Chock-A-Block: early retrocomputing nostalgia from the UK

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Chock-A-Block was a computer-themed educational TV show for young children that was shown on the BBC in 1981. What I still love about it is that it's an early example of retrocomputing nostalgia, depicting a room-sized magnetic-tape mainframe to youngsters who owned their own ZX81s.

Chock-A-Block was surreal and a bit druggy, like a lot of British kids' TV. It uttered strangely satisfying noises when its strangely satisfying buttons are pressed and strangely satisfying media are inserted. This show is to blame for my love of computers, but also for my love of the strange relationship we have with old technology, and also my love of being high. Read the rest

Radiooooo: Pick a country, pick a decade, and listen to the popular music of the era

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Radiooooo lets you pick a decade and a country, and will dispense popular music created then and there. (Note the "weird" option, disabled by default.) Thanks to this, I rediscovered Blue Boy's Remember Me (UK, 1990s, fast, weird), which remixes Marlena Shaw's Woman of the Ghetto into something very different. Read the rest

Usborne releases free PDFs of its classic 1980s computer programming books

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Jindo Fox writes, "A few years ago, Cory linked to some wonderful pictures in Usborne's 1983 classic Introduction to Machine Code for Beginners. Usborne has made PDF copies available of their whole line, with the only restriction that you link to their page, not to copy and redistribute the files themselves. Very cool. I have fond memories of wasting my childhood typing these listings into the mainframe terminal at my local university, and later on my Timex Sinclair 1000, which I somehow knew was the American version of the ZX-81 that was featured in these pages." Read the rest

Going back to your hometown is hard when it's a 1986 computer game

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The holidays are nigh, and with them, the annual pilgrimages made by millions back to their hometowns. For some, this is an opportunity to bask in the warm glow that radiates from the memories of their youth; for others, it's a reminder of the lives they were happy to leave behind. Homesickened is a game about going back home that transforms the former into the latter, and reveals the rotting wood that often lies beneath the veneer of nostalgia: the realization that things were never actually as good as we remembered.

The game (which displays a fictional copyright date of 1986) opens with the sound of an old computer booting up, and the only audio you hear throughout is the distinctive whirr intimately familiar to anyone who used a PC in the 1980s. Maybe it will even conjure a picture of it in your mind: the desk it used to sit on, the chair where you huddled. It's a detail that hints at the strange sensory wormholes that can be opened to different times in our lives by a scent, a sound, an old knickknack unearthed from a drawer.

You begin by walking down a path towards a small town—your town—all of it rendered in the blocky purple and cyan of CGA graphics. In case you'd forgotten, those graphics were pretty janky, and often so were the controls that navigated you around their four-color worlds. Moving around in the game is not what I would call "comfortable," and neither are the conversations you have with former friends around town. Read the rest

Video tapes with strange names transport you to abstract realms

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A pile of forgotten cassettes create art and mystery.

Methodically train your child to be an arcade whiz

Photo: Andy Baio

When writer and technologist Andy Baio had a son, he thought it would be a good opportunity for an experiment (as you do):

I love games, and I genuinely wanted Eliot to love and appreciate them too. So, here was my experiment:

What happens when a 21st-century kid plays through video game history in chronological order?

Start with the arcade classics and Atari 2600, from Asteroids to Zaxxon. After a year, move on to the 8-bit era with the NES and Sega classics. The next year, the SNES, Game Boy, and classic PC adventure games. Then the PlayStation and N64, Xbox and GBA, and so on until we’re caught up with the modern era of gaming.

It's a great bit of writing on nostalgia and games, but on a practical level, Baio's son Eliot is the envy of any score-chaser, finishing The Legend of Zelda entirely on his own by age six. Now eight, he could be the youngest person ever to completely beat Mossmouth's popular, punishing roguelike Spelunky.

Given that many people think esports as college athletics could actually become A Thing, start training your kids young, one supposes. Read the rest

Short film about nostalgia

Nicolas Lefaucheux, on the scent of a flower you have not found.

There are as many nostalgias as there are times, countries, nationalities, traditions, beings. In order to capture the plurality of the definition, the chosen role for this purpose is that of a documentarist, an interpreter, an aesthetic observant. The film is a visual experimentation exploring these different definitions by putting together different audio and visual testimonies. Going backwards, forwards, the mind recreate a new present beyond a linear temporality ; not a new house nor a lost city, but a new present.

Read the rest

1980s toys that will not be reborn

io9's Rob Bricken digs out some really quite horrible toys from the 1980s that are unlikely to get the Transformers / Thundercats / Tron reboot treatment. Read the rest

Mentos horse mask basketball commercial

I desperately want to believe that this horse mask Mentos commercial is actually from a 1992 episode of the Swedish Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as the description says, if only because this is just the kind of baloney that pushes crates of sugar pills. I'd also like to believe that this was made by Mentos's marketing department in a brilliant comeback to the top of the tubed candy industry. However, I think this is actually just some really brilliant independent filmmakers hitting me right in the nostalgia.

Best viewed in 240p.

Mentos Horse Mask Basketball Commercial Thanks Dannel!

Get your own horse mask, because seriously you guys. Read the rest

I Love the '10s! Best Week Ever returning to VH1 in January

Great news for fans of VH1's brand of pop culture snark: weekly recap show Best Week Ever is coming back to the cable network this January, reviving the dreams of aspiring talking heads across the nation! Along with it comes another new nostalgia-based series, Miss You Much, hosted by Catherine Reitman (Breakin' It Down), who will conduct interviews with celebrities we liked 20 years ago. I'm hoping this means there will be less room for the Bret Michaels dating shows and all of their spinoffs. Unless, of course, they are ready to be mocked mercilessly by Christian Finnegan & Co. (via The Hollywood Reporter) Read the rest