Click to search the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library Skip Navigation

Zine Machine


Imagine, if you will, a time when photocopiers had supplanted the lowly mimeograph machine, and were the leading technology, as important as many computer companies are today. There's a scene in the movie Fast Times At Ridgemont High where the students all sniff their papers, evidently to smell the mimeograph ink. Some people are nostalgic about this scent, some aren't. The Internet didn't yet exist in its current state and newsletters thrived. This was fertile ground for the zine to come about.

The word zine is short for magazine, but otherwise has little or nothing to do with them. For me, looking back, the idea that the eagerly anticipated fanzine, Sonic Death, for the group Sonic Youth, would be archived online would have been mindblowing. I think it was quarterly publication, but due to the vagaries of postal mail and the nature of zine publication, its arrival was always a pleasant surprise. Nevertheless, I think I always suspected they would be archived somehow.  

Also important was Sassy magazine. Sassy often featured zines that teens might otherwise have missed in their glossy pages. Sassy was a great microcosm of all things New York at the time, at least to my limited worldview. I’m not alone in noting their influence and the influence of their editrixes, Jane Pratt and Christina Kelly. In 2007, the book How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time came out.

Barnard has a list of library zine collections throughout the country, including the DePaul University zine archive featuring zines from the 1994 Underground Press Conference. The University of Iowa even has a vending machine called the Zine Machine.


Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

What they were sniffin...

Anyone old enough to remember dittos knows that it isn't the ink you're sniffing. During that time (late 70s) the machines used a "spirit master" that transferred ink from the master to the paper using an alcohol-based spirit medium. basically, it was a harmless denatured alcohol smell which was refreshing in the face of stuffy classroom smells. no one ever, or could ever, get high from it, though that was the rumor.

Thanks, David!

Good info. I remember being perplexed by that scene when I first saw the movie.

Post new comment