A history of MicroScope

As MicroScope celebrates its 40th anniversary, we look back and tell the story of the publication itself, with some industry memories of what it has meant to its readers

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: MicroScope: MicroScope: 40 years of MicroScope

MicroScope started life in Rathbone Place in London, launched by Sportscene Specialist Press in 1982, with the first issue published on 23 September 1982. The concept of the publication was to inform readers of new innovations within the newly emerging microcomputer industry channel, with its particular focus on reporting on news relevant to IT professionals and technology companies that were selling hardware and software.

This was a time in the British computer industry when the microcomputer revolution was starting to bubble up, and the advent of affordable home computers was having an impact on people’s lives. Stephen England, who would later become an advertisement editor of MicroScope, named the magazine entirely randomly, putting potential names in two columns on a sheet of paper – the top of the two columns were the words “Micro” and “Scope”.

After its launch, Felix Dennis became chairman of the magazine, and Peter Jackson took editorial control as its founding editor-in-chief. Its owners Sportscene Specialist Press, later known as Dennis Publishing Ltd, became one of the leading publishers of computer enthusiast magazines in the UK, with MicroScope being set up amid a wave of other computer magazine titles.

The magazine’s original tagline during its first decade was “The news weekly for the microcomputer industry”. In the early 1980s, driven by the growth in sales of IBM microcomputers and with the arrival of distribution – particularly Northamber and Westcoast – the ICT channel emerged. MicroScope, which had already been established for a professional readership, was quick to report on the inception of the ICT channel.

Alistair Ramsay, managing director of Dennis Publishing, said in MicroScope’s 15th anniversary issue: “From 1982-86, [MicroScope] was the cash-cow that propped the company up and it’s never been out of the top 10 ad-page carries in the market since its launch.”

MicroScope was published fortnightly until 1985, when it was decided it would be published weekly as its popularity increased and it became one of the most established channel magazines. In August 1997, MicroScope began publishing on the internet

From the first issue, the magazine featured its recognisable red masthead, which is still used on the MicroScope website. In the early editions of the magazine, the red masthead was the only part of the publication printed in colour, with the rest of its contents in black and white. Colour printing was expensive at the time, and was not adopted by MicroScope until later in the 1980s.

The MicroScope name also fitted its audience very well, as it was “micro” scope reporting on “microcomputing”. In 1984, MicroScope would expand its coverage to the US, hiring computer analyst and columnist Tim Bajarin, becoming an international news carrier. During the period up to 1985, MicroScope went to press on a Thursday.

In 1984, MicroScope was named Computer Journal of the Year by the Computer Press Association, for excellence in the field of computer journalism under the editorship of Peter Jackson.

Jackson would leave MicroScope magazine in 1984 to become editor of Personal Computer World, and later freelance for PC Magazine, The Guardian, The Times and many other publications, reporting on new technology. After he departed, Guy Kewney – who had served as editor-at-large under Jackson and initially founded MicroScope – became chief editor of the publication for two years.

MicroScope was published fortnightly until 1985, when it was decided it would be published weekly as its popularity increased and it became one of the most established channel magazines. During the later period of the 1980s and into the 1990s, John Lettice was in editorial control of the magazine. His tenure as editor of the magazine would end when he was succeeded by Keith Rodgers in 1991. Throughout the early 1990s, MicroScope operated from Newman Street. 

MicroScope celebrated its 10th anniversary on 23 September 1992. It underwent many changes to its layout and format during that decade, and MicroScope doubled its editorial staff, along with a magazine revamp in 1994.

In August 1997, MicroScope began publishing on the internet. The magazine set up a joint website with its former sister titles The VAR and Network Reseller Magazine www.channelnet.co.uk – that published digitally all of the latest news and features from those titles. A month later, the publication celebrated its 15th anniversary, on 23 September 1997. Furthermore, the anniversary issue contained details that MicroScope would change its day of publication to a Tuesday, to enable readers to gain news earlier in the week.

In 1998, Dennis Publishing sold MicroScope to Reed Business Information, along with a number of other titles, including The VAR, Network Reseller News and Business & Technology. With the move to Reed, MicroScope’s editorial offices moved from central London to Quadrant House in Sutton. 

In the early 2000s, the magazine maintained its coverage of the industry and reported on a channel that had also expanded and become an established route to market for vendors. MicroScope observed that the channel was moving more towards a subscription-based consumption model. There had been a growth in the number of managed service providers (MSPs) and most of the major distributors had established their own cloud marketplaces, providing applications and services.

In 2002, Simon Quicke became editor of MicroScope, succeeding Billy MacInnes, having worked his way up from being a reporter. MicroScope celebrated its 20th anniversary on 23 September 2002, and followed that up in 2003 with a significant redesign.

Over the course of the channel’s transformation, the magazine consistently spectated and commented on the ICT channel marketplace, now through monthly digital magazines, but also with daily news content on the website. The MicroScope Awards for Channel Excellence (MicroScope ACEs) were launched in 2007 with the aim of rewarding the achievements of distributors and resellers across the channel.

In March 2011, MicroScope was sold to TechTarget, ceasing its print edition publication to become solely an online magazine – the last printed edition was published on Monday 28 March 2011. As MicroScope celebrates its 40th anniversary, it still delivers a monthly ezine and daily news on the web

In March 2011, MicroScope was sold to TechTarget, ceasing its print edition publication to become solely an online magazine – the last printed edition was published on Monday 28 March 2011. MicroScope celebrated its 30th anniversary on 23 September 2013, and followed that with a 35th in 2017. 

As MicroScope celebrates its 40th anniversary, it still delivers a monthly ezine and daily news on the web. Its audience has also gone through many evolutions, but the relevance of the two-tier model is higher than ever, and some of the questions that dogged the industry about the “death of the channel” over the years have now been laid to rest.

Through recessions, the millennium bug and plenty of technology shifts that have taken the world to a cloud-based subscription model, the channel and MicroScope have evolved and developed their propositions to remain relevant for the times.

Industry memories of MicroScope

When I started in the industry 20 years ago, I recall the glossy magazine laying on the coffee table in the reception area as I waited my turn for an interview at a reseller called The Data Base in Nottingham. I distinctly remember the blue and white cover facing up at my 19-year-old self. At the time, I was brand new to the industry and to the technology sector in general, and that cover was my first memory of the tech world and the term “micro”. It conjured up thoughts of scientific small technologies, but boy was I wrong. Seeing the MicroScope logo pop up here and there, or on an award trophy as I visit partners, always puts a smile on my face.

– Dale Smith, director of UK&I channel at Juniper Networks

MicroScope is one of the longest and most valued channel publications. Where there have been new kids on the block that have come and gone, MicroScope has stood the test of time and remained relevant to the channel.

James Munroe, channel director at Trend

“It’s hard to believe that MicroScope is 40 years old! Time really does fly in this industry, and so much has changed in the past 10 or 20 years, let alone 40. It has always been a must-read for resellers and vendors. I remember picking up the magazine, when it was still available, to read about the big changes and trends taking place in the channel. MicroScope has always moved with the times. It’s even outlived a few channel titles that didn’t make the successful leap to digital. Here’s to another 40 years!” 

Marc Monday, global vice-president of strategic partnerships at Sage 

“My earliest memories of MicroScope go back to the mid to late 1980s when I was working in the city for Personal Computers Ltd, and it was undoubtedly the publication of choice for the IT industry. It was how you got the latest news and cutting-edge insight on what was coming over the horizon at a time when technology for business was advancing rapidly.

– Andrew Forsyth, sales and marketing director at Brother UK

MicroScope has always delivered great, thought-provoking topics for the channel to consider – whether it be on how vendors and partners can grow, what is the latest and greatest in the channel, or how the channel can approach and prepare for macro-economic trends. The content has not only been informative, but it also gives readers a deeper perspective into how other channel leaders are adapting to the industry as it evolves.

– Christina Walker, global director of channel sales at Blancco

Like many people, I had been reading publications, such as Computer Weekly, which had been around for years and were firmly established as the go-to for IT professionals. However, as the channel grew, the content in these other publications became less relevant to me. I discovered MicroScope during the 1990s and it became part of my regular reading for sector gossip and its often obscenely accurate views on future trends.

Simon Ratcliffe, principal consultant at Ensono.

I have so many memories of working with the MicroScope team over the years I’ve been in the channel PR industry. I really can’t believe how long it’s been. But one memory in particular stands out above all else – many (many) moons ago when I had just set up my first agency at the tender age of 24, I had quite a few clients who were channel players, and so I had a lot to do with MicroScope and its rival magazines. Obviously, coverage in all was welcome – as it is now – but the one thing that paralysed a young PR with fear was the thought of her clients making the infamous MicroScope back page. Every headline seemed crafted for maximum cringe factor and, most of the time, deservedly so.

Foolhardy statements, classic faux pas, stupid questions and just general bloopers made their way to that back page, and when MicroScope hit the office post box each week, it would be immediately grabbed and, surrounded by my nervous team, I’d go straight to it, initially ignoring the good stuff at the front, to make sure we’d survived another week without any mentions. Once that had been established, we’d be laughing in relief at everyone else’s misfortunes.

Until that one day when I went to lunch with the then editor and a very exuberant client from an early distributor, who (after several vinos) had cheerfully informed the Ed that he’d “sell to any b****r who had the money...”.

Guess who made the top of the back page that week?

Happy birthday MicroScope. You’ve always been a big part of my career, and I’m so glad we’re both still here.

Gina Hough, founder and managing director of MCC International

I can’t believe that MicroScope is 40! I was a computer nerd – I am a computer nerd – so I’ve been around technology for pretty much all of my career, and it’s been really cool to watch the way MicroScope has matured with the channel. It’s really done an amazing job covering the industry’s growing pains, as well as its evolution, throughout the years. MicroScope has been a valuable resource for countless IT professionals, and I’m excited to see its continued growth over the next 40 years. 

– Fred Voccola, CEO of Kaseya

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