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2:12pm on Thursday, 23rd January, 2014:

1901 and All That


In my teens, before I went to university, I played games by post. The mechanism for doing this was to subscribe to postal games magazines (called "zines"). Eventually, I ran my own zine — Sauce of the Nile — but I subscribed to (or, later, traded SotN for) other zines, too.

My entire zine collection was thrown out when I went to university as it was taking up too much space. However, today I stumbled across the UK Diplomacy Zine Archive, which has digitised some of them.

One of the longest-running zines was 1901 and All That, by Mick Bullock. I think it grew out of MENSA, but I'm not certain. It was among the most reliable zines, mainly because it was all game reports with little extra fluff. I was a subscriber to 1901.

I was a subscriber to other zines too, of course, but the difference is that I can prove I was a subscriber to 1901. If you look at the .pdf for issue 71, it has a list of subscribers on page 15. Thanks to alphabetical order, I'm the fifth on the list (out of 120; this was a large circulation for a zine, by the way).

The reason I mention this is because here's how the list starts:

The first column is whether you subscribe or trade; the second column is your name; the third column is your address. That's where I lived in 1976, and there's 120 other such addresses listed.

This was quite common. In a postal games magazine, people's addresses were published the whole time. You needed to know where someone lived in order to contact them for game purposes (the board game Diplomacy is all about communication with other players). You can look at other zines in the archive and you'll see addresses liberally scattered around, too.

Nowadays, no-one prints address lists — it's seen as an invasion of privacy. Back then, none of us thought that our addresses would, 38 years later, be available to the entire world at the click of a button. Weirdly, today people are very wary of giving out their addresses, but will happily spread around all their other personal details via social networking sites. For us back then, it was the other way round.

The scary thing is, for some of the subscribers to my own zine, I can still quite easily remember their addresses...

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Copyright © 2014 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).