We're a pirate mind-station, the New Edge
December 5, 2004 11:57 AM   Subscribe

A history of Mondo 2000 : "It had arrived at a particular moment where there was at least a subculture of people in the computer community that were ready for it," remembers Sirius. "At the time there was no competition at all. There was absolutely nothing to compare it to. It talked about how technology was important in our lives at a time when people were in denial about it."
posted by ori (33 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Uh.... don't forget Processed World, which began publication in 1981. From Issue 1, April of that year:

Today in the Bay Area, a related kind of system is being developed. "Community Memory" is being designed to facilitate the decentralized, non-hierarchical sharing of information, needs, skills and resources, or anything else that can be typed into a keyboard: philosophical or political opinions, recipes, personal advertisements. According to a Community Memory publication,

"Community Memory is ... an open channel for community communications and information exchange, and a way for people with common interests to find each other. It is a tool for collective thinking, planning, organizing, fantasizing and decision-making.

"By being open and interactive, Community Memory seeks to present an alternative to broadcast media such as TV. It makes room for the exchange of people-to-people information, recognizing and legitimating the ability of people to decide for themselves what information they want.

The projected incarnation of Community Memory is a broad dispersion of computer terminals in public places, such as community center, libraries, stores and bus stations. ..

"The designers of Community Memory would like to see a world not broken up into nation states, but one built upon overlapping regions of concern, from household to neighborhood to interest group to work group, from geographical region to globe where decisions are made by all those affected. This would be a world where power is distributed and governance is the process of collectively trving to determine the best action to be taken, via general discussion and complete dissemination of information. With this vision, the Community Memory system has been designed to be a communications tool for a working community."

posted by jokeefe at 12:26 PM on December 5, 2004 [2 favorites]

Yeah, Wired blew them away, and I was sad when Mondo 2K was relegated to distinct second place in the techno-slickies. ( read M2K from ish 1, which I still have!)

I wondered later if investors favored Wired over M2K because of Sirius' heavy psychedelic bent, which, to me was one of many things that made me look forward to releases of his mag.
posted by telstar at 1:16 PM on December 5, 2004

Yeah, Wired blew them away, and I was sad when Mondo 2K was relegated to distinct second place in the techno-slickies. ( read M2K from ish 1, which I still have!)

M2K started life as Reality Hackers; I've a few of those stacked in the closet. Anyway, RH was quite nice, with an odd hippy-hacker view of the world. (High Frontiers was perhaps akin to Claustrophobia, which focused on privatization of space flight and colonization).

Wired began OK, but soon devolved into a techno-hipster catalog with the occasional article; because it was printed, the news was old by the time it hit the stands.

Boing -boing mag was another one along those lines that was nice for a bit; the Web site has some interesting items, though often buried in surreal christian phobia and faux liberal FUD.
posted by Ayn Marx at 2:22 PM on December 5, 2004

To this day, Wired still smells strongly of Mondo.

In 1995 this might have still been true. These days Wired reminds me more of Forbes crossed with Stuff.
posted by meehawl at 2:29 PM on December 5, 2004

I miss the old Boing Boing magazine. I was just thumbing through my copy of the Happy Mutant Handbook the other day, and wondering how many of these things (websites, zines, etc.) were still up and running.
posted by Vidiot at 2:44 PM on December 5, 2004

I hated Mondo before it was cool to hate Mondo!

Really, at least by 1991-92, it was just a bunch of Gibson-worshipping, fake-smart-drugs taking, virtual-dildo-using hippy nonsense.

The worst part (for me, in 1992) was the fake electronic crap they would paste to models to show the "cyborg future." They'd have like a motherboard from a TI-99/4a pasted to some poor guy's genitals. Cyberpunk!
posted by Mid at 3:07 PM on December 5, 2004

I so wish we ended up in Mondo's future instead of Wired's. There were so many more biofeedback devices.
posted by VulcanMike at 3:13 PM on December 5, 2004

So what's a geek psychonaut to read now?

I miss Omni, Mondo, and the old computer mags that were overflowing with BASIC source. Is there anything comparable now?

Wired and Dr. Dobb's feel so empty now.
posted by formless at 3:14 PM on December 5, 2004

I think Mondo's psychedelic bent was definitely needed.

I went and ordered some Hydergine after reading one issue about smart drugs. Great stuff. Strengthens your dendrites. Don't know why more people don't use it.
posted by destro at 3:16 PM on December 5, 2004

Yeah, file me under the list of people who felt, every time I bought an issue of Mondo 2000 (and I bought a lot of them), that I'd just paid $5 to see pictures of a party that wouldn't invite me in a million years.

The one that gets me, the typical arrogance that drove me nuts, was a line in the "information on this publication" column (that little tiny set of lists of how the magazine was made). There was a line that said, and I still remember this distinctly, "Unsolicited submissions are burned in a bonfire by the light of the full moon."

Just that sense of "Don't call us, we'll call you if you're cool enough to be on our list." At least Wired (around the same era) felt like they would at least want to listen to you if you had something to say.

I wasn't surprised when it got harder and harder to find and ultimately disappeared. Attitude works in fashion ads and rap albums; it's a little tougher to get people to come back every two months to give them another mushroom print across the face.

This all said, I was surprised, upon reading of the death of St. Jude, that she had skills and abilities to an amazing depth. Of course, this very helpful information came to me... in Wired News.
posted by jscott at 3:21 PM on December 5, 2004 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised at how ignorant I am of Mondo's illustrious history. In my futurist and pol-sci reading I'd become familiar with R U Sirius and later enjoyed trawling the archives of deoxy.org. I'd read about Mondo and assumed that it was some form of futurist mag like Trajectories, but with a technical bent - I had no idea it was this big, nor that the hints of Sirius' psychedelic-elitism in other writings would bleed through into the culture of Mondo. It's sad that I'm forced to read Sirius since the post-80's era seems to be lacking a proper replacement for R.A.W., Barbara Marx Hubbard, or Alvin Toffler (or Leary or Parsons etc.)....not that I'm saying those people need replacing, but the wellspring needs replenishment and they all seem so Gibsonesque and unoriginal...

Sorry, ranting. Great links - great post. Thanks ori.
posted by cosmonik at 3:40 PM on December 5, 2004

Unfortunately, I didn't get to read Mondo when it was originally out. I did, however, buy a copy of the book (the guide to the future) last year. It always feels like I missed out on a really cool period.
posted by drezdn at 3:47 PM on December 5, 2004

Sure mondo had some crap in it but the Negativeland Interview introduced the fair-use issues to the world ten years before it became a hot meme, the Manuel DeLanda interview introduced Deleuze and Guitarri to all the proto electronic musios, the Captain Crush interview brought digital encryption to everyone's mind. There was a *lot* of good writing in there, and at the time Mondo was one of the only places to read about these things...

Because, mind you, this was all pre-web. Mondo was over before the web began. It was a different time then... when the deoxy.org archive was text only, when hyperreal was an ftp server... when you could ntalk your buddies all over the world.

Wired was the magazine that introduced the world to the web, in a little sidebar sometime in 1994. I remember thinking two things, one of which was that the web would not be as good as command line hacking and the other of which was that such a thing would never take off.

I was half right. The web sucked then and it sucks now, but it took off and ended the Mondo era by cancelling the Mondo future and replacing it with the Wired one.

If only it had gone the other way.
posted by n9 at 4:30 PM on December 5, 2004

n9, I do not buy in and I think you're revising history based on your experience. Mondo 2000 may have been one of the few shiny, slick magazines dedicated to technology that you remember, but previous endeavors like Popular Electronics, Creative Computing, Compute, Byte, and dozens of others brought the newest technical possibilities and ideas to a general audience. Printing improvements in the early 1990's with desktop publishing systems allowed 24-bit whacky-go-jacky from Macintosh to Paper (with a lot of effort), so it may have looked better... but no, it was not a shining beacon of technological marvel in a wasteland. We had a lot of good times in the 1980's and 1970's.

Then again, I think the web ruled and continues to rule, so maybe our premises are incompatible. It does happen from time to time on the Internets....
posted by jscott at 4:50 PM on December 5, 2004

endeavors like ... Compute!,

Oh man, I remember running out and checking the mailbox for each new issue of this.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:08 PM on December 5, 2004

I still miss Omni, even though it was an offshoot of Penthouse.
posted by mrbill at 6:09 PM on December 5, 2004

Mondo was Wozniak.
Wired is Steve jobs.
posted by dong_resin at 7:26 PM on December 5, 2004

SFPL has a complete collection of Mondo 2000. It's a fun flashback to the 90s; being young and turned on and tuned in to virtual reality games, Amiga video toasters, smart drugs, MDMA, and a truly strange underground techno/rave scene.

I feel horribly cheated by the lack of Gibson's "Consensual Hallucination" in 2004. Sadly the shiny chrome of the Wired Digerati has replaced the organic feel of Mondo's psychedelic cyborg life (granted, as of 2002, we are closer to the Gibson cyberspace "concensual Hallucination" than ever, but i still feel that it's late in coming).

I want my Mondo future back. The bay area Wired future is a hollow mass of stock, tech with a singular profit minded purpose, and empty promises.
posted by vevaphon at 7:45 PM on December 5, 2004


Mondo was Wozniak.
Wired is Steve jobs.

Wired is Neal Stephenson/Bill Gibson.
Mondo was Bruce Sterling.

- or -

Wired is Khaki slacks and Polo-shirt.
Mondo was cut-off BDUs, boots, dreads, and a head full of Acid.
posted by vevaphon at 7:52 PM on December 5, 2004

vevaphon... That's strange to me, mainly because Sterling writes for Wired.
posted by drezdn at 9:32 PM on December 5, 2004

Sterling still writes post-human stuff, extensions of what M2000 envisioned (enlightened tribal groups, interconnected) in the late 80s and early 90s.

Wired is, was, and still is more about technology.

Maybe a better comparison would have been Sterling and Clancy?
posted by vevaphon at 11:31 PM on December 5, 2004

My reference was in terms of cultural attack. Woz was the culturally-minded dog upon which the commerce-oriented tick of Jobs appeared, so it goes with Mondo and Wired.
posted by dong_resin at 12:35 AM on December 6, 2004

I want my Mondo 2000 future back, too. There were promises of goggles filled with polygonal mindsex, neosacred brainwave entrainment rituals, brain voodoo, wetware-jacked hybrids whispering glossalia and making signs in the flickering darkness. There were fantastically ornate and meaningless cults that lasted an hour, music like bombs and drugs like neon. There was weightlessness, freedom, speed, grace, and acceleration.

Does anyone remember the full page back cover ad offering 10,000 USD for a working teledildonics system? It appeared shortly after Mondo went color and ran regularly to solidly for most of the color run, it seems. I have always wanted to know the story behind that. I've an easy hunch it was just Sirius or any of the Mondo crew.
posted by loquacious at 2:41 AM on December 6, 2004

Wired is dead in a ditch somewhere.
Mondo is dead in a ditch somewhere with a mind full of chemicals like some cheese-eating high school boy.

Thank you, Moe Berg.

That may not make much sense, but I don't care.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:38 AM on December 6, 2004

I think I first read of Mondo 2000 in Cyberia by Douglas Rushkoff. I dismissed the people he interviewed (along with everyone else in that strangely repellant book) as just another bunch of self-absorbed wankers.
A little while later I saw a copy of the magazine at a friends place in Leeds and after leafing through it I realised how wrong I was.
These useless fuckers were peddling intellectually empty bullshit wrapped with a kind of arrogant "we're so cool" chic that instantly made me wonder what they were hiding.
What they were hiding, of course, is the kind of not-too-bright , middle class, well-off Californian attitude that assumes the future is not-too-bright , middle class, well-off and Californian. A kind of Ren-Faire future, filled with shiny things and flashing lights that only serve to distract you from the lurching figure, with the glitter of incipient guru-hood in his eyes, who has his hand in your wallet.
Badly written, badly designed wish-fulfillment produced by shallow middle-aged hippies for wannabe middle-aged hippies.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 4:36 AM on December 6, 2004

Yeah, but it was pretty.
posted by dong_resin at 4:59 AM on December 6, 2004

Hmph. Can't you just go to Burning Man to scratch that itch?
posted by Vidiot at 8:15 AM on December 6, 2004

There's an electric sheep animation that deflated my feelings about wishing I had come of age in the late 80s-early 90s among all the futuristic zines.

I still think it would be cool to have something like a Ren Fair for Sci-Fi kids- a place where we could pretend it's the future.
posted by drezdn at 8:45 AM on December 6, 2004

ewww. Mondo wasn't (in mind) a tech magazine at all. It was a magazine obsessed with mind expansion (carried over from reality hacking roots.) It was about hacking, sure, but not tech, except in the speculative way. Cyberpunk was not about tech either, except as a vehicle for the expansion of the mind and the expression of the optimism that the mind's abilities could be boundless. To that end I pointed out several articles about just that: Delueze and Guitarri, privacy/encryption and fair use.

Mondo: Terrence McKenna, Borroughs, Deleuze, DMT
Wired: "No one ever got fired for buying NT Server."

To be fair Wired has had some good features over the years and pre-1998 was edgy enough to be interesting to me, but it jumped the shark long ago, whereas Mondo just faded away (like the optimism I held from 89-94) Also, as a reader of Mondo during those years I simply did not pick up on the snobby tone. I also pretty much ignored their books and their other attempts to cash in on the 'new digital future' vibe of the mid-90s as I thought that it was so much garbage.

21*C was a fantastic theory-tech magazine, though.
posted by n9 at 9:24 AM on December 6, 2004

Ayn Marx - Actually, M2k began life as High Frontiers, which lasted four issues, then morphed into Reality Hackers for the next two, and finally Mondo 2000 until its (untimely) demise.

I discovered High Frontiers with the fourth issue and was hooked. I was very interested in a lot of the hippy-dippy mysticism mixed with hallucinogens, and had discovered the community of the BBS's about a year prior. It was the perfect blend of mind, community, and tech at the time (for my own young self at least).
posted by drfu at 1:31 PM on December 6, 2004

i never heard of mondo, but in my day we had "popular mechanix" for our fanciful futuristic fortunetelling. now excuse me, i need to take the personal helicopter in for it's annual recharge, and the fridge just got back from shopping and forgot the milk again.
posted by quonsar at 3:27 PM on December 6, 2004

I worked with R.U. Sirius at Gettingit.com, a web-based magazine he edited in 1999. Very neat guy, with lots of neat ideas. Here's a great article about the life and death of the webzine, originally published in Green Magazine.

For what it's worth, he wasn't pretentious at all. He just was interested in the next new thing below the mainstream cultural radar, and always interested in sharing it with other people.
posted by waxpancake at 8:09 PM on December 6, 2004

I should also mention that he just published a new book, Counterculture Through the Ages. He's on a book tour, and will be participating in a roundtable discussion next week in SF with Jello Biafra, Larry Harvey of Burning Man, and Louis Rossetto of Wired.

Oh, and he's been blogging lately.
posted by waxpancake at 2:42 PM on December 7, 2004

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