The tsetse flies in Raiders Of The Lost Ark were a pain in the arse.
Crystal Castles was great though, and the tanks one.
Christmas isn’t just a time for celebration – it’s also a time for bitter, tearful reflection on the things that might have been and the gifts you’d have received if only you worked harder at that paper round, or your parents loved you enough. So we at The Reg decided to sift the salty tears of seasonal recrimination and seek …
Yup, the Atari is the only thing I had from that list. What I really wanted though, was a Mattel Synsonics:
Finally got one earlier this year, nearly 30 years later! Scratching around on the Internets, I was amused to learn that Kraftwerk used one.
I still have my Atari 2600 and it still works. :) I bring it out of the cupboard once a year or so for a few games of Space Invaders, Asteroids, etc.
I also had an FX-570 calculators which was well used until I got one of the ones that could draw graphs while I was doing my A-Levels.
Back in the day just about ANYTHING with the Activision name on it was gold. I had stacks of Activision cartridges. We traded and passed them around at school between friends like packs of cigarettes. Oh the hours I wasted on Pitfall...and then when I got bored with it, I wasted even more hours with the game that would result if you flipped the power on Pitfall really fast (random scrambled game, but still fun).
The graphics were horrible but there was something about the 2600 that made it a must-have. Even Atari couldn't compete against it with later consoles. And those ancient Atari joysticks from 1982 had greater longevity than any joystick I owned since. (Although I really wish I had aquired a Wico back in the day...)
Ooooooooh Vectrex. I had one of those - it was great. So called because of it's vector graphics. I got it in a Woolco closing down sale with a shedload of games, played it for years, kept it in the attic for longer, then sold it on ebay for a huge profit. Still a cult machine, I understand.
Still have an Atari 2600 (the second black plasitc design not the wood effect one - that died), also had the FX-570. Wanted the Big Trak but could afford it at the time.
Also remember work (An Art & Design uni) getting several of the Quicktake cameras in when they were newly out. Were VERY popular with the students.
Thanks for making me feel old.
Yep, I reckon the Atari was probably the best family present (excluding for the oldsters of the time). I think we got at least three Christmases worth of games out of that console, pretty good considering the punishment it took.
I reckon biplanes was the one that gave those indistructable joysticks most grief - seem to remember having 4 player mode. all really pushing the wretched controllers as hard as we could for hours on end - never did break the things.
It was all still working went consigned by mum to the "cheridy" shop. :(
I remember annoying my parents with Big Trak's laser. I was lucky enough to have the dumper trailer too!
I've seen Big Trak being sold again in the shops. It looks smaller than I remember it. (Just like Curly Wurlys)
I always wondered if Big Trak was the inspiration for the truck in Lunar Jetman
I worked in a long-gone toy chain called Taylor & McKenna when Big Trak came out.
We sold shed loads of them and their tipping trailer, it was genuinely a must-have toy for Christmas and we eventually ran out of both.
When we opened for business after Christmas that year we discovered that the build quality was not quite as good as it could have been.
Broken keypads. Sticking wheels. Trailers that would not tip. Trailers that wouldn't stop tipping.
Most of customers wanted a working Big Trak and we had no replacements. Fortunately I had already had a rummage about in the innards of one that had been bought as a birthday present and had failed so I knew how to fix them.
The broken keyboard - peel apart the plastic layers and put electroconductive paint on the broken circuitry. Removing and reseating the wheels fixed the circling problem. The trailers had a plastic component that informed the controller whether the trailer was in the process of tipping and usually just needed reseating as it tended to stick.
We had customers holding Big Traks and trailers queuing right out of the shop and forming a line in the shopping centre. I had to triage the machines into definitely defunct, needed serious attention (keypad painting) and reseating jobs.
Customers in the queue were watching me fix a trailer and copying what I was doing. The majority of them successfully fixed their own, which took some of the load off. I think we eventually ended up with about a dozen ones that were sufficiently dead that we could cannibalise them for spares and fixed the rest.
I don't know what the failure rate was but it kept me occupied for weeks. The nice thing was I only recall ever seeing a couple come back again as faulty after we had fixed them.
BigTrak was my main present for Christmas 1980 - I've seen photos of a much-smaller me, following BT around the lounge floor. It eventually broke (an axle, as I recall), but it introduced me to a simplified concept of programming, and gave me the opportunity to pretend I had a robot "dog" like K9. Still wish I could've got the add-on trailer too!
And to add to one of the other replies: it sounds like you've seen "BigTrak Jr" in Hawkins Bazaar (or some similar emporium). There's also a replica version of the full-size BT available... wonder if they've added WiFi and remote-control? Must go look...
It's one of those toys I could never afford as a kid in the 80s, school friend had one and I had fun playing with that, but now I have my own original 1979 looking-like-new Big Trak & Transporter (trailer) sitting proudly on my shelves of retro electronic toys, which includes all 7 variants of the TomyTronic 3D handhelds plus the Tandy clone, lots of tabletop VFD games as well as a Simon, Mercury Maze, Rubik's Magic, a lot of Nintendo gameandwatches, over 30 wrist watch games, and more...
Incedentally, did you know they put a Big Trak on Mars? (that's my one) :)
"No one else reminded of a mako?"
Yeah, I couldn't help but think of Big Trak whenever I saw the Mako! I loved the Mako and its improbable climbing abilities (and equally improbable indestructibility, considering my driving skills...)
As regards things shrinking, the Curly Wurly is right up there, but I think Wagon Wheels were the real defining factor. I remember them being at least a foot across when I was six years old.
Hey I had a Big Trak back in 1979. Mine came with a dumptruck attachment that you plugged into the main unit. So you COULD use the thing to bring a gin & tonic, as long as you didn't program it to "dump." Mine broke an axle as well (must have been a common failure point). And actually mine was a dark shade of gray, not white like in the picture.
Whenever I wonder if a biscuit has really shrunk, I bring a pack to my parents' house, as they still have the cups that used to hold the milk I dunked my biscuits in. Certain biscuits needed a bit bitten off the side before they would fit. If they don't any more, then I know they've shrunk them.
Found my old PC-1500 in the bottom of one of those 'sort it out when everything else is settled' house-moving boxes a couple of weeks back when rummaging in the garage. Haven't tried to power it up yet (power block was there). Myself & a mate made a few quid programming them up for a company that wanted to send its salesmen out with a rudimentary estimator, they bunged us one each (with the bog roll printer) as part of the deal. Not bad considering we were basically schoolkids :)
A friend and I had one each and I remember writing a program to work out starship specs (for Traveller - a D&D in space) which worked pretty well as I recall.
I also have a 2600 in the loft, but I also enjoy listening to Johnathon Coultons '2600' which is a tribute to it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tu1bRm7XXNo
I had one rich kid friend who had a bigtrak.
back then we still had a black and white tv. I don't think I had any electrical toys - so I remember it really being space age.
We finally got a colour tv in about 1982. I remember we occasionally hire a VCR and a movie or once, even an atari console for the weekend which was pretty special.
It's easy to forget how much more dispostable income people have generally these days. I think it's taken the 'awesome' out of xmas for kids a bit - seeing the £1000+ amount of crap my neices get these days for example.
Saying that, of course I'm still using xmas as an opportunity to induldge myself in buying as much uncessary expensive gadgety tat that I can possibly get away with.... it's what christmas is all about :-0
We got colour in late 1980, just before Xmas, a rented set from Rediffusion. I think that was four years or so after we'd made the leap to UHF-only with a Grundig black and white set to replace the old Ferguson dual standard model.
I'm sure we weren't the only kids for whom Saturday tea time was often marked by us pestering to be allowed to go to friends up the road to watch Dr Who in colour.
So, things like the VCS and Simon really did seem pretty amazing back then, both in their technical novelty and the fact that they were the exception, rather than just another chip-packed bit of gadgetry to add to the toy box
We eventually got a colour telly in 1983 - my dad's farm worker's salary of £13 per week not really stretching to such things. I remember walking up the fields to a neighbour's house - over a mile away - to watch the Royal Wedding in colour. My mum insisted.
I had a version of the Casio calculator; bought it myself in '85. It had most of the function keys on a membrane keyboard in the wallet/cover/thingy. Can anyone remember what model number that was?
"We got colour in late 1980, just before Xmas, a rented set from Rediffusion."
We rented ours from DER, being early adopters in the mid '70s! The repair man spent so much time at our house that he may as well have moved in with us.
I was relegated to watching Doctor Who in black and white on my parents' portable. Because we were a two TV family, don't'cher know. (Actually, I remember my dad taking a photo for posterity during the week our household accidentally owned no fewer than two cars because it was such a rarity. :D)
That's the company I was trying to remember! We were customers of theirs for years (I don't think my parents actually owned a TV outright until well into the 1980s). I can't quite place the year, but I remember the getting the latest Phillips TV (with remote control!) and VHS just before Christmas, and being the only one in the house who could make either work reliably (because I fiddled endlessly with the controls on both during the boring Christmas holiday - probably contributing to why no-one else could ever work them out ...) I even remember taking the top cover off the VHS so I could work out how it functioned, though only when it wasn't so new.
Somehow, buying my own tech isn't as exciting as waiting to see what the rental man was going to bring through the door ...
...I would spend hours in Comet just looking around them and wanting one so badly. Finally got myself a a FX360P with two-line display and a large library of in-built progs some of which were very esoteric but quite a number were also very useful so not a total gimmick - plus you got an inch thick manual documenting it all beautifully.
The BASIC was, well basic and the computer itself laughably slow if you had any loops, but I played it with it for hours and used it for serious stuff too so not all bad.
Still have it and it still looks good to my eye. Only downside is that you had to remember to replace the back-up battery before the mains got too flat or you lost everything - I balked at the cost of the interface that would allow saving to tape - it was more than the fx IIRC :-O
Meh... your spring chickens then. When I got my Sony Walkman spent several hours dismantling the head set and embedding the speakers into my helmet for music on the move. Made the London to Paris run on the Honda CBX (6 cylinders) much more enjoyable.
Much as I wanted many of the items mentioned here (especially the Atari), I realised that I hadn't a hope in hell of ever getting it.
What I really wanted in my later primary school years was technical lego and the 4.5V battery motor (which my mother hated on account of the cost of the batteries). I had just discovered how gears worked and too much technical lego was not enough.
I still have it and much as I enjoy tinkering with it, I'm waiting for my not-yet-old-enough children to grow into it.
Lego Technic was wonderful, though on one Christmas day I didn't get much of a chance to play with it 'cos my dad nicked it for himself, under the pretence that he was educating me in the ways of gear boxes. I wouldn't mind, except he was also saying how how much better Mechano was... I had a generic set with a motor, but my mates, two brothers, had the JCB model with the pneumatic systems, and the sports car with suspension and differential gearbox.
I still use Lego from time to time, either to model a mechanism when I've had enough of mechanical CAD, or simply to make a little jig - with a scalpel blade super-glued on to cut foam, for example. In fact, I'm thinking of buying a big bucket of cheap and cheerful Lego clone bits for that sort of purpose.
My first lesson in different voltages was killing a Lego light (6V?) by using it with the 12V transformer that was designed for the Lego train set.
"For me it was always a 928 - not a Porsche, a 'Space Cruiser and Moonbase'."
Oh God yeah. I coveted one of those things for years. I was ecstatic when I finally got one! I'm sure that was the golden age of Lego, my formative years being nothing at all to do with it. :D
A friend of mine had one of those - it was the first digital camera I'd ever seen (late-1990s), and for all its limitations, it got me thinking "I gotta get me one of THESE (or something like it that takes better pics, obviously)!".
Ultimately, my first digicam was a Kodak DC200+ (1999) - a real "brick" of a machine, with no zoom, CF memory card slot and ample space for the 4 AA batteries. Still "only" took 1.3MP photos - I've recently been gradually archiving my old digital snaps to Flickr, and the DC200+ ones I've looked at, appear pretty poor by today's standards. Low-res, fuzzy, and really quite bad colour (esp. those around the red end of the spectrum) - if you want evidence of how much digital imaging has improved in fifteen years, I have plenty... well, we had to start somewhere, I suppose :-)
I'm fairly certain I still have the DC200+ in a drawer, along with just about every other smartphone I've owned since 2007, the Canon IXUS that replaced the DC, my Sharp MiniDisc recorder, etc. Yes, I'm a hoarder...
My first digital camera I bought about 13 years ago was a 2nd hand Olympus Camedia C-1000L (also known as D-500L), 1024x768 resolution max but it's a true DSLR with optical zoom which made composing shots real easy.
The quality of the photos was what sold me on it, I doubt you'll ever see another 1024x768 camera from as far back as 1997 produce a better quality shot than these examples: http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D500/500PICS.HTM
I've got a Sony Mavica somewhere, bought by old man from the Sony outlet store North of New York in the very late nineties. It took floppy disks, which was convenient at the time. The pictures weren't huge, but the quality was good. My university faculty had a couple as well, though the state of the art was such that they still trained us to use exposure bracketing on film cameras when photographing appearance models.
Still have the Sony Mavica FD-7 I bought when they came out in the UK in the late 1990s – it has the Carl Zeiss 10x optical zoom was superb for the time… It was considered sufficiently useful (and cost-effective) for the local Police Force to buy them for its Scene of Crime Officers… I bought it to use on a trip to Istanbul as it was a little less 'obvious' than my normal (film) SLR for discrete photography (and, at the time, taking photographs there could lead to problems, as I found out !).
Used 3.5" floppy disks which were readily available and pretty cheap and had the bonus of letting you see what you'd taken so you could do it again if needed. The 10x zoom was very impressive for catching detail, even with 640x480 images… The only oddity (perhaps because the chip used was derived from video recording) is that any light halation took the form of 'falling diamonds' which could look very 'arty' when compared to the more normal multiple images of the shutter iris.
The camera still works (with its original rechargeable batteries) and members of my local photographic Club were pretty gobsmacked by the image quality and ease of use for a digital camera of that age.
> Then the later ones using a small CD
I've still got one.
The CD drive lets it down - very slow to store photos - and the 5MP array isn't much to shout about, but the lens on the front is fantastic, so the resulting shots are often much better than supposedly "better" cameras.
We've go an A0 shot of an elephant on the wall (my missus took it in India). It looks excellent...
 It's a Zeiss, and it's a very nice piece of glass, that.
>appear pretty poor by today's standards.
I have an old brick Canon digital camera I bought around 2001ish also and though the electronics are badly obsolete and it doesn't do more than like 2 or 3 mega pixel it did come with an amazing lens so the pictures it took were pretty good all things considered. Electronics change rapidly but optics a lot less so.
I had a QuickTake 150 and loved it. I took it holiday with me, took if out and about with me - and hey presto, instant digital pictures. There was no memory card - it used one of those little round cables that looked like an old keyboard cable to remove data from it. It felt like a godsend because I didn't have to scan traditional photos into my computer any more. It took either 16 higher res VGA pics, or 32 lower-res ones - enough to get by on.
I also remember that it ran on standard alkaline batteries that seemed to last forever.
I still have the photos it took in the latest version of iPhoto (for juxtaposition purposes).
I eventually sold it on eBay to raise funds for a Fuji Finepix once digital photos started to become the Next Big Thing. To be honest, I wish I'd kept it.
All those Casio calculators are superb - I still use my fx-39 almost daily. It was bought new for my O level maths around 1979 and it is by far the longest surviving piece of electronics that I've ever owned. In fact, I can't think of any other possession from my teenage years that I still use. I have a couple of colleagues who also have Casio calculators of a similar vintage on their desks.
Plus, it only seems to need new batteries every three or four years.
My earliest memory of a decent calculator was of the brick which was the FX-31. Superb for its day. My older brother thought it was so good that using it on maths homework was tantamount to cheating so strongly did he hold this view that when he found me using it he gave me a black eye.
Oh those were the days. Lovely bit of kit though, I really wish I had not thrown it.
I an the proprietor of an IBM Selectric ballhead typewriter, an electro-mechanical masterpiece that's four years older than your calculator. It performs to the same spit-polished perfection as the day it was first plugged in, and until 2002, it had seen heavy daily use in a public office.
Now - and here comes the amazing part - this superb machine does not contain one single circuit board; all the magic is done with gears, levers, rods and, bigod!, strings and pulleys.
Damn, I miss civilization!
I had an fx-7000g, one of the first (if not the first) graphing calculators. I picked it up through school while in 6th form and got an fx-7700g on a trade-in a year later.
the latter is still working twenty odd years later.
They don't build them like they used to.
I think the Commodore SR-36 goes back a bit further. It had Red LED displays, not LCD (which ISTR hadn't yet been commercialized). Superb bit of kit for the time.
I used mine for about fifteen years, until the batteries faded to the point you could only use it tethered to a wire, and I threw it into a box in the attic. I recently found it and fired it up, but something had failed while it was in storage and it would display only gobbledegook.
Still looks good, though.
Red LED displays
Ah, the seven-segment LED display. My first electronic calculator was a TI model that used seven-seg LED. Later I had one of the Casio FX-series models (though I don't recall it having hex/oct/bin support, so probably not an FX-570), before upgrading to a second-hand HP-15C, which I loved dearly. (And on that note - "learning Reverse Polish"? That takes, what, two minutes?)
These days, I rarely use a calculator, and when I do it's generally either bc, or the Windows calculator in scientific or programmer mode. There's just no reason for me to reach for another device. If I need something complicated enough to require programming, I write a program. (Or, once in a while, use spreadsheet software, but I despise Excel and dislike the alternatives.)
I also have a dusty old Radio Shack EC-4011 scientific calculator still sitting by the desk (next to the 15C), notable because it's solar-powered. Still comes on as soon as I flip it open. It has hex/oct/bin support and boolean operators too. Don't know when it was made, but I've had it since the early '80s.
I had a Computacar in about 1970, authentically programmed with a punched card, just like a 'real' computer. Took it apart as a teen to understand how it worked, and was disappointed to realise it was entirely mechanical.
I also had a Sharp PC1500, probably in '86 or '87 that I programmed to calculate radioactive content of the tracer I was using at the time (Chromium 51) for some assay work. It is probably the only time I've ever really bothered to program anything remotely useful.
I saw a Computacar in a charity shop a few weeks back, took a picture of the box and then promptly forgot about it until now!
The punched card is a old technology of course, my friend has a pianola with some Fats Waller rolls. A fascinating use of punched paper was in torpedos... two rolls, one in the torpedo, one in the controlling station, were used to switch the frequency controlling torpedo so that the enemy couldn't take control of it after it was deployed.
Got one in 79 or 80 for Xmas and it was broken... totally dead.... as you can appreciate for a 7/8 yr old on Xmas day this was a total catastrophe and I remember my dad struggling like anything in the days after Xmas to try and find a replacement.
I think I eventually got one in late January, along with the trailer but my trauma was eased by a trip to Hamleys for more lego.
> I remember my dad struggling like anything in the days after Xmas to try and find a replacement.
Yeah kids today don't realize how one offish and manual labor intensive some of stuff back then (especially the early computers) was. I remember us getting a bad Atari home computer and it taking months to get a replacement due manufacturing and refurbishment not keeping up with demand. Just in time inventory was a far off dream in those days.
Maplin were selling both the full-size and the junior "new" Big Trak until fairly recently. As someone else mentioned, I think Hawkins Bazzar still stock them. My boys bought a junior version for themselves and still use it. I don't think the trailer was also available this time, but the boys were able to buy a can holder (simple plastic frame that sits on top of either Big Trak) and a "missile launcher" that fires one of four projectiles for each "OUT" command you send.
It was great seeing the boys playing with something I coveted when I was their age :-)
My brother got a Big Trak for Christmas once, along with the trailer and we all played with it constantly. But it didn't freak the dog out like the one on the advert.
Ditto with the Atari VCS. PacMan was a massive favourite and we would work in shifts trying to get the score counter to rollover. The ghosts always moved in the same way if you moved PacMan along the same route all the time. A local video shop used to rent out cartridges and we would get The Empire Strikes Back to play on it, which was a remarkably good game.
My favourite ever Chrimble present was an Aiwa personal stereo, a beautiful brushed aluminium device that I carried everywhere. I'd begged for one after listening to my Hooked on Classics tape on an uncle's original Sony Walkman.
I agree with another poster who said that kids probably don't get the same rush of excitement that we olds did in the 70s and 80s. I think it was truly a Golden Age for interesting and engaging toys and gadgets. Thanks for the memories, Reg!
I think that's certainly true; when you consider that, as mentioned before, for many of us, even colour television was a fairly new thing, yet here over the course of not much more than a decade were devices with incredible "silicon chips" suddenly appearing in our homes, or the homes of the posh kids up the road, doing things that seemed unimaginable only a few years before.
In the cinemas, we had things like Star Wars - with the first experience for many of surround sound - as well, and I think it all added to a tremendous sense of wonder, and the idea that we really were living almost in the future.
The year 2000 was far enough away that it seemed like anything could be possible by then; didn't Blue Peter have a competition for people to 'design' gadgets that they thought we would be using then? Not to mention the time capsule.
Yes, there have been some great things since then, like the internet, but it also seems that a lot of what's appeared since then - admittedly it's easy to look back through rose tinted specs - is smaller, faster, more integrated. Rather than things from the bloody future, in our 1970s living rooms.
Of course, we're not the first generation to have felt that; my grandmother doubtless found things pretty startling, with the arrival of radio, and can still recall the name of the first loudspeaker they bought, so that people didn't have to listen with headphones, and the subsequent arrivals.
And not so long before the period we looked at in this piece, there were those imagining what a beautiful world it would be, a glorious time to be free. Spandex jackets for everyone!
Millenium falcon. It might not be computerised but I so wanted a millenium falcon. I wanted a big trak too but never got one.
I did get one of those sideways scrolling LED mini arcarde boxes instead (with coloured acetate along the sides to add a coloured filter). That got played with for quite some time while.
Yep, I did the same with Argos catalogues as a kid, the toy section, the computer section and the Casio watch section especially. I don't have any kicking around, but I do have a 1983 Hamleys catalogue on my shelf... Sord M5 Computer, an MSX clone, Parker video games, Vectrex, Spectrum, a few others too. Notably, all the computers in the catalogue are cheaper than the dedicated Chess board computers.
Someone, not me, has kindly scanned it. Start at the first image and click 'next' a few times: (Facebook link)
I had no-10, the Brother ep-22 printer/typewriter.
It could store a page of text, but the best feature was that you could type in the lcd buffer, so everything was printed after a 12 ch delay. plenty of space to correct your typing mistakes.
I also noticed on the 'kettles' page, that there were no cordless kettles in 1985 - surely the dream item of any kitchen now.
I'm also still using my Mother's Kenwood Chef mixer/grider/blender from the 1970's. tough as old boots and great for pastry.
I use my mother's Kenwood Chef, an A701A; the only thing I've had to do was replace the mains cord, which eventually wore out around the hinge. It's older than I am; the same device that used to puree food for me as a baby is now used to whip up margaritas in the summer.
I had some of these as a teenager! The Atari, the Casio watch, the Walkman. Later on I had a number of 'databank' type devices before getting a Psion 3 (which i still have and works) before moving on to verious Palm and Springboard devices, I still have a nice brushed steel Paim Vx that still runs is hooked up to my PC and is up to date with my diary, though I don't acutually use it.
One of my favorite gadgets as a kid was a couple of devices that I had that were 3d games, one was a space invaders type game and the other was racing car game. The device looked somwhat like binoculars but with no lens at the front and when you looked into it by holding it to your eyes you got quite a good 3d image of the game. Grahics we simple lines (think Tron) but it was way cool at the time.
Damn its good to be a geek sometimes!!
LaserVision! I used to love watching flight of Dragons on this baby.
A VHS copy would definitely have worn out the amount of times we watched it but good old LaserVision was as clear as day.
My family was the only one I ever knew who own one (becasue my was one of the earliest geeks) it is no wonder it never took off it was well before its time.
I was in high school '82-'86, and I had some of these, and used others, or similar products. Of course I was in the US, so much of this stuff was a bit cheaper. Let's see...
- Microvision: No, but at some point in the '80s my father got a portable TV as a gift. It was battery-powered and had a 4" b&w screen. A novelty but rarely used.
- VCS/2600: We had Colecovision with the 2600 adapter, a great combination because it gave you a huge library of games. Played the Raiders game often enough to get pretty good at beating it.
- Big Trak: My younger brothers had one. Good fun.
- Walkman: Indispensible, particularly for riding in the car on long drives with four siblings.
- Laservision: Never had one (my parents were not early adopters of A/V tech), but at SF and gaming conventions there would often be a room showing anime on imported laserdisk. No dubbing or subtitles, but for some titles (early Miyazaki, for example) the story was easy to follow.
- PC-1500: I remember seeing one in action, but can't remember who had it; one of my friends, presumably.
- Databank: No, but had a lower-end Casio calculator watch fora while, for the sheer geek joy of it. (Years before that I had a Star Wars digital watch with LED display - you had to press a button to activate the display, as it drained too much power to be always on. I wore it everywhere, including to bed.)
- FX-570: Had a lower-end FX-series calculator without the programmer functions.
- QuickTake: No, and I wouldn't have been interested. None of the fun of film, and less practical than Polaroid.
- Visor: No, but many years later I had a Palm Pilot ... um, V, maybe? Second-hand. Used and liked it for a couple of years before I got a feature phone that did all that stuff anyway.
I happily admit, I didn't come across one of those before. So please forgive me for thinking instantly Handspring? That looks like a fugly piece of Apple shit! Yes, yes, matter of taste and things like that... but this whole iMac design was one of the worst things to face the face of earth since the birth of Gordon Brown.
Translucent plastic was all the rage at the turn of the century; I still have my Visor Deluxe (in the same blue as pictured, but there were more sober options too).
I also have a Magellan GPS module for it, the VisorPhone, OmniRemote, and a backup cartridge. Plus a folding keyboard on which I wrote quite a lot of one of my books.
Things come and go in waves, and often the latest materials advances are picked up by one company and then echoed by others who want to ride the wave; I daresay in a few years time people will look back in horror at the various vulgar gold smartphones that seem to be popular at the moment and smile with the same wry amusement they now use when confronted by Formica.
I daresay in a few years time people will look back in horror at the various vulgar gold smartphones that seem to be popular at the moment and smile with the same wry amusement they now use when confronted by Formica.
Nah. Melamine has its uses, but a gold smartphone is irredeemable.
> but this whole iMac design was one of the worst things to face the face of earth
Before the iMac was the Newton-based Apple eMate, which was a dark green translucent plastic. Around the same time, mid nineties, I had the limited edition Gravis joystick (transparent plastic instead of the usual black).
I don't mind the look of the original iMac myself (especially when generic PCs often had sculpted curvey beige plastic fascias for no good reason), but I couldn't stand the raft of cheap tat that blindly copied its blue translucent styling (but never got the colour correct). Another influence was that in the late nineties, CAD was mature enough to make curvey products much easier to design and engineer. The resulting design fashion was known as 'blobtech' at the time.
> but this whole iMac design was one of the worst things to face the face of earth
Late 90s and everything was translucently blue, from external TV cards, webcams, printers, even pencil sharpeners.
By the early to mid 2000s, it was iPod white. Even the original xBox 360.
Then, late 2000s and into the 2010s, with the iPhone and iPad, black was the new.. black.
I had one of these - the Visor Edge
(my palm III was translucent green plastic - 1999 Nov)
you could take the cartridge adapter off, making the unit really slim.
I also has the cellphone adapter, which really was 'the future'
How did palm/handspring manage to gibve away /that/ innovative lead?
I remember once Christmas - probably 1988 or thereabouts I must have been 10; I'd had a BBC B which was showing its age and I desperately wanted an Atari ST, several of my friends had one. (Mum: Why do you want another computer, the one you've got works fine!).
I was told several times I wouldn't be getting one, but still that disappointment on Christmas morning when it didn't arrive :o(.
About 6 months later my Dad went and got me a PC instead, 286 12Mhz! I got into upgrading etc and it's probably why I'm now a sysadmin!
And had you got the Atari, you might now be a music studio engineer... : D
Or a programmer. I learned assembly language programming and C on an Atari ST, still have the books and software at home (DevPac assembler and Lattice C compiler). Always wanted Steinberg Pro24 for music making, but got lumbered with Pro12 which was an extremely limited and buggy budget version. Eventually got a hardware sequencer instead, which I still use - a Roland MC-50 now equipped with a floppy disk emulator that takes SD cards.
Looking at this list and remembering my dad's Sharp Pocket Computer, which he used for work (and payed decent money, I now know), yet which he still put in my 4-5 year old hands back in the eighties, makes me feel warm and fuzzy like I haven't in a long time. Also, I still have his old Casio FX-502P programmable calculator in my desk. :)
Thanks for this : your techie nostalgia articles are some of my favorites. I remember really really wanting a commodore 64. In the end, I seem to remember due to the extra cost of the proprietary commodore cassette player, I had to make do with a Dragon 32. The company then immediately went titsup, and the supply of games stopped. The C64 remained popular for years. Nicely done, Santa....
Oh, there's no comparison between the VCS and the Atari 400/800. It's amazing that the first one works - everything has to 'race the beam' generating each line on the fly - and the latter are simply amazing bits of hardware for their day. Pole Position was my favourite, showing off the hardware line-by-line scrolling to best effect.
The 800 in particular was a great machine for kids. I had three or four friends who had them, and they all got into writing graphics hacks and disassembling the code in game cartridges and the like. The 800 had two cartridge slots, and you could put the Atari Debugger cart in the A slot and a game in the B slot, boot into the debugger, and poke around in the game cart's ROM.
I've got a VHS version, and my somewhat less reliable memory of the cinema release, that says you are correct. The actor was Declan Mulholland, and he was overlaid by the CGI version in the later versions. In the original version, Han walks all the way around Jabba without rising as he walks over the tail (because it wasn't there). The upwards movement is therefore also added very post-production!
"The upwards movement is therefore also added very post-production!"
There was a documentary about all the "cool stuff" George Lucas was doing to "improve" the films in which this very scene was featured.
Along with adding extra "aliens" in the street scenes at Mos Eisley and loads more space ships in the space battles and so on.
Nothing compared though, with the sheer joyous wonder of watching the original cinema release of Part IV! (The "OMG look at size of that battleship" moment in the opening scene and the 60/50Hz AC hum of the light sabres - sigh)
Thank goodness somebody else remembers it, thought I was going nuts. I think human jaba might have been in the original 1977 release too. Incidentally, it was not called "Part IV" originally. That was part of the cruft added years later by Lucas's retro-meddling, about which there are many enlightening videos on youtube. Some of the changes he made are daft, you have to think he needs his head examining.
IN about 1983 me and a friend put together a Sharp PC1500, serial interface, home-brew CUTS modulator and a VHF Amateur radio to build in software and hardware what we would today call a simple smartphone. THe software allowed you to view diary entries and read simple messages (email was not a common term back then). The modulator and Radio communicated back to a base station made up of an Apple II plus another CUTS interface, two VHF radios (for voice duplex) and a Hays compatible modem card supporting 1200/75 Prestel standard. The modem had been hacked so the Apple could switch the audio input and out of the modem to the radios. This allowed the PC1500 to have data communications with the Apple II for the purposes of exchanging messages and calendar events with other users and also route voice via radio to a telephone line to allow for voice calls which could be set up by the PC1500 or using the DTMF keypad on the VHF Radio (a Yeasu FT208 for the interested).
At the time I thought it was pretty neat and showed it to some people who then introduced me to some folks from BT Labs and they showed me something called a cellular telephone in a car. Shortly after that I gave up on my little homebrew efforts as clearly real people were way ahead of anything I was going to achieve.
Real gadgeteers got the Canon Xap (or Zap) Shot "Still Video Camera" back in 1988. The tiny 2" floppy discs held 50 pictures per disc.
I was actually shocked to learn some years later that it wasn't really a digital camera. It was more like a VCR, taking analog images and recording them on that floppy.
Still...great device for it's day. Plugging the thing into a TV set and reviewing your snaps was a real crowd pleaser.
Solar power on the FX-570? No, don't think so. Lithium battery only. I've still got mine in my desk drawer - alongside the WHSmith flowchart stencil, both purchased while studying Computer Studies 'O' Level.
Neither really get used in anger any more, but they do get wheeled out when I go into "nostalgic old git" mode.
"Back in 1980, you spent your Sunday evenings with a radio cassette taping the hits from the chart show"
And that boys and girls is why there is no more music or a music industry, Whats that? they still make music and there is still profit to be made? damn lies! Home taping killed music and that's a F.A.C.T!
Was I the only one that used the Sinclair Cambridge programmable calculator.
It allowed me to write routines to get all sorts of boring data processing jobs sorted without any effort when I started teaching, in 1981. And I hadn't any need of it's many flawed functions (trigonometry) luckily.
I loved it. It made my life that little bit easier.
Then some little sod in the school broke into the classroom and nicked it.
I still have mine, minus the 9v battery cover. It hasn't been out of the cupboard for a few years now though, and that was to tick off a "your computer is running slow" telephone caller.
It was eventually replaced by a TI-68 calculator which does still get used (mostly for calculating nothing more complex than where I am in the Nether compared with the Overworld.) Even the TI is prehistoric now.
> Was I the only one that used the Sinclair Cambridge programmable calculator.
Nope. I had one, and so did quite a few of my mates.
Debenhams, of all places, was knocking them out at £7 a go...
 I'm quite shocked I can remember that all these years later...
Though their hearts were in the right place, my parents either couldn't afford or were totally ignorant of the actual item you wanted.
In my case, everyone at school seemed to be getting Sony Walkmans, so for Christmas 1983, I pestered for one. Imagine my disappointment on Christmas day pulling the wrapping off a SpinneyTronic AM/FM personal radio - no tape deck, just a radio. The headphones were pretty good, though, and outlasted the black and gold box by a good few years.
Another case was when i asked for a train set for Christmas. Hornby had been advertising heavily and so I put the pressure on. I ended up with one by Tente (can't remember the spelling), a Spanish company, totally incompatible with all Hornby gear. Oh well, i did get a copy of the Guinness Book of Records as well that year, so all was not lost!
Still have mine at work on my desk, continuing to do it's job perfectly (more convenient than a 'calculator application', and the hex is very handy)... complete with faux-calligraphy on the back giving my name and classroom details, and a sticker from university certifying that it was approved for use in exams. On it's second battery now, and more than a little grubby and dented (yup - they had a metal fascia).
Also very handy for storing phone numbers for when you don't have your mobile (either stolen or working in a place that doesn't allow mobiles on site)
They look a bit better too. The Casio Edifice watches don't have all the buttons on the front. I did get a proper metal strap one, with metal body and mineral glass. The UK shops only sold plastic straps/cases/screens. Longest lasting watch I've ever had. Hope they start making smart watches to the same rugged specs.
I so much wanted a Sinclair Microvision, because it was like the CommLock used in Space 1999! http://catacombs.space1999.net/main/cguide/umcomlock.html (Really, I wanted a CommLock, but that was never going to happen ...)
I'm still using a Casio FX-451 (my British 450 was knicked the year I came to the US). It has all those features you boast of on the model you featured and brought them to market several years before.
I was using my blue Visor up until two years ago, when I found I could not get a replacement for the "button board" that had not suffered a battery leak all over it. The boards clean up so you'd never know (as a spare part purchaser) but the stupid foil dimple button mechanisms get battery goop inside them and wont work unless a slit is cut in them and they are rinsed out - which introduces another failure mode. Pretty much any Visor you buy today used has had at least one battery leak so beware if you are a rebuilder.
I rescued mine a couple of times from a screen break (I dropped it like the clod I am) and the deterioration of the contacts on the cradle synch port (they only make contact with the riser board by touch so are subject to early failure) but it developed the annoying and extremely inconvenient habit of powering down while in my bag and clearing its memory. One app I had could not be rescued from the desktop or the springboard backup module so the drawings my three year old daughter did were gone, sadly. The problem will require the replacement of the button board ...
So I reluctantly stopped using it. It was the coolest note taker, especially when coupled with the stowaway keyboard. I never knew there were so many young lady geeks in the world until I started using my Visor and keyboard to write my blog while commuting. Where was this tech when I was young and single, dammit?
"To a late 1970s kid, those silver switches, the fake wood and the whole design seemed glamorously American"
And indeed it was! Mine had a great glitch that I exploited for amazing high scores in Space Invaders. If the power switch was jiggled during power on, it would allow double shots. You could tell if it worked or not by watching the spalsh screen. Two shots in succession meant that you were ready to smash alien invaders!
What a surprise to see the FX570. I had that calculator and have held on to it for a nubmer of years. Alas, when I pulled it out of a box last year to give to my middle school kid, the unit wouldn't power on any more.
Hmm. Had the 2600 - in 1983, after the crash left them around the $100 mark. Never wanted the pocket computers; by the time I noticed them I already had a full blow computer with mass storage (a C= Vic-20 and datasette thankyouverymuch), Big Trak didn't fit in with my Star Wars centric universe, though.
"The one-button data sync with a desktop computer made keeping things up to date easily"
This month I've been looking at options to sync my desktop and smartphone data - options that don't involve sluicing everything through Google.
Bit by bit it is getting sorted, but at the end of the day I really, really miss the simplicity of Palm software - one button - everything synced. I would pay real money for an app that would do that with my Android phone.
"options to sync my desktop and smartphone data - options that don't involve sluicing everything through Google."
"I would pay real money for an app that would do that with my Android phone."
+1. Pointers welcome, if you have useful info to share.
It might finally tempt me to move on from my trusty Nokia E72.
I've had two Androids, far too much Googliness involved.
Looking back at the Quicktake really makes you realize how far camera tech has come. Not long ago I bought my daughter a "toy" camera (as in it was sold as a toy, but is a real, if sub-low end, camera) that stores 25 640x480 pictures. Aside from the higher storage and a more camera-like/less binocular-like profile and a well known cartoon character on the side instead of an Apple logo it has pretty much the same specs as the Quicktake. It cost me $10. I'm guessing that's a little less than what the Quicktake cost in its day.
I still have the Sinclair TV in a cupboard. I took it out a while ago to have a look. Seems in good nick, but the one battery I'd put aside with it was pretty much dead. They used odd mini-crisp-packet shaped batteries back then, cost a bomb too.
Mind you, with the big digital tv switch a few years back there'd be nothing to watch now :(
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