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Archive for October, 2010

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Just a Bit of Bent Metal?

Posted by Big Boo on October 30th, 2010

It’s funny how crazes for odd pieces of tat sweep the nation. These things come along and people go mad for them, despite the fact they are general useless. Think of Big Mouth Billy Bass, the singing fish, or those Dancing Hamsters (which I have to admit was one of the crazes I got swept up with…)

Another such craze from the Eighties (at least I’m pretty sure it was the Eighties) was for those metal balancing ornaments. Normally made from a few pieces of thick stainless steel wire bent into shapes and soldered together, with a few ball bearings to provide much needed weight, these things would rock, tilt, roll and spin seemingly for ever, so much so that they were often compared to perpetual motion devices (though of course they weren’t even close to achieving that).

Do you remember these? There were quite a few different designs, and were the kind of thing that was popular in gift shops, especially those is seaside towns. Did you ever have one?

Did you have one of those metal balancing ornaments?
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Dynamo Powered Bicycle Lights

Posted by Big Boo on October 27th, 2010

Dynamo Powered Bicycle LightsOne of the most important things about riding a bicycle at night is to get yourself seen, and one of the best ways of doing that is to make sure you’ve got front and rear lights on your bike. Whilst most people opt for battery powered lights because they’re cheap and easy to install, there is another option – a dynamo powered system.

I used to ride my bicycle to school, so my parents got me a set of dynamo powered lights for my bike, as they figured in the long run it would be a cheaper option than buying batteries all the time, and it also meant you never had to worry about batteries failing you when you needed the lights most. They worked by having a little bottle shaped dynamo mounted on the back frame of your bike. The end of the dynamo rotated, and when active this rotating part was in contact with your back tyre, so when your wheels went round, the dynamo turned and electricity was generated.

Another advantage was that dynamo powered lights, once you got going at least, always ran at a good brightness level – whereas battery lights tended to only keep full brightness for a short while after fresh batteries had been inserted.

However, dynamo lights did have some drawbacks. One was that with the dynamo engaged you found it was actually harder to pedal your bicycle, which was surprising given how small the dynamo was, you wouldn’t think it would make much difference. Another problem was that where the dynamo rubbed against your back tyre it had a tendency to wear the rubber of the tyre away.

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CD Players – When Did You Get Yours?

Posted by Big Boo on October 23rd, 2010

The compact disc was invented in the 1980s and can most definitely be held up as a bit of a world changing invention, even if it might not have been an overnight revolution.

The CD has changed the way in which we listen to music, store data on computer systems and even watch movies, first with the ill fated Video CD and then with DVD and Blu-Ray discs, both of which are really little more than compact discs which just allow a heck of a lot more data to be stored.

Do you remember when you first got a CD player? In our house my sister was the first to get a CD player, which would probably have been in the mid to late Eighties. I was never a big music fan so it wasn’t until the early Nineties that I got my first CD enabled device, and that was a CD-ROM drive for my Amiga!

So, to this weeks question, which is…

When did you get a CD player?
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Computer Budget Games

Posted by Big Boo on October 22nd, 2010

Mastertronic £1.99 GamesHome computers were a large part of my life in the Eighties, and of course with that went playing lots and lots of computer games! Back then games generally cost anywhere from five to ten pounds on cassette, with the £9.99 price point soon becoming the norm. If you wanted the disk version (if you were lucky enough to have a disk drive back then, and if you were able to find a shop that even stocked floppy disk versions of games) you’d be looking at £14.99.

These prices were of course well out of reach for most kids pocket money, so you either had to save up, invoke pester power mode, or wait for birthdays or Christmas to roll round before you got your next new slice of video gaming action.

That was until Mastertronic came along and launch their range of budget games for the rather more modest sum of £1.99! I remember seeing these for the first time in a newsagents, not the sort of place that typically stocked computer games back then. The cassette boxes were held in a big black plastic tray hung on a wall, with the distinctive wireframe M logo emblazoned across the top. I dug around in my pocket, found two quid and chose a game, which happened to be BMX Racers for the Commodore 64.

I rushed home and immediately loaded it up, and was presented with something that was indeed worth the price tag. It certainly wasn’t the best game I ever owned, but given the price I didn’t really feel that cheated. In fact, the game was so difficult and repetitive in nature that I probably played it far more than I normally would have, just to see if it ever got any better. It didn’t. To give you some idea of the quality, here’s a little video clip of it…

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Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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Tales of the Unexpected

Posted by Big Boo on October 20th, 2010

Tales of the UnexpectedI’ve previously mentioned that my favourite author as a child was, no doubt in common with many people my age, the one and only Roald Dahl. I first came to his works through Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (which was actually written in the Sixties!) and soon was avidly reading any of his books I could get my hands on.

Imagine my excitement then when flicking through the TV Times (as I was wont to do back then) I stumbled across Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. I simply had to watch it, although I could’t quite figure out why it was on at 10pm on a Sunday evening. Why would a kids show be on then?

Of course, I never realised that children’s books were only one part of Roald Dahl’s works, so it felt really unfair to me when Mum and Dad said I wasn’t allowed to watch it.

Fast forward a couple of years and for some reason I had been allowed to stay up late on a Sunday night (it obviously must have been during school holidays or something) and on came Tales of the Unexpected. Yippee! I finally get to see it, I thought, but that feeling of joy soon changed to one of trepidation as I watched the opening credits.

Scary images of cards with skeletons on (Tarot cards of course, though I didn’t know that at the time) and guns appeared on screens, overlaid with the silhouette of a woman dancing all provocatively, all whilst THAT theme tune played along. Combined, music and imagery were enough to make me start feeling uneasy, and I think at that point I may have made some excuse and gone off to bed!

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McWimpy King?

Posted by Big Boo on October 16th, 2010

Look in most UK High Streets these days and chances are there will be a burger restaurant, but back in the Eighties the US burger chains had yet to make big inroads into the UK, and home grown places such as Wimpy had more of a chance to claim their part of the fast food market.

For this weeks survey I’d like you to cast your mind back to the Eighties and think about which was your favourite burger chain back then, rather than what it is now, as that’s a little unfair on Wimpy who are now for the most part holding out in motorway service stations.

Which was your favourite burger chain in the Eighties?
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Bottled Water

Posted by Big Boo on October 15th, 2010

Perrier WaterToday’s post is my little way of taking part in Blog Action Day 2010, a yearly event which takes a subject of world importance and attempts to catch people’s attention by asking bloggers to write a piece on that subject. This year the chosen topic is water, so here goes…

In the mid to late Seventies, bottled water started to appear on shop shelves. Brands such as Perrier and Evian were sold on the premise of them being of a much higher quality, and therefore better for you, than plain old tap water.

Another difference was that it was also available in carbonated form, so you could still enjoy a fizzy drink with your meal, but without all that extra sugar and flavourings.

Whilst most normal people initially scoffed at the idea of paying for water when it was effectively free when you turned on a tap, by the time the Eighties rolled around drink bottled water was becoming the trendy thing to do. People also started to become far more health conscious and sales of bottled water started to rise, with more and more brands joining the market.

The growth of the bottle water market has now reached the point where the global value of the bottled water market is said to be approaching an incredible $86,000,000,000! This huge amount of money is quite frightening, particularly when you consider that the vast majority of the total can be attributed to sales in countries where most people have access to perfectly adequate tap water.

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Photo Stories

Posted by Big Boo on October 13th, 2010

Photo StoryPhoto Stories may not be a product of the Eighties (I believe girls magazines such as Jackie were running them as far back as the Sixties and possibly earlier) but they certainly went through a wave of popularity back then.

Your average Photo Story is little more than a comic strip presented with photographs rather than hand drawn images. Speech and thought bubbles, and other related captions, are superimposed over these images to provide the dialog and inner thoughts of the characters in the story.

Photo stories were especially popular in teenage girls magazines as they were an easier way of depicting stories that their readers would find interesting. They also felt more grown up than hand drawn art work, which given that the subject matter of a lot of these stories was that of “Who’s that dishy guy” or “I’ve got a crush on him” made a lot of sense.

Whilst girls magazines inevitably come straight to mind when thinking of this style of comic strip, they were by no means limited to just this area. Some of the boy orientated comics also featured photo stories, the most notable I can think of being Doomlord from The Eagle, but I have a feeling there may have been some in the football related comics too from time to time.

I’m presuming teenage magazine still carry these stories today, but one sure place to find one is in tabloid newspapers. The Sun’s Dear Deirdre’s Photo Casebook features in the papers Agony Aunt pages, although I’m convinced that the only reason it’s there is to give The Sun even more excuses (as if they needed them) to print pictures of scantily clad women (and men).