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© 1997-2006
Gareth Knight
All Rights reserved

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Amiga User International

First issue release date:
November 1986 (as independent publication)
Final issue release date: May 1997
Publishers:
Croftwood Limited: 1986 - Oct. 1990
Maxwell Specialist Magazines: Nov. 1990 - 1992
Headway, Home & Law: 1992 - 1994
AUI Limited: 1994 - 1997
Coverage: Serious magazine, with some games coverage
Country published: United Kingdom No. of issues: 127 (approximation)
Medium: Paper Status: Dead
Web Address:
Amiga User International HomePage

Over the years Amiga User International has been openly derided by critics. Many abuse it for the poor writing style, absence of commercial applications on the coverdisk, and the confusing layout. However, when looking at its heritage these are soon forgotten and the true nature of the magazine is revealed.

AUI v0.0
Commodore Business Magazine and Amiga User
In 1986 Commodore Computing International expanded coverage of the platform with the addition of a free supplement called Commodore Business and Amiga User. At the time the Amiga was promoted as a successor to the Commodore 64 - an effort to migrate the existing user base to the new 16-bit machine.
By November of that year the market had strengthened and the supplement became a bimonthly subscription-based independent magazine, costing just £9 for a year subscription (six issues). This marked a monumentous occasion for the Amiga, becoming the first dedicated publication outside of the U.S. This arrangement continued for 14 months during which the A500 and A2000 were launched. Recognizing the potential for expansion, Antony Jacobson spent a considerable amount of money to relaunch the magazine as a monthly newstand publication.
The dream came true in January 1988 with the launch of Amiga User International, incorporating Commodore Business Magazine (or Commodore Amiga User International as it was described in the editorial). The first issue was a spine bound 84 page magazine retailing for £1.95 and featured reviews of Audio Master Modular 2, Road Wars, Terror Pods, and King of Chicago. By issue 3 the magazine was declared a success by its publisher. As the first dedicated Amiga magazine outside the U.S. its main competitors were the existing C64 magazines in the UK (such as ZZap! 64/Amiga, Commodore User), and the U.S. oriented Amiga World. For a few months AUI had the market entirely to itself.

The mother of AUI- Commodore Computing International (67.7k)
Commodore Business Magazine, incorporating Amiga User- March 1986 (39.7k)
Commodore Business Magazine and Amiga User- October 1986 (59.9k)

Thanks to Ray Abbott for providing the March 1986 cover.

AUI v1.0
Amiga User International- 1st Logo
One of the many criticisms made towards AUI involve its apparent refusal to cover issues that would attract the average Amiga user. In comparison to existing Commodore magazines the writing appeared dull and lifeless. In retrospect this interpretation is wrong. Early issues covered wide-ranging topics that would not be considered out of place in Amiga Active. This included regular coverage of the international Amiga scene, technical and basic articles on the hardware, and detailed investigations of the latest computer issues. This could range from a discussion on the realities of the Amiga virus to a report on parallel processing. In addition the magazine tried to foster a community atmosphere by giving an insight on the individuals that made the Amiga scene. When Alfredo González  of Grupo Sigma (Commodore's Mexican distributor) was assaulted and mugged on his way to the AmiExpo 1988, AUI were the only magazine to publish an account of the event and highlight the support he received from people he had not previously met. The magazine sought to promote the Amiga as more than a computer community, but as a type of extended family.

Over the next year AUI defied the other magazines that had appeared to cover programming and technical issues in greater depth and appeal to the serious Amiga user. The games market also gained increasing attention with the creation of a dedicated section, simply called 'Entertainment'. In the July 1989 issue, they pre-empted the launch of Amiga Action with a one-off gaming special using the same name. This was most likely a coincidence, but represents an interesting example of how great minds think alike. A few months later an unknown by the name of Tony Horgan took over the writing of this section. Little did they know that this young man would one day become a regular writer for Amiga Format and editor of CU Amiga.
The year also saw a major move towards promoting the Amiga as an educational tool. Commodore had been anxious to regain their position in the education market leading to the launch of the Education Initiative in 1988. AUI covered the result of this, providing pages and supplements of educational software reviews and features on how the Amiga was used in British universities.

During this period, readership soared and the magazine increased to an average of 116 pages. The design issues that had plagued earlier issues were fixed but the editor resisted the urge to alter the magazine style to cover a more wide-ranging appeal. However, this was not enough to support the fledging Croftwood Limited. The company was unable to support the process of rapid expansion, leading to the closure of Commodore Computing International and various other magazines. These difficulties became visible when the September 1990 issue of the magazine failed to appear on time. Rumours that the magazine had closed spread throughout the industry. However, these dissipated with the appearance of an emaciated September/October issue. The publisher apologized for the delay blaming the difficulties upon 'production problems' and assuring readers that the magazine would be back to normal the following month. While readers were fearful that this could mean the end of the magazine, the November 1990 edition did appear and things did seem to be back to normal. However, a close examination revealed that the magazine was now published by Maxwell Specialist Magazines. They also used a different printer company and had employed a managing director. Could this sudden change have been caused by a production dispute? Or could it have come from a lack of finances? Whatever the case, this brush with publishing oblivion seemed to make the writers more aware of the need to change with the times.

View AUI Issue 1 (77.4k) | View AUI May 1988 (64.5k) | View AUI November 1988 (117k)
View AUI June 1989 (111k) | View AUI July 1989 (122k) | View AUI September 1989 (135k)
View AUI December 1989 (127k)

AUI v2.0
Amiga User International- 2nd Logo
The basic layout of the magazine had remained constant for over four years but it was difficult to retain editorial integrity if the magazine was not financially viable. This became a hotly debated topic at the time- was the increasing emphasis upon mainstream coverage an attempt to 'water down' the tried-and-tested formula. A former contributor for the magazine argued that it had turned AUI into "just another Amiga magazine". In the process it had lost many of the unique features that had separated it from other magazines. The redesign was an ambiguous decision but it was necessary if the magazine was to remain viable. The market had changed to attract mainstream computer users, and AUI had to change with it. The change came in May 1991 with the release of the new and improved 'AUI 2.0'. The design was given a much needed overhaul to create a much cleaner look, and the coverdisk became a regular fixture Game coverage was given a more prominent position and the rating system was improved.

View May 1991 Cover (55.8k)
View AUI Award for games scoring 90% (8.11k)

AUI v3.0
Amiga User International- 3rd Logo
The new look did not last for long and 12 months later (1993), AUI was redesigned yet again and the Commodore tag was quietly dropped from the title. The new look was welcomed by many but further alienated existing readers who had been there from the beginning. The magazine was now printed in full colour (with the exception of the letters page) allowing the magazine to demonstrate 3D rendering software in its full glory. However, its critics described the layout as 'patchy' through the use of large headlines, and it lacked in-depth articles of interest. For many, this was the time that AUI lost its crown. A second area of interest for the new look AUI was the CD market. The CDTV had finally grown up and programmers were getting to grips with the possibility of the new storage medium. These factors led to the launch of AUI's first spin-off- Amiga CD!

View AUI March 1993 (63.1k)
View Amiga CD! March 1993 (70.8k)
AUI v4.0
Amiga User International- 4th Logo
The fourth and final redesign of the magazine came in 1994 and represents a return to its roots. This allowed it to recognize the direction in which the industry was heading. In his editorial, Antony Jacobson predicted that the key to the Amigas success lay in it not looking like a computer (September 1994, p5). A notion that has proved increasingly relevant concept to the next generation Amiga. As the various Amiga buyouts looked set to carry on forever, AUI returned to its original aim of covering a diverse range of technical subjects, such as Amiga screenmodes, in an easy to understand style. They also turned their attention to how the Amiga was used in industry, highlighting its contribution to the national trust.
During this period AUI reached another milestone by becoming the first Amiga magazine to include a CoverCD (March/April 1994), two months before Amiga Computing. This was to promote the short-lived Amiga CD! that had become subscription-based.  The superdisks also evolved with the employment of David Taylor who experimented with different compression formats (DiskSpare, LZX) to fit 6 disks worth of material onto two disks. Rather than include application demos, it focussed upon the PD/Shareware market with the aim of providing full versions and software that the reader may have missed elsewhere. In doing this, it ignored an important part of the market only interested in commercial applications but built up a dedicated readership.

As 1994 rolled into 1995, the game section 'Entertainment Now' shrunk significantly with the desertion of software publishers to the PC market. This lead to the introduction of a new section covering computer technology in general. 'Techno World' aimed to inform Amiga users on the latest happenings in the computer world. For example, one of the first columns examined technology buzzwords, such as ADSL and HDSL, that are only now becoming commonplace. Over time this increased in size until it took up almost half of the 100 page magazine . Facing decreasing interest in the Amiga, this was obviously a way of keeping the page count at a steady rate.

The End...
As it became clear that the Amigas situation would not resolve itself soon, circulation began to fall. This continued until May 1997 when the magazine was closed due to insufficient sales and advertising revenue.

View selection of AUI covers (21k)
View AUI June 1995 (193k)
View AUI October 1995 (71.7k)
View AUI June 1996 (22.5k)

What did AUI do for the Amiga Scene?

AUI occupied a unique position in the market so it would be unfair to compare it to the technical Amiga Shopper or the game orientated Amiga Format. First and foremost it showed that the Amiga was more than just a computer, it was a community with strong ties and a rich heritage. It could be described as the BBC of the Classic Amiga market, aiming to education the reader rather than entertain. This may have made it unpopular but created a loyal and dedicated following that few other magazines have enjoyed. It also served as a springboard for many Amiga careers, including Tony Horgan and David Taylor. Positions that lead these people to editorship. The pioneering of floppy and compact discs created a benchmark against which other magazines were compared. The AUI coverCD created a multimedia experience that few have been able to follow and their unique use of cover disks showed how to fit more applications onto the cover than anyone else thought possible. What the writers said:

David Ward, ex-Deputy Editor was asked what made AUI special?
What made AUI special... run on a shoestring budget, totally non-game orientated, ran non-amiga stories.

Gary Fenton was asked to write his memories, and wrote a dedication to the life blood of the magazine- its publisher.

I'm not sure if I could do it justice by writing about my memories. I know it was well loved by regular readers while also being the butt of journalist's and rival magazine's jokes. It's character was shaped by the Editor who also owned the publication itself. AJ, as he was indirectly known, was very passionate about the Amiga and his magazine and rightly so. His methods were sometimes unusual and his eccentric character were sometimes hard to comprehend but the end result was a magazine that took a unique angle on the world of all things Amiga and quite often beyond. It wasn't unusual to see news items and features that had nothing to do with the Amiga but, argued AJ, it will broaden the horizons of the readers and create a greater interest in the magazine.

If it wasn't for AJ then AUI would have been just another Amiga magazine. Well, that's not true exactly because the designer was also a key playing in how it was shaped. Often just a crayon and piece of paper was enough to illustrate the design for that month's issue before faxing it to the graphic repro company. AUI had a fair share of disastrous designs going from plain ugly to basic and messy. I still think the original design was far more authoritative and respectable than any of the others produced in
it's history. A magazine doesn't have to look fashionable to make it the best, sometimes simplicity is enough especially if the content could speak for itself.

AUI went through many rough patches, often close to collapse, but because of AJ's dedication and the ability to talk people around to his way of thinking, the magazine lived on and on. I'm not sure if any other Amiga magazine could have survived in the same financial situation as AUI if it weren't for AJ wearing the magazine on his back and walking through quick sand, deserts, over mountains, and under oceans. I have fond memories of working at AUI often sighing with "Ah, those were the days" after chuckling over one of the many office antics and plots to brighten up an afternoon.

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