Reconstruction of Two “Lost” Issues of dieHard
While cataloguing articles for the Commodore 8-Bit Magazine Index database, I hunt for background information about the various Commodore magazines that were published in the 1980s and 1990s. This additional research led me to the personal website of Brian L. Crosthwaite, the former editor-in-chief of dieHard.
Brian's website is, in fact, a complicated network of at least three separately-hosted sites. If you have the patience to work out how to navigate among them, these sites are an excellent primary source. On one site, he tells the story of the events leading up to the creation of the first issue of dieHard; on another, he has posted downloadable PDFs of all issues of dieHard.
dieHard: The Flyer for Commodore 8-Bitters started out as as a sort of "fanzine" newsletter sold at a local user group and eventually matured into a magazine—fully typeset in GEOS—with a glossy cover, advertisers, and a modest number of subscribers. Although not as polished as the contemporaneous magazine Commodore World published by Creative Micro Designs, dieHard showed a lot of heart and was clearly a labour of love.
The magazine folded after Issue #23. Figure 1 shows all 23 magazines in one photograph. It took me years and several eBay auctions to accumulate all of them, and I was confident that this collection truly represented the full set. And so, I was surprised to find the following news item while poking around Crosthwaite's old websites:
July 10, 2014:
Issues 24 and 25 posted in .PDF format!
Issues 24 and 25? Hang on a minute, there were only 23 issues...what are these? If you go to the downloadable PDFs page mentioned above, you will see two black-and-white cover images for Issues 24 and 25 with links to these mysterious magazines. Unfortunately, the links lead only to an error message: "404: Not Found".
Thankfully, the Internet rarely forgets. After trawling through the Wayback Machine, I found a snapshot of Brian's old Angelfire site that led me to a snapshot of his old Tripod site, and that site had JPEG copies of "proof" images of all the individual pages of these two extra issues of dieHard that would have been published had the magazine not folded.
Brian's notes on the site indicate that Issue 24 was completed, made it to the printers, and was printed but did not ship; Issue 25 was typeset but never printed. These JPEGs had been generated from geoPaint format with the PaintPages printer driver. Unfortunately, geoPaint doesn't have quite enough vertical resolution to handle geoPublish pages, so the bottom half-inch or so of each page is cropped off. Graphic elements, formatted for PostScript, end up distorted. The pages aren't on the website in the correct sequence and at least one needs some greyscale contrast correction.
So I placed the pages in sequence, cleaned up what I could, assembled complete PDFs from the individual files, added page numbers, and uploaded the results to the archive. The results weren't perfect but they were mostly readable. Unfortunately, some of the more eccentric font choices are illegible at low resolution. Figure 2 shows a few text samples from the JPEG version of Issue 24: some of the text is unreadable, and lines of BASIC with the bottom of each character cut off make the type-ins unusable.
I tracked Brian down and sent him a note to tell him about the reconstruction of Issues 24 and 25. He responded with a heart emoji, which I assumed meant he approved of my work. We chatted for a bit longer and I didn't expect to hear anything further. Six months later, he sent me a download link, with two files: the proofs of both unpublished issues, rendered as PDFs. If you compare Figure 3 with Figure 2, you can see how much more readable the PDFs are.
The cover images are missing, and there is placeholder text where the ads would go, and blank spaces set aside for photographs or other graphic elements, but even so, these PDFs provide a fascinating glimpse into what might have been.
tl;dr I've added reconstructions of two unpublished issues of dieHard magazine