The Internet Archive
The Internet Archive

11 Delightfully Dated '80s Magazines

The Internet Archive
The Internet Archive

The Internet Archive scans magazines and puts them online. It's amazing what you can find in a collection of vintage magazines.

1. Commodore Computer Club, 1982

What it was: An Italian magazine about Commodore computers, complete with early-'80s models hanging around with computers.

Representative quote: "Ma alla fine la bella principessa (Federica Moro, miss Italia '82) se ne innamora pazzamente e fugge lontano col piccolo computer." Roughly translated: "But eventually the beautiful princess (Federica Moro, Miss Italy '82) falls madly in love and runs away with the little computer."

Surprising appearance: Scantily-clad ladies posing with... Commodore computers.

Strangest cartoon: A New Yorker-style cartoon, roughly translated: "We now interrupt your word processing for a series of short advertisements." This was well before the advent of Clippy.

Read this magazine online, courtesy of The Internet Archive.

2. Starlog, 1988

What it was: Starlog was the place to find Star Trek and other sci-fi coverage from the late '70s through 2009.

Most easily answered headline: "Will they kill off Denise Crosby?" It was May of 1988, a heady time when Betteridge's Law of Headlines didn't always apply.

Weirdest article: A six-page feature trying to explain what the heck Beetlejuice would be. Horror film? Comedy? All of the above?

Most dated merchandise: Collectibles from the TV miniseries V. Behold:

Fan club I sincerely wish I had joined: Star Trek: The Official Fan Club. According to the ad, it came with an embroidered patch!

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3. OMNI, 1986

What it was: OMNI was a brilliant magazine, fitting nicely into the category of "best thing you probably never read." It was part science, part speculative fiction, with great art (of all kinds) and big thinkers.

Best correction: "CORRECTION: To all our readers who noticed that the Dead Sea Scrolls were printed upside down in 'Will We Become a Lost Civilization?' [Continuum, September 1986]: Yes, we goofed."

Surprising appearance: A quiz entitled Can You Talk to the Animals? on page 54. It encouraged the reader to dial a 900 number to hear animal sounds, in order to participate in "the first national experiment in interspecies communication."

Strangest ad: An ad for a Guardian-brand stun gun, complete with freaked-out assailant, typos ("it's [sic] kind"), and the suggestion that it makes a great gift.

Second strangest ad: Dude in an argyle sweater vest who wants you to dream your way to success:

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4. PC Computing, 1988

Most 1988 sidebar: "PCs & Perestroika." Note that this is the December 1988 issue. A year later, the Berlin Wall fell.

Representative quote: "The fire-breathing power of an 80386 processor in a transportable computer is something to set your spirits aloft, but watch out for the crash: you can forget about light weight, reasonable price, and—for the most part—battery power." From page 93, the beginning of a long review of 386 portables, which also says: "These machines can turn the figures in your account books magenta. Ranging from $6,595 to $7,999 without added-cost options like modems, external floppies drives, and the like..."

Most dated article: Fast Talkers: 2,400-bps Modems, highlighting new modems with price tags from $599-$699. Note that in the 1990s, modem speeds would rise to 56,000-bps (56k) as their cost plummeted.

Weirdest pull-quote: "I used to call my staff and have them round up all the data. Now I get it myself—me and my mouse." —Robert Schoonmaker, shown clutching a keyboard. Where's his mouse?

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5. Today's Woodworker, 1989

Representative quote: From a section entitled Today's Wood (ahem), "When using properly sharpened cutting tools, you'll discover that ash is rather easy to plane, saw, drill and chisel. However, its tendency to splinter when dull tools are being used is less forgiving than with many species. Ash also offers outstanding staining and finishing qualities."

Most progressive article: New Angles for the Futon Sofa-Bed. It's an astonishingly complex walkthrough of how to build your own, uh, futon sofa-bed. Sample quote: "I use Zar's Wipe on Tung Oil finish."

Best/worst pun: An article entitled, What's in Store: The Blade Runner. Sample quote: "It is intended for cross cutting or ripping pieces that are 31" or shorter...." Ahem. No, it's intended for retiring replicants.

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6. Radio Electronics, 1982

Representative quote: Under the heading "Pocket Computers," we get this: "Once thought of as an impossible fantasy, a true computer that you can slip into your pocket is now a reality. Four such units are now available, with two more on the way." Here's is what one of the devices looked like (not pictured is the optional snap-on printer!):

Most awkward photo: This woman carrying a "truly portable" Osborne 1 computer. It weighed 23.5 pounds. (For the record, it really was an amazing machine in its day.)

Craziest project: Complete instructions to make your own "video titler," a device to add text and graphics (sort of...) to your home videos. It's many pages of hardware assembly, in order to create the "baseball" graphic shown below, on the right. This was pretty amazing in 1982.

Read this magazine online, courtesy of The Internet Archive.

7. Comedy, 1980

Best article: Believing in Buster, an oddly moving profile of two women obsessed with Buster Keaton. Sample quote: "...A remarkable set of documents emerge—transcriptions of her conversations with Keaton's, uh, spirit, in the worldly form of a Ouija board. They are genuine, she assures me."

Most inconvenient truth: in the Sit-Com ratings, we learn that Three's Company is beating M*A*S*H.

Most dated ad: Video Shack, Inc. (with various locations in New York) advertises that "Now, the movies come home to you." Of course, the selections are available on both Beta and VHS.

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8. The Space Gamer, 1989

What it was: The Space Gamer was all about sci-fi/fantasy games, with a special emphasis on role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and GURPS.

Most boundary-crossing article: The Electric Knight: Introducing High Tech Into Fantasy. It suggested bringing "energy lances" and "light swords" into fantasy role-playing games—which, let's face it, is totally fine. But my 11-year-old self would've hated it.

Most period-appropriate game: It's a tie between RPGs based on Ghostbusters and Willow. Behold:

Best ad: "Do monsters haunt your dreams?" Now they will.

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9. Ares, 1980

Best informational table: From the article No, You're Not Going to the Stars, this table explains relativistic effects of space travel, among other things. The whole article is great, including the quote: "Where you get the anti-matter is a good question in itself." Indeed.

Best game: WorldKiller, a complete role-playing game published right in the magazine. It's impressive, and includes the instructions: "Open the magazine to the center, bend the staples with a penknife or screwdriver, life out the rules and close staples." Boom, you just bought a game for three bucks and got a magazine for free!

Most negative review: In the Film & Television column, Scott Bukatman rips into Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He just hates it, calling it "Roddenberry's moralistic fortune cookie." Bukatman has a point, but when he calls it an "empty, joyless film" he loses me.

Read this magazine online, courtesy of The Internet Archive.

10. The American Woodworker, 1985

Yeah, I know, another woodworking magazine. They were big in the '80s! And this one is classy.

Coolest project: The Birth of a Whale Cradle, an article (plus detailed instructions) on how to build a cradle (or LP holder) with playful whale ends. It's adorable, and it actually seems possible to make.

Most awkward ad: Christian Becksvoort selling his book, In Harmony With Wood. The problem is that he left off the price, though he did include the $2 shipping fee. These days you can get it for $7.95 from Amazon.

Weirdest armoire ad: Why does an armoire need to be anything more than an armoire? I guess the "or just a closet" bit seems to handle that all right.

Least helpful pull quote: From The Basics of Steam Bending, this pull quote doesn't add much:

Read this magazine online, courtesy of The Internet Archive.

11. Famous Monsters Film Fantasy Yearbook, 1982

What it was: I'm just going to put this out there: This is not a good magazine. It's amazing. Famous Monsters is basically a poorly-written summary of all the year's best (and/or goriest) movies, with a lot of awkward ads thrown in. I suppose the idea was that if you had seen the movie but wanted to re-live it (remember, most of us—especially kids—didn't have home video at the time), you'd read this silly thing.

Best/worst ad: This is really a tough call, but I have to give it to the $9.95 Dracula soil. Yes, this claims to be one gram of soil from Dracula's castle in a pendant (well, technically it's Vlad the Impaler's castle, but still). Limit three per customer. Just under 10 bucks. Look:

Second worst ad: Yoda Cap & Indiana Jones Action Figure! I was squarely in the target market for both of these products, and I can tell you right now, there was no way 4-year-old me was going to put on a frickin' Yoda Cap, despite the choices of "green, yellow, red, and royal blue" for kids. The Indy action figure? Maybe.

Worst pun in a headline: Ouch.

Second worst pun in a headline This is almost good, but no. No. (I do give them points for an interview including some info about Richard Donner's involvement with Superman II, though.)

Worst action figures: These guys. Wow.

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All images courtesy of The Internet Archive.

The Real Bay of Pigs: Big Major Cay in the Bahamas

When most people visit the Bahamas, they’re thinking about a vacation filled with sun, sand, and swimming—not swine. But you can get all four of those things if you visit Big Major Cay.

Big Major Cay, also now known as “Pig Island” for obvious reasons, is part of the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas. Exuma includes private islands owned by Johnny Depp, Tyler Perry, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, and David Copperfield. Despite all of the local star power, the real attraction seems to be the family of feral pigs that has established Big Major Cay as their own. It’s hard to say how many are there—some reports say it’s a family of eight, while others say the numbers are up to 40. However big the band of roaming pigs is, none of them are shy: Their chief means of survival seems to be to swim right up to boats and beg for food, which the charmed tourists are happy to provide (although there are guidelines about the best way of feeding the pigs).

No one knows exactly how the pigs got there, but there are plenty of theories. Among them: 1) A nearby resort purposely released them more than a decade ago, hoping to attract tourists. 2) Sailors dropped them off on the island, intending to dine on pork once they were able to dock for a longer of period of time. For one reason or another, the sailors never returned. 3) They’re descendants of domesticated pigs from a nearby island. When residents complained about the original domesticated pigs, their owners solved the problem by dropping them off at Big Major Cay, which was uninhabited. 4) The pigs survived a shipwreck. The ship’s passengers did not.

The purposeful tourist trap theory is probably the least likely—VICE reports that the James Bond movie Thunderball was shot on a neighboring island in the 1960s, and the swimming swine were there then.

Though multiple articles reference how “adorable” the pigs are, don’t be fooled. One captain warns, “They’ll eat anything and everything—including fingers.”

Here they are in action in a video from National Geographic:

Photo Illustration by Lucy Quintanilla. Balloon/Poe, iStock
When Edgar Allan Poe Pranked New York City—And Inspired Jules Verne
Photo Illustration by Lucy Quintanilla. Balloon/Poe, iStock
Photo Illustration by Lucy Quintanilla. Balloon/Poe, iStock

On April 13, 1844, a special extra of the New York Sun announced: “ASTOUNDING NEWS! … THE ATLANTIC CROSSED IN THREE DAYS! SIGNAL TRIUMPH OF MR. MONCK MASON’S FLYING MACHINE!!!” According to the article, a balloon heading from England toward Paris had been blown off-course and landed safely near Charleston, South Carolina. The “report” was submitted by a journalist who was also a well-known short-story writer: Edgar Allan Poe.

There was just one problem. He had made the whole thing up.

“The Balloon Hoax,” as it later became known, was Poe’s idea of a calling card. He had just moved to Manhattan, looking for work as a journalist. What better way to announce you’ve arrived than to prank an entire city?

The possibility of balloon travel had ignited the popular imagination since the 1780s, when the Montgolfier brothers built the first balloon to carry a man into the air. By the 1830s, balloonists had successfully crossed the British Channel, and they had begun talking about attempts to cross the Atlantic in earnest.

Newspapers were often full of the exploits of daring aeronauts, and the interest in ballooning apparently led to some fictional takes on the pursuit. Poe’s story in The Sun wasn’t the first: In 1835, Richard Adams Locke published a widely credited account of a balloon reaching the moon. The success infuriated Poe, who had just two months earlier published a story about a man returning from the moon in a balloon, “Hans Pfaall—A Tale.” Poe was certain Locke had plagiarized him, but Locke received all the glory for his “Moon Hoax.” (Ironically, Poe’s own hoax included long sections from the aeronaut Thomas Monck Mason’s 1836 account of his balloon voyage from England to Germany.) Poe decided he would do a little self-promotion while outdoing his old enemy: He submitted the hoax to the same paper that had published Locke’s. The paper published the account with glee, completely unaware that it was fake.

According to Poe's report, a balloon called the Victoria held eight people and made the crossing in 75 hours. At the time, it took two weeks to cross the Atlantic by boat, so the potential for a voyage in which “the broad Atlantic becomes a mere lake,” as one of the passengers supposedly remarked, created quite a stir. Poe later claimed that when the Sun first announced the special Extra with details of the fantastic voyage, “the whole square surrounding the Sun building was literally besieged … I never witnessed more intense excitement to get possession of a newspaper. As soon as copies made their way into the streets, they were bought up, at almost any price, from the newsboys.”

Poe included an abundance of scientific detail to give the article an air of authority, from precise measurements of key components, down to the screws and steel wires, to the combined weight of the fictional passengers (1200 pounds). His main characters were also based on real people: Poe named the pilot after Monck Mason, the famed aeronaut whose accounts he had liberally borrowed from.

The report was picked up in the next day's New York Sunday Times (no connection to The New York Times, which had yet to be founded) and Baltimore Sun. Other papers were less convinced of the report's veracity, and seemed to realize that further news should have come up from Charleston. (One contemporary account suggests that Poe himself revealed the hoax by drunkenly boasting about it in front of the crowd at the newspaper’s headquarters.)

Two days after the hoax first appeared, the New York Sun published a retraction. "The mails from the South last Saturday night not having brought a confirmation of the arrival of the Balloon from England ... we are inclined to believe that the intelligence is erroneous," the paper said. However, they added, "We by no means think such a project impossible." Astoundingly, balloonists would not truly accomplish a trans-Atlantic flight until 1978.

Poe believed his little trick would demonstrate his mastery of scientific description and artful writing. He was so assured of his skill, he didn’t seem to realize that publishing known misinformation would hurt his chances of finding work as a journalist—which is exactly what happened.

But the hoax did inspire someone else: Jules Verne later read it and began working on the adventure that would first bring him fame, Five Weeks in a Balloon, published in 1863. That tale was an immediate success, earning him the financial independence that would allow him to go on to write blockbusters such as A Journey to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in Eighty Days. Whether Poe would have appreciated Verne’s achievements, so heavily influenced by his own work, is another matter.


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