The magazine of the future (on floppy disk!)
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More than 20 years before the iPad, a businessman saw the potential of interactive, digital magazines. It was 1987. A small Dallas-based company launched a floppy disk magazine. It was supposed to be a grand experiment. The future of magazines was on the line.
The new floppy disk magazine was called The New Aladdin. It was published every two months. It hoped to give readers an entirely new kind of interactive experience. The New Aladdin was complete with animated graphics. It had computer games and music. It also had puzzles and feature stories. The stories allowed readers to ask questions.
The New Aladdin cost $19.95 per issue. And you couldn't wrap fish with it. That was a joke often about print newspapers. But The New Aladdin hoped to make up for this shortcoming. It included fancy 8-bit graphics.
Today, you may not have heard of a floppy disk. Dictionary.com has a definition. It describes a floppy disk as "a thin plastic disk coated with magnetic material, on which computer data and programs can be stored for later retrieval."
Below is an excerpt from an Associated Press story. The story described The New Aladdin. The AP story ran June 27, 1987. It was published in the Galveston (TX) Daily News.
"The magazine is two disks in a case with a label on it that looks like a miniature magazine cover. Insert a 3 1/2-inch disk in a disk drive and an image of Aladdin pops up on the screen seated next to a lamp billowing smoke where tiles of stories appear and then fade with the push of a button."
The July-August 1987 issue of The Futurist magazine explained this new reading experience.
"How does it work? One sample magazine story might be about how to refinance your home. With most magazines, you would have to read hypothetical stories that may not apply to your own situation. But with The New Aladdin, you plugged your own facts and figures into the story to find out precisely how much refinancing your home would cost and how much it may save you in the future."
The AP story explained a bit. For instance, it described what a virtual presidential press conference could look like.
It allowed readers to ask an animated President Reagan questions from a list. The readers could also create their own questions. Some of the answers were taken from actual press conferences. Others were creative satire.
The AP story explained that The New Aladdin was targeting a mass market. The editors wanted to make it as user friendly as possible. Little or no knowledge of computers was needed, they promised.
It was obviously difficult to define this new form of publishing.
It was a magazine. It was software. It was a video game. It was literature. Those are descriptions from the editor, John Henson. He spoke to The Futurist.
"We are a family entertainment and information journal," he noted. The New Aladdin, he said, has similarities to "everything from a news magazine to a science-fiction digest to a children's book."
It's been nearly 30 years since The New Aladdin first came out. You can see how close it came to what really has come to be with magazines.