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Computer Weekly marks the end of an era as a new one begins

Cliff Saran

The first issue of Computer Weekly magazine in 1966 marked the start of an era in the UK IT industry - the first ever weekly technology publication. Our final edition of the print magazine marks the start of another exciting era, where Computer Weekly goes fully digital, reflecting the dramatic changes the internet has brought, not just to our business but to those of all our readers. This is the story of how it all began.

Computer Weekly is the world's oldest weekly IT magazine. "There have been so many editors, each with a different approach," said Alison Noble, Computer Weekly's longest-serving member of staff.

In 1982, before Computer Weekly became computerised, Noble would have to go through each issue and manually file every mention of a company and subject matter.

It all began 45 years ago, just as mainframe computing was taking off in the UK. The revolutionary IBM System 360 was introduced in 1964, two years before the launch of Computer Weekly.

Chris Hipwell was the managing editor during the launch period. He said: "I was working at the time on Data Processing, a quarterly magazine, and since it was quarterly I realised we were missing out lots of stories. It was very apparent quite a lot of revenue was going into recruitment advertising. A high-frequency publication could carry news and generate advertising revenue."

Mainframe to PC servers

Computer Weekly has tracked the changes of the industry across software, hardware and IT services. The title has aimed to cover IT breakthroughs moving into business.

In the early days of PC maker Compaq, most of the publicity came from the monthly magazines, recalls Joe McNally, Compaq's UK head from 1984 to 2001, who was awarded a Commander of the Victorian Order (CVO) in the 2011 New Year Honours List. "I thought Computer Weekly was a mainframe-type magazine, rather than PCs," he said.

Compaq designed its IBM PC clone around the then-powerful 80386 Intel processor, which meant it could compete with IBM minicomputers. "As time went on, Computer Weekly became an important vehicle to the market," said McNally.

The growth years

"The late 1980s and early 1990s were a very exciting time at Computer Weekly. Technology was changing rapidly, there was a real desire to learn about it and to exploit it, but there was a crucial shortage of people with the right skills," former editor John Lamb recalled.

Paul Mason, who was deputy editor from 1999 to 2001, is now economics editor at BBC Newsnight. He said, "I came into Computer Weekly at time when it was about to hit its commercial peak. Along with Y2K, there was the first dot com boom and mobile communications. We covered all these things, as well as the big technology platform changes."

Voice of the IT professional

In the early 1990s, under Lamb's editorship, Computer Weekly shifted focus from an IT industry title to following the user agenda. It differentiated itself from other IT titles by following the agenda of IT decision-makers.

"Computer Weekly developed a gravitas and reputation for serious reporting, and part of that came from the input from the CW500 Club. Because of the way the CW500 Club worked, CIOs would always take a call from Computer Weekly journalists," said Robin Laidlaw, ex-CIO of British Gas, who was president of the CW500 Club from 2001 to 2009.

Paul Simmonds, president of the Jericho Forum and former CISO of ICI, said: "With its strong understanding of what makes the business tick, Computer Weekly has always been a great partner for the Jericho Forum. Computer Weekly wrote the first, incisive article to launch the group and build awareness of deperimeterisation."

Carl Ricketts, consultant at Globalinxight and former CIO at Churchill Insurance, says he enjoys the tenacious journalism when diving down into a story that a company - or more likely, the government - does not want pursued. "The Chinook helicopter (Fadec) story was one that stuck in my mind, and the outcome proved that Computer Weekly was right all along," he said.

The paper magazine was well-read and passed around. "I started working in IT in 1982," said Kevin Murrell, museum director at The National Museum of Computing. "Computer Weekly was always around. I suspect it was delivered to just a few people in the company, but was shared with everyone. By the time it got to me it was a bit dog-eared and covered in coffee-cup prints."

Phil Dawson, vice-president of research at Gartner, said: "I used to read the job ads in Computer Weekly at Huddersfield Polytechnic. In the 1990s, I was in product marketing at SCO and we got some coverage. Now, I get misquoted," he joked.

Amanda Groty, global strategy director at PR firm Hill and Knowlton, says Computer Weekly played a very significant role in her career: "Former editor Karl Schneider is fondly remembered for his sage advice."

Pioneering journalism, awards and world records

Award-winning editorial has driven Computer Weekly forward and we will continue to invest in high-quality journalism as we evolve as an online title.

John Riley, managing editor 1982-2008, said: "We were the first IT paper to have a weekly internet page, from 1994, and every aspect of the paper was first-class, winning many awards and accolades, even down to our Puzzler column which gained an entry in the Guinness Book of Records. We were proud of winning several prestigious UK Periodical Publishers' Association (PPA) awards for Campaign of the Year and Best Business Journal."

Tony Collins, executive editor 1989-2010, was one of the main contributors to Computer Weekly's editorial campaigns and investigative reporting. "I was spoilt, but I was able to have freedom to do what I liked doing, largely because of the professionalism of the team," he said.

The new age

Since 2001 Computer Weekly has been developing and growing its web presence. On 26 April the title will be taken over by global technology media company TechTarget.

Mark Schlack, senior vice-president, editorial, at TechTarget, said: "Computer Weekly is known for great reporting and penetrating analysis born from years on the beat. Add our experiences in creating comprehensive coverage of the most strategic issues facing senior IT managers and you have a first-stop site for CIOs. We are also very excited about the CW500 Club and its potential to create thought leadership in the IT community."


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