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Archive for the ‘Books and Magazines’ Category

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2010 – The Year We Make Contact

Posted by Big Boo on January 6th, 2010

2010-odyssey-2What more fitting a way of starting off my posts for 2010 than with a bit on the film and book 2010! Both book and film arrived in 1984, when the year 2010 seemed like ages away. However, unlike some of the wilder predictions of other pieces of science fiction, 2010 probably isn’t that far off the mark. Sure, we don’t have sentient computers or manned space ships orbiting Jupiter, but I don’t think we’re actually that far off from these achievements.

2010 is of course the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was written by Arthur C. Clarke back in 1968. The film of 2001 was released in the same year and was directed by Stanley Kubrick, and has gone on to be one of those classic critically acclaimed films that are considered by many to be a must see. The film is probably best known for having relatively little dialogue although two lines in particular are oft quoted, these being “Open the pod bay doors, HAL” and “My God, it’s full of stars”.

The storyline of 2001 sees the crew of the space ship Discovery One, which is orbiting Jupiter (originally Saturn in the novel), get bumped off by the ship’s computer HAL 9000 as it decides it doesn’t want to die (i.e. be switched off). Astronaut Dave Bowman manages to survive, although only because he is sucked into a mysterious and huge black monolith which is in orbit around the planet.

2010 picks up the story with the Odyssey Two being sent to Jupiter to try and discover what went wrong with HAL. When they get there they find that HAL is the least of their worries, as hundreds of monoliths appear on Jupiter, increasing the planets mass so that it will implode and turn into a star. This process is being controlled by a group of aliens who wish to study and promote life on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.

It has been a good many years since I saw 2010, so my memories of it are hazy, but having done a little research into the plot for the purposes of writing this post I’m actually quite interested in seeing it again. I would say I’d read the novel too, but I never seem to quite find the time to read books any more, which is a bit of a shame.

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Newsfield Computer Magazines – Crash, Zzap! 64 and Amtix

Posted by Big Boo on October 2nd, 2009

zzap 64Back in the 1980’s there were a wide variety of home computers available, but arguably the most popular in the UK were the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC. OK, the BBC Micro was popular too, but when it came to playing videogames, those first three were normally the best choice for quantity and variety of games. And before people complain, I know, the BBC Micro may have spawned the classic Elite, but it wasn’t exactly overladen in games compared to the others.

The quality of the games available for these computers was not always guaranteed though, and so before owners forked out between five and fifteen pounds for a cassette tape with the latest game on many would first turn to the reviews in a computer magazine to help them in their choice. Some of the best respected magazines for games reviews came from the magazine publisher Newsfield.

The first Newfield review magazine was named Crash, and it solely covered ZX Spectrum games when it was launched in 1984. Compared to the other magazines available at the time it was a fresh direction. It was all presented in an edgy, more cool approach than the more stuffy attempts of other magazines.

Gone were the type in listings for naff games written by other readers, and instead you got extensive reviews of the games, handy tips and cheats (remember the good old POKE codes?), and maps and play guides for different games. The reviews were particularly revolutionary because they often had the opinions of more than one reviewer. If all the reviewers liked it, chances are it was a good game, and if it was really good it could be given the coveted Crash Smash award!

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Posted by Big Boo on July 22nd, 2009

twinkleWhen we were growing up my sister and I used to enjoy reading our weekly comic very much.  I tended to flit between the Beano, Dandy, Nutty and Wow, basically the funny comics, depending on which had the most interesting piece of free plastic tat sellotaped to the front cover.  My sister on the other hand tended to stick with her favourite, which was Twinkle.

Twinkle was published by D.C. Thompson (better known for The Beano) and was aimed squarely at young girls, being dubbed “the picture paper especially for little girls”.  Twinkle was also the name of the little girl who graced the front cover of every issue, where she would be seen doing something fun but incredibly sweet and good, such as bathing a puppy in her dolly bath, or dancing round a May Pole.  Remember the May Pole at the school fete, with all its ribbons that got twisted together when the kids skipped round it?  When was the last time you saw a May Pole?  Sorry, gone off topic…

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Ghostbusters Graphic Novels

Posted by Big Boo on July 16th, 2009

ghostbusters the other sideIt will probably come as no surprise that there have been comic book adaptations of the Ghostbusters over the years, although for the most part this has been mainly focused on the kids cartoons such as The Real Ghostbusters and Ghostbuster Extreme.  What may surprise you more is that there have been several more adult orientated graphic novels created, and even more surprisingly they have been produced with the past few years.

2004 saw the release of Ghostbusters: Legion byAndrew Dabb, which sits in a rather strange place as being set a mere six months after the Ghostbusters sent nimble little minx Gozer back to her own dimension, yet things like the Internet are apparently referenced.  I guess in principal there is nothing wrong with this, since Ghostbusters isn’t particularly tied to being in the 1980’s, but we accept it as such since that was when it first appeared.

The series was plagued with delays in its publishing schedule which saw it lose readership figures after the first couple of issues.  Whilst plans were made to continue this reboot of the franchise into a monthly comic this never occured and only the four part Legion series was ever released.

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Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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Type In Computer Listings

Posted by Big Boo on July 1st, 2009

print helloIf you had an 8-bit computer when you were a kid then chances are this image will bring back many happy memories of going into all the shops that sold home computers and making them run this little program.  Of course, you may have made it display something other than just “HELLO”, but whether it was just extended to include your name (e.g. “BIG BOO IS COOL”) or something a bit ruder was up to you.

In those days just about every computer you could buy had a built in version of the programming language BASIC (who will be first to post the answer as a comment I wonder?).  This meant that you could write your own programs (which normally meant games) if you could be bothered to learn all those weird commands like PEEK, POKE and GOSUB.  For those that didn’t want to learn all that rubbish, there was always the type in listing.

Back then magazines such as Your Computer (remember that computer buffs?) printed pages of listings for you to type in yourself at home.  Normally these were written in BASIC but occasionally they were written in machine code, as it was referred to, which was the native instruction set of the central processing unit.  On many computers this meant typing in a BASIC listing first which then let you type in thousands of hexadecimal numbers.  What joy!

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The Munch Bunch

Posted by Big Boo on June 5th, 2009

munch bunchOne of the most successful series of children’s books I remember from my childhood was the Mr. Men books, which are still around today. The Mr. Men set up a pattern for others to follow, which was to produce a series of books based around a range of characters based on a particular theme. One of the better series to employ this idea was the Munch Bunch.

The Munch Bunch were a group of walking, talking fruit and vegetables, mostly with suitably alliterative names like Sally Strawberry, Aubrey Aubergine or Pippa Pear. Alternatively they had names relating to the type of vegetable they were, for example Spud, who was obviously a potato, and Bounce, who was a spring onion (spring, bounce, geddit?). However, my favourite has to be Dick Turnip, who was a highwayman root vegetable, based on the legendary Dick Turpin. I wonder if kids today know who Dick Turpin is, as I’ve not heard his name mentioned in many a year.

Sorry, went a bit off track there. Enough of highwaymen and back to the Munch Bunch. There were more than 30 Munch Bunch characters created for the first series of books, which went on sale between 1979 and 1982, with each character getting their own book. In the years that followed additional books were released for the more popular characters, and larger format books featuring multiple characters were also produced.

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Choose Your Own Adventure Books

Posted by Big Boo on May 13th, 2009

choose your own adventureThe Choose Your Own Adventure series of books were incredibly popular during the 1980’s as they gave you, the reader, the chance to alter the story you were reading, at least by a limited degree anyway, as you were obviously limited to what the author the book had written.

Each book in the series took a story concept and set you as the hero.  After reading the first page of the story you would be given a number of options for what you could do next, each with a different page number assigned.  You made your choice, then flicked to the indicated page to continue reading, and so the story could unravel in a slightly different manner with each reading.

At some point your story would come to an end, but how the story ended was obviously up to the choices you had made during reading.  However, for the most part the endings were generally either successful or open ended.  By this I mean that you generally never ended up dying, but you might find yourself in a situation where you were lost in a maze or trapped in a big hole waiting for some monster to come and get you.  This was quite a good idea as it gave you a chance to invent your own way out of the situation.

There was one exception to this, which was the book called Inside UFO 54-40.  The story here was that people were trying to find a way to a fabled paradise, and indeed there was a satisfactory ending where the reader achieved just that.  However, none of the other entries in the book actually led to this page, so the only way to reach paradise was to flick through the book to find the correct entry, which congratulated the reader for bending the rules!  In all the other books this would be considered cheating!

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The Puffin Book Club

Posted by Big Boo on April 30th, 2009

puffin booksOnce a term, or thereabouts, we used to get handed leaflets at school from The Puffin Book Club.  I always used to look forward to this as the leaflet contained a stack of different books with something to please everyone.  I’m sure Mum used to groan whenever she saw me run out of school waving the leaflet in her face, as it meant I was then going to harp on about ordering a book from it for the next week or so.

The Puffin Book Club operated both at primary and secondary school levels, obviously featuring different leaflets for the different age groups, and it was a great way of finding a new book that you may not otherwise have known about.  Of course all the books were ones published by Puffin Books (the childrens arm of Penguin Books) but that was fine as they had a great range of books available.

So after choosing my book and persuading Mum to buy it for me, I took the completed order form into school, and so began the wait for the new book to arrive.  Every day I would go in expecting the books to be available, only to be disappointed.  Eventually, after what seemed like months (it was probably only a couple of weeks) the books arrived and the teacher handed out everyones orders.  To this day, I still enjoy getting a new book, whether as a gift or bought for myself, and if they are in unopened pristine condition then so much the better.  Only trouble is I then hate to open them for fear of creasing the spine!

I also remember another book club operating at primary school, but I can’t remember what it was called.  This one was slightly different in that the school hall was filled with shelves containing various different books, and you could go in after school and buy a new book there and then, which was instantly more gratifying as you didn’t have the long drawn out wait for your chosen book to arrive.