Published on August 6, 1975.
|Two series of events came together and triggered BYTE. One was the surprising
response I received from the readers of 73 Magazine (amateur radio) every time I
published an article involving computers. Being a curious person I decided to
learn more about them, only to find my way blocked by formidable obstacles. The
more I tried to dig into the subject the more I found that there was a need for
information that was not being satisfied.
The other event was the success of 73, with more subscriptions and advertising calling for some sort of computerization of the drudgery - the billing, record keeping, reader's service, indexing, and such. I knew what I wanted done and had a good idea of what I had to spend to accomplish this, so I started talking to computer salesmen ... only to find that I wasn't even able to read their literature, much less have even a vague idea of what they were saying.
Some deep well of obstinacy within me fought back and refused to let me throw a dart to pick out the computer system I needed. I felt that as a businessman running a good sized small business and as the editor and publisher of an electronics magazine, I damned well should be able to come to grips with the salesmen and pick out a computer system on some sort of rational basis. But the more I tried to get information, the more I realized that it was going to be very hard to get.
Between my professional need to understand computers and my amateur interest in the subject I found myself subscribing to one newsletter after another .. . talking at exhaustive length with computer savvy 73 readers ... reading books ... and wearing computer salesmen out. I discovered an interesting thing - few of the hardware chaps could talk software - and vice versa. Further, neither could talk much about applications.
There ought to be a magazine covering the whole thing, thought I. A magazine which would help the neophite to grapple with programming languages . . . would permit the beginner to build microcomputers and peripherals ... would provide a dialog for the more sophisticated to communicate as well. How about a publication which would cover all aspects of small computer systems?
As the computer hobby newsletters arrived I looked them over. Some were very well done, some pretty juvenile. One chap was doing a splendid job ... designing his own hardware ... developing software . . . plus writing and publishing a monthly magazine on the subject just about single handed. This was Carl Helmers and his ECS Journal, which was in its fifth issue, having just started in January (this at the time being May). I got together with Carl and explained my idea and suggested that it was time to get a good professional magazine going in the field, one which would help computer hobbyists get the information they needed and which might thus encourage manufacturers to come out with more hardware for the growing body. (Carl Helmers wrote a letter to his friends at the Micro-8 newsletter tell them of this meeting. This excerpt is from the June 27, 1975 issue. From Jim Kearney's collection.)
Carl had been building up his circulation to ECS gradually, with it being about 300 in May. We figured to go all out and run off 1000 copies of the first issue of BYTE - make it a 24 pager. After talking the idea over with a couple of the manufacturers in the field it was obvious that we had been thinking too small. Okay, let's make it 5000 copies. The first announcement of the project was made in Hotline, an amateur radio newsletter with a very small circulation. The reaction was immediate: subscriptions began to come in at a good clip.
As mailing lists came in from manufacturers and as the word spread, the first
issue print run was upped to 10,000 . . . then 25,000 . . . 35,000 ... and
finally 50,000 copies! As promises of ads came in there was a scramble to get
enough articles to keep up with the ads. Ads are certainly of interest, but we
didn't want to publish an all advertising magazine.
On page 3 is this comment: "From inception to press in seven weeks - surely a magazine creation record. Guinness plead take notice."
The September 1976 issue (page 4) has this: "That first issue was assembled in seven weeks of hectic activity starting May 25, 1975"
The Copyright records before 1978 are stored on 3 by 5 index cards at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. Here is a picture of the cards files. This index card shows the first issue (September 1975) was published on August 6, 1975 and this index card shows issues 2 through 9. The second issue (October 1975) was published on September 15, 1975.
See "How 73 Started" for more details on the publication history.