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APC’s 40th anniversary hits stands today

By Seamus Byrne in Media News on
Was there even an industry before APC? Yes, of course, no doubt… but with 40 years now on the clock – as issue 481 hits stands this week – and still standing tall as the big name on the local technology magazine landscape, nothing else has held the sway that this magazine has for so long.
With a long history of great editors and writers serving on the masthead, Ben Mansill now sits at its helm. A long time leader across a number of its rivals, Mansill says he feels a powerful sense of duty to continue and uphold the traditions of the magazine.
“My APC experience covers several phases. I grew up with APC, in my late teens and early 20s – it’s what got me into computers,” he says. “I read almost every issue for years and revered it as gospel.
“Later, after getting into this business and launching PC PowerPlay, then Atomic, I always looked up to APC and felt like we were just playing in the shadows of the king of the block.
“Phase 3 was when I headed up PC Authority and APC was the big huge dominant competitor, and every little win in circulation or readership PCA had – and they were rare – were celebrated with gusto because we knew we could go toe to toe with the big guy.”
The question of who exactly is an APC reader is a tricky one with such a long history. But Mansill sees that what unifies the audience is a demand for quality and focus.
“We have many readers that have been with us from the beginning  – they’re not to be disappointed! We have transient readers, IT professionals, hobbyists and enthusiasts – all of them have high expectations, and too much change in APC will kick you in the face so it’s a sacred formula not to be messed with.”
Mansill says that while the demographic is expansive, he’s built a particular fondness for the older generation of readers who make regular contact.
“They email me lovely long thoughts and they write like old people write, which is precious and delightful, so I always engage and there are several that have become kind of pen-pals,” he says. “One country chap sends me poetry semi-regularly that he writes about some new tech or gadget he read about in the latest issue.”
“They paste photos into their emails and format it beautifully. They use italics a lot, and baby blue background colours are not uncommon. Or, they just ring up and start talking the moment I answer, for several minutes. If they are having tech troubles I always try and help.”
Of course, writing teams aren’t what they once were and Mansill admits that’s no different at APC. He points to the great work of Joel Burgess on the staff writing team, and regular freelancers that include Darren Yates, Nathan Taylor, Chris Szewczyk, Nick Ross and many more. 
“I’m very pleased that APC and Future is able to still keep these good people in work,” Mansill says. “I wish I could give more work to more freelancers, but the pot of money is not bottomless, so we stick with a small core of specialists.”
Mansill says that the 40th anniversary has been on the horizon ever since he took charge of the magazine, and ideas have been bubbling away ever since. He also has issue 500 out on the next horizon, which he feels will be another great excuse to do something special again.
“For the 40th it was really important to acknowledge and celebrate the passing of time and how things have changed,” he says. “APC has been there covering, more or less, the entire history of the personal computer, and all the amazing spin-off techs and the gear. In the anniversary issue there’s a heap of reprinted pages from APC issue 1, which is super cool.”
The magazine has also received a full redesign for the issue, which Mansill describes as a clean, contemporary look and something that “was probably a bit overdue.”
The issue also features words from a long line of former staffers, including David Flynn, Tony Sarno, Ashton Mills, Roulla Yiacoumi, Angus Kidman and Nathan Taylor. Plus Mansill is most excited that APC’s very first editor, Sean Howard, was involved, offering lots of input and writing a long history of the mag’s earliest days for the issue.
“They all discuss their time on the mag, the tech hits and misses over the years and share some really nice anecdotes – plus old photos!
“I wish I could have included more people, but over the course of making it, it blew out by several pages so we had to have some limits,” says Mansill. “Sorry if you’re reading this and think you should have been included – nothing personal!”
In researching the history of the mag, Mansill notes that just like these days the very earliest days of the mag, including issue #1, gave away free software and games. But back then it was a little different…
“Back then it was pages and pages of actual code that readers were expected to type into their Z80 datasette, or whatever, laboriously and perfectly,” he reflects. “Having to answer a reader call or letter complaining that it didn’t work fills me with horror.”
When questioned on the future of magazines like APC, Mansill oozes a love for the craft of print. Planning, commissioning, working on layouts – he gives a big nod to current designer Troy Coleman – and treating page limitations as a strategic bonus rather than a constraint.
“Spending two weeks on and off making a cover, through many iterations and little tweaks toward perfection, having creative genius moments, having fun with it – then holding the printed issue in your hand for the first time is just the greatest satisfaction.”

On the forward momentum, Mansill feels APC is in a very strong position in difficult times.
“Our readership loyalty is real, and that translates into a very strong subscriber base – and they keep renewing,” he says. “Newsagent copy sales are not going to be pretty during this lockdown period, but will bounce back and we’re seeing a seriously huge surge in subscriptions to our digital editions right now.
“Our readers still want us, which is a very nice feeling to have. APC is the longest-running English-language PC magazine in the world. That's a record I think we will hold until the end of time.”
The anniversary issue, #481, is on sale now.

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