The Illustrated History of EPE Magazine
— the No. 1 UK magazine for electronics and computer technology.

Covershot kindly provided by Old Time SuppliesHere are some pictures of early issues of Everyday Electronics and Practical Electronics which we are sure readers will find fascinating. They depict the magazine style and typify some adverts of the period.

Left, the cover of the very first Practical Electronics magazine, November 1964 (price 2/6d or 2 shillings and sixpence - about 12½ pence today).

 

Everyday Electronics, Dec. 74The Dec. 74 (Vol. 3 No. 12) issue shows the original style of EE. It included a MW Reflex Receiver by R A Penfold, "Across the River" game by F.G. Rayer, Shop Talk (by Asst. Editor Mike Kenward), and an article on "The World of the IC" describing these marvels of miniaturisation. This issue included a free Data Check Card. The magazine was produced for beginners in electronics by the same Editorial team responsible for its heavyweight sister publication Practical Electronics.

Sinclair Cambridge ad.This 1974 advert for the Sinclair Cambridge calculator - "Britain's most popular pocket calculator" at £14.95 in kit form (£32.95 built), illustrates one of many innovative products created by Clive Sinclair who advertised heavily in EE and PE. The Cambridge had an l.e.d. display and the batteries lasted "for weeks". A Scientific version existed too. Not every Sinclair kit was quite a success in practice. Other advertisers included Home Radio (Components) Ltd. of Mitcham, Surrey with their famous catalogue, also J. Bull (Electrical) Ltd. who still advertise today, and Henry's Radio of London, then the biggest catalogue retailer in England, and ElectroValue Ltd.of Egham, Surrey who finally closed their doors in 2005. A letter from David Longland, the owner of ElectroValue, was published in the June 2006 issue.

My apologies for confusing the ElectroValue name with that of Electromail/ RS. — ARW

Sinclair Black Watch

Home Radio Components Ltd. adFebruary 1976. Home Radio Components Ltd. were a popular mail order supplier, characterised by some quaint advertising and a high quality catalogue.

Its cover had a colour photo of the sculpture "Theme on Electronics" by Barbara Hepworth, commissioned by Mullard in 1957.

The owner of Home Radio wrote a small monthly column called "Counter Intelligence" for the magazine.

(1976) Sinclair Radionics Ltd. was a major advertiser at the time - above is the "Black Watch" l.e.d. digital watch kit, the purposeful style of which typified Sinclair's approach to its products.

Everyday Electronics, April 1983This April 1983 issue (note the different logo, introduced in Sept. 1977) included an Add-on Amplifier for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum colour computer, an expanded add-on keyboard for the Sinclair ZX81 and a novelty egg timer and a Flanger Sound Effect by R A Penfold. "Circuit Exchange" enabled readers to publish their own circuits.

A reader's letter deplored the use of new-fangled printed circuit boards, and wanted to "keep it on stripboard". "For Your Entertainment" featured every month, written by Barry Fox, who still writes extensively today. The magazine title was to change from the next issue...

Sinclair ZX Spectrum ad.
This advert was typical of those from Sinclair in the 1980s. The Sinclair ZX80 and ZX81 were defining points in the development of the home computer, selling over 500,000 units in kits and ready built. The Sinclair ZX Spectrum in this advert brought colour (no less than 8 to choose from!) and sound to home computing enthusiasts.

With a choice of 16K or 48K RAM, and an add-on mini printer, plus the ill-starred MicroDrive tape back-up (capacity 100K) it was the origin of many a readers' gentle initiation into the exciting new world of affordable home computing, and was to help have a profound impact on the future direction of the magazine. Price for the Spectrum was £125.00 (with a glorious 16K RAM).

EE & CP May 1983 May 1983 saw the title change to Everyday Electronics and Computer Projects, heralding the era of home computing together with the surge in interest in constructing peripheral projects which the magazine embraced head-on.

This edition included RTC circuits for the Apple II and the BBC Micro, a temperature sensor for the Commodore PET and VIC20 computers, plus a MW Radio and a model train controller.

We also saw the launch of the EE Software Service - programs for computer-based projects were available to buy... but as floppy drives barely existed, they were only available on cassette tapes! The June 83 issue was to carry an EPROM Programmer for the Tandy TRS-80.

EE & CP February 1984February 1984 EE - featuring a Sinclair ZX81 EPROM Programmer and a home-brew Ioniser, a signal tracer by R. A. Penfold, a car lights warning, an Oric Computer port board and a stereo speaker protection unit. A relay driver for the ZX computer was described. The EE printed circuit board service listed boards from June 1983 onwards.

Teach-In 84 by George Hylton dealt with audio amplifiers. The Editorial by Fred Bennett described the advent of "SMA" - surface mount assembly - adding the comforting note for constructors that "lead bending and cropping will remain essential operations for the home constructor, for far enough into the future as makes no difference."

The Everyday News column reported on the advent of digital TV. The world's first multifunctional digital TV set was announced by Panasonic in Japan. It had 30% fewer components than analogue sets, and it was viewdata/ hi-fi and home computer compatible. Digital TV was hailed in 1984 as "marking a new generation that will serve as the focal point for the home information centre of the future."

EE & CP Oct. 84Onwards to the October 1984 issue, edited by a young Mike Kenward. A drill speed controller, quiz scoreboard and mains cable detector were detailed, along with the Micro Memory Synthesiser based on a dedicated chip. The Everyday News column proclaimed the "world's first pocket computer" - hailing the new Psion Organiser, by mail order only from Psion Processors. It weighed half a pound, was supplied with an 8K data pack, and cost £100.

The Sinclair QL computer was launched - the "Quantum Leap" for the serious home or professional user. An EE reviewer noted prophetically that "so many computers are arriving all the time, making it inevitable that some will never make it. Maybe the QL will, who knows?" Sadly, it didn't.

EE & CP Oct. 85The October 1985 issue changed to a larger size format, still with us today. It included a simple reverb unit by a certain John M.H. Becker, a soldering iron power controller, a strain gauge amplifier, but strangely no computer projects this month!

A Soldering Instrument Buyer's Guide was included free, including names such as Adcola and Antex. Teach-In 86 by Mike Tooley & David Whitfield started with basic battery and resistor experiments. Uniquely, the tutorial electronics series was accompanied by some computer software, for the Sinclair Spectrum or the BBC Micro.

Meantime, Everyday News reported on the launch of the revolutionary new Amstrad PCW8256 Personal Computer Word Processor, with "high resolution" green monitor, 3" disk drive and dot matrix printer, all yours for £450.

Not forgetting Practical Electronics (PE).....

Practical Electronics Sept. 74Practical Electronics was published by the same Editorial team as that of "Everyday", but featured far more complex projects such as the PE monochrome CCTV camera in the September 1974 issue. A bench power supply by D.W. Lloyd and a feature on gas detection systems were also published. Ingenuity Unlimited presented a variety of readers' bright ideas.

The PE Spacewatch column reported on the chemical analysis of some "minute and almost spherical beads" returned from the moon in Apollo 12.

Adverts from the likes of Heathkit, ElectroValue, Henry's Radio and Radio Component Specialists (2 pages) were there, plus a modest ad. for organ and synthesiser builders, from Maplin Electronic Supplies, a small vendor of a limited range of audio and electronic parts, specialising in electronic organ and synthesiser boards, piano keyswitches and parts.

Meantime the Editorial page apologised for the erratic supply of the magazine, caused by general labour problems in the printing industry.

At a time of very deep industrial unrest in Britain, Fred Bennett added that "by becoming immersed in his hobby the electronics constructor can forget for a while some of the more gloomy news which seems to provide a constant background to present day affairs."

maplin advert Sept. 74This early advert from Maplinin Sept. 1974 Practical Electronics showed how it all began - kits of parts for the PE Sound Synthesiser, and also the ETI Synthesiser. The company was originally run from home and carried a small range of audio-related and discrete components.

Maplin was so-named after Maplin Sands, the proposed location for London's third airport. Hence the Concorde image (top right) and the promise of "supersonic same day service". You could buy the MES 1974 catalogue "stacked with dozens of new lines" for 25p.

Sinclair Project 80 Another advert from Sinclair in September 1974, the Project 80 slim-line audio module system, which promised to be "the ultimate in modular hi-fi construction for a very long time".

You could mix and match tuners, amplifiers and PSUs. Stylish though it was, Project 80 suffered reliability problems and sank without trace.

Calculator Watch Kit 1978In March 1978 Science of Cambridge Ltd (previously Sinclair Instruments) offered this wrist calculator kit for £9.95 with 8-led display, and 30 hours of use between battery changes.

In the same issue, Watford Electronics (now trading as a major computer mail order firm) had a full page ad. of components, Service Trading Co. also displayed a page of bulk surplus parts as did Greenweld Electronics.

PE December 1975This was the December 1975 edition of Practical Electronics, the main constructional project being a 50 watt guitar amplifier. A thermostat and Christmas lights flasher were described, along with Minimix 6, a complex-looking six channel audio mixer. A rather scary-looking Engine Analyser was outlined.

Ingenuity Unlimited featured a very simple multi-purpose oscillator circuit submitted by a schoolboy - A.R. Winstanley, who was to become a regular contributor and host Ingenuity Unlimited himself twenty five years later.

Maplin advert December 75A Maplin advert from December 1975 again using the Concorde theme - this ad. depicted an electronic organ, the ETI Synthesiser, and a graphic equaliser.

Another advert inside listed a modest range of components and the DMO2 digital master oscillator for electronic organs; plus, of course, veroboard, about 50 i.c.s and other parts.

BI-PAK continued to advertise "paks" of surplus parts, and in this issue was a rare advert from an American vendor - International Electronics Unlimited of California, who priced in Sterling and offered direct shipment from the USA. Meantime, DORAM Ltd. (the Doorway to Amateur Electronics) traded as the amateur's offshoot of RS Components Ltd, but was later closed down. RS later launched Electromail instead, based on the RS catalogue.

PE June 1977June 1977's issue of PE hailed the TV Sportcentre, one of the very first TV games available to the home constructor.

It was also called "Pong", variations included soccer, squash and hockey. On the right is a young Dave Barrington, who became EPE's Assistant Editor. Dave went on to work for EPE all the way through his career, before retiring with honours in 2005.

The co-player shown was a secretary borrowed from IPC Magazines to help with the photoshoot - some debut! TV console game entertainment was virtually unknown, and drawings of screenshots illustrated the action (three moving squares, all in black and white).

The circuit was based on a dedicated chip, and successors of the genre included Tank Battle and Rifle Practice.

Henry's advert Sept. 1974Henry's Radio of London were at one time the largest catalogue-based mail-order retailer of electronic equipment, parts and surplus: most home constructors had a Henry's catalogue bulging with wares in the 1970's and business boomed in these, the halcyon days of electronics "hobbyism".

This September 1974 advert with Henry the Elephant offered a red TIL209 - the standard (only) red l.e.d. for 24 pence each; a Garrard battery reel-to-reel tape deck for £9.50; a MW/ LW car radio for £6.50 with speaker and fittings; a Hanimax pocket calculator ("with % key") for £28.95; the ZN414C radio chip was listed for £1.20 and a range of Sinclair miniature amplifiers was available. Fibre optic filaments (for decorative lighting effects only) were sold on 100m reels. VAT had to be added at 10% and UK postage cost 15p. per order! Visit Henry's Electronics web site.

Other projects in the June 1977 issue of Practical Electronics included a sound to light converter, a car lights reminder and an electronic die (dice), all of which were reasonably novel items at the time. Part 4 of "Microprocessors Explained" continued with memories and peripheral chips, and a special feature detailed how to handle CMOS chips safely. Spacewatch noted that the NASA Space Shuttle had been through five successful unmanned test runs.

Practical Electronics March 1978This March 1978 issue, edited by Mike Kenward, included the PE String Ensemble keyboard, the PE CHAMP computer and an enlarger timer.

General features included Readout (reader's letters): one from contributor Mike Hughes paid tribute to Fred Bennett who had recently relinquished the editorship of PE.

Fred continued with Everyday Electronics (EE), to the benefit of "all young people keen to get started on one of the most exciting, challenging and satisfying hobbies" the letter added.

New web site!

A new web site for EverydayPractical Electronics opened its doors to the world in 1996. Here is the October 1996 web site.

EPE Magazine March 1999So to Everyday Practical Electronics with ETI.

The March 1999 issue of EPE hailed the ultimate union of three fine electronics titles: Everyday Electronics, Practical Electronics and Electronics Today International.

Projects included a smoke absorber for surface mount soldering, a report on 3D Virtual Reality, a simple auto cupboard light and a PIC microcontroller-based Time & Date Generator for video footage - technology undreamed of back in 1964 when Practical Electronics was conceived.

EPE with ETI also continued with the exclusive "PhizzyB" single board computer tutorial, and a Wireless Monitoring System. Popular features include Circuit Surgery, Ingenuity Unlimited, Readout, New Technology Update, Net Work (the Internet column) and other features and services - including EPE Online - all helping to keep EPE at the forefront of hobby electronics.

The October 2001 EPE issue is depicted here, with two free CD ROMs supplied by Microchip in the USA .

This issue contained another groundbreaking project, our Toolkit MK3 for PIC microcontrollers, including our free Windows software to help you get the most out of PIC chip projects.

Contrasting with this modern technology, we harked back to the valve (vacuum tube) era, with our Two Valve Short Wave radio receiver!

The most exciting development of all arrived with the January 2006 issue, when EPE finally converted to full colour on brighter whiter paper.

This meant that better photography , full colour interwiring diagrams, improved contrast and more detailed images could be used, and the magazine would also meet the demands and expectations of today's market, if new readers were to be attracted and the hobby was to be preserved.

EPE also formally announced its alliance with Silicon Chip of Australia, creating a formidable electronics magazine serving hobbyists and enthusiasts everywhere.


The January 2006 issue marked the retirement of EPE's Dave Barrington and John Becker.

Dave has largely been responsible for the high level of accuracy that the magazine enjoys, for it is Dave who checks all the drawings and text in infinite detail to ensure that the finished article is of the highest standards, ensuring every 'i' is dotted and all tees are crossed (in the golfing sense as well).

Dave has helped thousands of readers around the world and has devoted 40 years of highly professional service to furthering interests in hobby electronics.

Dave actually joined George Newnes (the original publishers of Practical Electronics) when he left school in 1955 — over 50 years ago. The cover shot is Practical Electronics, June 1977, showing Dave trying the new rage in entertainment electronics - PE's first TV game the "Sportcentre".

Dave will however continue to be involved with EPE on a consulting basis.

Our Technical Editor John Becker also retires this month. John was a contributor to Practical Electronics in the 1970s, and has been our Tech. Ed for the past 11 years, solely responsible for his excellent various PIC Tutorial series that have introduced many appreciative readers to the world of the microcontroller. John has also authored CD ROMs on the subject and continues to work for EPE in a freelance capacity.

EPE wishes Dave and John a happy and leisurely retirement.

As we barrel headlong into the next millennium - worries about "Y2K" Year 2000 computer bugs having vanished before us - there is much excitement in store yet for the electronics enthusiast.

The developments we share with you today were completely unthinkable back in November 1964 when Practical Electronics was launched onto a brave new world. Having passed the year 2000 and beyond, and with the Internet drawing the EPE community ever closer together, we can share both our heritage and our experiences of the golden, pioneering days of hobby electronics with today's generation, whom we encourage to become the hobbyists and electronics engineers of tomorrow.

We all look forward to the developments that are ahead, in the knowledge that there will always be something new, challenging and exciting to learn and share with our readers. Here's to another 42 glorious years!

Alan Winstanley. January 2006.

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