The Internet is a wonderful place that gives us unlimited access to almost every software or information we need. But it was some time before the Internet where we had to rely on magazines and Public Domain Libraries (PDLs) for Atari ST / STE-related software and information. I often look forward to buying the commercial Atari ST magazines as ST format, ST review and ST users from W.H Smith's and eagerly check the contents of the cover disc that graced the front. I would sit on my comfortable armchair in the tranquil surroundings of my bedroom and enjoy reading the magazine from cover to cover, checking out the latest PD (Public Domain), Freeware, Shareware, Licensing and commercial software reviews as well as useful tutorials and articles.
The magazine would advertise the many PDLs that provided PD, Freeware, Shareware and Licenseware on a disk of one to three kilos. The PDL ads offered only a small selection of software in their list, but they would provide you with a disk-based or paper directory with their full software library. The great thing about PDLs is that they allowed you access to software written by bedroom programmers that you would never find in stores. For a programmer like me, they were a useful resource for things like: source code, fonts, sprites, music files and images. They also provided numbers of various discs such as Stosser, Power, ST Plus, Atari Times and Maggie.
WHAT IS A DISCINE
A disk zine is a collection of documents on a floppy disk that can be viewed using a software called a "shell". The shell lists the names and descriptions of all documents on the disk that would appear in the form of articles, reviews and tutorials as well as other various interesting items such as ad pages, someone's ramblings and contact lists. The shell has its own built-in document viewer that loads each document, formats it and displays it with the ability to change fonts and music. Later versions of document viewers would display images along with the text such as the popular Stosser Doc Displayer by Tony Greenwood. Some disczines would also provide free software known as giveaways like Stosser Diskzine - also by Tony Greenwood. Diskzines can sometimes be called "diskzenes" or "diskmags".
HOW DOES A DISKZINE ME
Diskzines can offer content on virtually any topic. Stosser discussed articles and tutorials related to STOS Basic programming languages, while Atari Times covered everything Atari ST related. Another diskzine called Power provided practically everything you could dream of, even strange things like the entire script for the popular Terminator 2 movie. Diskzines are also free unless you buy them from a PDL. You can distribute discs to your friends and contacts for free and they can do the same for you - therefore you can get a lot of software and information for free instead of paying for the commercial Atari ST magazines I mentioned above. With Diskzines you can meet other computer users with the same interests as you with whom you can exchange things. Some may even have a problem page where you can get a quicker answer to questions than from commercial newspapers.
WHO WRITES THE CONTENT OF THE DISKZINEN
The general idea behind disk scenes is that readers write the content and share it with their fellow readers. Stosser and Power were two discs that relied heavily on contributions. The most important people behind the disc scene were those who put together everything including editing and creating the shell. There may even be someone who runs a regular site, such as the problems. Diskzines usually have a few people who regularly contribute to each issue each month while a few pieces seep in from the odd reader or two. Software also contributes and is a great way to ensure mass distribution of your work.
WHERE CAN I DOWNLOAD THE DISKZINES
Try Exxo's Atari pages to choose the best discs.