Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Well it's time to flip the calendar again as 2014 is nearly upon us. For my final post of the year, I'm harking back to 1978, the year my family came back to the U.S. and in my opinion, the best year ever next to 1982 (Joust, Q*Bert and Ms.Pac-Man) and maybe 1987 (Star Trek: The Next Generation). The following print ad touting Alka-Selzter's hangover-fighting abilities is from a time when people were much more open about inebriation and intoxication. The children of the 60s had grown up, they were now in power and were continuing to pursue their dreams of, as Austin Powers put it, "having unprotected sex with many anonymous partners, while experimenting with mind expanding drugs in a consequence free environment." Of course then Nancy Reagan and Mr. T came along in the 80s and shut the whole damned party down. So enjoy this little nugget from a simpler time and perhaps you too can avoid the dreaded New Year's Day hangover.
Monday, December 30, 2013
|Star Wars on your TV? No way!
So in order to support my ongoing quest to prove that I'm right about everything, I present to you one of my favorite retro moments featuring disco, droids and Jedi in hopes that you'll all come to see that George Lucas has, perhaps, a few more skeletons in his closet than he'd like to admit to. Enjoy.
YOU SAY YOU'VE SEEN DANCING STORMTROOPERS? NOT UNTIL YOU'VE SEEN THIS.
MUPPETS MEET STAR WARS…AND 30 YEARS LATER DISNEY BUYS THEM BOTH.
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
|Happy Holidays from the Bots
Monday, December 16, 2013
Can a parakeet repeat this famous Monty Python line? Yes. Yes it can. BTW if you're wondering, it's completely real. Odd that they didn't teach it the "parrot sketch" though.
Friday, December 13, 2013
|Illustration by TBottch. Stolen from DeviantArt.com - how's THAT for deviancy?
Improvements upon graphics and sound had been, up until then, the standard way to attract gamers who were looking for the latest and greatest in what the arcades had to offer, but the computer technology behind most games of the time was already being pushed to its limits. As fate would have it, however, a bright fellow named Rick Dyer, who at the time was the president of Advanced Microcomputer Systems, got the idea to take the basic structure of early computer text adventures and scale it up to accommodate prerecorded audio and photo stills, which would form a sort of visual story in which a player could take part. After several failed attempts at generating investor interest for what he dubbed his "Fantasy Machine," a chance viewing of producer Don Bluth's 1982 animated film, The Secret of NIMH, got him thinking about replacing the static photos with quality, full motion video which, as it turns out, was just what the project needed to get people excited about it. So Rick hired the veteran Disney animator's production company to do the grunt work and on an anemic budget of about a million dollars plus, they produced roughly 22 minutes of animated footage, which could then be played back on standard arcade machine monitors using Pioneer laser-disc players and coordinated by Dyer's "Fantasy Machine" hardware.
In partnership with seasoned coin-op manufacturer, Cinematronics, the first game released to utilize this new laser-disc technology was called Dragon's Lair. It's story revolved around a brave but sometimes reluctant sword and sorcery hero named Dirk Daring, whose purpose it was to explore a dark wizard's castle and battle magical monsters in order to rescue the beautiful Princess Daphne from the clutches of the evil dragon, Singe. As in most video games, the player would interact by using a joystick and button, and had only a limited set of lives with which to complete the game. However unique to the arcade industry at the time, Dragon's Lair cost not just a quarter but a whopping 50¢ to play, which didn't sit well with a lot of gamers. Complaints also surfaced regarding Dragon Lair's gameplay as the pre-rendered video scenes only allowed the player to react to the canned events of the game, which meant that the player could not actually direct character movement or action as in traditional video games like Pac-Man, Galaga, etc.
The initial success of Dragon's Lair did succeed in bringing excited gamers back to the arcades and eventually resulted in a number of sequels, knock-offs and competitors entering the market. But it was a short-lived victory as the Great Crash (known in Japan as Atari Shock) eventually came anyway and obliterated everything in its path, leaving the landscape fresh and clear for a little company called Nintendo to take root and rebuild the video game industry from scratch. But that's a tale for another time.
In the meantime, please enjoy this video which contains all 22 minutes of the original Dragon's Lair footage, as well as about 8 minutes of prototype video, taken from the 2002 laser-disc reproduction of the game.
BONUS VIDEO #1: AN EPISODE FROM THE VERY SHORT-LIVED ANIMATED SERIES
BONUS VIDEO #2: DON BLUTH TALKS ABOUT MAKING DRAGON'S LAIR
Monday, December 9, 2013
|…with a REAL computer inside!
Aside from the kiddy artwork that adorned the casing, the Little Professor was a fairly standard calculator except that it also functioned as a basic quiz game, randomly generating simple equations to which the operator would presumably input the correct answer, resulting in hours and hours of fun and learning. For example: 6 x 9 = ? And the answer is 42. "ERROR!" The Professor would then shame you with stark computer-speak displayed on its LED screen and then give you another chance to enter the correct answer. At the end of a round of questions you got to see your total score which let you know if you were going to be a Humanities student or not.
For those of you old enough to remember this little gem and who perhaps would enjoy sharing childhood memories with your own modern iPad/Netflix electro-children of the 21st century, you can now pick up an app-ified version for your Android device from the Google Play store and (as far as I can tell) it's free. Check out the video demo below and then click the link to visit Google Play and pick it up. Enjoy!
Friday, December 6, 2013
Thursday, December 5, 2013
|My kind of smart watch.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
|…and a cartridge in a pear tree.
Tired of hearing the same old Christmas music, year after year? Me too! So I went to the website, 8bitpeoples.com, and downloaded an all-star chip tune artist album, The 8bits of Christmas, absolutely free! Now you too can enjoy soon-to-be classic holiday songs like Jesus Holy, Born So Lowly, Last Christmas Hot Digi Rmx and The First Blip Blop Noel (sample video below) all played on retro game and computing gear including an NES, a ZX-Spectrum and even a Commodore Vic-20. You can preview the individual tracks or download the entire thing from 8bitpeoples' site. Cover art included.
CLICK HERE TO GO TO 8BITS OF CHRISTMAS AT 8BITPEOPLES SITE
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
|Disturbingly representative of my childhood
It's now a whole bunch of years later, but I still miss that shabby little basement with the faux wood panelling and the Suzanne Somers poster hanging next to the baseball-themed dartboard. I miss all three static-filled channels that endlessly streamed the same holiday drivel every year until we'd all had our fill of Alf, He-Man and Smurfs Christmas Specials. And I miss the TV Guide, dammit.
So as fate would have it, a few years ago I discovered a way to relive those warm and fuzzy memories without having to steal a Tardis and, even better, without having to go back to Wisconsin.
The site is called BetaMaXmas.com and basically it's a virtual recreation of the childhood memory I just described, lo-fi and complete with wood paneling. Upon entering the site, you'll be greeted with a couch and an old TV that loops 80s commercials and holiday specials from YouTube ad infinitum. Appropriately, the boob-tube sits atop an 8-Track player and Betamax machine whose clock keeps flashing 12:00. The experience is pretty complete: Don't like the channel? Use the clicker. Too much snow on the screen? Adjust the rabbit ears. Wanna know what else is on? Check out the TV Guide (if anyone under 35 is reading this, their head is probably exploding right now).
Over time, BetaMaXmas become a regular tradition for me and nowadays we turn it on around the Holidays and leave it running for hours at a time. And now that I have kids, I've found that it serves as an excellent historical pop-culture tool I can use to teach them about the time-honored tradition of commercializing Christmas, retro-style.
CLICK HERE TO ENTER BETAMAXMAS.COM