[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Computer Shopper Debut

September 22nd, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Computer Shopper Magazine debut advertisement - 1979“The most divisive magazine in the USA.”

Veterans of the computer scene will no doubt recall Computer Shopper, a massively large (11″ x 14″, later 10″ x 13″) and thick (usually around 1.25″) monthly publication that mostly ran classifieds and paid advertisements for PC vendors. The magazine ended its print run in 2009, 30 years after it launched.

I only know when it launched because of this advertisement for the launch of Computer Shopper that appeared in the November 1979 issue of Byte. It’s interesting to see a legend at its birth.

I was never a huge fan of Computer Shopper, since it was essentially a month’s worth of computer junk mail stuffed into an awkward and almost unreadibly-large magazine format. But I did respect it as a mainstay of the computer industry — as familiar as a phone book and as timely as a newspaper. May she rest in peace.

[ From Byte Magazine – November 1979, p.189]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you ever read (or more accurately, peruse) Computer Shopper? What are your memories of the publication?

14 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Computer Shopper Debut”

  1. DNA Says:

    No, but I reckon I would have. Family never had one and I didn’t get my first computer until early adulthood, but was keenly interested in them from early on. I was the kid that would walk around in Babbages or Egg [shoot what was it called?] just to look at the software and game displays.

  2. D.D. Says:

    I did a few times in the late 1990s. I was commuting 1-2 hours to my university a few days each week for classes, and would sometimes grab a copy of Computer Shopper from the student store to flip through while killing time. It was mostly junk mail, like you said, but I seem to recall there being a few regular columns that were somewhat interesting to read.

  3. SirFatty Says:

    While I agree with a lot of your articles and comments, I think you missed the point of this magazine. It was a huge resource of parts and vendors that did not really exist pre-Internet. The Hard Edge was a great column that I look forward each month. I bought many parts from vendors found in those pages.

  4. Benj Edwards Says:


    Quite possibly yes, I did miss the point of the magazine. When I was mostly aware of it (in the early 1990s, when I was an early teenager), I probably wasn’t the publication’s key demographic.

    I’m sure Computer Shopper served a very good purpose or it wouldn’t have run for 30 years — although I still have a 1991 copy of it right beside me and it still feels like an impenetrable thicket of haphazardly-organized junk.

    The pre-Internet analogy struck me too — CS was like a compressed collection of commercial vendor and price info that we now get on the web.

  5. Moondog Says:

    I used to get them in the mid-90’s before the internet made computer part shopping easier.

  6. Alexei Martchenko Says:

    I loved that magazine… It was hard to find and very expensive in Brazil during the early 90s. It was thick and full of new and cheap stuff. We were technologically leaps behind at that time and Computer Shopper was awesome!

  7. DMR Says:

    I loved it in the early 90s.I would page through it (those wonderful, newsprint quality pages) dreaming of the systems and peripherals I couldn’t afford. There were a few regular columns in there that were as good as anything in Byte, PC Magazine, PC World. I stuck with them until they were irrelevant and started shrinking down to normal magazine size.

    I had a bad habit of saving magazines back then. That stack in the closet threatened to topple over and crush me, or a curious cat now and then. 😉

    Anyone remember Discount Software ads? They had great deals on previous versions of things. I got a copy of Lotus Ami Pro, even though I was a WordPerfect aficionado back then – I might have paid $99 for it, but word processors were pretty expensive at the time. I really grew to love Ami Pro. But I digress.

    Yep. Computer Shopper. Big fan. 🙂

  8. Ant Says:

    I remember getting them in college from CS’ lab. Heh.

  9. Bill S Says:

    Pre-internet this was bar none the BEST computing resource if you were building or upgrading. It also had some pretty good reviews in it from time to time; I recall one piece bemoaning the then-new AGP standard as a run-around since the theoretical bus speed thruput of PCI hadn’t yet been reached by chipset mfgs. Of course, that was in 199…6? ’97? so we were stuck with AGP for quite a bit longer…

    I wish I still had an issue or two. I remember mulling over taking the plunge and buying a 2x CD-ROM for the princely sum of $199…! (But Rebel Assault *required* it!)

  10. Patrick D. Boone Says:

    Computer Shopper is what got me into building my own PC’s during the 486 era of the early ’90s. It was the only resource for components at discount prices I could find, since local vendors had next to nothing for builders. Back then, it would be something purchased every month or two to keep up on the latest PC tech actually available. Perusing gray scale images of newfangled CD-ROM drives, scanners, and sound cards opened up a whole new world for me.

    Bought it at the grocery store back when magazines filled an entire aisle. Miss those times despite the convenience of the Web.

  11. J. David Ramsey Says:

    Benj Edwards, we’re about the same age (you wrote “early 1990s, when I was an early teenager” above), and for the most part, I didn’t do too much reading of Computer Shopper. What I did really enjoy, though, was the BBS listings and the BBS-review column, “Treading the Boards.” I’d already convinced my dad to buy me a whole new system and a phone line, so I wasn’t going to push it with adding long distance on top of that. So, “Treading the Boards” was like getting a look at some of these boards I’d only ever know, at best, from Fidonet origin lines.

    One review I particularly remember was of a Star Trek themed board. There were screenshots of these amazing RIP menus that looked just like the computer screens from Star Trek TNG. I tried to recreate them in a RIP editing program, but every foray into that piece of software (almost didn’t write “software” there) made me even more resolute to stick with ANSI for my own BBS.

    Really, other than drooling at ads for the latest modems, my only use for Computer Shopper was the BBS-related material. I usually read the game reviews, too, but I was so addicted to the BBS-scene by then that the games were really secondary, for me.

    The BBS listing was amazing, too. You could create an account on their BBS and enter your BBS details, which would be published within the next few issues, no questions asked. It was so cool as a teenager to see in this national publication your name and the name of this thing you’d put so many hours into.

  12. Mike P Says:

    I and a buddy had a former company called Cybernet Online. originally started as a BBS, turned into a Dialup ISP, as well as branching into customized pc’s
    We ran an ad in computer shopper in the late 90’s
    I am still digging through archives, trying to find that ad, but what a era that was.. i had a lot of fun and sold a lot of computers. Computer Shopper allowed us to branch out beyond the small town in midwest.

  13. herrskjortor Says:

    Just thought i would comment and say neat design, did
    you code it yourself? Looks great.

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