How did SynTax start? It all seems such a long time ago now.
It was July 1989 to be precise when Issue 1 was released and it was produced every other month until May 2004. For the first few issues, I co-edited it with John Barnsley. I originally suggested a disk based adventure and RPG magazine because it meant we could have complete control over duplication unlike paper-based magazines which were, at that time, usually farmed out to be photocopied. Also we wouldn't have to commit to large numbers of copies but could simply copy the precise number of disks needed and do more when they required, making the mag more cost effective.
SynTax was originally oriented purely towards the Atari ST. It was an exciting time for gamers. 8-bit machines were still very popular but the Amiga was increasing its share of the market and the PC was in its infancy as a games machine. An emulated Amiga version was added fairly quickly and this was followed by a PC version programmed by Graham Cluley (author of Jacaranda Jim and Humbug) and a true Amiga version, programmed by Richard Hewison.
PC adventures were initially included because ST owners could play many of them using an emulator such as PC Ditto. It was the only way we could play many of the Infocom adventures, for instance, or explore the wealth of shareware and PD PC games which were available. I added any I could find to the Disk Library which finally contained over 1300 disks over all formats. Some of them contained several games.
Contributions from readers were always welcomed and I encouraged them with the Contributor of the Year Award which was made annually from 1991. Myth and Magic figures were awarded to the top contributors, working on a points per K of contribution, winners' points being zeroed, giving everyone a chance to win if they sent in regular contributions.
SynTax always moved with the times. As the ST and Amiga declined in popularity and the PC took over as the main gaming machine, the PC version of SynTax became the major format. Reader Alex van Kaam programmed SynWin, a Windows version of the program. SynTax was no longer a text only mag because screenshots could be incorporated into SynWin.
Text adventures gave rise to graphic adventures, and CD and DVD games replaced ones on disk. CD writers made it possible for me to supply a CD compilation of back issues which was regularly updated - big thanks to MerC for creating the first CD! Moreover DTP made it possible to produce a professional looking paper magazine and print just the number needed on the premises, so in 1999 a spiral bound, paper version of SynTax was first released. This came with a disk which contained a few bonus games and utilities which were featured in the magazine. These programs were, of course, also on the regular SynTax disk. Sadly the paper version never really took off and was discontinued in 2001.
The rise of the Internet made solutions easier to acquire so SynTax started to concentrate more on reviews and articles. The Internet also brought other changes. It was easy to access and download games so the library was mothballed. However, I started putting together CD compilations starting with one covering the 1995-2000 IF Archive Competition Entries.
The Internet eventually made it possible to start cutting out the disk medium altogether! In January 2000 the first emailed version was sent out - E-SynTax. This became the only version available overseas to save on postage costs. Thus the new Millennium was the beginning of a new era for SynTax. I hoped that it would continue to grow in popularity during the rest of the 'nought-ies'. But sadly this was not to be. Membership and contributions declined and though I had wanted to continue to the 100th version I stopped on issue 90 while we were still on a general high.
I was always pleased that there wasn't been a price increase since day one!
Though the name SynTax was originally devised to show its ST origins and links, the name is synonymous with adventure gaming to many users. It's interesting to look back over its life time which saw immense computer and gaming changes.
Sue (updated August 2011)