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All back issues of Omni magazine now available online (omni.media)
148 points by artsandsci on June 2, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 28 comments

For people young enough to never have known a world without cell phones and the Web, it can be difficult to explain what it was like to grow up in the generation prior.

In most mundane details of daily life, things actually haven't changed THAT between the 1980's and today. Cartridge razors had 2 blades instead of 3 or 5+. We had Walkmans and mixtapes instead of streaming devices and playlists. Fast food portion sizes were smaller. Etc.

But being a nerdy kid, especially in rural areas where there were fewer educated workers influencing the local culture, was hell. Not to say that it probably isn't challenging today. But the TOTAL isolation back then was on a different scale. You couldn't pull up a Reddit, or whatever, and connect on some level to other disaffected kids. You were just completely... alone.

Back in the 1980's, the mailbox was my Internet. I subscribed to SO many magazines. Back in those days, a lot of the advertisements had notes like, "For more information, send a postcard to this address". As much as I dislike ads now, back then I would actually send those postcards, out of sheer boredom.

I would write to random companies, asking for product samples, and most would deliver. One day I was curious about how batteries work, so I wrote the Rayovac battery company... saying that I was working on a school project (I wasn't), and asking for information on how batteries work. They sent me a huge box of fascinating technical documentation. That was over 30 years ago, and I still buy nothing but Rayovac batteries to this day.

When I read a sci-fi or fantasy book that I really liked, I would write a letter to the author by way of the publisher's address. More often than not, they would write back. Usually by hand.

I received probably 12 pieces of mail per day, every day. Trips to the mailbox were magical. That was my Internet.

Anyway... I started this comment just to say that Omni was my favorite of all those magazine subscriptions. Just kinda took a weird nostalgic turn from there.

The August 1979 issue had Sandkings, which I read as a kid in Omni. It won the Hugo and Nebula for best short story.


I will never forget reading Sandkings in Omni as a kid. I couldn't sleep that night

They made that story into an episode of Outer Limits (the less-good reboot).

I still have a complete set. Mostly in excellent condition except for the first issue, which had a space shuttle iron-on transfer (which I cut out and ironed onto a T-shirt, which for some reason I also still have).

The ad (and transfer) said: "A spaceship has landed on earth. It came from Rockwell." I still remember it well.

As soon as you mentioned the iron-on, I knew exactly what you meant. It was so cool: printed backwards of course, so it would work as an iron-on.

I was in fifth grade. I was a subscriber from day 1.

I gave up a complete set when we moved here, so now some other Los Alamos oddball has ten boxes in their garage. And I don't have to scan them.

Omni changed my life. That Pete Turner photo on the first cover was like nothing I'd ever seen before.

No magazine since has come close to having that perfect blend of hard science, soft science, art, fiction, futurology, fun, and occasional weirdness, all wrapped up in a package with high production values.

You win the internet for the day.

Worth noting is that, while the back issues are available online, they are not freely so - they were removed from the Internet Archive in the recent past, and are now for sale for $2.99 each from Amazon, or free with Kindle Unlimited.

The scans which were on IA were, frankly, crap. Terrible resolution, grainy quality, tons of artifacts - and the text varied from "mostly readable" to "lolwhutbbq"...

$2.99 isn't a bad price - but I do wonder if you can get it as an unencumbered, non-DRM format (or at least a PDF). Perhaps I'll buy one of the issues, and see what you get.

I've been (slowly) building a physical collection of the issues; I've managed to get the first couple of years (plus the premier issue). It's really an amazing magazine - it's too bad that it ceased being published. In a way, though, we are living in the present of the future Omni hinted at. Not the same future, not the best future, but an amalgamation of it - bits and pieces. So perhaps such a magazine doesn't fit with our current situation (that isn't to say a future publication couldn't do the same later, though).

I tossed a milk create full of old omni magazines from the late 80s and early 90s about 6 months ago. Did not realize they were at all desirable. I almost donated them to a local kindergarten class but thought that the robot-insect artwork would be too scary for the little ones. Not to mention all the cigarette ads!

Anyone interested in some "fine homebuilding" magazines from the 80s? They are destined to end up in the bin as well.

Definitely worth contacting Jason Scott at the Internet Archive to see.

Heh, do you have some old Radio-Electronics issues? Or Compute?

Having known nothing about the magazine before clicking this, I find it interesting that "Omni" conjured an image in my head that very matches what the magazine actually ended up being.

Some of my favorite issues are the ones with ultra hard IQ tests, the LAIT, Mega Test, and Titan Test, which appeared in 1979, 1985, and 1990, always in April. Some info on those tests is available at miyaguchi.4sigma.org (or simply 4sigma.org).

Sample question from the Mega Test: What is the maximum number of completely bounded volumes that can be formed by three interpenetrating cubes, considering only the surfaces of the cubes as bounds and counting only volumes that are not further subdivided?

I don't think that qualifies as an IQ test. But it's fun to visualize.

2 cubes you can hit 8 by having the inter cube rotated so it's producing an edge from each of the 6 faces each just C2, then 2 volumes one from C1 and 1 from C1 & C2.

Adding a third offset cube to that geometry would give 3 protrusion per face (c2, c3, c2 & c3) * 6 = 18 Inside would have cube C1, C1 & C2, C1 & C3, C1 & C2 & C3 = 4 with the most obvious orientation. So minimum bound of 22.

However, you can push that push that higher by keeping 2 of the exterior points aligned on C2/C3 and rotating C2 and C3. So, now 4 faces are still at 3, but 2 faces have 7. Making 26 just on the outside + C1 + C1 & C2 & C3 + 4 * C1 & C2, 4 * C1 & C3 = 10 inside. For a total of 36 assuming I am counting the insides correctly.

I don't see anything obvious to improve this.

> 2 cubes you can hit 8 by having the inter cube rotated so it's producing an edge from each of the 6 faces each just C2, then 2 volumes one from C1 and 1 from C1 & C2.

Seems like you should be able to get at least 11 with 2 cubes. 8 triangular prisms and 3 "interior" sections corresponding to what you get with 2 spheres.

I'm not entirely clear on what "not further subdivided" limits but ... for 3 cubes each face of the first cube can hold 6 volumes of the other cubes (2 overlapping triangular pyramids), then 8 sections of the vertices of the base cube and the interior which is at least 1. That's 45.

I suspect you can go higher than what I was thinking, but not necessarily with the same sized cubes and picturing 3 cubes without pencil an paper is very mind bending.

Anyway, cubes have 8 corners, but I am having trouble visualizing them coming out of the six faces like your describing while sectioning the inner parts into 3 sections. Can you describe the relative size and orientation your thinking of?

PS: It's easy to be thinking of an Octahedron not a cube inside like so: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dual_Cube-Octahedron...

> cubes have 8 corners, but I am having trouble visualizing them coming out of the six faces like your describing

Yeah that was some bad extrapolating. Uncle Google gave me a helpful picture [1] but I'll try and work through the math the right way:

Starting with two cubes: two of the faces of the base cube will have prisms and four of the faces will have a tetrahedron.

Adding a third cube you can either have the prism faces on the same side or not.

The former gives two faces with 5 volumes (prisms intersecting) and 4 faces with 7 (tetrahedrons intersecting).

The latter gives 4 faces with 5 volumes (tetrahedron intersecting prism) and 2 faces with 7 volumes (tetrahedrons intersecting). So go with prisms on the same side.

This tells us there's 38 volumes completely outside C1 - 32 truly exterior pieces that are only part of C2 or C3 and 6 interior where C2 and C3 overlap on each face. Repeating this process for C2 and C3 will count all the truly exterior pieces twice 32 * 3 / 2 = 48 exterior pieces.

There are 6 volumes for each combination of 2 cubes so 6 * C(3,2) = 18 intersections of two cubes.

And there's one dodecahedron in the center where all 3 cubes overlap.

48 + 18 + 1 = 67 which appears to be the correct answer according to quora.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compound_of_three_cubes

Cool, I realized you could get 4 not just 2 faces to 7 with summitry. And you could increase the interior volumes if the three bases of the triangular pyramid extending to the edge of the cube. But, I had yet to work out you could get five volumes on the final two sides that way.


I think it was a column in Omni that posed this interesting problem: a bunch of gunmen are randomly distributed in a large field. Each gunman simultaneously fires, shooting his nearest neighbor.

What is the probability that a given gunman gets shot?

Note: A common mistake is to assume that if X's nearest neighbor is Y then Y's nearest neighbor is X.

Burning Chrome by William Gibson, July 1982. First use of the word 'Cyberspace'.

Very cool.

That said, one of the best things about Omni (and similar) was the surprise of each issue coming in the mail (or picking it up on a news stand). Such (multi-nationals) experiences define a brand, and etch themselves into the human memory (and heart).

Big fan of this magazine growing up. Just noticed that the January '87 cover is titled with "14 Great Minds Predict The Future" Curious to see now what exactly those 30-year-old predictions were :)

Omni was the magazine Wired aspires to be.

I may or may not have taken the human-alien hybrid test a little bit seriously as a kid.

Url changed from http://boingboing.net/2017/06/02/all-back-issues-of-omni-mag..., which points to this.

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