Monday, July 30, 2012

Robots! From the Past! In the Future!

When I was younger, so much younger than today, I had a dream. It was a dream instilled into me by educators born with the heady 1950s ideal that rapid technological advances could and would make our tedious human lives easier and faster, leaving more time for us to sit by the pool smoking our pipes, listening to Sammy, Frank or Deano whilst our apron-donned wives swiftly brought us our martinis and newspapers, and our two point five children played fetch with Rover on the well-groomed and picket-fenced yard, all while we pondered our healthy pensions and whether or not we should retire early to Florida. I'm sorry, what was I saying? Actually, most of my teachers throughout the 1980s were former hippies who still clung to the counter-culture dogma of the early 1970s and would have dropped their jaws at the picture I just painted. Nevertheless, many did come from an era where the prospect of fast, cheap computers and personal robots were just around the corner, and that we as a society would use such tools to transcend our baser animalistic attributes, hopefully becoming better and more enlightened human beings in the process. And while our futurist educators eagerly beamed with the prospect of machines that could walk our dogs and pills that would supplant the need for meals, there was one potential technological advancement that struck a chord with me in particular, especially with me being that child who invariably got nauseated at the idea of pushing around my dad's rusted old Lawnboy every Saturday for two bits (just kidding, I got 5 bucks, 25¢ didn't buy you anything in 1984 either). So what had caught my young eye then, and has stuck with me to this day, was a picture of a robot in a science magazine, sketched roughly in charcoal, and it was mowing a lawn while some relaxed-looking dude, presumably "Dad," lay snoozing on the patio in total bliss. Yup. I was ready to cryogenically freeze myself just so I could make sure I'd live to see the day when this amazing miracle breakthrough would be available. Well here we are in the gritty and oh so real 2010s and my childhood dream of taking afternoon naps on the weekend while R2-D2 takes care of business has finally come true, so I'll waste no more time in presenting to you...Robomow. Yes, Robomow. You can almost feel your bald spot tingle, can't you? Available in four configurations, Robomow has the power to cut up to 17,200 square feet of luscious lawn and still make it back to its charging dock for a good week's sleep, all automatically while you lie on the couch watching Breaking Bad on Netflix. The robo-mowers run anywhere from $1299 to $2700 depending on the model and since they're electric, there's no oil, gas or emissions plus they're much quieter as well, resulting in less noise-pollution for your neighborhood. Awww, my old hippie teachers are probably welling up right now somewhere over their herbal teas and copies of I'm OK, You're OK. So get your wallets ready, true believers, because greener lawns and greener living await you HERE!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Elvis Sasso

Well folks, I've been on vacation for about a week now and I've done my best to keep you loyal retrogeekers abreast of all the oldest news the Internet has to offer. But today I'm going to be lazy because, well, just because. So I was sitting in a Mexican restaurant in Colorado today and I started to space out on the little dessert menu placard that was positioned between me and my queso. Of all the delicious dessert items listed, and there were many, I kept returning to "flan," you know, the creamy, custard-like cake that you either love or hate? Well any way you slice it, flan is a damned funny word which immediately brought to mind a hilarious old sketch from the now-defunct comedy show, MadTV. The sketch stars the brilliant Will Sasso who performs an uncanny, albeit over-the-top, impersonation of Elvis Presley, and spans several periods in the life of The King, illustrating his eventual decline into the sad shell of the man he once was. Trust me, it's funny. So set aside a good 10 minutes or so to enjoy the somewhat-retro but completely hilarious video below, and by the time you get to the end, you'll totally get the flan connection. Hmm, the flan connection, sounds like a good movie title.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Retro Drinks Are Here to Stay

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy known as the mid-70s, soft drink companies used to employ a substance called sugar in order to add sweetness to their beverages. But sometime around 1975, due to a combination of government-imposed tariffs on imported sugar and government-imposed quotas on domestic sugar production, the price of this natural food product was artificially driven up, forcing companies like Pepsi Co. and Coca-Cola to look elsewhere for a more cost-effective alternative to sweetening their products (thanks Feds, you rock!) Enter high-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, which is basically processed corn starch that has undergone enzymatic processing to convert some of its glucose into fructose resulting in the production of a cheap artificial sweetener. Mmmmmmm, tasty! Most consumers, of course, never noticed the switch and those that did were quickly detained and sent to a joint Soviet-U.S. gulag in Siberia. Ha, ha, just kidding (they made me add that). By the 21st century, however, the cost of sugar was beginning to drop while the price of HFCS had risen due to its increased use in the production of ethanol fuel. Add to that a heated public debate regarding the potentially adverse heath-effects of high-fructose corn syrup and the newest generation soft-drinkers were ready for a return to the basics. Thankfully, Pepsi Co. answered that call and in 2009 introduced their Throwback line of soft-drinks featuring retro-graphics on the label and real honest-to-goodness sugar in place of the long incumbent HFCS. Batches of the new product were initially produced in small quantities as Pepsi Co. wasn't quite sure how well these sugary drinks would actually sell. But lo and behold the public fell in love with the retro-flavor of the Throwback series which created enough demand for the company to produce several more batches until finally, in 2011, Pepsi Co. announced that the drinks would become a permanent addition to their line and could now be enjoyed by soft-drink fans everywhere - except of course in the ass-backward state I live in where you still have to hunt the stuff down. Following the success of the Throwback line, other companies have begun to introduce their own HFCS-free soft-drinks as well, such as Sierra Mist Natural, Heritage Dr. Pepper and 7-UP Retro, all made with real sugar. Viva la retro! Viva la naturale!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Return of The Talking Head

Remember a few years ago when we were all facing the big digital TV switch and 480i was fast becoming a dirty word? Hell, it was like Y2K all over again with people freaking out at max capacity over that fact that they might not be able to watch The Black Donnellys if they didn't get the right upgrade at the right time. Of course the government shepherded the whole thing along to massive success and not one episode of the Surreal Life went unwatched; and they did so with good reason, as the powers that be we're likely keen to keep the national opiate flowing at full throttle in order to help curb any potential insurgence from the natives. Now while all of this was going on, our Brit pals across the pond were in the midst of a simliar HDTV switchover, and in order to help facilitate public awareness of the event resurrected an old television personality to serve as their spokesperson. In the U.S. we know him primarily from his obnoxious yet oddly compelling New Coke commercials, while the more savvy geeks will recognize him from his eponymous cyberpunk TV show, but however he appeared on-screen, Max Headroom was a force to be reckoned with and he most definitely reveled in his time as the supreme talking head. Check out the video below to see BBC Channel 4's advert featuring the now quite aged king of the CRT. Rule Britannia!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Better Than the Prequels

Fan films seem to be a dime a dozen these days, given the proliferation of high-speed internet and low-cost video equipment – hell, you can shoot, edit and upload an entire film just using your phone these days. But back when the internet was still all grey backgrounds and lo-res graphics, bandwidth was thin and frail which resulted in suuuuuuper-slow data transfers and frequent dropped connections. The worst was when your ISP was so packed with users already that you couldn't even get connected when you wanted to, at which point I suppose you'd just go back to watching X-Files on your standard definition TV or reading about Heaven's Gate in the newspaper. Ahh the salad days. So, with a dearth (no pun intended) of internet bandwidth available to the general masses (salutes) and the limitations of a cost prohibitive and a relatively immature desktop video industry, fan films were being made, just not being seen by anyone outside of the director's local radius. The videos that did circulate on the then fledgling internet were generally clips from popular TV shows and movies, and were so small (in order to facilitate their transfer over standard telephone modems) that the term "thumbnail video" was quickly adopted to describe these 15 second, 128x128 pixel little movie files. But, and here's the payoff, in 1997 just as modem speeds were beginning to pick up, a Star Wars fan film shot in the Mojave Desert called TROOPS (a parody on the TV series 'COPS') made its debut on the web. There was no YouTube at the time and search engines were still rudimentary at best, so trying to actually watch the thing was kind of difficult. But against all odds, the little-fan-film-that-could would eventually become one of the earliest internet smash-hits, inspiring hordes of up-and-coming movie makers to pick up their VHS-C cameras and start shooting their friends wearing Stormtrooper helmets. You can view the entire thing in negative-HD down below.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

8-Bit Homebrew Halo

I was never much of a Halo player. I think the last first-person shooter I took seriously was Duke Nukem 3D back in '96. OK that's not entirely true, but for whatever reason, I just never got around to playing more than a few minutes of the game here and there before getting frustrated and limping back to my Atari to play Missile Command. Well thanks to former Microsoftee, Ed Fries, fans can now spend QT with their 2600 consoles and play Halo at the same time, sort of. Yes the man who was originally responsible for bringing the smash-hit and its developer, Bungie, to Microsoft way back in 2000, has figured out a way to shrink it, well a version of it, into 4K, the standard size for an Atari 2600 cartridge. It originally started out as simple retro-coding project that Ed was working on for fun before he eventually fleshed it out into a full-fledged, and pretty engaging, homebrew Atari 2600 game. There are a handful of physical copies floating around out there that were distributed by the guys at the 2010 Classic Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, but your best best is to play Halo 2600 online HERE for free. Or if you want to download the ROM to use with your favorite 2600 emulator, you can do that HERE for free. Have fun and frag away!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Climb aboard the nutmeg of consolation

Retrogeeks rejoice, Thomas Dolby released his first studio album in 20 years. The soundtrack of 80's geek culture would be incomplete without the hits of Thomas Dolby, who brought his mad-scientist persona to the Mtv airwaves seemingly always surrounded by measurement equipment, "tubes and wires," and other arcane gadgetry. [See the Europa and Pirate Twins video for a prime example.]

Well he's back. Recording in a lifeboat, powered by renewable energy. Take this video tour of his personal studio where he talks vintage boat refurbishing, recording his new album with a Mac PowerPC G5, and why he prefers ProTools to Logic. Dolby fans: full-screen it, and be sure to watch all three parts.

It seems fitting that the man who sang Windpower in 1983, now powers his home studio with, well, windpower.

On The Flip Side

It's long been known that geeks, retro and otherwise, enjoy the novelty of "playing records" – not just listening to music, but the act of collecting vinyl records and gathering together to play them on vintage, and otherwise, music reproduction equipment. However those in the know will quickly point out that the 1/8-inch compact cassette at least equals the classic vinyl disc in terms of pure retro coolness (don't even get me started on 8-track). Finally someone has decided to revisit the long-abandoned idea of combining these two mediums into one package, and that someone has turned out to be the increasingly clever ION Audio, a consumer brand introduced by Numark Industries, who have already made waves in the music industry with their innovative DJ turntables and mixing gear. While it's certainly not the first of its kind, the ION Duo Deck is probably the first vinyl/cassette combo player to feature powered on-board USB, which not only allows the transfer of music to a PC or Mac (using the included cable and software) but also eliminates the need for a traditional wall-wart power adaptor, although one is included. Small enough to fit into your backpack, the unit can be powered by batteries as well and features both a built-in speaker and headphone jack making it a complete package in the category of portable retro music players. Here are the stats of this soon-to-be-released wonder:

• Compact, portable design fits easily into a bag or backpack
• Plays and converts vinyl records and cassette tapes
• Built-in speaker allows you to listen to your records or cassettes anywhere
• Convert records and tapes into MP3s using the included EZ Vinyl / Tape Converter software
• Headphone output for private listening or connection to external speakers
• Plays and converts 45 and 33-1/3 RPM records: 45 adapter included
• Plays and converts both normal and chrome cassette tapes
• Onboard light makes finding the groove quick and easy
• Retractable tone-arm clip for secure, compact travel
• Powered by batteries (not included), USB connection or wall adapter (included)

Click HERE to go directly to the product page.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Mario. The very name conjures up memories of me sitting cross-legged for hours in front of an aging Zenith chugging cans of Coke while my thumbs went numb from relentless button-mashing and my brain formed tiny little dents from the incessant repetition of the Mario theme song. Good times, good times. Well for those of you who also share a kinship with the NES and its unique franchise of video game characters like Link, Mega Man and, of course, Mario, there's now a way to get all of your Nintendo jollies in one place. "Where" you ask? Why right here on the internet, of course! Head on over to Exploding Rabbit and try your hand at Super Mario Bros. Crossover 2.0, a complete rewrite of the original Super Mario Bros. game, but with the very special option to play not just as Mario, but as one of your favorite classic NES-game characters like Samus from Metroid, Simon from Castlevania or even that dude from Ninja Gaiden. Whichever one you decide to play also features the powers of that particular character, so for instance, if you play as the Contra guy, you can use your rifle to blow away Goombas and pick up coins. What more can I say? Go check it out!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Polaroid: One Step Ahead or Behind?

Polaroid might know that they need a Hail-Mary pass soon, and badly, but don't count the one-time photo industry powerhouse out of the game just yet. If you're old enough to know who they are then you're old enough to have noticed that Polaroid's sort of dropped off of the face Earth lately, mostly due to the struggles they've had with various financial issues. So in a nod to its past and also a bid for marketshare, Polaroid has announced an all new camera updated for the 21st century. The Z2300 Instant Digital Camera takes its design cues from the classic OneStep cameras of the 70s/80s and, like its older siblings, produces fairly decent prints almost instantly by way of a miniaturized color printer of sorts - believe it or not, you even load some kind of "film" into this thing.  Due for release on August 15th, only time will tell whether or not consumers are going to fall in love with the Z2300 like they did the hugely successful OneStep cameras. In the meantime, you can check out an early hands-on demo video below.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Let's Talk Geek

While traversing the realms of magic, comedy and retro-hipness in the early 80s, one would be hard-pressed not to find magician/comedian/retro-hipster Harry Anderson sharing your cab a time or two. The multi-talented entertainer and self-professed Mel Tormé fan sporadically appeared as con man Harry the Hat on the long-running sitcom "Cheers" during its first few seasons and regularly on NBC's Saturday Night Live as a guest before taking a permanent role as Judge Harold T. Stone on the Emmy-award winning series, Night Court (1984-1992). While Anderson eventually went on to take the lead in yet another sitcom, the much more subdued and conventional Dave's World from 1993 to 1997, it was those unbridled early live appearances on SNL that cemented the name Harry Anderson into the collective mind of the American television-viewing audience. Probably the most memorable "bit" he performed on SNL, and featured in the video below, is that of his now-famous "needle through the arm" trick. A trick so famous, in fact, that you can buy it HERE. In it, Anderson begins with a short explanation of an alternate definition for the word "geek" and from there goes into his typical non-chalant delivery whist proceeding to  jab metal into his, well, arm. Back in the 80s this kind of stuff might have made some folks squeamish, but considering this post-Jim Rose freakshow of a world we live in I'm pretty sure you guys can take it. Enjoy.

Re-Boot Cop

In 1987, Dutch-born director Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall, Basic Instinct) bestowed upon us a brand of American hero that until then had been largely absent from the genre of action-oriented science-fiction, well at least since the cancellation of the Six Million Dollar Man. His name was RoboCop and he was a freakin' cyborg. And cyborgs are cool. Continuing a trend that had begun with other sci-fi films of the 80s such as Bladerunner, RoboCop was set in a violent dystopian future where urban congestion and corporate omnipotence had all but smothered the spirits of the downtrodden populace, hmm sounds a bit like 2012. Well here we are 25 years later and the powers of Hollywood have decided that it's time for a reboot (at least that's longer than they gave Spiderman). Helmed by Brazillian director, Jose Padilha, the new and presumably improved RoboCop will begin shooting this fall featuring a fresh new cast and state-of-the-art CGI effects, which I assume means no claymation. Not much is known yet about the project other than that it will feature some pretty big Hollywood names like Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson and Hugh Laurie, and while that does sound promising, leading actor Joel Kinneman, who plays officer Murphy, has already been quoted as saying that the film's tone will be closer to that of the Dark Knight than to that of the original, "more campy" RoboCop - and that right there gives me pause. Frankly, I get a little worried whenever that increasingly overused comparison is made as it tends to set the film up for failure from the start. Plus, it's 2012, the Dark Knight came out in 2008 for crying out loud! You're supposed to say that it's "better than The Avengers," if you want people to plunk down hard-earned clams to see your crappy flick. Sheesh!

You can check out the first viral video from the upcoming blockbuster below. It's just enough to whet your appetite, though.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Peace, Love and Mass Consumerism

The internet. You're soaking in it. You talk on it, shop on it, bank on it and perhaps partake in other unmentionables on it. But for all of our modern tech-savvy and gadget-centric behavior, it turns out that the brilliant minds of 1969 already knew what we idiots in 2012 would be doing with all of those amazing technologies they could only dream about - well except for maybe Facebook. Sure they had the implementation a bit wrong and our culture has changed quite a bit in 43 years, but as you'll see in the video below they were on the right track. So the next time Al Gore tries to tell you he invented the information super-highway, a.k.a. "cyberspace," you can politely tell him to go hang his chad.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Forever Classic

Folks, the word "classic" gets thrown around quite a bit these days, and it gets applied to everything from failed soft drinks to disposable diapers. But once in a great while, a true classic turns up in my Google search results, a sturdy icon of its age blessed with the wherewithal to transcend both style and fashion and yes, even time itself - and that classic is the Casio Databank CA53W-1 watch, available now from selected online retailers. Casio's calculator/PDA-styled series of watches was introduced in 1983 with the Databank CD-40, one of the first watches of the 80s that allowed its user to store information. While later incarnations of the device eventually added PDA functions and increased memory capacity, the modern-day CA-53W-1 is not much different from the original standard calculator version and succeeds at capturing that classic Casio style in every rubberized micro-button. Here are the specs:

• 8-Digit Calculator
• Constants for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division
• Water Resistant
• Dual Time
• Daily Alarm
• 1/100 second stopwatch
• Measuring modes: Elapsed time, split time, 1st-2nd place times
• Hourly Time Signal
• Auto Calendar (pre-programmed until the year 2079)
• Approx. battery life: 5 years

So for less than 25 bones you can have the computing-equivalent of a Timex Sinclair 1000 (there's a post for a later time) strapped to your wrist and let me tell you, if you were seen at the mall in 1983 wearing one of these badboys you felt like you were in friggin' Star Trek! Most gnarly!

To go to directly to Casio's product page click HERE. Then you'll be able to finish your Marty McFly costume just in time for Halloween!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Retro to the Core

The year was 1986. Steve Jobs had been forced out of his company 12 months prior and Apple was ready to get some real money flowing in now that the dirty hippie had been ejected and corporate sensibilities could finally take their rightful place in the fledgling fruit company. Up to that point Apple had already been known for their habit of creating custom t-shirts, which generally featured the names of projects employees were working on, or corporate events that had recently transpired (there's a whole book on it). But now Apple was in the thick of the "me" decade and what's more egotistical (and ideal for providing a low maintenance revenue stream on the side) than a full-featured, top-to-bottom clothing line? Absolutely nothing. Ask Mary-Kate and Ashley. To be honest, I haven't been able to determine just how long Apple's initial forray into custom duds lasted or how extensive the venture became, but you can still find selected bits of apparel branded with the iconic logo at various online outlets, just maybe a bit more tastefully designed than the dreck they tried to schlep on us back in the Max Headroom days. Check out the scans below for some selected cuts from the original catalog.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bluetooth Boom Box

Hey kids! Now you can wang your chung in a totally rad way with the Lasonic i931bt Retro Ghetto Blaster (now referred to on some sites as the i931bt High Performance Portable Music System). You might remember Lasonic as a popular manufacturer of cassette-based boom boxes in the late 80s/early 90s so this stereo's pedigree is retro-legit, but unlike its vintage siblings, the i931bt can blast beats from a variety of modern sources. Here's a partial feature list:

• USB Port and SD/MMC Slot for MP3 Playback
• Bluetooth Connectivity to any Bluetooth Enabled Phone or Tablet
• AM/FM/RBDS (Radio Broadcast Data System)
• Real Time Clock with Full Alarm Functions
• 15 Watts x 2
• EQ
• Remote Control

One nice little touch is the authentic slathering of bright, angular 90s graphics on the product's casing which mean absolutely nothing but make it look very important and exciting. The list price is $349 but you can pick it up for much less over here and probably even cheaper if you use this.

Stamp Not Included

An interesting registration card from a vintage video game controller I bought on eBay. Note the part about "family income" at the bottom. Back then, if you made more than $35,000 a year you were a millionaire.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Our First Bacon Post!

Because it's not an early 21st century blog unless you have some bacon thrown in there somewhere, I present to you the ultimate RetroGeeker snack: Reddi-Bacon. Introduced to pork-eating test-markets in 1964 by the same guys who brought you Reddi-Whip, Reddi-Bacon promised consumers quick and easy bacon without having to dirty up any dishes or pans. Partly because of aluminum's heat-conducive properties and partly because 1960s folk tended to think it looked spacey and futuristic, the product was shipped fully-coooked in foil packs which were designed to fit into an ordinary household toaster, allowing the preparer to heat the sweet meat into a salty, tasty treat. However, once the foil-packed strips of piggy goodness were subjected to the intense heat of the toasting process, the package would begin to leak molten fat, not only destroying the customer's only means of making Pop-Tarts (tried nuking one of those? it doesn't work) but also creating a potential fire-hazzard. Fortunately, the test markets spoke-up and and Reddi-Bacon was quickly and permanently shelved along with dozens of other unsuccessful products from the "Reddi" line such as Reddi-Head Cheese, Reddi-Ipecac and the vastly unpopular Reddi-Enema.

8-Bit Video Blast From the Past

Quick! Do you know what the video game capital of the world is? New York? L.A.? Dubai? Well you'll never guess in a million years because that place is Ottumwa, Iowa, U.S.A., population 25,023 and you've probably never been there unless you're Tom Arnold or some kind of confused Gary Burghoff fan. But yes, it's true and there's a movie out there to prove it called Chasing Ghosts, directed by Lincoln Ruchti. This surprisingly entertaining documentary tells the story of the meteoric rise (which is a weird phrase because meteors more or less come down, not go up) of the greatest classic video game competitors of the early 1980s and the sub-culture that grew from a little video arcade in Iowa called Twin Galaxies (OK, makes sense now).

Ottumwa, Iowa 1982 Copyright Enrico Ferorelli 2007

Back-stabbing lies, delusions of grandeur, sleezy groupies, this flick's got it all! Oh and Pac-Man, there's lots of Pac-Man in there too. You can pick the flick up from iTunes or Amazon, but if you have Netflix, you can watch it streaming on your computer, phone or tablet right now. Check out the preview below.

Will Not Exterminate Your Wallet

With all the hubbub these days over that new-fangled Doctor Who cum Twilight-wanna-be getting everybody's pants wet, it's nice to see the classic series that started it all get its fair share of recognition, although that honor comes in a tiny three and a quarter-inch package. Yes, sure to delight Doctor Who fans of any era is the new 1963-style wind-up desktop Dalek available now from our friends at At $9.98 this thing is practically a steal and it does double-duty as both an attractive totem announcing your love for Doctor Who and all things science-fictiony, but it will patrol your desk and take out any stray Pokemon dolls or lame McDonald's movie tie-in action figures as well. You pretty much can't put a price on that.

Click HERE to go directly to the product page.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Greetings everyone and welcome to RetroGeeker where you can get the latest news and info on golden moldies from the past. If it's old and geeky, we talk about it. Thanks for checking us out and enjoy!