Remembering the First Fifty

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2014 was an auspicious year for ‘Skydive the Mag’ with the June 2014 edition marking the Golden Jubilee The first edition of ‘Sport Parachutist’ was published in the summer of 1964 and there were two further editions that year. By the 50th Anniversary in 2014 there had been 279 editions of the magazine. Two of these were completely unnumbered and three had duplicate volume and edition numbers. A number of editions had incorrect volume numbers and this form of identification was eventually discontinued. A small amount of colour was used on the front cover of the Mag from the outset but the first full colour front cover appeared at the end of 1971 with use of colour on the back cover from 1977. This was followed by additional colour pages inside at the beginning of 1979. Increasing use of colour followed from the mid-1980s through the 1990s until full colour was attained. The third magazine in 1964 was offered for sale to the general public for the princely sum of 15p or three shillings in ‘Old Money’. Today, a single copy of ‘Skydive the Mag’ will set a subscribing non-member back considerably more but it is a very different product with full colour and twice as many pages. There have been seventeen different editors or, in times of crisis, editorial teams although several of these have served more than one term. This makes the job sound a little like a prison sentence and at times in the dim and distant past it must have seemed like that. One edition of the Mag has no identifiable editor following a small editorial crisis that arose back in the Seventies.

Digitisation of the entire back collection of magazines was completed in time for the 50th Anniversary of the Mag in 2014. This involved a lot of work but provided a fascinating insight into the evolution of the magazine as well as a few challenges along the way. Early black and white magazines were simple to scan but those from around 2000 employed more sophisticated and colourful layout which tested even the most advanced text recognition software to the limit. The total number of pages in the Magazine Archive is well over 10,000. A lot of subject matter has changed little down the years – technical, safety, people, competitions, skydiving trips – but the contrast in the way it is presented is enormous. Both style and substance have evolved considerably but if one word is used to sum up the difference between the old and the new it is professionalism. ‘Skydive the Mag’ showcases all that is good about British Skydiving. This has resulted in the decrease of potentially dubious (but entertaining) content over the years and some of the photos and cartoons from forty years ago probably couldn’t appear today. Who can forget the slightly outrageous (at the time) ‘Boots’ series by Cookey?

Will skydiving still exist when we reach the Mag’s centenary? Almost certainly. Will we still be reading paper copies of the Mag? Probably not. One thing is certain though, skydivers will still want to read about their sport. The previous fifty years of the Mag have had their ups and downs but it has finished in a strong place. Here’s to the next fifty!

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