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OMNI Magazine Remembered 131

An anonymous reader noted that Slate is doing a bit of a retrospective on OMNI. If you're anything like me, reading it was a treat. At home I suffered through Popular Mechanics, but OMNI was what I wished I had. There's many interesting things in the article, like the fact that OMNI is the place where William Gibson first coined the term "Cyberspace."
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OMNI Magazine Remembered

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  • Hot Alien Chicks (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sleen ( 73855 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @01:28PM (#30643026)

    The Alien Chicks with the glossy lips were hot!

    But yeah, loved that magazine and especially the short stories. Not very reliable science stuff but overall a very optimistic and stylish mag that back then was a nice counterpoint to Heavy Metal which was less rooted in reality.

    But both had Hot Alien Chicks! :)

    • by gandhi_2 ( 1108023 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @01:31PM (#30643074) Homepage

      It was like National Geographic and Heavy Metal had a baby. I used to love that magazine.

    • by Chapter80 ( 926879 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @02:20PM (#30643742)

      My parents didn't allow me to subscribe to OMNI because it was a Penthouse publication.

      Unlike my friends, who all had stashes of porn that they hid, I had stashes of Omni.
      It's sad to grow up as a geek.

      Yes, those Alien Chicks were hot.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yes, those Alien Chicks were hot.

        Dude. It was a Penthouse publication. The letters to the editor weren't real!

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        It wasn't at first, when G Jrs took it over he drove it into the ground with mindless Lochness monster and ufo crap.

    • by Zurk ( 37028 )

      i 3'd omni. the scifi stories were awesome (like gravity's angel about the SSC) and i still keep a bunch of issues lying around.

    • by inicom ( 81356 )

      I was a early subscriber to OMNI (I still have the first few issues somewhere in storage). I loved it, and there were many things in it the encouraged me in science and was more accessible than Scientific American (which I subscribed to concurrently). It also led me on all sorts of incredible tangents for intellectual exploration. Basically, in many ways for me it was replaced by the Internet.

      I would call Mondo 2000 the better example (versus Heavy Metal) of a more frivolous version of OMNI - tackling sim

      • Anybody know where to get back issues or scanned issues of Mondo 2000? Whole thing seems to have dropped off the face of the earth, except for a few single issues that surface occasionally on Amazon.

  • by haruchai ( 17472 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @01:28PM (#30643032)

    OMNI had the coolest illustrators of the day - about the only one of my longstanding favorites that I don't recall ever seeing
    in the mag was Frank Frazetta.

  • (by 2010, robots will--yes!--"clean the rug, iron the clothes, and shovel the snow.")

    Roomba is there. and they have these dryer cabinets that dry your shirts on the hanging on a rack so you don't have to iron them. and global warming will mean no more shoveling of snow.

    • by AndrewNeo ( 979708 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @01:47PM (#30643270) Homepage

      and global warming will mean no more shoveling of snow.

      Tell that to my driveway!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by JWSmythe ( 446288 )

      Actually, there's a tech way to handle driveway snow. Google for "driveway snowmelt system" []. A heated driveway will take care of all that pesky snow, and help ensure global warming for the rest of the planet with the wasted energy. :)

      Actually, Wikipedia says that automatic systems are fairly efficient, only running while snow is falling at your driveway.

      I don't know how long they've been available, or how good they are. I don't live in snow country. Gimme a r

    • And if you want to get rid of built up snow, just chuck a 360 into the middle of it and turn it on. Shouldn't take long. I don't think that acutally playing a game on it actually warms it any more than it is while idle, it will melt snow regardless.

  • It was OK (Score:4, Informative)

    by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @01:29PM (#30643052) Homepage Journal

    It was more on an entertainment magazine than a science magazine really. I always prefered to get my Sci Fi straight up via publications like Analog, but I found Omni to be entertaining often enough in my youth. It really was more Sci Fi than a true science mag though.

    • I don't know if it's because I changed or the magazine did, but my love of OMNI slacked off as I started to see it as a glossy, stapled version of Weekly World News, with stuff about UFOs and yeti being passed off as "science" (or even as serious "science fiction").

    • It was more on an entertainment magazine than a science magazine really. I always prefered to get my Sci Fi straight up via publications like Analog, but I found Omni to be entertaining often enough in my youth. It really was more Sci Fi than a true science mag though.

      I would say that Omni was more of a Futurist magazine with a good dose of Sci-Fi writing as well. The format made it one of the best glossy mags of it's time as far as style. I also subscribed to Popular Science and Popular Mechanics, I left the reading of Popular Electronics to one of my friends.

  • by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @01:31PM (#30643072) Journal

    "Why pizza burns the roof of the mouth" articles that ran on the last page. 2 or 3, IIRC, arguing over whether it was the Melted Mozzarella Layer (MML) or Tomato Sauce Layer (TSL) that caused the burning.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Shivetya ( 243324 )

      I would like to find a copy for some of the strange contests they ran, one which was about plausible sounding explanation for common occurrences, which included why people yawn in reaction to others yawning is that they do so to balance the barometric pressure. That one and my favorite about a real perpetual motion machine, strapping buttered bread to the backs of cats in a ferris wheel arrangement where both sides naturally want to be bottom first.

      Of course they had a few cars and trucks of tomorrow issue

      • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @02:16PM (#30643672) Homepage Journal

        I cut and pasted the top of the page here, go to the link to read it in all its glory. []

        Results of a contest for "theories" sponsored by Omni magazine.
        Back -- Next


        When a cat is dropped, it always lands on its feet. And when toast is dropped, it always lands with the buttered side facing down. I propose to strap buttered toast to the back of a cat; the two will hover, spinning inches above the ground. With a giant buttered cat array, a high-speed monorail could easily link New York with Chicago. [see below for further info on buttered cats - Ed.]


        #1 If an infinite number of rednecks riding in an infinite number of pickup trucks fire an infinite number of shotgun rounds at an infinite number of highway signs, they will eventually produce all the world's great literary works in Braille.

        #2 Why Yawning Is Contagious: You yawn to equalize the pressure on your eardrums. This pressure change outside your eardrums unbalances other people's ear pressures, so they must yawn to even it out.

        #3 Communist China is technologically underdeveloped because they have no alphabet and therefore cannot use acronyms to communicate ideas at a faster rate.

        #4 The earth may spin faster on its axis due to deforestation. Just as a figure skater's rate of spin increases when the arms are brought in close to the body, the cutting of tall trees may cause our planet to spin dangerously fast.


        The quantity of consonants in the English language is constant. If omitted in one place, they turn up in another. When a Bostonian "pahks" his "cah," the lost r's migrate southwest, causing a Texan to "warsh" his car and invest in "erl wells."

    • I think that might have been the "Last Word" section. I still remember an article saying "I've always been afraid of clowns. I wonder if it has something to do with a clown killing my father". Did Jack Handy rip that off for SNL's "Deep Thoughts", or did he write for Omni as well?
    • "It's Meat" short story - a memorable discussion among sentient-energy aliens baffled at their discovery of thinking, traveling, talking, singing meat, and their eventual decision to ignore it as repugnant.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Terry Bisson's They're Made of Meat []

        One of my all-time favorites for what it makes you think of the end, somewhat like some of Asimov's stories that were only two or three pages.

        • by jonom ( 109588 )
          Wow, thanks for finding that link. Don't think I've read that story since it first came out!
  • by RyuuzakiTetsuya ( 195424 ) <taiki.cox@net> on Monday January 04, 2010 @01:32PM (#30643092)

    It lived with a solid core of futurism. Futurism is kind of dead now, now that we're using phones to surf the web and cops are using sonic weapons against crowds. The future's here and Omni guessed a lot of it right in the 70's and 80's.

    Only if Letters to Penthouse could be this accurate. BRB. Pizza delivery girl is here.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by marquis111 ( 94760 )

      I noticed this phenomenon about a decade back. Used to be in the 70s and 80s, when you went to Walt Disney World in Florida, it had this solid "golly gee" factor when talking about the future, especially at Epcot or Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom. I don't pick up on that so much now; in fact I pick up on a definite retrospective and/or nostalgic feeling when I go there. It's like, now that pretty much any thing is possible technologically, talking about something that's not present but possible is jus

      • [Mother]

        Now far off to your right, we have a welcome neighbor...


        Our GE nuclear power plant, dear.

      • by osu-neko ( 2604 )

        ... It's like, now that pretty much any thing is possible technologically, talking about something that's not present but possible is just an exercise in talking about something that will be here when the engineers figure out how to make it profitably.

        Yeah, unfortunately everything futuristic you might talk about falls into two categories: (1) things that half the people you talk to will be surprised doesn't already exist, or (2) things that will convince people you're a nut waiting to upload. There is no middle ground, everything is either here (at least in the lab) or techno-religion in the common view. We simply don't believe in the future anymore. It's either the present, or it's fantasy...

    • by Kozz ( 7764 )

      Only if Letters to Penthouse could be this accurate. BRB. Pizza delivery girl is here.

      That was fabulous, thanks for that. :-)

      +1, Underrated!

      • by Sleen ( 73855 )

        Agreed, I really enjoyed that one! :) With that primer, anyone care to finish it off?

    • Only if Letters to Penthouse could be this accurate.

      Well, it *was* published by Bob Guccioni. (Which means if it were still in print, it'd be full of urinating female robots by now...)

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      I hated when the futurist culture died. I'm enjoy the ideas behind it but people right now aren't sure what direction it's going to take, most scifi is way way too far out. And there's very few writers who are looking at things on a shorter scale 10-50yrs.

  • Man that just flicked the coolest retro switch in my head ... guess its time to read Neuromancer again.

    • by blair1q ( 305137 )


      I'm a technical boy, too.

      (Reaches into gym bag.)

    • Yes, you can thank OMNI's fiction editor Ellen Datlow for publishing William Gibson's first short story, "Johnny Mnemonic" way back when and launching his stellar career. And I thank OMNI's features editor Pamela Weintraub for buying my first article in the last days of the magazine's life as a dead tree publication.

  • But at least we managed to bomb it. NOW it knows who's boss!


  • I once saw a new magazine on the news stand called "The world in Focus" billing itself as a whole newsstand of features for £1.75. It later became Focus, which became BBC Focus, which I think is still running. Was a pretty good read last time I saw it in the UK. There was a time when it had an editor who had a good sense of humour and the articles were written in a light-hearted way. For example there was one about what Europe would have looked like had Napoleon stopped trying to annex every bit of

  • Vernor Vinge first mentions the Technological Singularity in the January 1983 issue in the First Word. I've got that one in a closet along with all the first 3 years except the first issue.
    • by sh00z ( 206503 )

      Vernor Vinge first mentions the Technological Singularity in the January 1983 issue in the First Word. I've got that one in a closet along with all the first 3 years except the first issue.

      Would you like my copy of the first issue? It's the only issue *I* have. It's nearly complete, but I have to confess that in my pure teenage geekiness, I cut out and used the Enterprise iron-on page ("A spaceship has landed on Earth--it came from Rockwell") [].

  • until the mass media got a hold of it. Then it was cyberthis and cyberthat. Nowadays, every time I see the cyber prefix, I want to find William Gibson and smack him one on the mouth.
  • I only remember this as the other publication by the publisher of the once-great Penthouse. ;-)

    Porn or science, resistance is futile to the Internet. ;-)

  • Wow. That takes me back. My dad got me a subscription to OMNI in the late 80's. It was always a good day when the latest ish would show up on the kitchen table when I got home from school. When it folded I looked around for something to replace it, but there never really was its equal. Wired came close during its peak in the mid- to late-90s, but it didn't have the usually short fiction or kooky charm. Realms of Fantasy magazine continues to be my source for short fiction (though it was strictly fantasy, no

  • Great mag (Score:3, Informative)

    by jmyers ( 208878 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @01:48PM (#30643284)

    Oh man I used to love this mag, I had long forgotten about it. I subscribed for several years. I was in college from '78-'81 and that is that main period I remember reading. I read an article about the development of video games and how flight simulator technology was being applied. When I left college I went in the air force and became a flight simulator technician. I chose that job from the list based on reading about it in Omni.

    Definitely the best decision I ever made. I found I had a knack for technology and working on/with computers. At my high school there were no computers, most people had never seen one. I never saw a computer in college except maybe in the administration building when they took my money. If I had not read that article and chosen a technology field in the AF I would probably be a burnt out school teacher.

  • For years, I kept the very first edition of OMNI magazine safe in my room at my father's house.

    Trips to work in Yellowstone, five years in the Navy and my travels since, last time I checked, the magazine was no longer in the bedroom any more as of about 10 years ago. Seems dad threw it out with a few other things he considered "clutter". Oh well. :/

    • by obyom ( 999186 )

      Weren't the first issues of OMNI named NOVA? I think the title was changed because of the TV show, NOVA.

      • Not sure, but the first issue I had of OMNI, was the first issue named "OMNI". /shurg

      • by haruchai ( 17472 )

        I think there were ads in Penthouse or other mags announcing Nova but the name was changed to OMNI before the first issue went to print.

  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @01:51PM (#30643326) Homepage
    I read it occasionally when I was a little kid. The combination of actual science along with fringe or outright pseudoscientific claims (alien visitations and hauntings seemed common choices) left a lasting impression on me as a kid. I ended up eventually adopting a sane, skeptical outlook but it took many years. I have to wonder how many people got lost in nonsense from reading OMNI at an impressionable age and never really recovered.
    • Or how many of us now watch SyFy (still hating the name change, as much as when Omni left for the web). I used to steal my big brothers copies and read them and loved this magazine. Guess its a good thing I didnt take his Penthouse and Playboys as often, or I would have thought that was how women are supposed to look and act ALL the time.
      • It isn't really the same. When something is on a channel labeled science fiction has all sorts of clearly fictional material it isn't going to have the same potential impact. Also, OMNI wasn't the only influence in that regard, but one of a few.
  • Sadly as a growing adolescent it became clear to me Omni had jumped the shark when they showed full page color illustrations of dinosaurs a featured article. Omni, I loved you, but that was the end.
  • Mondo 2000 (Score:3, Informative)

    by British ( 51765 ) <> on Monday January 04, 2010 @02:00PM (#30643440) Homepage Journal

    Anyone remember Mondo 2000? I bought & read issues of that, but looking back, it was just pure performance art garbage. I swear that magazine tried to worship anyone related to The WELL in every issue. Oooh! Circuit bending! Ooh! My life on a webcam! Boy did that get old.

    • I subscribed to Mondo 2000. The premise looked great, but it fell apart quickly. I didn't resubscribe. It sounds like nobody else did either.

      Nowadays I subscribe to New Scientist, buy Sky & Telescope at the news stand, and have fond memories of how un-cool Scientific American used to be. Omni never really did it for me.


  • Back in the 80s I recall reading an article in OMNI that debunked many of the popular sci-fi myths. Among the notable points:

    * Invisibility implies blindness since your retinas wouldn't absorb any light.

    * Time travel without space travel would suck too, since you'd most likely re-materialize in empty space.

    * Giant insects will collapse under the own weight.

    • by osu-neko ( 2604 )

      * Time travel without space travel would suck too, since you'd most likely re-materialize in empty space.

      This criticism has always bugged me. Setting aside the fact that it's probably as absurd to postulate time travel without space travel as it is to postulate space travel without time travel (you arrive at your destination at the moment you leave your starting point? I don't think so...), it implies an absolute space-time frame that violates the fundamental assumptions of relativity. Somehow, the moment you activate your time machine, relativity is supposed to get thrown out the window and we're to assume

  • OMNI was ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by notpaul ( 181662 )

    OMNI rocked in all the ways that matter.

    As mentioned, the sci-fi, the science, the palpable sensuality of it's envisioned future ... it was the death of OMNI which led me to seek solace in the emergent WIRED. For a time, it was a suitable heir.

    And the death of WIRED (just try and argue that it ain't) has led me ... nowhere.

    I'd gladly pay $36 a year for a worthy successor to either one.

  • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Monday January 04, 2010 @02:24PM (#30643798) Homepage

    Omni died for one simple and oft overlooked reason - it stayed in stasis from the day of it's birth. Really, pick up practically any issue from the late 1980's and compare it to any issue from the early years - and it's exactly the same, stylistically, thematically, and in content. The world moved on and Omni didn't.
    Hence, it's readership and ad revenue declined steadily across the 80's, leading to the now infamous 'ad-on-the-cover'. In the background, but increasingly visible in the contents, the editors frantically tried to update their material without actually changing their editorial philosophy. By the time it died, it was already a relic propped up only by the unwillingness of Guccione to either change the status quo or to disconnect the feeding tube.

  • I was a charter subscriber to OMNI. Actually, it wasn't OMNI I subscribed to, it was called NOVA at the time. There was apparently was a fuss made by WGBH and their NOVA TV series so the magazine's name was changed to OMNI before the first issue was published.

    In the beginning it was quite good but in the later years it veered into pseudo-science and other nonsense and I lost interest and let my subscription lapse.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Actually, in NEVER launched as OMNI, it's name was change from Nova before the launch.

      And yes, once G. Jr took it over it turned into a waste land of nonsense.

  • I still have a bunch of copies stashed away somewhere that I found when cleaning out my dad's attic. Now I want to go find them! Good winter project for one of these weekends...
  • I really wish I could find a comprehensive online index. A few things I'd really like to read:

    --The world's hardest crossword puzzle. A friend and I worked on this together, spending hours ( pre-WWW ) at the library searching for answers to clues like "four dimensional hypercube" and "piniped". I'd like to give it a go now with Google's help as well as seeing the answers, which I never saw.

    --Someone took a mobile home and worked to make it as energy efficient as possible. I remember it was super-insulat

  • I loved the magazine, then they became a magazine for the supernatural and other crap that I could care less about.

    It was a nice run for the first year or so, then I stopped buying it.
  • ..and its founder... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by XB-70 ( 812342 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @03:15PM (#30644462)
    I was hired as part of the launch of Omni magazine and worked with Bob Guccione for a couple of days. He struck me as a complete greaseball opportunist [not that that's a bad thing - Ed.].

    Later that year, I was at a trade show in Dallas. His other publication, Penthouse was present as well as his competitor - Playboy.

    The contrast between the two companies could not have been more different. The Playboy booth was marginally tasteful and people were laughing and enjoying themselves with the pretty 'girls-next-door' - OK, 'fantasy-girls-next-door'.

    The Penthouse booth was full of wary, pouting sluts who paced from side-to-side as they were beeing leered at by the mostly male passers-by. It looked more like a zoo enclosure than a booth.

    Omni was somewhat similar in that it wrote in a style that was condescending and often trite. Here or there, I enjoyed an article, but most of it was so fanciful as to be disengenuous.

    In short, I don't miss it.

  • It was part of the era of when scientists were still able to dream big! I remember an article from Dr. Forward (God bless him and may he rest in peace) using condensed matter to nullify gravity, seriously excellent article.
  • I definitely have some fond memories of looking through my dad's stacks of OMNI. Of course, I also liked looking through his stacks of Penthouse...

    OMNI had a lot of neat-o stuff, like some pretty awesome paper airplane designs. It was also the first place I saw a stereogram, which at the time was just an array of black and white dots, but started showing up everywhere a few years later, in colour, as those "Magic Eye" pictures.

    Didn't care too much for all the supernatural stuff, but I always liked that mont

  • Reading OMNI always felt a bit like an exercise in wishful thinking. It was like reading car magazines that feature incredible prototypes. Yes they're awesome, but you're never going to see one in your lifetime. OMNI was about what was possible, not what was actually happening.

    To read about real advances, I preferred Scientific American [], especially back when Martin Gardner [] wrote for them. Prior to that, I never used the terms "recreational" and "mathematics" in the same sentence.

    On a side note, there was a

    • Yep, OMNI was what I had to buy because the stores in my small town didn't regularly carry Scientific American. Later I got a subscription to Sci-Am, but by then they were starting their downhill slide toward being a Discover clone. Very sad.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The short story Johnny Menmonic [] first appeared in OMNI, and was probably my first exposure to Gibson as a kid. The other OMNI SF story that sticks in my head was Sandkings by George R. R. Martin. OMNI showcased some great SF and art. The art for Johnny Menmonic was a Helnwein self-portrait - some of you might recognize it as the cover of the Scorpions album Blackout, similar to the cover of Rammstein's Sehnsucht. There was even an occasional long poem.

    I also recall an issue where there were various poli

    • If you never got a chance to read Gibson's writing in Canadian sf fanzines in the late 1970s and 1980s, "Johnny Mnemonic" would have been everyone's first exposure to him, since that was his first professionally published short story. Omni's fiction editor, Ellen Datlow, launched the careers of several sf writers back in those days. George R.R. Martin had stories published much earlier in magazines like F&SF, Analog and Isaac Asimov's SF Magazine, but Omni paid higher rates for fiction than the other

  • ... glossy, slick, intelligent in the right places, readable from cover to cover. Orson Scott Card's A Thousand Deaths was my first introduction to him, and that story still creeps me out. When Omni's staff inexplicably began to promote those silly UFO and parapsychology pieces, I allowed my subscription to lapse.
  • Sitting on my bookshelf is the first issue, with a copy of the ORIGINAL Ad for the magazine (I assume Dad cut it out of Penthouse - I was a tad young), with it's Original name - NOVA

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      It was never released as NOVA. It was initially advertised as Nova, niot no release was made.

      Now if you have a print copy that was produced and then scrapped, it might be worth some series bucks.

      • by CharlieG ( 34950 )

        I have a copy of the AD for it called NOVA, not the Mag. I have Issue 1 of Omni - with a full page ad for "Nova" showing the cover

  • I loved it in the early- and middle-years of its publication; there certainly wasn't anything else like it. I was young so perhaps it would not strike me the same now.

    Later towards its death, it veered way off into "bigfoot and UFO hunting" stuff. If you had been reading it all along, you could tell the end was near.
  • I recently watched the movie 2010 in honor of it actually being 2010. There was a scene with Dr. Floyd sitting at the beach using a laptop with an OMNI magazine next to him that I think was supposed to show what an intellectual he was. :)
  • Yes I remember OMNI fondly right along with Future magazine. I even have the OMNI music collection.

  • by rpjs ( 126615 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @05:48AM (#30652926)

    Back in the early 80s my mother developed angina, and was prescribed nitroglycerine tablets for it - you popped one under your tounge when you felt the onset of chest pains and it helped keep your coronary arteries open. Although they worked, as they were reactive rather than proactive, they weren't so useful if the chest pains and breathlessness were particularly debillitating. Then OMNI had a short piece about a new treatment from the US: a patch that contained the drug and slowly released it through the skin to stop the angina attacks happening in the first place. I showed this to my mum, who showed it her doctors and she became just the second woman in the whole UK to receive the treatment.

    Thanks OMNI, I still miss you.

  • I built my first hexahexaflexagon following instructions and cutting up the pages of Omni...good times. Beautiful little paper topographical wonder.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"