Technologizer: The Golden Age of InfoWorld Covers, 1984-1985


By Harry McCracken

Back in the 1980s, if you wanted to stay particularly up-to-date on the PC business, you read a newsweekly–and there was a high chance that the newsweekly you read was IDG’s InfoWorld. Among the most venerable and successful computing publications–it started in 1978 and thrives online today–InfoWorld was famous back then for its frequent format changes. In 1984 and 1985, it adopted a BusinessWeek-like look and feel. The issues from this era may not have been the best issues of InfoWorld ever, but they’re the most fun ones to revisit. (Thanks to Google Books, revisiting InfoWorld’s entire print run is now easy.)

These mid-80s covers are miniature time capsules. Here are a bunch that capture the period in all its innovative, innocent, silly glory. Click on the covers to read the issues.

(Full disclosure: I’m an InfoWorld alum, having worked there from 1992-1994. It seems like half the people I know in tech journalism are ex-InfoWorlders, such as Calendar Swamp proprietor Scott Mace, author of several of the stories here.)

apple bets on macintosh

“Apple Bets on Macintosh”

February 13th, 1984

Steve Jobs gives off a goofy I’m a Pepper vibe in this photo, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the A-OK! pose was the photographer’s idea, and that Steve is none too pleased with it. The cover spotlights a package of stories inside; InfoWorld was impressed by the Mac but said it was a risky move on Apple’s part. Twenty-six years later, the bet seems to have paid off.

In the other story mentioned on the cover, InfoWorld wonders–years before the Newton, PalmPilot, and iPhone–if pocket computers were a fad whose time had past.

apple bets on macintosh

Atari Going Down the Tubes?”

January 27th, 1984

Yup, definitely–Atari was indeed going down the tubes. Fast. In July, parent company Warner Communications unloaded it to ousted Commodore founder Jack Tramiel for $50 in cash and $250 million in promissory notes and stock. (More on that soon.) When Tramiel took over, new Chairman Morgan and new CEO Farrand took off.

easy software

“The Company That Made Software Easy to Use”

April 30th, 1984

Anyone who remembers software in the 1980s at all remembers giants such as Ashton-Tate, Borland, Lotus, WordPerfect, and an outfit called Microsoft, but Software Publishing Corp. (SPC) was a major name that’s been largely forgotten. (It doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry of its own.) Back in the day, its PFS: line of productivity apps were well-regarded bestsellers–as evidenced by the praise InfoWorld lavished on SPC in this cover story.

The magazine is also impressed by TeleVideo’s new transportable computer–”transportable” meaning that it weighed a mere 32 pounds.

More from Harry’s archive of InfoWorld covers

[This post is excerpted with Harry’s permission from his Technologizer blog.]

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