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Archive for May, 2011

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Fun Domesday Project Video

Posted by Big Boo on May 30th, 2011

Domesday PredictionsI wrote recently about the BBC Domesday project being revamped and put up on the Internet for us all to enjoy 25 years or so on.

To promote this a short video has been created featuring some clips from the launch of Domesday, from sources which I would imagine includes Tomorrow’s World, the old BBC technology programme. I certainly spotted Maggie Philbin (ex Mrs. Chegwin) and Howard Stableford, and I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of voice over from Paul Coia.

The image above is a still from the video, showing one of the pages of text that (presumably) school kids had come up with. This one deals with predictions on the future from July 1985. I especially liked the last one, which at first I thought must have been added for the video, but a quick search on the new Domesday Reloaded site suggests otherwise.

There’s some quite interesting bits of footage in there, remixed to provide some quite funny moments, and it really reinforces just how much has changed in the last couple of decades. Check it out below…

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Posted by Big Boo on May 27th, 2011

yahtzeeMost boardgames, or at least those which are well known and advertised on television, are aimed at children, but every so often you’ll see a boardgame that is aimed more at adult game players becoming very popular. Trivial Pursuit and Mastermind are two which immediately spring to mind, and Yahtzee was another.

Yahtzee is a game played with five ordinary dice and it borrows its rules heavily from the card game Poker. Players take turns to throw the five dice, with the aim being to try and match one of the allowed scoring combinations. After rolling the player can choose to roll any number of the dice again, and then once more, in order to try and improve the combination of dice.

Each player has a score sheet on which to keep track of their total points, and at the end of each turn they must write a score in against one of the allowed combinations of their choosing. The combinations are things like four or five of a the same number (the latter being given the name Yahtzee) or a straight (a run of numbers, for example 4-5-6-7).

If they don’t match any combination, or the sequence they have achieved already has a score against it, they must choose one of the combinations and score a zero against it. When all players have scored a number in every box of their score sheets, the game is over and the winner is the player with the highest total score.

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The Smurfs

Posted by Big Boo on May 25th, 2011

The SmurfsI think my first encounter with a Smurf wasn’t with the comics or even the cartoon series, but with the little plastic figurines of the Smurfs that were given away as part of a promotion with a petrol garage. Wikipedia claims it was BP, but that’s only partly right. It was actually a chain of garages called National, which admittedly BP happened to own, but as far as the general public was concerned it was National. They even had a little musical slogan “you’ll get service with a Smurf“. Thanks to Kitty’s Cavern for clearing this one up for me.

There obviously wasn’t a National garage close to us though, as I remember we only had a couple of the freebie Smurf toys. My sister had a Smurfette one, and I remember having a Smurf that was black instead of blue. It always puzzled me at the time why he was black, but in this case I have to thank Wikipedia for putting my mind at rest, as the black Smurf was actually a blue Smurf who was bitten by a fly and went a little insane. He was the central plot for one of the Smurf comics.

Before National used Smurfs as a promotional aid though, I had never heard of them, despite the fact they were actually created way back in 1958 by Belgian cartoonist Peyo. Whilst they are known in Belgium as De Smurfen, which is where the English name for them comes from, they were first given a French name, Les Schtroumpfs.

This odd name came from Peyo asking a French friend to pass him the salt at a meal, but he had forgotten what the French word for salt was, so said “pass me the schtroumpf” instead. This led to Peyo and his friend continuing their conversation substituting the word schtroumpf in place of other words, thus inventing the manner in which the Smurfs tend to speak, substituting the word Smurf for other verbs and nouns. Whilst you could normally work out what they were saying from context, “I’m smurfing my smurf to the smurf” could mean anything really.

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Look Who’s Talking

Posted by Big Boo on May 23rd, 2011

Look Who's TalkingReleased as the Eighties were coming to an end, Look Who’s Talking was the first in a trilogy of films whose unique feature was that the viewer could hear what the young baby in the film was thinking.

Technically the film probably slots into the romantic comedy genre, but given that the spoken thoughts of the youngster were what provided most of the films funny moments, it is easy to overlook the fact that the film did actually have a plot.

Mollie Jensen (Kirstie Alley) is an accountant who finds herself pregnant after having an affair with one of her clients, Albert (George Segal). Despite promising to leave his wife and help bring up the child, Albert ends up breaking Mollie’s heart when she discovers him with another woman (and not his wife either).

She is so angry that she storms off, but then goes into labour, so hails a cab driven by a guy called James (John Travolta), who rushes her to hospital and is then mistaken by the hospital staff as being the father of the baby, and ends up being Mollie’s birthing partner. Mollie gives birth to a baby boy, who she names Mikey (and who’s thoughts are voiced by Bruce Willis).

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Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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Roller Boots

Posted by Big Boo on May 20th, 2011

Roller BootsThe first pair of roller skates I ever had a go on were a pair that were given to me, if I remember correctly, by my cousin. These were a pair like the small inset pair in the image accompanying this post, consisting of a couple of metal rails with wheels on that could be adjusted for size, and piece of leather to stick your toes in and a strap to tie up around the ankle end of your foot.

Forgive me, but they were rubbish. The wheels didn’t really run very smoothly so you didn’t so much skate as just push your feet forward and slide along a bit.

This would have been the late Seventies, so forward time a little bit and suddenly there is a craze for a new style of roller skate. These consisted of a pair of proper boots that looked like trainers that went above your ankles, which were attached to a plate with four smoothly rotating ball bearing mounted wheels (they looked very similar to the sort of wheels on a skateboard) and a big rubber stop under the toes which could be used to come to a halt.

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Metal Mickey

Posted by Big Boo on May 18th, 2011

Metal MickeyMost will probably best remember Metal Mickey from his early Saturday evening ITV sitcom, but this wasn’t Metal Mickey’s first television appearance. He first appeared on UK screens as part of the presenting crew along with Bill Oddie and a very young Susan Tully (later to appear in Grange Hill and then of course EastEnders) on saturday morning kids show Saturday Banana in the late Seventies.

If you’ve never heard of Saturday Banana then I will forgive you. It was aired at the same time as Tiswas, and which ITV region you lived in dictated whether you got to see Tiswas or Banana. I lived in the Southern television reason (as it was back then) so we got Saturday Banana and initially missed out on Tiswas.

Anyway, that explanation out of the way, on to Metal Mickey himself. Mickey was a robot, based on that iconic design from the 1950’s of what a robot should look like, which was basically a big silver humanoid decked out with flashing lights. In real life he was little more than a radio controlled thing whose mouth would move when his creator, Johnny Edward, spoke into a microphone to provide Mickey’s voice.

On TV though, Mickey was the kind of characters most kids loved to watch. Cool to look at, and a bit cheeky with some of the things he would say to other people. Aside from Saturday Banana, Metal Mickey was often seen on other TV shows as a special guest, and it was his appearance on an episode of Jim’ll Fix It that eventually led to him getting his own TV show.

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BBC Domesday Project Being Revamped

Posted by Big Boo on May 16th, 2011

BBC Domesday ProjectI received an e-mail from a kind fellow (thanks Darren!) the other day letting me know that the BBC Domesday Project was now available for viewing online, which got me quite excited since I had always wanted to have a play with it, but never had the opportunity.

What am I wittering on about? Well, the BBC Domesday Project was, at the time, a major endeavour by the Beeb to create a historical record of what life was like in the UK in 1986. The idea and name of the project came from the famous Domesday Book which had been compiled under order of William the Conqueror back in 1086 to show which landowners owned what (and therefore how much tax they needed to pay!).

Of course, the first thing I did was head over to Domesday Reloaded and look up my home town, and was surprised to find quite a bit of info on there, including a picture of a road not that far from me, and a piece of credit text saying that two of the primary schools that are within walking distance of my house contributed to the project. I wish my school had taken part…

The Domesday Project hardware was quite an advanced bit of technology for the time. The pictures and words detailing most of the towns and cities in the UK were stored on a special Laserdisc, which was connected to a BBC Micro and a trackball. The computer and trackball allowed the data to be accessed simply and easily, the idea being that this would be a great resource for schools and libraries. The data itself came from a variety of sources, but much of it was supplied by school children and other volunteers.

Unfortunately the cost of all this was too high for most schools, so ultimately not as many people saw the benefit of it as the creators would have liked. I certainly would have loved to have had a go on it, but sadly I never came across the system anywhere.

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Twenty Pence Piece

Posted by Big Boo on May 13th, 2011

Twenty Pence PieceWhenever I look at a handful of UK coins there’s always one coin that stands out most to me, and that’s the twenty pence piece. I have a bit of a soft spot for this particular coin, simply because for me, it was the first big change to UK coinage that occurred in my life.

The humble 20p coin tumbled into our pockets on the 9th June 1982, and was introduced, believe it or not, because there were concerns that the amount of loose change people had to carry about was getting too heavy! The thought process was that the twenty pence piece would reduce the number of ten pence pieces that had to be in circulation.

Like it’s bigger comrade the fifty pence, twenty pence coins are seven sided, and they are made of Cupro-nickel, in a ratio of 84% copper and 16% nickel.

One of the reasons I have such fond memories of this coin is that when they first went into circulation, our entire family decided that we would save up every twenty pence coin we got to keep for spending money on our next holiday. We used to keep them in a little metal tin money box that had a lager logo on it (Carlsberg I think it was), as these were a craze at the time. Sadly I forget exactly how much we saved up now…

On a sadder note though, the introduction of the twenty pence piece was also the beginning of the end for two other pieces of UK currency. Firstly, the half pence coin was removed from circulation in 1984, and then the one pound note followed in 1988, after it had become unnecessary thanks to the introduction of the one pound coin in 1983.

More recently the twenty pence coin made news headlines when a batch of new coins were issued in 2008 that did not have the year of issue inscribed upon them. This was a mistake and the Royal Mint put out a recall notice, apparently offering £50 for each coin returned. However, some more enterprising people who ended up with one of these mistake coins put them up on eBay for sale, and have made a quite tidy profit in the process, some going for £100-200 or even more!