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BYTE magazine was a well-known computer periodical published in the U.S. that had a successful run from the late-1970s to the 1990s. As such, it was not only a regular fixture on U.S. newsstands, but was rather distinguished from the competition. It billed itself as "The small systems journal", and was special, at least in my estimation, because it was not platform-specific (covering all manner of microcomputer tech) and because it was geared toward a more sophisticated (e.g. professional or "prosumer") user audience.

I have never personally seen a localized issue of BYTE magazine, such as might have been locally distributed outside the U.S. Was BYTE widely distributed in Europe or Asia at that time? If so, to what extent was the content the same as the U.S. content. In other words, what aspects of the magazine were "localized"?

Also, did BYTE enjoy the same high regard and outstanding reputation in any other regions? If not, what comparable periodical in large computer markets (e.g. West Germany, U.K., Australia, Japan) would have out-competed BYTE locally for this type of platform-agnostic, professional/"prosumer", microcomputer coverage?

A 1986 BYTE cover

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    Great question! I'm in the US so I don't have an answer. I actually gave away my collection many years ago to a local organization (computer-specific, not a generic library) so others could enjoy them. But great memories. Nov 17 at 17:34
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    And…what is the modern day equivalent in terms of quality?
    – Giraffe
    Nov 18 at 7:29
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    @Anush I don't think there is one. Paper magazines still exist, but due to economics, at least in the US, they aren't the same force that they used to be. Most stuff is online, and I don't know of any decent one-stop-shop online that is the equivalent of what Byte was in paper. Nov 18 at 13:16
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    @Anush Depends on your country. In the US essentially none, as print is on a retreat. If at all, PC Magazine. In Germany for example c't still fills the Byte niche quite good - a bit more to the tech/hard core side than any other.
    – Raffzahn
    Nov 18 at 14:50
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    @BrianH Well, just look at the cover you used as picture. Price in USD, CAD and GBP. Seems a good indication that the very same issue was distributed unmodified across all these countries, isn't it? (Being the three largest English speaking computer markets at the time anyway).
    – Raffzahn
    Nov 18 at 20:06

13 Answers 13

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BYTE was distributed internationally, and it had an international supplement (printed inside the magazine, same as the US regional supplements), at least in the late 80s and early 90s; that was the extent of its localisation, all the other content was identical (including the adverts). It was fairly widely available in the UK (I got mine from WH Smith’s in Rhyl, and John Menzies in Glenrothes). I don’t remember seeing it much in other countries, outside large cities — I bought issues in Paris, Lyon, and Rome. But I know a few people in France who had subscriptions.

It had a similar reputation (deserved or otherwise, especially in the 90s) in Europe as in the US, at least with people who were aware of its existence — more technically astute than many other magazines (see this letters page for example), with extensive coverage of emerging technologies (it’s no surprise that it provides so much reference information for answers on this site). That was why it was imported, by some news outlets, usually along with a selection of other noteworthy US magazines (the newsagent I used to buy it from also imported PC Magazine, Dr Dobb’s, and PC Techniques) — its reputation was good enough, and/or its content unique enough compared to local offerings, for locals to buy it.

The local competition in the UK was mostly Personal Computer World as far as I remember; in France, Science & Vie Micro or l’Ordinateur Individuel (in the 80s). The local markets had many other magazines but those two are the closest contemporaneous matches to BYTE that I’m aware of. But regardless of each magazine’s merits, BYTE (like all other imported magazines) would have sold far, far less than local magazines, so it’s not all that relevant to compare them.

Of the big US magazines, PC Magazine had a much bigger presence, and had completely local offshoots in several countries (e.g. PC Expert in France from 1992 onwards).

To illustrate the localised content in the international edition, I dug out the international edition of the November 1988 issue, and then discovered it’s also available on the Internet Archive (I was looking for the US edition for comparison). The cover mentions that it’s the international edition and includes prices for the UK, Australia, Italy, and the US:

Cover of BYTE November 1988, international edition

The contents pages mention the international supplement, in the same place as the regional supplements in US editions:

BYTE November 1988 contents

The 52-page (plus cardboard inserts) international supplement itself gets its own Frank Miller cover:

BYTE November 1988 international section

It contains a review of Autoroute, route-planning software published by the UK-based NextBase Ltd., and regurgitated press releases, along with mostly-non-US adverts (e.g. Elonex, and the typical Grey Matter which will bring back memories to readers familiar with the UK computing press of the time). The press releases in the “What’s New” section emanate from the UK, West Germany, Japan, France, Italy, Belgium, Taiwan, Australia, Thailand, and Switzerland, from both local companies and subsidiaries of US companies (Microsoft makes an appearance).

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    My (limited) exposure to Dr. Dobb's Journal made me think it was more programming focused, whereas Byte's tendency would be toward the hardware.
    – Brian H
    Nov 17 at 18:40
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    Yes, Dr Dobb’s was definitely programming-oriented; my comparison is based on my own way of thinking of magazines, in a spectrum from weekly trade rags and catalogs in disguise (Computer Shopper), through general-purpose magazines, then more technically advanced magazines (BYTE) and finally programming magazines (Dr Dobb’s, Microsoft Systems Journal, PC Techniques); but that is a very subjective ranking and many people wouldn’t see it as a continuum. Nov 17 at 19:02
  • While Byte was available in the UK, it wasn't always well-known. After publishing a few articles in UK magazines in 1983-84, I was visited by a market researcher for a company planning to launch a UK magazine called Byte. They didn't seem to have heard of the US magazine. Nov 18 at 1:24
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    @Raffzahn indeed! Even without the connection with Böblingen, Glenrothes has a lot of electronics and microprocessor manufacturing history; the first 3.5” hard drives were designed and built there too. Nov 18 at 12:31
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    I used to get both Byte and Dr Dobbs when I was in Birmingham in the mid 70s. They were just the US versions. I didn't see any in the smaller towns until the mid 80s when WH Smiths started stocking it. Stopped getting Byte when Steve Ciarcia stopped doing Circuit Cellar.
    – cup
    Nov 18 at 16:24
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In Czechoslovakia, the equivalent was Bajt (Czech and Slovak orthography of the word /bait/; at that time, both "bajt" and "byte" spellings were in use). Established in 1990, it was not a subsidiary, but a completely independent (and independently financed) magazine, founded by famous Ladislav Zajíček. It was inspired by BYTE and there was also some sort of a collaboration.

IIRC BYTE was distributed in Czechoslovakia, but not widely (very expensive and difficult to get), but it had an outstanding reputation. Bajt had an outstanding reputation, too - was much cheaper, published in Czech (and some Slovak), cared for the local computing environment. At least until it turned into an ad-infested pamphlet.

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  • Re "turned into an ad-infested pamphlet": Yes, that is the end game for many publications (and media). Nov 19 at 22:26
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[This is mostly about Germany/German speaking countries]

I have never personally seen a localized issue of BYTE magazine,

There wasn't one, AFAIR.

Was BYTE widely distributed in Europe or Asia at that time?

Yes, at least in Germany one could get Byte around 1980s in any major rail station, foreign newspaper stores and of course computer related stores.

Similar for other magazines to a lower degree. Then again, during the 1980s, UK magazines, were at least as numerous, if not more easy to come by.

If so, to what extent was the content the same as the U.S. content. In other words, what aspects of the magazine were "localized"?

None.

There was an attempt to add 'international' content, not at least by adding an international section somewhen in the early 1990s. But it did not really increase readership. At least in Germany. Also, during the mid 1990s German magazine did start a cooperation by incorporating translated articles - didn't go well with the readers, as quality was conceived way lower.

Byte was always a magazine inbetween. Not really on the engineering side nor being a pure user magazine. Byte most important asset was was its huge non specialized add section - which wasn't as helpful outside the US.

PC Magazine did a way better approach by being way more user focused and issuing local editions in many countries thruout the 1990s, like PC Professional in Germany.

Also, did BYTE enjoy the same high regard and outstanding reputation in any other regions? If not, what comparable periodical in large computer markets (e.g. West Germany, U.K., Australia, Japan) would have out-competed BYTE locally for this type of platform-agnostic, professional/"prosumer", microcomputer coverage?

Yes and no. It had a good reputation, but readership declined quick already in the first half of the 1980 as magazines like Chip and c't offered similar or better content (*1). Not to mention more 'hard core' publications like MC.


*1- Both with several foreign language editions by now. The Russian wiki entry for Chip gives a good overview.

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  • Ah yes, c’t, I would have loved to have something like that locally... Nov 17 at 21:02
  • @StephenKitt :)) Well, maybe worth to know that they started out as a licenced copy - a set of pages within ELRAD magazine which were mostly translated articles from the short lived English Computing Today magazine. In some way it still walks the same path as Byte. Ofc, way more PC centric, but that's what we are nowadays.
    – Raffzahn
    Nov 17 at 21:41
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ASUS had issued 《0與1科技》雜誌 (literally 0 & 1 technology) since 1981 in Taiwan which was subtitled as BYTE 中文版 (literally BYTE Mandarin Version). Further relationship is unclear. Its website http://www.01magazine.com.tw/ is available on archive.org. 0 & 1 technology

日経BYTE (Nikkei BYTE) was released in June, 1984. Publication ceased in January, 2006. Nikkei BYTE

BYTE小型电脑系统 (BYTE the small systems journal), the initial issue, debuted in PRC in March, 1986. BYTE PRC

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Hungary had a local variant (BYTE Magyarország, meaning BYTE Hungary) that was a locally edited monthly publication. As far as I can remember, it was compiled from translated articles of various publications of the original BYTE publications but edited and compiled as the editors wanted, so not simply a translated copy of the current BYTE issues.

It started in December 1997, published by a company apparently a Hungarian daughter company of (or at least closely affiliated with) McGraw-Hill. When the US BYTE was sold to CMP Media, the references in the impressum were also changed to CMP Media.

According to data from the Hungarian National Library (OSZK), it was published until June 2002, although the references are not that clear, I think it was a CD-ROM-only publication near the end, not the regular paper monthly it started. ISSN 1589-3782.

(I was a regular contributor of article translations, from the first issue until November 1999.)

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  • Mind to add a time frame? Sounds like that was rather during the later days, wasn't it?
    – Raffzahn
    Nov 18 at 20:44
  • I have copies on the shelf from December 1997 to November 1999. Dec 1997 was the first issue but I'm not sure about the end (it probably was the last issue I worked for but not necessarily the last one in general). Editor-in-chief was Tamás Kolossa, for reference. www.byte.hu (nowadays something completely different, of course). Judging by the text inside, it was published by some company that looks like a Hungarian daughter of McGraw-Hill.
    – Gábor
    Nov 18 at 20:54
  • Yep, now that I checked, later issues already had reference to CMP Media instead of McGraw-Hill. So definitely the end of the US era but, as far as I can see from Wikipedia, it went on in some local markets. Then Hungary was one of those...
    – Gábor
    Nov 18 at 20:58
  • Comments get cleared every now and then. But even if they stay, improving an Answer is always a good idea. You may have noticed that some got updated, sometimes a dozend times spread out over many years. After all, RC.SE is not some bulletin board for short term chit chat but a collection of Q&A for long term usage, generations to follow :))
    – Raffzahn
    Nov 18 at 21:12
  • OK, and I dug up some more data as well.
    – Gábor
    Nov 18 at 21:15
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BYTE used to be available at well-sorted newsagents all over Europe (I can confirm UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain at least) starting from the late 80s. I don't really remember a European or international supplement being part of it.

I do recall to have been regularily (not) impressed by the - at least for continental Europe - totally uncommon relation between editorial contents and advertisement (you'd have expected much less paper and much more "hard stuff" in a local magazine).

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  • The international supplement was present at least in the early 90s; see for example the January 1991 issue which has a regional section between pages 72 and 73 — the international section replaced that. There was indeed way more advertising than was common in Europe... Nov 17 at 19:58
  • Well, it was that advertisement that made Byte interesting - at least for the very early years, so let's say until 1982 or so - as these ads were often the first information about new products. No, not the big glossy ones, the small B&W type had it :))
    – Raffzahn
    Nov 18 at 20:48
  • @Raffzahn I do admit some of them were - but the vast majority was useless to someone an ocean away.
    – tofro
    Nov 18 at 22:40
  • @tofro Of course, but also, please not the restriction added about before 1982, so only the real early times :)
    – Raffzahn
    Nov 18 at 22:56
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In Milan, Italy, I often bought BYTE at a major bookshop with a good selection of science and technology publications. It was exactly the same US edition, but I have vague recollections of some Italian computer magazines occasionaly reprinting selected translated BYTE content. There definitely wasn't a local edition or supplement though.

Although highly-regarded, BYTE was relatively little known even among computer enthusiasts here. I'd say a comparable Italian periodical was MC-microcomputer.

To me, the advertising was as valuable as the editorial content. The reader service card was a great way of getting additional interesting material from advertisers and vendors such as brochures, white papers, product catalogs, floppy disks with program demos or other software, booklets, manuals, and more. Back then this kind of technical material was hard to find, especially in Italy.

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In Australia, Byte was the bible into the late-eighties, early-nineties. The ads were as important as the technical and opinion articles.

Eventually in the nineties Byte licensed some of its content to an Australian-produced and printed magazine. I think it was called Just Computers. It never reached the thinkness or advertising support of Byte, but it had enough component advertisers that made it worth buying.

By the mid-nineties, corporate computing had moved on to brand-name PCs: IBM, Dell, Gateway, Toshiba, Compaq, HP, come to mind. So IT professionals needed a different skill set and Byte was no longer as relevant.

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Definitely present in larger newsagents in Ireland. Not sure how many people read it though, it was very US-centric. Also my memory is that it was like all US computer magazines - 75% ads (or so it seemed) so personally I never bothered with it.

We didn't have any indigenous equivalents in Ireland (or native computer magazines at all really) as the UK magazines served us very well. I would say PC Pro and Personal Computer World would have been the UK equivalents.

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    I used to read it; yes there were a lot of ads, but they were interesting, too! Admittedly it was US-centric; yeah, the UK magazines were the sources for what was happening on this side of the Atlantic.
    – rwallace
    Nov 18 at 18:34
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I can confirm readily available in at least London UK, hence best guess is probably much of UK or other major cities.

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  • Even smaller towns, I got mine in Rhyl (Denbighshire) and Glenrothes (Fife). Nov 18 at 12:11
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It was readily available in larger towns in Sweden as well. Not localized at all - as note by others the US ads where there.

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It was readily available in Canada when I read it in the late 80s - early 90s. I don't recall any content being localised for Canada, but it did have the usual 2 prices printed on the cover -- USD and CAD.

(This probably could have been a comment, but I don't yet have enough rep.)

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It was common at newsagents in Sweden (more exactly those which had a policy of carrying German and English language journals.)

My local municipal library had a running subscription, so it was possible to read the US version for free in multiple city libraries.

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