The Home Computer Course was one of those “part-work” magazines that you collected up every week and filed in the supplied hard backed binder to eventually build up into a useful reference library – or at least that was the idea. The Home Computer Course, by Orbis Publishing, was one such example of such a publication. It aimed to teach you everything you needed to know about computers from playing games, to home accounts, to programming in BASIC (Leading to many annoyed Dixons staff when some kid came in and entered the classic 10 PRINT “BIG BOO IS COOL!” 20 GOTO 10 on all the demo machines). In reality of course it was never going to make you a computer expert, but it had fun trying.
The biggest problem with it was it’s Jack of All Trades approach. Not only did it try to teach you everything from programming to accounts to word processing to games, but it attempted to do it no matter which computer you owned. Back in 1983, when the magazine first appeared, this was a pretty tall order, given that you had the Commodore Vic 20, Commodore 64, Sinclair ZX81, Sinclair ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, Oric 1, Dragon 32, Jupiter Ace, MSX and a great deal more to choose from – not just the rather simpler PC or Apple Mac choice we are faced with today.
Whilst the contents of the magazine attempted to be as generic as possible throughout, teaching you what different types of software were capable of, rather than actually how to use a particular package, it was the centre pages which each week focused on a different home computer that was the highlight for me. A description of the features of each machine and perhaps a little of the history behind it was accompanied by a full colour 2 page spread of the innards of that computer, it’s circuit board and microchips laid bare, each with a little line coming off labelled with what that component was, such as “16K RAM” or “6502 Central Processing Unit”. To be honest you were never really going to learn much from this, but it was fascinating to see what all these pieces of technology looked like inside, with risking breaking your own computer by taking a screwdriver to it.
The Home Computer Course was built up over 24 weeks, and was followed almost immediately by The Advanced Home Computer Course. A challenger called Input also appeared, which was similar but attempted to target a much smaller range of computers, which made the programming articles a bit more useful. Check out below the TV advert for The Home Computer Course. I especially like the bit where the drumming irritated fingers of the father are calmed by the kids hand, mirroring the general computer usage situation in houses up and down the land ever since, where the kids know more about the latest technology than the parents do!