Amazing was published, with some interruptions, for almost eighty years, going through a half-dozen owners and many editors as it struggled to be profitable. Gernsback was forced into bankruptcy and lost control of the magazine in 1929, and by 1938 it was purchased by Ziff-Davis, who hired Raymond A. Palmer as editor. Palmer made the magazine successful though it was not regarded as a quality magazine within the science fiction community. In the late 1940s Amazing presented as fact stories about the Shaver Mystery, a lurid mythos that explained accidents and disaster as the work of robots named deros, which led to dramatically increased circulation but widespread ridicule. Amazing switched to a digest size format in 1953, shortly before the end of the pulp-magazine era. It was sold to Sol Cohen's Universal Publishing Company in 1965, which filled it with reprinted stories but did not pay a reprint fee to the authors, creating a conflict with the newly formed Science Fiction Writers of America. Ted White took over as editor in 1969, eliminated the reprints and made the magazine respected again: Amazing was nominated for the prestigious Hugo award three times during his tenure in the 1970s. Several other owners attempted to create a modern incarnation of the magazine in the following decades, but publication was suspended after the March 2005 issue. A new incarnation appeared in July 2012 as an online magazine.
Gernsback's initial editorial approach was to blend instruction with entertainment; he believed science fiction could educate readers. His audience rapidly showed a preference for implausible adventures, however, and the movement away from Gernsback's idealism accelerated when the magazine changed hands in 1929. Despite this, Gernsback had an enormous impact on the field: the creation of a specialist magazine for science fiction spawned an entire genre publishing industry. The letter columns in Amazing, where fans could make contact with each other, led to the formation of science fiction fandom, which in turn had a strong influence on the development of the field. Writers whose first story was published in the magazine include John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Howard Fast, Ursula K. Le Guin, Roger Zelazny, and Thomas M. Disch. Overall, though, Amazing itself was rarely an influential magazine within the genre after the 1920s. Some critics have commented that by "ghettoizing" science fiction, Gernsback in fact did harm to its literary growth, but this viewpoint has been countered by the argument that science fiction needed an independent market to develop in to reach its potential.
By the end of the 19th century, stories centered on scientific inventions, and stories set in the future, were appearing regularly in popular fiction magazines. The market for short stories lent itself to tales of invention in the tradition of Jules Verne. Magazines such as Munsey's Magazine and The Argosy, launched in 1889 and 1896 respectively, carried a few science fiction stories each year. Some upmarket "slick" magazines such as McClure's, which paid well and were aimed at a more literary audience, also carried scientific stories, but by the early years of the 20th century, science fiction (though it was not yet called that) was appearing more often in the pulp magazines than in the slicks.
In 1908, Hugo Gernsback published the first issue of Modern Electrics, a magazine aimed at the scientific hobbyist. It was an immediate success, and Gernsback began to include articles on imaginative uses of science, such as "Wireless on Saturn" (December 1908). In April 1911, Gernsback began the serialization of his science fiction novel, Ralph 124C 41+, but in 1913 he sold his interest in the magazine to his partner and launched a new magazine, Electrical Experimenter, which soon began to publish scientific fiction. In 1920 Gernsback retitled the magazine Science and Invention, and through the early 1920s he published much scientific fiction in its pages, along with non-fiction scientific articles.
Gernsback had started another magazine called Practical Electrics in 1921. In 1924, he changed its name to The Experimenter, and sent a letter to 25,000 people to gauge interest in the possibility of a magazine devoted to scientific fiction; in his words, "the response was such that the idea was given up for two years." However, in 1926 he decided to go ahead, and ceased publication of The Experimenter to make room in his publishing schedule for a new magazine. The editor of The Experimenter, T. O'Conor Sloane, became the editor of Amazing Stories. The first issue appeared on 10 March 1926, with a cover date of April 1926.