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!

Read this magazine online, courtesy of The Internet Archive.

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:

Read this magazine online, courtesy of The Internet Archive.

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?

Read this magazine online, courtesy of The Internet Archive.

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.

Read this magazine online, courtesy of The Internet Archive.

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.

Read this magazine online, courtesy of The Internet Archive.

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.

Read this magazine online, courtesy of The Internet Archive.

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.

Read this magazine online, courtesy of The Internet Archive.

All images courtesy of The Internet Archive.

Turn Your LEGO Bricks Into a Drone With the Flybrix Drone Kit

Flyxbrix/FatBrain
Flyxbrix/FatBrain

Now more than ever, it’s important to have a good hobby. Of course, a lot of people—maybe even you—have been obsessed with learning TikTok dances and baking sourdough bread for the last few months, but those hobbies can wear out their welcome pretty fast. So if you or someone you love is looking for something that’s a little more intellectually stimulating, you need to check out the Flybrix LEGO drone kit from Fat Brain Toys.

What is a Flybrix LEGO Drone Kit?

The Flybrix drone kit lets you build your own drones out of LEGO bricks and fly them around your house using your smartphone as a remote control (via Bluetooth). The kit itself comes with absolutely everything you need to start flying almost immediately, including a bag of 56-plus LEGO bricks, a LEGO figure pilot, eight quick-connect motors, eight propellers, a propeller wrench, a pre-programmed Flybrix flight board PCB, a USB data cord, a LiPo battery, and a USB LiPo battery charger. All you’ll have to do is download the Flybrix Configuration Software, the Bluetooth Flight Control App, and access online instructions and tutorials.

Experiment with your own designs.

The Flybrix LEGO drone kit is specifically designed to promote exploration and experimentation. All the components are tough and can totally withstand a few crash landings, so you can build and rebuild your own drones until you come up with the perfect design. Then you can do it all again. Try different motor arrangements, add your own LEGO bricks, experiment with different shapes—this kit is a wannabe engineer’s dream.

For the more advanced STEM learners out there, Flybrix lets you experiment with coding and block-based coding. It uses an arduino-based hackable circuit board, and the Flybrix app has advanced features that let you try your hand at software design.

Who is the Flybrix LEGO Drone Kit for?

Flybrix is a really fun way to introduce a number of core STEM concepts, which makes it ideal for kids—and technically, that’s who it was designed for. But because engineering and coding can get a little complicated, the recommended age for independent experimentation is 13 and up. However, kids younger than 13 can certainly work on Flybrix drones with the help of their parents. In fact, it actually makes a fantastic family hobby.

Ready to start building your own LEGO drones? Click here to order your Flybrix kit today for $198.

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17 Odd Things We've Sent to Space for Some Reason

There's a Starman waiting in the sky.
There's a Starman waiting in the sky.

Artifacts, personal and pop cultural totems, and even the dead have made the journey from our planet to the outer reaches of the heavens. We've covered some odd items that have gone to space before; here are 16 more unusual things that took a trip to the cosmos.

1. Human remains

Thanks to Celestis, a company that specializes in booking “memorial spaceflights,” and an agreement with private rocket company SpaceX, the remains of several people who have died have been launched into the great beyond (for a couple of hours, at least). Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's remains were on the inaugural Celestis flight in 1997; his remains took flight again in 2012 with the remains of actor James Doohan, who played Scotty. Astronaut Gordon Cooper’s ashes were also on that flight.

2. A toy dinosaur

In 2020, astronauts aboard SpaceX’s first crewed missions packed an unusual travel companion: a plush dinosaur. During the historic flight, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were accompanied by “Tremor,” a sparkly Apatosaurus. The crews’ sons chose the toy, which acted as a zero-g indicator.

3. Actual dinosaurs

In 1985, astronaut Loren Acton brought small bits of bone and eggshell from the duck-billed dinosaur Maiasaura peeblesorum along on a mission on SpaceLab 2. Thirteen years later, the skull of a meat-eating Coelophysis from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History was a passenger on a trip to the Mir space station.

4. A car

Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster, with Earth in background
Nothing clears the head like a long drive through the stars.

In 2018, Elon Musk took off roading to a whole new level. SpaceX launched a red Tesla Roadster into space as part of the Falcon Heavy rocket’s test flight. “Starman,” a mannequin clad in a spacesuit, sits in the car’s driver’s seat. You can track Starman’s cosmic journey here.

5. Salmonella

Lots of strange things have been brought to space in the name of science—including salmonella. Two shuttle flights to the International Space Station (ISS) contained samples of salmonella to determine how the bacteria would react to low gravity, and the findings were kind of scary. When the salmonella returned to Earth after being in orbit for 12 days on the space shuttle Atlantis, the bacteria became even more virulent. In the first study to examine the effect of space flight on the virulence of a pathogen, the bacteria that had taken a space trip was three times as likely to kill the lab mice as the salmonella that was kept on Earth in as close to similar conditions as possible.

6. Tardigrades

Tardigrades, a.k.a. water bears, became the first animals to survive exposure in outer space. The eight-legged creatures typically spend their days on a moist piece of moss or enjoy feasting on bacteria or plant life at the bottom of a lake, but they survived being frozen at -328°F or heated to more than 300 degrees on their trip to space. The water bears, which typically don’t grow more than 1 millimeter in length, were dehydrated and exposed in space for 10 days by a group of European researchers. Back on Earth and rehydrated, 68 percent of the tardigrades that were shielded from the radiation survived. A handful with no radiation protection not only came back to life, but later produced viable offspring. Excitedly, an “amateur tardigrade enthusiast” theorized the water bears must be extraterrestrial in origin if they can handle such conditions, but that claim has boringly been denied by the Swedish and German scientists, who made up for it by naming their experiment "Tardigrades in space," or TARDIS.

7. Sperm

Without gravity, samples of animal sperm don’t work the way they should. Putting bull sperm in orbit made the tiny cells move faster than usual. Meanwhile, in sea urchin sperm that flew on NASA missions, the process of phosphorylation screeched to a halt when the enzyme known as protein phosphatase didn’t do its job. In 1979, two female rats that went to space became pregnant but didn't carry the fetuses to term, and the males’ testes shrank along with their sperm count. Fortunately (or unfortunately), one creature has been able to reproduce far from our planet: the cockroach.

8. See-through fish (medaka)

Since the medaka’s organs are clearly visible because of its transparent skin, this species of fish was the obvious choice for scientists to test the effects of microgravity on marine life—and to help determine why astronauts suffer from a decrease in bone density while in orbit. Bones naturally break down and rebuild, and osteoclasts help break down bones while they're under construction, as it were. In space, the process gets wonky, which is why astronauts endure two-hour high-intensity exercise routines and take vitamin D supplements. With the medaka’s help, scientists discovered the time-consuming space exercise could be avoided, and by finding the mechanism in bone metabolism, it may lead to the development of an osteoporosis treatment.

9. Soft drinks

Special designed fizzy drinks cans taken aboard Space Shuttle Challenger in 1985
Even astronauts quenched their thirsts with a fizzy treat.
shankar s., Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In 1984, Coca Cola decided it wanted to put the first carbonated beverage on a space shuttle. The company spent $250,000 developing a can that would work without gravity, keep the drink fizzy, and not spill all over the place—even changing some of their formula in the process. After NASA agreed, Pepsi responded by saying it felt left out. NASA then announced that any soft drink manufacturer could participate if they created a viable container. In 1985, four cans of Pepsi and four cans of Coke were on board the Challenger; the day shifters drank Coke, and the night owls consumed the Pepsi. Neither of the sodas were to their liking.

10. Pizza

Pizza Hut wasn’t satisfied with simply being the first company to advertise on a rocket in the year 2000, so one year later it paid the Russian space agency about $1 million to become the first company to deliver a pizza to someone in space. The pizza delivered to cosmonaut Yuri Usachov included a crispy crust, pizza sauce, cheese, and salami (because pepperoni grows moldy over a certain period of time). Extra salt and spices were also added to compensate for the deadening of taste buds from space travel, and it was delivered in a vacuum seal. Usachov gave the pizza a thumbs up.

11. A cheese wheel

A canister containing space cheese
Some truly out-of-this-world cheese.
Chris Thompson/SpaceX, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 2010, SpaceX placed a wheel of Le Brouere cheese on an uncrewed spaceship to honor the classic Monty Python’s Flying Circus cheese shop sketch. To add to the pop culture celebration, SpaceX sealed the cheese wheel in a metal cylinder bearing the image of the film poster from the 1984 Val Kilmer movie Top Secret!. It was claimed to the first cheese to travel to orbit on a commercial spacecraft.

12. A corned beef sandwich

Astronaut John Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich on board the Gemini 3 in 1965. The following exchange was recorded:

Gus Grissom: What is it?
Young: Corn beef sandwich
Grissom: Where did that come from?
Young: I brought it with me. Let’s see how it tastes. Smells, doesn’t it?

The entire incident lasted 30 seconds, with the sandwich only being consumed for 10 of those seconds, before being put back away inside Young’s flight suit.

While legend has it that Yuri Gagarin was accompanied by a homemade salami sandwich in 1961, the Russians had a specialized vacuum kit so they could clean up after eating to prevent any clogging of shuttle equipment. The Americans were just supposed to consume food from tubes, so Young was putting himself somewhat at risk for the five-hour mission. The astronaut got a stern talking to; he later landed on the Moon during the Apollo 16 mission.

13. Guns

Unlike astronauts, Soviet cosmonauts went into space locked and loaded, carrying a triple barrel TP-82 capable of 40 gauge shotgun rounds. The heavy duty weapon was deemed necessary after 1965, when cosmonauts landed on Earth and became stranded in the Ural Mountains. The isolated cosmonauts feared the local wolves and bears would attack them. In 2006, the TP-82s were replaced with a standard semi-automatic.

14. Buzz Lightyear

A Buzz Lightyear toy spent 467 days in space, orbiting the Earth on the ISS before having a ticker-tape parade in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom thrown in his honor. The toy’s namesake, Buzz Aldrin, was a special guest.

15. Amelia Earhart’s watch

Amelia Earhart was the first president of an international organization of licensed women pilots called The Ninety-Nines. One member of that group is astronaut Shannon Walker, who in October 2009 was presented with a watch, owned by current group director Joan Kerwin, that Earhart wore during her two trans-Atlantic flights to bring onboard the ISS. Earhart, of course, was the first female trans-Atlantic passenger in 1928, and flew from Newfoundland to Northern Ireland solo on May 20, 1932. She gave her watch to H. Gordon Selfridge Jr., who passed it along to Ninety-Nines charter member Fay Gillis Wells. Kerwin acquired the watch at an auction.

16. A treadmill named after Stephen Colbert

An astronaut using the COLBERT treadmill
European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers using the COLBERT.

Stephen Colbert, as he is wont to do, managed to crash an online contest. He garnered enough write-in votes and technically won the right to name a room at the space station after himself. Though NASA reserved their right to ignore write-in votes, the agency compromised by naming their second-ever model of treadmills after him, dubbing it the Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill, or COLBERT. The treadmill’s manufacturer nickel-plated the parts, and unlike a standard treadmill, there are elastic straps that fit around a runner’s shoulders and waist to keep them from careening across the space station. The announcement was made by astronaut Sunita Williams on an episode of The Colbert Report; Williams ran a marathon on the previous treadmill while living at the space station in 2007, jogging in place with the concurrent Boston Marathon.

17. An issue of Playboy Magazine

Some members of the backup crew of Apollo 12 included some Playboy spreads on the crew’s checklists, which were attached to Pete Conrad and Alan L. Bean’s wrists as they explored the lunar landscape. Astronaut Richard Gordon, who stayed in orbit around the Moon during the mission, also found a topless DeDe Lind calendar hidden in a locker, which was labeled “Map of a Heavenly Body.”