The Jumpdisk Preservation Project

What is a Jumpdisk?

Jumpdisk was an Amiga-specific magazine on disk which attempted to emulate the format and success of Loadstar, one of the first disk-based magazines. A Jumpdisk would usually contain articles, reviews, opinion, graphical artwork, music, programs and on rare occasions some useful utilities. The first issue came out in July of 1986, with a new issue every month thereafter until it faded into obscurity after 1992. Richard Ramella was its editor. Richard also wrote some of the programs and articles.

Throughout the years that Jumpdisk was published, it struggled to differentiate itself from public domain distributions like the Fred Fish collection. Indeed, it was often the case that the quality of programs were not any better than what could be found in the Fred Fish collection. What differentiated Jumpdisk from the public domain offerings was the inclusion of timely articles that approached the quality (though not the quantity) to that of a second-rate magazine, as well as the fact that each issue was copyrighted with the intent on making redistribution of the disk illegal. The programs on Jumpdisk were full working versions (often of dubious usefulness and/or quality, though there were occasional gems) and not public domain, and the contributing programmers were paid by Jumpdisk for their inclusion.

The struggle of Jumpdisk to stand out was twofold: On one hand, it was attempting to compete with first-rate paper publications like Amiga World, Ahoy’s AmigaUser, Amiga Computing, Commodore Magazine, and dozens of others; but due to the limitations of an 880k diskette, in addition to the fact that each disk had to leave lots of room for the programs, utilities, and other content, Jumpdisk simply couldn’t provide the amount of content that these magazines delivered for less than half the price. Paper publications could subsidize their publishing costs with advertising, which would have taken up too much room on an 880k floppy, therefore forcing Jumpdisk to pass on the entire expense of the publication to its subscribers at $9.95 US/$11.00 Cdn. per issue, compared to, for example, $3.95 US/$4.95 Cdn. per thick issue of Amiga World. Accounting for inflation, a Jumpdisk would cost $17 in 2011. It should be noted, however, that Loadstar faced even greater limitations and sold for a similar price and managed to continue in its success.

The other part of the struggle was the fact that public domain distributions like the Fred Fish collection often delivered programs of at least the same quality as Jumpdisk. The nature of Fred Fish was that it was distributed to a much broader audience than Jumpdisk did, and offered programmers complete control over their offerings. A talented programmer could release their program to the Fred Fish distribution as shareware, set their own price for the full version, and stand to make much more money than what they could earn selling their program to Jumpdisk. In the end, it made more sense to buy a pulp-based magazine and get the monthly copy of Fred Fish from a BBS or user group meeting for all but the most dedicated Jumpdisk fan.

In an effort to deliver greater value, Jumpdisk started using on-the-fly compression known as PowerPacker. This allowed Jumpdisk to hold up to twice the content as compared to an uncompressed disk. While this did increase the value, Jumpdisk continued to struggle for relevance in the Amiga community, and so released their own Public Domain distribution known as PDQ. In response, some magazines were offering full versions of programs and exceptional commercial-grade demos with their magazine for a lower price price than JumpDisk, often in substantial excess in quality to what Jumpdisk could offer. Many of these magazines were imported to North America from the UK. A very thick and juicy Amiga Format was one of the more popular offerings, and at $9.75 Cdn. represented exceptional value, comparatively speaking.

Towards the end of 1992, it became clear that Jumpdisk, based on a business model that could not keep up with the times, was not a competitive product against free public domain and ad-subsidized publications, but believing instead that piracy was the cause of the commercial failure of Jumpdisk, Richard Ramella moved the Jumpdisk publication into further obscurity by making it available by subscription only. It is Richard’s assertion that thousands of copies of the disks were made every month, though he doesn’t state how he arrived at this questionable figure given the obscurity of the publication in the community; and so after topping out with a paid subscription of no greater than 1,600, Jumpdisk faded into obscurity without so much as a web site to remember it by.

Why this project?

In spite of its shortcomings, I liked JumpDisk a lot. I felt that a floppy disk magazine publication was the future, and JumpDisk was really the only worthwhile disk based magazine for Amiga. Most of the programs included the source code, which helped me to learn to program the Amiga. I was an advocate of Amiga, turned away from piracy, and bought and paid for every single piece of software I used in order to support the community. Going to the computer store to buy an issue of JumpDisk was a very satisfying experience, up until the end of 1992 when I received a letter from JumpDisk telling me it was going subscription only. I could not do this, as I was only 21 and was always on the move in search for employment with a different place to live from one year to the next.

In 2008, I took up retro computing as my new hobby. I set up my old Commodore equipment, including my Amiga 500 system. Going through the boxes of disks I had stored away all these years, I discovered that many contained errors due to bit rot. A search online provided me with many sources from which I could obtain replacement disk images and files, with the exception of Jumpdisk.

I attempted to contact Jumpdisk without success. My search for Richard Ramella also failed. Internet searches for “Amiga Jumpdisk” resulted in postings in Amiga forums by people like me looking for information on how to obtain replacement Jumpdisks and questioning the whereabouts of Mr. Ramella, as well as the occasional eBay listing for the odd loose disk. Having invested hundreds of dollars in my own collection of Jumpdisks, I did not wish to see this investment lost. I got in touch with some of the people posting on the forums, and together we managed to come up with enough working disks to start this archive for the purposes of having a historical archive to which we could refer to. As I’m migrating over to greater use of emulation due to the inevitable failure of long-obsolete disks and the drives used to read them, having these disks as images on-line makes more sense.

On August 13, 2011, I finally found Richard Ramella on Facebook and initiated contact with him. Given that my site was the only presence that Jumpdisk had on the Internet, and given that I run this site completely at my own expense, I had hoped that Richard would appreciate my efforts to save his quirky publication from being lost completely and recognize it for the tribute it was intended to be. Instead, Richard demanded that I take all Jumpdisks offline and pay him all monies in connection with this site. As this site has always operated at an expense to me without even the benefit of ad revenue, I could not comply with his request. In order to comply with Richard’s demand to cease public distribution, I ensured the collection remained private by placing a password restriction on access to all of the Jumpdisk disk images.

Click here to visit the archive. If you would like access for educational, non-profit purposes, please contact me.

Need DMS? Try here or here, or just google Amiga DMS.

You can help!

If you have some Jumpdisks that I’m missing, or are a fan of the publication, or even if you’re a fan of the Amiga or Commodore in general, feel free to let me know. I can be reached at paul at pquirk dot com.