When I was editor of PCWorld and spent endless hours thinking about computer-magazine covers, we had lots of theories about what people didn’t want to see on them. One was depictions of human beings: In all my time there, I don’t believe we ever once used a photo of a person, and even drawings of them tended to intimidate us. We also thought that anything that anyone might construe as being negative rather than relentlessly upbeat was a turn-off. I suspect that other computer magazines the world over harbor similar theories.
But Steve Jobs’ passing on October 5th was a unique moment in computing history. And as an ex-computer magazine person, I’m fascinated by how the computer magazines that are still around chose to handle the news, which many of them put on their covers. The issues that do so are just now coming out–read on, and I’ll show you some of them, borrowed from Zinio and other sources.
First magazines first: Macworld, whose first issue featured the most famous Jobs cover of them all, has the classiest tribute computer-magazine cover I’ve seen. (I’m also partial to TIME’s cover, but I’m biased.) I’m not sure where Macworld’s photo came from, but I like it.
Other Macworlds around the planet created their own Jobs covers. Here’s the UK’s version, which cleverly features that first Macworld cover.
In Australia, Macworld used a monochromatic treatment of the same photo as its US cousin–and it’s donating part of the proceeds from the issue to cancer research.
Macwelt, Macworld’s German edition, put a commemorative flap on what looks like a typical cover, and bundled a disc with Jobs’ classic Stanford commencement speech. (I like that “Stay hungry, stay foolish” is in English.)
In the UK, MacUser is still a print mag, and its cover used a big video Steve/little flesh-and-blood Steve photo from the iPod Nano launch that reminds me a bit of one I took at the later MacBook Air debut. (You know what? I like mine better.)
This Italian publication uses a photo I don’t recall seeing previously–but I’m sorry, the original iBook wouldn’t even be on my list of the 50 Greatest Things Steve Jobs Was Associated With.
In Russia, as in much of the world, computer magazines cram as many stories onto the cover as possible–and in this case, Jobs’ passing was one of them.
Okay, back to the U.S. Unlike Macworld, its principal competitor, MacLife, didn’t devote its entire cover to Jobs. But it did mark the news with a band across the stop.
iPhone Life (no relation to MacLife) displays the danger of mixing such a sad event with random tech-related stuff: If it’s your ANNUAL HOLIDAY BUYERS GUIDE and your main story is Best Apps and Gear Ever!, it’s a trifle undignified to shoehorn that omnipresent Jobs photo onto the cover.
PC Magazine no longer publishes in print, but it does distribute a digital edition through Zinio. And it found room for a reference to Jobs’ death, but no photo. (I’m not sure what the GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT was, but I hope it wasn’t Boot Camp.)
And PCWorld? Well, it didn’t break tradition and use a photo of Jobs on the cover. But it did acknowledge the news with a brief story (by..well, me) that aimed to look forward rather than backward.
I’m not sure when the last time was that a specific person was even mentioned on the cover of PCWorld, but it may have been the early 1990s. And I suspect it’ll be a long time before it happens again.