The space probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 continue to function 36 years after their launch, long beyond the mission criterion. Voyager 1 entered interstellar space, bursting through the sun’s magnetic bubble, in August 2012, although this was just confirmed days ago.
Humanity, in the form of NASA mostly, has sent rover after rover to Mars to roam about and send back information. The last three have been particularly successful. Spirit and Opportunity were budgeted for 90-day missions; Spirit traversed for 6 years, and Opportunity passed 10 and is still peripatetic.
Last year, right around when the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a NASA contractor, says its Voyager 1 went forth into true space, the group also landed a goddamn SUV full of scientific equipment and cameras on Mars: Curiosity. The world watched, more enthralled with the “seven minutes of terror” descent than with the Olympics.
I visited Spirit’s and Opportunity’s third sibling and Curiosity’s twin — used for simulations and testing — at JPL in January for the Economist, and met with JPL scientists about their work in keeping missions alive. It’s tricky performing repairs from millions or hundreds of millions of miles away, but they manage it.
One of the people I met was the extraordinary Scott Maxwell, profiled in this issue by Carren Jao in “Red Rover.” Scott was a rover driver for several years on the Spirit/Opportunity mission and then on Curiosity in its first several months. Scott’s sense of inquiry led him into rover driving and now beyond in a job at Google. But he’s ready for future missions that stretch human achievement and endurance should they arise.
Also in this issue, we look backwards at video games. Simon Parkin — the author of one of the best stories about video games ever written, “Desert Bus” at the New Yorker — explains how a nearly hapless Dutch gem trader coded and released a blockbuster game in Japan in 1983 in “The Dragon Invasion.”
Richard Moss suggests we “play it again” as he describes in “Impermanent Games” the efforts of archivists in Australia and New Zealand to track down the software code and personal memories of the early days of those nations’ video games before the programs and people are gone.
Elliott Fitzgerald McCloud has no concerns about being “Typecast,” as he tells of how important typewriters have become in his life, especially as a bond between him and his son. His initial draft came as a PDF; he’d typed the piece on one of his beloved Olivettis and scanned it to submit. (He later sent us text.) We know: we said, “No more typewriter stories!” But McCloud’s tale is too sweet to miss, and it’s not really about the typewriters, is it?
Finally, the world of cosplay can seem exotic or übergeeky to those not involved in it. Gabe Bullard looks beyond the fabric of the costumes to the people who make them in “Redshirts in the Coffee Shop.” You’ll remember the focal designer in the story, Leah D’Andrea, from an earlier piece about her husband, Chris Lee, who is building a “Full Scale” version of the Millennium Falcon. They’re a pretty amazing couple, each with their own rich stories to tell.
Cover photo by Gabe Bullard. Design by Louie Mantia.
Time flies like an arrow
Next issue, number 27, will mark our first full year as a publication. We’re grateful to subscribers new and old, and we can’t believe it’s been this long already. We’ll have some news and more to discuss in two weeks.
It’s probably worth mentioning that The Magazine relies entirely on subscribers to fund the cost of production: we have no advertising and have no plans to change that. But it’s not inexpensive to run a publication at the level of quality we aspire to achieve in each issue.
We spend an average that hovers around $2,000 on each feature. We pay for the writing, the contracted or licensed photography or illustration, developmental editing, copy editing, and proofreading before assembling articles into issues. There are overhead costs for development and design for the app and Web site, hosting, and each issue’s cover. On the revenue side, we also have the expense of Apple’s cut in the App Store or our credit-card processing fee for Web subscriptions. Each virtual issue you hold in your hands or see on your monitor costs over $10,000 to bring to you.
So if you like what we do, please tell your friends and colleagues; it’s hard to stand out in a crowded field of publications, and word of mouth is the best referral. A few months ago, we set up a page that lists all the articles one can read at no cost — one article from each issue — to make it easier for people to see what we have to offer before subscribing. (There’s also a seven-day free trial.)
(For those of you reading this note who aren’t subscribers, subscriptions are $1.99 per month to get two issues (10 articles), or $19.99 per year for 26 issues (130 articles). A single subscription can be used on an iOS device, like an iPhone or iPad, and on our Web site at no extra charge. Because we publish every other week, two months a year our monthly subscribers get an “extra” issue.)
Speaking of the anniversary, we had a bit of a celebration in Portland, Oregon, last week: a variety show of music, comedy, and interviews co-hosted by The Magazine and my podcast The New Disruptors (now also part of our operations). The show came just before the XOXO festival and conference, which was an amazing event, just like last year but even more so.
We filled a pub, and it was great to meet readers of The Magazine and podcast listeners at that event and at XOXO, and talk about past articles and future plans. You can see some pictures I’ve posted from our event and XOXO, and we hope to have some audio, too.
I saw our founder, Marco Arment, at XOXO. He presented a session about his past and future work. I was there to attend and do an onstage interview of the editors of Boing Boing to celebrate their 25th anniversary. (Boing Boing started as a photocopied zine in 1988 and moved to the Web in 1995.)
Marco sold The Magazine to me in June, and he has remained part of the brain trust, answering questions about its mechanical innards and being a sounding board for some of my ideas. He was cooking up his next project months ago, and he announced at XOXO that he’s developing a podcast app, Overcast, that will solve a lot of the problems with existing apps from Apple and others. I’m looking forward to it!
You can tap the Share button in iOS at the top of any article and then tap Write Letter to Editor. Or email us with your thoughts, noting any article to which they apply. We also read comments and questions on Facebook, Twitter, and App.net. (Although we see iTunes reviews, we cannot respond there; please contact us directly with any issues that need a response.)
Glenn Fleishman is the editor and publisher of The Magazine, and contributes reguarly to the Economist, Boing Boing, TidBITS, and Macworld. The father of two, Glenn won two episodes of Jeopardy! in 2012, and he won't let you forget it.