The fourth year of 2600 has been archived in high resolution PDF format and is available at our online store. This release includes a number of issues that have been out of print and unavailable for years. We've done our best to make this digital version as high quality as possible, allowing readers to zoom in and see some of our really tiny print that we became famous for.
We've taken a bit of time to go into the details of what was being covered by us back then, as well as the various milestones and changes we experienced while putting these issues together. In addition, we're finally explaining what was behind the covers - in this case, our first true covers that used illustrations and photos, with limited use of color. We're sharing all of that info below.
To get your very own copy and support our archiving efforts, go here.
1987 was the year that we finally began to print in digest format, a style that would remain throughout our history. But this year was unique in that it was the only one where we were both digest size and monthly. We soon learned that this was way too much work and financially draining as well. We made it through that year, barely.
To conclude our transition to a more regular looking magazine, a number of major changes were implemented. For one thing, we were now a full 24 pages instead of just eight. The pages weren't the same size, but that didn't stop us from trying to cram as much information as possible into each one, often to the annoyance of those whose eyesight wasn't perfect. We were now able to print color on our front and back cover, and that one sheet was also glossy. (Technically, we could have also printed color on the inside front and back cover but we didn't opt to do that at this stage.) The back cover of each issue was devoted to a table of contents for each issue and they all had the same title: CONTENTS. (This was not the year for creative table of contents titles, clearly.) We didn't start printing color on the back cover until February. Notices on the back covers of January and February reminded readers to save their address labels because the numbers on them would allow for logins to our official bulletin board: The Private Sector. Starting in March, the words "WARNING: MISSING LABEL" would appear since that was the space where an address label was supposed to go. This led to a bit of controversy as 2600 was now being mailed like other magazines out in the open and no longer hidden in an envelope. Many readers had a problem with this, which is why we offered an option from the start for continuing to mail issues inside an envelope. The March edition was also the first one to show our second class postage permit prominently displayed on the back cover, allowing our publication to be mailed as a periodical for the very first time. It showed up again in June and December, but wasn't displayed on any other issue. The April issue contained a little note on the back cover asking people who received their issue after the 25th to contact us, as we were still trying to fine tune the whole mailing process. The December issue was the first to add a line to our return address saying "Forwarding and Address Correction Requested," which was necessary for publications to ask for in order to get correct addresses and not have magazines completely disappear. It took nearly the entire year to get all of the mailing requirements sorted out.
But, of course, the biggest change in all of this was our newfound ability to have a whole new cover for each issue. We had never done anything of this sort before and it was a real challenge. Tish Valter Koch was our first cover artist and she provided us with a number of commissioned drawings throughout the year.
January represented a bit of a reflection of new beginnings as well as the allure of New York City. A payphone is seen with its receiver dangling in a subway station, with signs for the A, D, R, J, and 2600 train. On the wall next to the payphone is a replica of one of our publicity stickers we used to leave everywhere that helped to spread word of the magazine to the masses. Under the "2600" on each cover of the year was the volume and issue number, along with the month, year, and a price of $2. Much of the style of this information was inconsistent throughout the year, sometimes in all caps, abbreviated, or with punctuation. Next to the "2600" (which was done in a completely different typeface than in previous years) was our familiar upper right hand corner box, sort of a mini-cover tradition that we carried over from our previous years. This one had our usual beginning-of-year exclamation point along with an asterisk on one corner of the box. That asterisk carried special significance, as it was the official logo of Stony Brook University's public relations office when memos were posted campus-wide. Some years earlier, a few mischief makers had caused quite a stir when fake announcements on those same letterheads were widely distributed. But that's another story....
February was a picture of the inside of an innocuous room somewhere. The clock on the wall reads 2:30, there is a half eaten apple on the shelf (possibly a reference to Apple Computer), and there is a collection of 2600 issues, including some from the future. On the next shelf are books called "The FIB," (an apparent reference to the FBI), and "Tee Vee Kay," which happened to be the cover artist's initials. There are also two phones, one black and one red, some fuses, and a computer that has on its screen the words "Within the Circle Invisible." A book that had come out at the time detailing some hacker antics was titled "Out of the Inner Circle" and this was a play on that. A steaming beverage of some sort is on the desk and outside the window a long line of telephone poles can be seen, connecting this room to the outside world. This was also the first cover that coined our then slogan "The Monthly Journal of the American Hacker," which was a mockery of the old Wall Street Journal slogan "The Daily Diary of the American Dream." The mini-cover consisted of clip-art of a pigeon next to what appears to be an animate tree branch.
March had our newly coined slogan moved directly underneath the "2600" masthead. This month's cover shows a satellite apparently crashing through an orange wall. We know of no specific significance here, other than it looked pretty cool. Neither was there any special meaning to the Greek alphabet being displayed in this month's mini-cover.
April had a completely different look, being a collection of clip art with all sorts of political references to overspending in the Reagan administration (otherwise known as pork), a crisis with the Russians, red hotline phones, and Nancy Reagan's china (a controversy of the time since she had spent over $200,000 on china place settings for guests). George Bush, vice president at the time, makes an appearance in the mini-cover and is referred to as "string art."
May went back to our telephone roots, with another New York City based drawing, in honor of the upcoming 2600 meeting, the one that would be the start of many more in the years ahead. We see an airplane hurtling past the World Trade Center as a suspicious looking man on a street corner tries to sell what appear to be payphones in a suitcase. Another man stands (all too) innocently reading a newspaper. The mini-cover is an extension of this drawing, with suspicious eyes peering through the top of a payphone.
June featured more clip art. We see a pirate with a skull and crossbones hat, an eyepatch, a large mustache, and a hook on one arm that resembles a question mark. He stares at us over an image of a touch tone desk phone with only nine buttons, and the startled eyes of a total stranger. On the right are what appear to be graphical dialing instructions, resulting in a handshake and a cash payment. The hand in the mini-cover indicates that everything is A-OK.
July was yet another homage to New York City, this time by looking over a bridge showing some famous buildings. The Citicorp Center, which had recently become the home of the brand new 2600 meetings, is prominently featured as a gigantic payphone. In the East River can be seen a barge filled with garbage, a reference to the Long Island garbage barge incident of 1987. This barge was unable to find a place to unload and spent a great deal of time going up and down the coastline, much to the amusement of just about everybody. Various bits of clip art appeared in the mini-cover.
August showed a striking image of a kid looking a lot like Dennis the Menace being confronted with a gun waving delivery man. This was based on a true story involving someone who had been raided by Secret Service agents posing as UPS men. The absurdity of the situation is underlined by the many innocent items in this typical kid's room (roller skates, a dog, a softball, a clown lamp, and a Star Wars poster). But some commentary seeps in, with the letters on the truck outside rearranged to say PUS, some blocks on the floor that spell ASS, and a poster of Oliver North with his fingers crossed, a clear reference to the ongoing Iran-Contra hearings at which he was testifying. In the mini-cover, we see a UPS package wrapped up with the caption "Hurry up, we're falling asleep!" This was likely an expression of our impatience at cases like this dragging on without any real evidence ever being presented.
September shows a combination nine button payphone/slot machine with Ma Bell logos as slot machine symbols and a 2600 sticker on the face. "The Sumps at Stony Haven" referred to both overdevelopment on Long Island and a fictitious community featured on several WUSB radio shows, including "The Voice of Long Island." The "Seafood Oyster Bay Expressway" is a play on a Long Island highway called the "Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway," NYNEX and Exxon have their logos merged on a distant building, and a phrase written under the payphone reads "Bye bye, hanging up now!" In the mini-cover, a sleepy star with a nightcap waves at us. We have no idea what that was all about.
October was a cover done by a new artist, Ken Copel, showing an astronaut on the moon talking on a phone with Earth in the background. The American flag is planted firmly on the moon's surface, while a copy of 2600 lies on the ground. (The issue is apparently the present one as the colors seem to line up.) Some people thought the ground was actually a collection of our signatures, but we can assure you that wasn't the case. The mini-cover was actually a shrunken image of an advertisement from a British newspaper showing an elderly man whose main worry in life seemed to be the cost of funeral expenses. We fell in love with the fear mongering instantly.
November was the first of two 1987 covers that were photographs sent to us (amazingly enough) by the phone company. (We sometimes were able to pass ourselves off as a publication that could help them publicize their neat activities.) In this case, we see technicians at work on a brand new 5ESS Western Electric switch, the top of the line back then. The mini-cover consisted of three faces: the late CIA Chief William Casey, along with the archvillain "Q" and Captain Jean-Luc Picard from the brand new Star Trek series. Make of that what you will.
December was the second phone company supplied publicity photograph which we put to good use. This one shows a couple of cable splicers in the field. The mini-cover features a shot of Nancy Reagan standing next to her husband, whose face has been replaced with that of Mikhail Gorbachev. Photoshop hadn't been invented yet.
The new format allowed for a total of 24 pages including the cover pages. The previous page numbering scheme of volume number followed by that year's cumulative page count was abandoned in favor of a more conventional "per issue" numbering system. Page numbers appeared on pages 2 through 23.
The staffbox remained largely the same as in 1986, appearing consistently on page 3 (except for December when it was moved to page 2) with the "Editor and Publisher" still listed as "Twenty Six Hundred." This changed with "Eric Corley 110" assuming that position in March (the "110" representing the first three digits of his Social Security Number) and "TSH" being recognized as "Editor Emeritus" from that point with "(making new waves)" appended for the first month. New positions were "Office Manager," "PSOS Operations" (previously "BBS Operator"), and "Artists." "Associate Editors" and "Writers" were listed as they were before. In March, the "Associate Editors" credit disappeared as did "PSOS Operations." "Artists" was replaced with a "Cover Art" and "Cartoonists" credit. In April, the addition of a graphic designer resulted in the creation of a "Production" credit. For one month (August), we had two office managers, so the credit was adjusted to reflect that transitional period. A new title of "Reader" was added in October, with a name of "John Kew," which represented John Q. Public. The "Editor Emeritus" credit became noticeably smaller that same month and would continue to shrink in the year's remaining issues. In December, the "Cover Art" credit was removed, as photos were being used at this stage.
Mailing info (also on page 3 for every month but December) now included a line about second class postage as the new format allowed the magazine to be mailed as a periodical for a reduced rate. We jumped the gun by saying we had a permit in January and that was changed in February to reflect the fact that the permit was still pending. We also were required to add a street address instead of our traditional P.O. box starting with the February issue. The price changed effective with the March issue with individual subscriptions going from $12 to $15 and from $30 to $40 for corporate subscriptions. Overseas rates changed from $20 to $25 for individuals and $55 was introduced as the overseas corporate rate. More info on submissions was added to this section in April. A line about back issue availability was added in June. A copyright notice was added in July. A line giving out our telephone number was added in August. The back issue description was modified slightly in November and the information on letters and article submissions was made more noticeable. The line that said "Telephone:" was changed to "2600 Office Line:" and four new lines were added - two for our new BBS numbers, one for our Usenet address, and one for our ARPANET address.
At this stage in our development, we believed that we could make a go of it with advertising and we had a fairly decent amount of ads that were printed throughout the year. The new format allowed for full page ads to be sold.
While columns and features from the previous three years were all gone (except, of course, for the letters), a new column called "The Telecom Informer" emerged and appeared in all 12 issues on page 8. Writers of the column were listed as Dan Foley, John Freeman, Goldstein, Al Fresco, and Staff. December's column had no writer credit at all. A column titled "Phone News" began in January and was subsequently listed in the February contents, but didn't appear in that issue or ever again. Occasional articles with titles like "New Developments" or "Goings On" covered much of the same content.
Our first payphone photo appeared on page 17 of the January issue in black and white. We didn't yet realize how popular that concept would become.
The first edition of the 2600 Marketplace launched in January and appeared in every issue of 1987 on page 19.
Throughout the year, we made reference to experiments taking place involving the selling of 2600 at various newsstands around the world, along with the ongoing search for a distributor. We expressed a desire for "more modernized office equipment" including a 2400 baud modem.
It was the year that Telenet introduced electronic mailboxes to the public for $20 a month (ironically the same exact system that had gotten hackers into trouble for making use of it years earlier). Chicago became the first American city to become 100 percent electronic switching while much of the rest of the telephone network remained electromechanical. Articles included tales of the early days of cellular phone fraud and exposes on phone fraud perpetrated by the phone companies themselves, such as the touch tone fee, "deluxe" call waiting, "gold" numbers, and payphones that credited quarters as mere nickels. There was growing concern over the prospect of increased automation and "electronic sweatshops." We also told the final chapters of a couple of other hacker zines: TAP and Computel. And the concept of "beeper tapping" was introduced for those who managed to escape phone taps and pen registers.
Occasionally we would print some sarcastic remark in large type like "Remember the Greediest!" (which was a play on The New York Times' holiday mantra of "Remember the Neediest"). Also interspersed would be various phone and computer related drawings or clip art to break up the immense amounts of type we were cramming into our pages.
The new format generated quite a bit of criticism, with more than a few people wishing we would go back to the old style and stay away from newsstands and bookstores, the fear being that we would go too mainstream if we wound up in those places.
At some point in the year, the 2600 answering machine was hacked and we dealt with it in a rather unusual way, striking out at the manufacturer of the insecure machine by hacking their machine to demonstrate the weaknesses that apparently couldn't be fixed.
This was the year that the very first 2600 "public get-together" actually took off. The initial one was held June 5th at the Citicorp Center in New York City and was a weekly meeting throughout the year. A second such event was planned for July 31st in Philadelphia.
We began to realize how important 2600 had become to people and how the back issues remained relevant to our readers, leading us to say at one point: "our magazine is not a one time deal that you read and discard, but reference material that is stored away and looked at whenever the need arises."
Our official bulletin board system, The Private Sector, was taken down by its owner early in the year. By the end of the year, we were planning a network of new systems, with two online and more on the way. We had certain standards we insisted upon for any official 2600 BBS: no secret sections where only a privileged few could go; and electronic mail had to remain private, off limits even for the system administrator. In a counterpunch to the atmosphere that was leading to more government raids on hackers, we wanted it to be clear that "being anonymous is your right." As the BBS scene was how so many of us communicated, we believed that computer bulletin boards were "one of the most vital links to freedom of speech that we have in the 1980's." This was before the Internet, naturally, but word was beginning to circulate about a series of networks called just that, although the prediction in the article we printed was that the whole thing would eventually be named "Worldnet." It was one of the first articles to explain what "dotted domain names" were. In fact, 2600 wound up with two different addresses in that realm: 2600@dasys1.UUCP and phri!dasys1!2600@nyu. It was clear things were changing and exciting developments were around the corner. But it still seemed like a fantasy. "The thought of an entire population using computer terminals, not just the technologically literate minority, is truly revolutionary," we said at one point.
By the end of the year, it became clear that our changes had been significant - but they needed further tweaking. Effective in 1988, 2600 would become a quarterly publication, a move that would enable us to breathe a little and add to an already impressive list of accomplishments.