“Hey, Brokey! When are you going to do the rest of that tribute to PC Zone?”, people in the street would shout at us, if we ever went outside. And complete it we shall, with a look at our two favourite contributors to PCZ’s golden age.
Being avid readers of Your Sinclair since we first owned a ZX Spectrum home computer (in 1989, only 7 years after it was fashionable), one of our favourite magazine writers has always been Duncan MacDonald. Perhaps best known for being the author of cult videogame Advanced Lawnmower Simulator (of which here’s a nine-minute long review on YouTube), and not as well-known as he should be for the excellent book South Coast Diaries (out of print, but the website it was based on is now back online here), Dunc penned a monthly column in the early days of Ver Zone. Writing under the moniker of Mr Cursor (subtitle: “He’s Afraid Of His PC”), the column took in, well, pretty much anything on earth apart from videogames. Daytime television, Ceefax subtitles, compilation albums of tunes from ice cream vans and Earex: yes. Videogames: no. In an age when even talking about PC games involved having to spend about £120 on a new graphics card before you could be taken seriously, Mr Cursor’s columns made for a welcome diversion from coverage of impressive looking games that probably wouldn’t run properly on your unenhanced Amstrad 386.
Here are a few of them.
(As ever, click for a bigger version in a new window)
November 1995: David Copperfield
June 1996: Subtitles
October 1996: Flowcharts
April 1997: Cash registers
May 1997: Snooker
Dunc did reappear around the time of PCZ’s 100th issue for a few more splendidly entertaining columns, but apart from that, his words seem to have been sadly lacking from print publications, at least as far as we can find. From trying to find someone still selling his book, we did notice that he’d started a couple of Twitter accounts that didn’t last long, so we’re hoping everything is still okay for the wittiest man ever to write for a videogame magazine, and that someone will ask him to write funny things for them in the very near future.
Dunc wasn’t the only Zone columnist able to go off on entertainingly diverse tangents. There was also Colin “Culky” Culk. Himself not too dissimilar from a character who could easily have appeared in Dunc MacDonald’s South Coast Diaries, a London-based eccentric ready to sound off on pretty much anything that takes his fancy, adhering to two main rules. RULE ONE: Culky is right about everything. RULE TWO: If you disagree with Culky, he reserves the right to unleash his chin-pistons on you. There is even a Facebook group dedicated to old Culkus – the text on which suggests Cukly’s columns were also written by Duncan MacDonald. That would certainly make sense.
Here’s a smattering of columns from PC Zone’s golden age (i.e. issues we actually own).
It doesn’t end there. What with PC Zone embracing the then-relatively-new-fangled CD-ROM technology, each issue came with a covermounted disc of game demos, various internet objects and public domain fare. With many game demos only really needing a few floppy disks worth of data, many coverdiscs were generally left with hundreds of megabytes in unused storage. Splendidly this meant there was room to include specially recorded videos of Culky’s antics. Better still, someone has uploaded them to YouTube. And here they are. Winningly amusing even now:
Splendid stuff. Will we ever see a videogames magazine quite like PC Zone again? All signs point to no. A bygone age.