Mondo 2000: An Open Source History

In the cyberdelic daze of the early 1990s, Mondo 2000 was the publication-of-record. Founded by our dear pal RU Sirius, it was not just a magazine (with an expiration date), but a "strange attractor" for freaks interested in the new edge of computers, pranks, digital art, fringe culture, psychedelics, consciousness, weird science, and hacking. In fact, Mondo was one of the main magnets that drew me to San Francisco in 1992. To chronicle the Mondo moment and its impact, RU has launched a new project to create a Web history and book, and he's created a Kickstarter page to gather funding to make it happen. From the project page for Mondo 2000: An Open Source History (cover gallery above from
 Bcp Bcpgraf Graphics Mondo2000 An Open Source History is a web project and a book. All those who touched directly upon the history of the scene/magazine (including the earlier versions, High Frontiers and Reality Hackers) will be invited to write -- or, in some cases, speak on video or audio -- their stories and perceptions. Additionally, small groups of people will be encouraged to get together and record conversations. These will be posted on a private page available only to other participants. Participants will have the opportunity to insert comments into the text or add fresh entries.

At the end of the process, estimated to take approximately two years, a collaboratively-edited electronic document will be released on the web. A more closely-edited print book composed of selections from this process -- edited by Ken Goffman aka R.U. Sirius (that's me!) with Morgan Russell -- will be published. Finally, the video footage might be rolled into a Mondo 2000 film documentary.

I will be a major participant in this process, essentially writing my own full and complete memoir of this time and posting most of these in fragments on the collaborative site.

Mondo 2000's history is an exhilarating and weird tale of early digital culture, drugs, sex, surrealism, gonzo anthropology, death, digital culture, media hype, conspiracy paranoia, celebrities, transhumanism, irresponsible journalism, appropriation, hackers, pranks, theft, fun and desktop publishing. This mostly true article from the SF Weekly tells only part of the story.

Many extraordinarily talented writers, artists, scientists, and outsider philosophers participated in the Mondo 2000 experience and there are marvelous tales to be told. If we can get even 20% of them to participate, we may have final proof that collaborative narratives don't have to suck.

MONDO 2000: An Open Source History


  1. I was there! Berkeley 1988 – 1994.

    What a wonderful time and place to come of age. No fun or adventure was spared.

    In 1994 I moved back to Massachusetts, and I love it here, but not a day goes by when I don’t miss the Berkeley of that moment in time.

  2. What an absolutely fantastic scheme. Mondo 2000 was the greatest magazine in the history of magazines. That’s not hyperbole, it’s truth!

  3. I was always fascinated by the smart drugs (nootropics?) articles. Ever since then, I’ve always been tempted to try to track down some Piracetam.

    I’d love to hear any anecdotes the old farts here have to offer.

    1. I used to love the magazine!

      The one thing, though:

      was always fascinated by the smart drugs (nootropics?) articles. Ever since then, I’ve always been tempted to try to track down some Piracetam.

      All that shilling for nootropics seemed a bit odd to me, and a place where advertisement and editorial got a little blurry (hey, I guess they were pretty prescient, eh?).

      Other than that minor annoyance, though, I really enjoyed the magazine.

      RU’s current podcast has had a few good episodes.

    2. Oh yeah, I tired a few bottles of Piracetam, and certainly never was as advertised. Vasopressin, on the other hand, made working late nights at the local movie theater, a bit more tolerable. What I did live on for a few years, after reading about it in Mondo2000, was Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw’s Memory Fuel and Fast Blast. There was no ambiguity there, my brain is tickling just thinking about those days!

  4. Those were crazy times and Mondo encapsulated them well for me at the time. I kind of miss all the excitement and mystery leading up to… well, now.

    I loved all the articles on neuro enhancing drugs, etc. If Mondo was here today, I bet they’d have a story on this app IQ increasing app:

    I remember always having to have the internet and/or a dictionary handy to be able to barely decipher the heady articles. I loved it.

    Look forward to picking up the book. :)

  5. Ah, yeah, those wild and wooly days! BoingBoing and Mondo 2000 were always on top of the pile of mags.

    This should be something to see when it’s done.

    1. Thank you for that link. I’m an older generation, but it was really fun to read somebody else’s coming of age story.

  6. Mondo was the whole reason I moved to California when I did. The softcover “Users Guide to the New Edge” is still packed away with all my early issues. To a kid in northwest Ohio, struggling to break free from the corn, that shit was like mental catnip. A finger pointing the way to neurospace. My psyche is forever indebted to RU Sirius.

  7. In 1967 I stumbled on newspapers like “The East Villiage Other” and the “LA Free Press”, the hargingers of the Summer of Love and the Youth Rebellion. To my high school mind they represented a sudden, enthalling expansion of my horizons. When I stumbled on Mondo 2000 as a much older man, I felt the same explosion of possibilities, the social changes that the new technology and viewpoints would create. It was like being young again.

  8. After a few years of reading the magazine and the user’s guide, I moved from my hometown of Chicago to San Francisco in the mid-90’s. I figured “Mondo 2000 comes out of San Francisco, so I’d better move there.”

  9. I found issue 3 of Mondo 2000 at Forbidden Planet in London and never looked back.

    This project looks great and I’ve signed up to help fund it. “True Mutations” and h+ are worthy successors but don’t have that same black slab by the watering hole feel as Mondo did.

  10. i love that magazine. i think i still have some issues tucked away somewhere. i remember buying a subscription. they cashed the check but nothing ever came in the mail ever.

  11. Sweet,Sweet, Mondo 2000. I came across a copy of one of the first issues while living in Indiana. I completed my Political Science degree and the English Dept let me devise an individual study program in cyberpunk literature to finish out school. Next stop was San Francisco. Thanks to Mondo, I am the freak I am today. =)

  12. Tell Dirk & Sandy there’s a slice of pumpkin pie waiting for them!

    I have a big pile of old Mondo’s up in the attic – also a tape with Mr. Sirius singing I Am The Walrus and other material.

  13. Mondo and 2600 were definitely catalysts that helped motivate me from Northeast Ohio down to L.A. We have three of the four corners covered. Anyone from SE Ohio?

  14. i have all my old issues as well… we’re a pirate mind nation… still have a t-shirt tucked away as well; nice to know i’m not the only freak out there

  15. I was sad when Reality Hackers became Mondo. From actual hacks to way more fashion. Sad, but kind of a statement in its own way.

    KaosMonkey/SKR: I too was in NEO (by way of Cowtown) and left Ohio for better things. I missed Cali and ended up in Potland. Now I’m in New Zealand.

    So who was into Biophysics at OSU in the early 90’s?

    BTW: No one is (admittedly) from SE Ohio.

  16. 89 to 93 was some kind of golden age, wasn’t it? Not just Mondo 2000, but Fringeware, Cyberpunk, Techno-shamanism, the birth of rave culture, Vague, Rapid Eye, Bob Dobbs, Re:Search, etc, etc. Happy Mutants, one and all.

    1. Indeed. A lot of it grew out of the ‘zine culture that went into overdrive with the proliferation of (relatively) inexpensive desktop publishing tools. This very blog grew out of the bOING bOING print ‘zine that Mark and Carla created in 1989.

  17. I miss Mondo 2000, still look at back issues and read the User’s Guide from time to time.

  18. I useta get it from the magazine stand down the street from the office in Beverly Hills that I toiled in. Felt strange to be flipping through the pages of interviews with GWAR, articles about the joys of vasopressin and how pumpkins were the perfect beta-blocker food, surrounded by sweaty junior agents looking for comic-book characters that hadn’t yet been licensed for development.

    Mondo 2000 was an expression of optimism, in much the same way that OMNI was in the 80s. Although the ads in the mag never really seemed to be relevant to the content – does anyone have a copy of the old Mondo 2000 media kit? How do you sell ads in a magazine, when the editorial content basically says “Hate and disdain all mass-produced products”? Even three-martini lunches wouldn’t get that done … although if the ad salespeople were true to the Mondo 2000 ethos, they would probably achieve their quarterly goals by Tasering the media buyers, and then forging the checks while the buyer twitched feebly in the corner Fog City Diner booth…

  19. How about scanning the issues into .PDF and either giving them out, or at worst getting a $1/issue donation? Some of us do still like this after all these years, despite “The Guy I almost Was” bringing us to tears, and would love to read ’em again. Just without paying “Comic Book Guy” whatever he thinks he can scalp us for.

    I’d pitch in the effort. I personally have #14 and #15 (isolated in the boonies, visiting the “Big City” whenever I could afford, back then…) and could scan them if the original source is lost.

    Likewise, I’d love it if it could be done with some other Zines, most notably “bOING bOING” but also stuff I couldn’t get like “Ben is Dead”…

    Just an idea:-)

  20. I’ve always loved that whenever I see pictures of Mondo2000 covers, I can always remember if I had that particular issue, or not. I’ve always thought of this as a lasting testament to their brilliant design, quality, and style.

    I now have a very strong desire to go dig out those copies, and to see if I still have the Users Guide tucked away as well.

  21. I was zooming along in a successful real estate career wearing a suit and tie every day to work when I discovered Mondo 2000. It was a veritable thought bomb that culminated with me getting sucked into the Internet, the New Edge and completely rebooting as a techie.

    It’s funny that as revolutionary as Wired was when it materialized, it’s seemed positively buttoned down by contrast.

    Thanks for rejiggering wonderful memories.


  22. Hey I”ve still got my issue 3 onwards, loved it -lived it @ 144bpm! From the land of STELARC – Melbourne Australia, Best wishes with the project.

    incite INSIGHT!

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