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Archive for November, 2009

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Gauntlet

Posted by Big Boo on November 30th, 2009

gauntletI remember being blown away the first time I saw Atari’s Gauntlet arcade machine. What stood out immediately was that it had four joysticks instead of the usual one or two that most arcade cabinets had. The idea that four people could play at once was relatively new back in 1985, yet the fact that the game could be played by just a single player still made it a real winner.

The game was set with a classic fantasy setting of warriors and magicians. Each joystick was on a different coloured panel, which represented the colour of your on screen character. You could choose from four classes of character, each with differing abilities. These were Warrior, Wizard, Valkyrie and Elf.

Unsurprisingly the warrior was the strongest character, whilst the wizard was the best character for using the magic potions that could be picked up in the games levels. The Valkyrie had the best armour (ironic considering she was only wearing a chain mail bikini) and the Elf was the fastest character.

Apparently the characters all had names, but this was lost on me at the time. Their names were Thor (Warrior), Merlin (Wizard – unsurprisingly), Thyra (Valkyrie) and Questor (Elf).

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Vinyl vs. Cassette Tape vs. Compact Disc vs. MP3

Posted by Big Boo on November 28th, 2009

For many years the most popular way for people to listen to recorded music was the good old vinyl record, and even today audiophiles still seem to prefer this format due to its analogue nature.

Vinyl was a bit cumbersome though, and not practical if you wanted to record your own music, so the cassette tape was invented to solve these problems, and also allow you to tape the UK chart show off the radio!

During the 1980’s it wasn’t long before the average Joe turned to compact discs for their music, since they were both more portable and more hard wearing than vinyl, and didn’t get all chewed up in your stereo like cassette tape could. It took a few more years though before you could make your own CDs.

Compact discs are obviously still incredibly popular today, but with the advent of digital music file formats such as MP3 it looks like CDs are unlikely to have as long a lifespan as vinyl enjoyed. Indeed, many radio stations now rely on downloads to provide their weekly chart shows!

Of course there have been other formats for storing music over the years, such as miniDisc and 8 Track tape, but those listed above are without doubt the most popular systems.

To the point of this weeks survey then. Of the four main music formats mentioned above, which gets your vote as your favourite way of listening to recorded music?

The best way to listen to recorded music is...
View Results
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The Great Storm of 1987

Posted by Big Boo on November 27th, 2009

storm damageThe stormy weather we’ve been having in southern England over the past week or two prompted my friend Philip to suggest that a good post for this site would be about the Great Storm of 1987, so a big “Cheers” to him for the inspiration today.

During the night of October 15th 1987 the southern part of England was hit by the worst storm in over 250 years. By the time the storm dissipated the following day it had left a trail of destruction across the country, killing at least 18 people. The storms also ravaged France, adding a further four people to the death toll.

The thing about this particular storm is that it took the country completely by surprise, as the weather forecasters predicted that the storm would die out before it reached the UK. Rumours of a storm brewing did get started some how, prompting one woman to make weather man Michael Fish look a little foolish after the event. “A woman rang to say she’d heard there was a hurricane on the way.“, Mr. Fish almost mockingly said. “Don’t worry, there isn’t“, he went on.

To be fair to Michael, he was sort of correct. Whilst the winds generated by the storm had the speed normally associated with a hurricane, the storm couldn’t actually be classed as a hurricane because it didn’t bring enough rain with it, and the wind profile of a hurricane is also very different, having a much larger whirling effect associated with it.

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Tomytronic 3D

Posted by Big Boo on November 25th, 2009

tomytronic-3dLooking like a pair of futuristic binoculars, the Tomytronic 3D range of electronic games were much sought after when they were released in the early eighties. The bold claim that these games had was that the action was depicted in three dimensions, making all those other resolutely two dimensional games seem old fashioned and dull.

This claim was probably a little over the top. Yes, the games did appear to be more three dimensional, but only because they worked in a similar way to one of those Viewmaster toys. You looked down two eyepieces so each eye saw a slightly different view of the same image. This made your brain see the image pop into three dimensions.

Sounds good, but given that these games were still limited to only being able to display the graphical images in fixed positions you weren’t going to get smooth movement or animation, and the games were limited to the standard fodder of space invader clones and driving games where you could be in one of three different lanes and all you had to do was switch lanes to dodge oncoming cars.

The games were also not all that good for your eyes or your posture! The game screen was only visible if you had a fairly strong light source coming in through the frosted plastic on the top of the unit, and of course you had to hold the thing up to your eyes constantly in order to play it, so aching arms quickly ensued.

That said, at the time none of that mattered to me and I was deeply envious of anybody who had one of these games, as it made my Grandstand Munchman look dull and boring…

Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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Classic Kids DVDs Competition

Posted by Big Boo on November 23rd, 2009

DVD competition

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve got another great competition for you to enter, the prize being a great selection of classic kids TV shows on DVD. The winner will receive the following slabs of televisual entertainment:-


Dungeons and Dragons – The Complete Animated Series
Bananaman – The Ultimate Collection
Button Moon – Adventures on Button Moon

A bumper haul and no mistake! Click here to enter the competition, and I’d like to thank VoucherCodes.co.uk for kindly supplying the prizes. Check them out for a great range of special offers, such as HMV Promotional Codes, which are a perfect way to buy a few Christmas presents and save a bit of money in the process.

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Sooty, Sweep or Soo?

Posted by Big Boo on November 21st, 2009

Another simple survey for you this week, and you don’t have to just be a Child of the 1980’s to answer this one. In fact you could be as far back as a Child of the 1950’s! I wrote about yellow teddy bear Sooty this week, and as I’m sure you’ll know he has had two main companions for many, many years in the form of Sweep the dog and Soo the panda.

These days there’s also Scampi, another little bear who I think is Sooty’s cousin, but I don’t remember him from my childhood, so sorry Scampi fans, you can’t choose him on this survey. Quite why he’s named after seafood I don’t know…

Sooty, Sweep or Soo? Who was best?
View Results
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Kick Start

Posted by Big Boo on November 20th, 2009

kick startKick Start is another great example of the sort of TV programme that just doesn’t get made any more, and really should as it was great family viewing, whether you were into motorcycles or not.

The show was based in the world of motorcycle trials, which is where riders take their bikes over an assortment of obstacles, trying to do so as fast as possible and without incurring penalties by knocking over items or putting their foot on the floor. It was quite amazing what these guys could do on their bikes, including driving over the tops of cars, the infamous bunny hop over a plank of wood or negotiating a tight circle of logs without knocking any of them down.

Of course while we all marvelled when someone got around the entire course without a single fault, secretly we all wanted the blokes to fall off their bikes in painful looking ways, and we usually got what we were after. There must have be quite a few bruised egos as well as bruised nether regions, as the comedy gold of a man falling onto a log with a leg either side was common place.

Kick Start was presented by Peter Purves who was a Blue Peter presenter in the days of Valerie Singleton and John Noakes, and he commentated over the proceedings with a calm yet genuinely interested manner. Of course, he too joined in with the giggles during the slips, with one memorable occasion being when a young lad fell into a lake, and the St. John’s ambulance men who came to help him ended up falling in too!

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Edward Woodward – 1930-2009

Posted by Big Boo on November 18th, 2009

edward woodwardIf you haven’t already heard, the great British actor Edward Woodward passed away on the 16th November, aged 79.

Edward started acting in the 1950s, but it was in the late 1960s that he became a household name in the spy series Callan. This fame brought him a movie role in the 1973 film The Wicker Man, a truly chilling horror film about a police officer investigating strange cult like behaviour in a sleepy little backwater village.

For me personally though, Edward Woodward will always be Robert McCall from The Equalizer, which ran for four seasons from 1985 to 1989. This is one of those series that has stuck in my mind for the amazingly scary title sequence and theme tune, with the shot of Robert McCall stood in a dark alley in a pair of car headlights being an image that will be burnt in my mind forever more.

The Equalizer has been a show that I have wanted to write about on this site for some time, but I never have simply because apart from the title sequence I don’t remember much about the actual storylines. I know that Robert McCall was once an agent in some kind of intelligence agency, but that when he retired he went into “business”, if you can call it that, as a righter of wrongs. He worked for free, and basically was like a one man A Team, helping those who were powerless to help themselves.

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