sure, MacWorld had a website in 1997, but how many of those articles are still available and easy to find? 1996 – 1999 were pivotal years in Apple’s history – it almost went out of business, Steve Jobs returned, Mac OS X was born, the G3 and G4 brought performance back to the Mac, Johnathan Ive transformed Apples’s product design, and the company returned to profitability – all of which set the stage for the Apple we know today. That’s an extremely interesting time to me but it’s very difficult to find a lot of information about it. Sure there are historical summaries, but I want to know the details. There is no better way to get details than from a magazine. In addition, there is little available on the web about pre-1996 Apple.  If I want to read reviews of classic Macs and find out what the PowerPC transition was like, I need to read copies of MacWorld.

Luckily there are still a lot of magazine hoarders around that keep older copies in pretty good shape. And lucky for me there aren’t a lot of people who are interested. I’m really hoping to find issues from 1994, 1995, and 1996. This period includes the dawn of the PowerPC, Apple’s struggle to modernize its operating system, a few CEO transitions, the introduction of the Mac clones, and the story of what would be known as Apple’s near-death spiral. It all sets up the story to Steve Jobs’ return in 1996 and the time when I developed an interest in Macs. I’m excited to read about not only the products, but the promises and plans that were never fulfilled. I want to read about how the user base felt when Apple was on the brink of collapse. I just find it so interesting. So if you know anybody who has old issues of MacWorld, let me know.

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