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Retro Books & Magazines

In recent years there has been a big increase in the amount of retro gaming books released and over the years I have built up a nice collection. We now live in a world where crowd-funding sites such as Kickstarter have made it possible for smaller publishers to design and release books that just wouldn't have been possible a few years ago.

This section will be my summary of many of the books in my collection, as well as links to online sellers and details of active crowd-funding projects. Please be aware that the book images use affiliate links and I may receive a commission for any sales made. This has no effect on the price of any items purchased via Amazon.

Our on-line library is now live with the full set of Atari User, the first 100 issues of Computer & Video Games (as well as two Yearbooks), and all 55 issues of ACE magazines. We are currently uploading Amtix! and there will be more magazines to follow, including Crash and The Games Machine.


SUPERCADE: A Visual History of the Videogame Age 1971-1984

Van Burnham. MIT Press, Nov 2003

This was one of the first videogame books I bought and it is a real monster of a book (in a good way). This is the stereotypical 'coffee table' book and it makes use of large colourful images to draw the reader in with it's eye-candy. These include box art, adverts, game images, and publicity shots.

After a forward by Ralph H. Baer, it tracks the history of the videogame from the very beginnings of 'tennis for two' and 'space war', through the early computers and consoles, onto the growth of arcades, and finally to later home consoles. Interspersed between these sections are interviews and pages devoted to software companies.

One of the older books in my collection and now getting quite expensive, but a great book that managed to squeeze a large amount of interesting text around the iconic imagery. Well worth the money.


Brian Bagnall. Variant Press (2nd revised edition), Jan 2011

Okay, this is one of the best books I've ever read and probably in my top three for retro-related content. It's a large book page-wise, running to 561, but at no time does it seem too long. For me, it was a compelling read from start to finish and it is one of those rare books that not only makes you want to read 'one more page' but often it becomes 'one more chapter'. My copy from 2006 is actually called 'On The Edge: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore'. It's looks to have been released again around 2010 with the new title.

The book starts with the story of Chuck Peddie and the creation of 6507 and 6502 processors whilst at Mos Technologies, Commodore's buyout of Mos, the creation of the PET computer and then the various generations of Commodore systems right up to the Amiga. You can see that Brian Bagnall has spent an amazing amount of time researching this book and it's a roller-coaster ride that ends in sadness when Commodore finally calls it a day. There are countless stories told from so many of the employee's and it really is a labour of love. At times it is amazing that Commodore lasted as long as it did.


Magnus Anderson & Rebecca Levenson. Aurum Press Ltd, Nov 2012

Another of my top picks and one that nearly didn't end up on my bookshelf. I have to admit that the cover and title put me off and I mistakenly thought this book was about the Playstation era of gaming. Oh how wrong I was. This book is a must have for anybody interested in retro gaming from the UK as it is one of the few books that looks at the rise of video-games from over here.

The creators of this book have done a great job of weaving an informative time-line, from the very start of gaming with the creation of MUD (multi-user dungeon) back in the 70s, to the creation of the bedroom-coder era of early 80s and beyond. Against the back-drop of 80's Britain, many coders and founders of the software scene recount how they started, and it is a powerfully nostalgic read for many of us that grew up through this time. Although it mainly focuses on the two main British machines of the time, the Sinclair Spectrum and Acorn BBC Micro, it does include the Amstrad as well. It goes on to track the few games companies that survived into the 16-bit and 32-bit era and ends with more modern gaming on mobile devices and steam.


Nick Montfort. MIT Press, Feb 2009

This book is one of a series of books I bought that were from the MIT Press Platform Studies collection (the others follow below). The particularly title is about the Atari Video Computer System (or VCS as it is more commonly known). These books depart from the usual ones I buy as they focus solely on one system and their content is much more technical. It is possible that many readers may find their subject matter quote dry but I believe it adds another dimension to the others titles on my bookshelf.

The book starts with a discussion of the VCS, how (and why) it was created and an in-depth look at it's architecture. Most of the book then looks at key games for the machine, from the early titles such as Combat and Adventure, through to Yars Revenge and Pitfall, and even squeezes in the infamous E.T., then finishes with a section on the videogame crash and also looks at how the legacy of the VCS remains to this day. It also looks at ways that the games can be enjoyed via emulation. Overall a very interesting book but maybe one that isn't for everyone.


Jimmy Maher. MIT Press, May 2012

Another of the Platform Studies titles, this one covers the Commodore Amiga. As with the other titles in the series, this focuses on the Amiga at a technical level and especially when looking at titles such as Deluxe Paint and Sculpt-3D.

The book starts by looking at the creation of the Amiga hardware, especially the inclusion of functions that were unique at the time and compares it with other home computers of the era. It then explores the machine from a multi-media viewpoint with coverage of the two titles mentioned above and also NewTek with their Digi-View and Video Toaster hardware. After discussing AmigaOS, the book moves onto games, with both Cinemaware and Psynosis discussed with their cutting-edge titles.

As with 'Racing The Beam' this is another interesting title and one that probably delves deeper into the Amiga hardware and software than any other title I've read.


Alison Gazzard. MIT Press, Mar 2016

Book three in my collection of Platform Studies books and this is about the Acorn BBC Micro.

The first few chapters discuss how the U.K. had started to fall behind other countries in it's use and understanding of new 'micro-computer' technology that was at last starting to become cheap enough to allow the public to own their own machines. The creation of the Computer Literacy Project is discussed and how the BBC Micro, via computers in schools, became the machine that a generation of school children learnt about computers with. It discusses the requirements that the BBC put forward as a specification of the hardware and software, and talks about BBC Basic (including some examples of code). Software is covered with in-depth chapters on Granny's Garden, Elite / Acornsoft, and Repton / Superior Software. A later chapter discusses the Doomesday Project and it's use of laser-disc technology and the book closes with a look at the legacy of the BBC Micro today. I was too old to experience the BBC Micro at school so this book was an interesting look at how the BBC Micro was used at schools and for games.


Nathan Altice. MIT Press, Jun 2015

As befits titles from the Platform Studies series, this book provides a very indepth and technical look at the Famicom/NES console.

After a brief history of Nintendo, from their early playing card days and onto their initial forays into electronic gaming devices, we are given a concise view of both the console hardware as well as the software design and cartridge topology. Both The Legend Of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. are analysed in depth.

The book also contains interesting chapters regarding the comparison of Japanese and American titles, the sound capabilities of the console (as well as modern use in chiptunes), the growth of emulation, and speed-runs.

Another impressive book in the series and one that will be of interest to anybody interested in the technical side of console and the many ways it has impacted culture the world over.


Tim Lapetino. Dynamite Entertainment (1st Ed.), Oct 2016

If there was every a book that screamed 'must have', then this is truly that book. Another sumptuous coffee-table book weighing in at an impressive (and heavy) 350 pages.

As the title suggests, this book takes a close look at the artwork that adorned Atari's hardware packaging, the many iconic arcade cabinets, and the game boxes for Atari VCS. The quality of the reproduced artwork is stunning and as well as showing the final artwork used in the product, sometimes we get to see concept and unused art as well. Where a title used different artwork for different platforms (Atari 5200 or 400/800), these are also included.

But it's not all just about the amazing art, the artists themselves are included with individual profiles as well as notes regarding their artwork with the games. The end of the book gives way to some impressive prototype hardware. A large and colourful book at is well worth it's entrance fee. Dynamite Entrainment are also releasing an Art of Atari 'poster book' in June 2016 which features 40 removal posters for framing.


Gordon Laing. Ilex Press (1st Ed.), Oct 2004

Another of my earlier purchases and this one is is all about the hardware. The sub-title is a little misleading as it uses the term 'personal computer', and although many of covered machines are computers, Laing also covers consoles. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The book is laid out in a time-line style and covers systems from 1975 to 1988 (with a little section at back giving information about newer machines). After an opening chapter covering a brief history of computer, we delve straight in with the first machine, the MITS Altair 8800. Each machine is given a generous four-page spread, with images shown from various angles (front, back, side, top) and interesting text including an introduction, mini-spec, history, and even a 'did you know' section.

All popular systems are covered, as well as some that readers may not be familiar with. A great book with a wealth of information and a diverse selection of machines covered.


Sam Pettus. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Dec 2013

A well written book that is both extremely detailed and unique in it's content. Although the book is mainly focused on the home console side of Sega, Sam delivers an engaging account with a time-line that often covers events at a day to day level. Although the majority of the story pertains to events between the Japanese and American sides of the business, there is a nice chapter at the end of the book that looks at the European arm.

If there was one criticism that I would have about this book, it is that there is little coverage of the arcade side, which is a little unfortunate as there is a big picture of an arcade cabinet on the front of the book. But this should not detract from this very interesting book.

A great book for anybody that is interested in Sega's history as well as fans of retro games in general.


Chris Wilkins, Roger M. Kean. Fusion Retro Books (1st Ed.), Dec 2013

This was the first book that I backed on a Kickstarter campaign and also the first book produced by the talented duo of Chris and Roger. It is an impressive read with some excellent images (many never seen before) as well as some informative text and detailed interviews with many of the people behind Ocean during it's illustrious reign as one of the UK's most prestigious software houses.

The complete history of Ocean is covered, from it's initial inception back in 1983, through it's subsequent rise before being bought out by Infogrames and the final removal of the name in 1998. The talented artist, Bob Wakelin, has a chapter and much of his stunning artwork is included in the book. The background of Chris and Roger in the retro gaming world has allowed them unprecedented access to many of the figures that contributed to Ocean's success and it is fair to say that no other book has been able to tell their story in such an entertaining and personal way. This is still available direct from Chris's website or from their Amazon Marketplace page. A must have book for any retro gaming fan.


Chris Wilkins, Roger M. Kean. Fusion Retro Books (1st Ed.), Jul 2015

Another of Chris and Roger's books that I backed on Kickstarter. This follows on from the early Ocean book by focusing on another software house. The story of U.S. Gold is told in great detail and the involvement of Geoff Brown certainly allows for a concise and insightful telling of the rise of his company. Beginning with his importing and selling of Atari and Commodore games, to the creation of CentreSoft, and the move to converting the American games onto U.K. formats such as the Spectrum, Amstrad, and, BBC Micro.

Again, as with the Ocean book, there are a number of interviews with staff from both the American and UK sides of the process and it all makes for a very interesting read. It provides an ideal companion to the Ocean book and I hope that other software houses receive the same treatment. This book can be purchased direct from the Retro Fusion Books website or via their Amazon Marketplace page.


Chris Wilkins. Retro Fusion Books, Dec 2014

After the two extremely successfully Kickstarter campaigns that brought the Ocean and U.S. Gold books to the us eager gamers, Chris then moved onto a book that focused solely on the ZX Spectrum, and it is reassuring to see that the quality and breadth of content has remained high.

The first chapter focuses on Rick Dickinson, the designer of the Spectrum and other Sinclair machines, which has him recounting his time working for Sir Clive Sinclair and contains some great images of the prototype cases (from a time when the Spectrum was being called the ZX82). The majority of the book covers games and each one has a two-page spread. Such classics as Ant Attack, Sabre Wulf, and, Midnight Resistance are included in release date order. We are treated to the title screen, advertisement or box art, and a large in-game shot, as well as a summary of the game. At the end of book are sections covered the more prolific coders of the time. Littered through the book are magazine advertisements for the machine.

Chris has since released volumes 2 and 3 as well as a smaller 'little book of Spectrum games' title in 2016.


Stefan Gunzel. Edel Entertainment GmBh, Jun 2014

This mammoth books screams quality from the moment you pick it up (be careful though, this is a heavy book), with it's embossed cover with a simple Space Invader character on the front. There are an impressive 215 games covered spread across 380 pages.

Each game gets 1 or 2 pages and most consist of a single large image with the only text being the game name and year released, platform(s) released on, developer, and, designer(s). The images vary between an in-game shot (normally cropped), a title-screen, or maybe just a single element (but one that is usually easily recognised). The quality of the images are stunning and with the game coverage ranging from 1952(!) to 2014, the images range from blown-up pixel blocks to high-resolution compositions.

This is a truly impressive book and just browsing through the imagery can bring back so many feelings of the many games we once played. My early version of the book even came with a 12" single containing music from some of the titles included in the book (download code included). Newer editions come with a CD.


Johnny L. Wilson & Rusel DeMaria. McGraw-Hill Publishing Co. (2nd Ed. revised), Jan 2004

Another of the videogame 'history' book and one that tries to pack as much as it can into it's 390 pages. The problem is, for me at least, that is seems to be trying to hard. Don't get me wrong, there is a wealth of information and there is a generous amount of images included (in fact I would say there are almost too many images, literally hundreds!). The images make the book seem too busy and the layout of sections jumps around between hardware, software companies, individuals, and genres.

This book roughly follows a time-line from the early days, through the first consoles, home computers (there is a lot of coverage on PC gaming) and later consoles. As a coffee-table book it's great for dipping into.


John Sellers. Running Press, Aug 2001

Another one of my earlier purchases and one that primarily focuses on arcade machines. There is a lot to like about this little book (well, it's little in comparison to Supercade), with each game have two pages that includes an image of the cabinet, close-up artwork, and one or more game images. They are in date order with Computer Space (1971) being the first and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1985) being the last.

Included between the machines are interviews with people like Nolan Bushnell, Eugene Jarvis, and, Walter Day (of Twin Galaxies fame). There are also a few miscellaneous sections dotted through-out the book that complement the main content and although it is very Americian-centric, it does add to overall feel of the book. This is another great book which packs a lot of information and great images into it's 160 pages. Like Supercade, it is getting harder to find, with prices on Amazon now £79 for a new copy.


Harold Goldberg. Three Rivers Press (CA), Apr 2011

The title may be different, maybe a little clever. Taking that famous line of dialogue from the shootem-up game 'Zero Wing'. The book is well written and basically leap-frogs between events in videogame history that have had the biggest impact on culture outside of the gaming world.

Starting with Ralph Baer and Odyssey, we move onto Pong and Atari (including poor E.T. and the video crash). Before the dust settles over the Alamogordo desert we have joined Nintendo in their brave new world of 'entertainment' to recapture the hearts and wallets of the American gamers. After a couple of chapters covering the development of PC gaming, we move onto Rockstar (and when it comes to cultural impact, they just had to be there), then the Playstation generation, the Wii and Popcap games. Not a bad book and although the content doesn't give the general history of videogames, the sections it does cover are dealt with. Easy to read and fun.


Chris Kohler. Dover Publications Inc., July 2016

In a refreshing change from many of the videogame books that are centric on events from an American focus, this books tells the story from the Japanese point of view. It takes an interesting look at the beginning of videogame creation in Japan but more importantly goes into great depth about the culture and history in Eastern game development. Why character and story creation is so important and how the West embraced the game-play (with some of the comprises that had to be made). We are also treated to chapters covering genre's of game that originated in Japan, such as the Japanese RPG and music/rhythm games. There is also an interesting section on Argonaut's time helping Nintendo implement the Super FX chip on the Super Nintendo.

This is certainly a book at deserves it's place in any gaming fan's collection and offers a rare insight into Japanese gaming. The version I own looks to be the original yellow cover version from 2004 but I would expect the content of the 2016 book to be very similar if not a re-release of the original version.


Tristan Donovan. Yellow Ant Media Ltd, Apr 2010

A hefty tome that travels through the history of videogames, much like many books before it, but this one isn't quite the same as the others. Tristan devotes each chapter to a milestone, and these could be an event, a hardware manufacturers cutting-edge release, a new genre of game, or even a little bit of them all. It makes for an interesting book and the depth that the book takes you is admirable. It also is happy to spread the history across the planet, so we have a lot of American content, but the UK, Japan, and, Russia all get a look in.

The diverse range of content covered makes for an interesting read and one chapter may be talking about Atari and the exodus of their brightest programmers to Activision and then a couple of chapters later we have a section on 'god games', the good old Clive Sinclair makes an appearance. This book is different, but in a good way, and Tristan makes it very easy going.


Winnie Forster, Rafael Dyll, David McCarthy. Hagen Schmid, Mar 2005

This book, much like Digital Retro, is just above hardware. The contact is broken down into era's, starting with birth of electronic games (1972 - 1981) and includes machines such as the Magnavox Odyssey and the Sinclair ZX81 and the proceeds with the various time-lines until we hit the 21st century which includes the Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo Gamecube, and the Sony PSP.

Each era starts with a few pages that give a little information on the state of events at the time. The systems get between 1 and 6 pages each, with shots of the machine, game-play images, and information on each one. Where the machine is part of a range of machines, such as the Atari VCS with the 2600, 5200, etc., these are also included. At the back of the book there is are tables that list the various specifications of the machines such as the type of processor, amount of ram, resolutions, sound capabilities, and interestingly, the type of video output they support.

A nice book with an large amount of content. There is also a newer edition that covers from 1972 to 2012.


Steven L. Kent. Prima Life (1st Edition), Jan 2002

This 600 page book was the first 'retro' videogame book I bought and I can honestly say that it is still one of the best. Kent makes a great job of plotting the history of videogames and although the coverage may be similar to other titles in the same ilk, he does have one thing that stands out. Other books may use their own words to describe what has been told to them, but this book quotes the many contributors direct. And these people tend to be heavy-weights in the videogame work. Iconic developers, visionary hardware designers, and influential people that helped to steer the industry to greatness. It is also worth knowing that the quotes are placed in articles where they complement the text.

The writing style makes for an easy and engrossing read, and whilst the book doesn't dig really deep into the subject matter, the sheer amount of content included is very impressive. It may be old now but it does belong on the bookshelf of anybody interested in history of videogames. And unlike some of the other older books, this one hasn't seen it's price sky-rocket.


Jack Railton. Allison & Busby, Sept 2005

Railton's collection of games isn't a bad book. In-fact it contains a wealth of different content, and although they may not all be 'cool', most are important in the history of gaming. I like the book, but compared to many of the other books in the collection, I can't 'really' like it. I guess that when I read it I just didn't feel that it had the 'heart' of other books.

The book itself is divided into sections, with the first being home computer/console games, the second being arcade games, the third being the social side (tv, clubs, magazines, and, piracy), the fourth is hardware, and the fifth is 'paraphernalia' (hand-helds, joysticks, virtual reality, etc.). I haven't read the book from cover to cover and maybe it's not that sort of book. But a fun book that you can dip in and out off, it works well.


Dan Whitehead. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Sept 2012

A little book that packs a lot of nostalgia into it's 124 pages. Dan has a soft-spot for the Spectrum and included in this book is a great collection of titles that graced Sinclair's rubber-keyed wonder. Each game has a humorous description and accompany black and white screen shot. Some titles even have a cover shot.

The great thing about Dan's book is the honesty that he talks about the games with. He doesn't have a problem poking fun at games that a little rubbish and this is a breath of fresh air from some books that either take themselves too seriously or aren't as into the subject matter as they make out.

There is now a second volume out, which if as good as this book, deserves a place in mine (and your) book collection.


Liz Faber. Laurence King Publishing (1st Ed.), Nov 1998

This nice looking book spans games from 1972 to 1998 and each chapter covers a certain genre of game, so Fight is fighting games, Drive is driving games, Kill is for shoot-em up's and first-person shooters, etc.. The different use of imagery in the book is interesting, with use of some full sized images and others multiple 'cells' from the same game. One interesting use of images shows a page of 'cells' but these include a few images from a collection of games of the same genre. This works quite well to see the improvement in graphics from early examples to much newer versions. Another nice touch is the full level layout of Super Mario World and Zaxxon.

Each chapter has introductory text relating to the types of games covered. It isn't a bad book, and seeing Spectrum graphics beside Sony PS2 graphics do make for a nice contrast, but there are better examples that cover videogame graphics.


Simon Byron, Ste Curran, David McCarthy. Headline, Oct 2006

The content of this book is 'The 50 Greatest Video Games of All Time' and although there is no denying that the games in this book are worthy of being great videogames, and even most of the best, I guess it was always going to be a personal preference on what is included in a top 50. It is because of this that I have a love/hate relationship with this book.

First off, this is a good book. It contains some truly great games, with well written text and a nice selection of images. But it is a little bit of a shame that apart from several of the iconic early arcade games (Pac-man, Asteroids, Space Invaders, Outrun), there is no other games from the 70's and 80's except Elite. Most of the games contained are console games from the 90's and 00's. Each game gets between two and eight pages of coverage which does allow for a nice spread of images to be included. I do find parts of this book quite immature, the Sims images seem to contain a high percentage of females in swimwear and I'm not sure if Dead or Alive 4 really warranted six pages (with minimal text). Maybe I'm just a grizzled old gamer.


Bill Louidice, Matt Barton. Focal Press, Feb 2009

The collection of games in this book doesn't claim to list the best games of all time, but the most influential, and for the most part I think it hits the mark. There are some interesting selections, all the favourites are there, but we also have Ultima and Flight Simulator, which makes a change. We get 25 chapters for 25 games and there are a further 9 titles covered on-line via 'bonus chapters'. These include greats such as Elite, Star Raiders, and, Robotron 2074.

Each game greats generous coverage and the book is written well and is very informative. The title covered is expanded upon by including the state of play leading up to it's release and also any further games in it's series. There are plenty of images included but I did find some of them were a little blurry and low-quality. A nice book that contains a wealth of information and the on-line content makes this good value for money.


Brian R. Eddy. Shire Publications, Mar 2012

Whilst most of the books in my collection are sizeable, this little Shire book clocks in at just 56 pages. The book was book for me as a present and to be honest, I probably wouldn't have bought it myself as it is a little underwhelming. I think the biggest disappointment is that although the title states 'Classic Video Games' and the tag-line adds 'The Golden Age', it really only covers arcade games. Although the period it covers can be referred to as golden, it is a shame that the home market didn't get a look.

The content included is okay and it talks about most of the iconic games of the period covered. There are many pictures, although due to the size of the book, they are quite small. I don't think it offers good value at £8 but maybe a cheaper used copy would be a worthwhile addition to a golden gamers collection.


Kevin Murrell. Shire Publications, Feb 2013

Unlike the early title by Shire, this book is quite nice. Although even smaller that the 'Classic Video Games' title, only 48 pages this time, at least the content is more varied. In fact the book starts with systems from the 60's and provides a thoughtful journey from the early 'kit' computers (yes, back then you often had to build them yourselves, a little like an airfix model) to the more mainstream home computers of the early to late 80's.

Written by Kevin Murrell, who was a trustee and director of The National Museum of Computing as well as being the secretary of the Computer Conservation Society, which does make him an authoritative figure to cover such a subject. It has some great pictures and although on the small side, does make for a worthy purchase.



















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