Popular Electronics 1954-1985

Popular Electronics 1954-1985

Here’s a round up of the “greatest defunct tech mags ever” – it includes one of my favorites, Popular Electronics….

Popular Electronics (1954-1985) – What made it special: Mostly one legendary cover story–the January 1975 one about the MITS Altair microcomputer kit. When Paul Allen saw it on a newsstand in Harvard Square, he showed it to his buddy Bill Gates; the two got so excited that they formed a company to write software for it. Would Microsoft have been founded if Popular Electronics had never existed? Probably, but the mag still deserves the credit for inspiring the biggest software company the world has ever known.

Random factoid: Popular Electronics may have predated Ziff-Davis publications such as PC Magazing and PC/Computing by decades, but it wasn’t Ziff’s first magazine for gadget nuts. That would be Radio News, which it acquired in 1938.

The final days: In 1982, the magazine tried to reinvent itself into a computer magazine under the name Computers and Electronics; it didn’t work. Renaming and refocusing magazines never works. (See: PC/Computing.) Computers and Electronics folded in 1985, but the name was revived in 1989 for a magazine that was later renamed Poptronics before closing again in 2002.


2 thoughts on “Popular Electronics 1954-1985

  1. Me says:

    I found this old article while looking for an online index of Popular Electronics. It’s rather late to comment here but.. I think I will anyway in case anyone else ever stumbles on it.

    How disappointing! An article where someone from Make, this generation’s main maker magazine refers to the previous generation’s main maker magazine as important only for it’s role in founding Microsoft? A company that has stolen more from makers then it ever made itself?

    PE was probably the best source for projects pre-internet. Several generations of makers cut their teeth on Popular Electronics. Many lifelong maker hobbies as well as engineering careers began by reading that magazine. Surely that is far more important than helping inspire Microsoft!!!

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