Family Computing

Jeff Pack, Brown University '99 (English 112, 1996)

The lower cabinet of one of the computer desks in my family's house is filled with back issues of Family Computing, dating from 1984 to 1989. The very existence of the magazine was testament to the "revolution" in personal computing: its intended audience was not hackers, but ordinary people. (Family Computing's metamorphosis into Family & Home-Office Computing and eventually Home-Office Computing also told of the later shift in focus for many users, as personal computers became more than Ataris with keyboards.)

There were several sections of Family Computing that I read with interest every month: "K-Power", an insert that ran for about half the life of the magazine (around mid-1985 until about 1987, when it was supplanted by a short "Entertainment" column), talked about children and teenagers using computers, an "Ask Dr. Cursor" column that answered questions about computers, and most importantly (for me at that time, anyway), gave hints to current games.

Immediately preceding "K-Power" was a section entitled "The Programmer", which included several programs in various flavors of BASIC that readers could type in (no optical character recognition yet, so to use any of these programs one had to type in each line by hand). I learned a lot of what I know about BASIC from reading these programs and trying to figure out what they did (and whether it was worth the time to type them out).

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