When commercials started showing up in movie theaters, people started freaking out. It really didn’t bother me all that much. As long as the commercial was well-made and short, I didn’t mind extending my time in the theater. Although, when a commercial was well-made and featured something I was interested in, then you could show me a dozen commercials. Sadly that rarely happened. For example, I saw this Parker Brothers video games movie theater commercial only once as a kid. Yet, I remember seeing this jeans commercial of people jumping up and down about a dozen times.
This commercial started running in 1982. I don’t think it survived 1983. By that time the games would have been outdated and the video game crash was in full swing. Still this is an amazing snapshot of the height of video game mania. It is also super-high quality. Shot in 35mm it looks great in HD, even at 1080p.
The premise for the ad is simple. The Parker Bros. games for Atari are so hot, they cause fires. So you get footage of people playing games, with smoke in the background. Pretty standard stuff. But the real magic happens when they cut to the footage of the games. Instead of the real game footage, you get animation. Here you see games like you will never see them in any other context. Some are just minor improvements over the original. Others though are MASSIVE leaps. For example, the character work on their version of Popeye is downright beautiful.
A lot of great advertising was created for that first wave of video game culture. We tend to focus on the TV and print material. But with its unique animation for the games and its cinematic release, I would say this one ranks up there with the best of them.
Watch the Parker Brothers video games movie theater commercial
As the 1990s rolled around, the Cola Wars continued to rage. Coke and Pepsi would lock horns time and again. One releasing a new product and the other firing right back. It was a great time for novelty in the industry. New flavors and talking cans abounded. This was also the time that rewards cards were really taking off and Pepsi launched its Pepsi License to Chill Card.
The Pepsi License to Chill Card was an incentive and discount card that you could use to claim prizes or discounts at select stores. I had one. Sadly, I never used it, but it still filled a very important role. It added heft to my wallet when it was sorely lacking.
As you can see from the image above, the card was pretty simple. Nice clean design with a distorted Pepsi logo attached to a number that made it look extra official.
What I remember most about the card was the ad campaign. I think they localized them for regions, but I clearly remember the beach theme. These ads remind us that it is a non-stop party in Pepsi town and everyone is invited. Just follow the cool music down to the beach to join the party. Oh, and if you want to get in, don’t forget to bring your Pepsi License to Chill Card. Membership has its privileges.
The card you see above was recently posted on Imgur. I am not sure what happened to my original Pepsi License to Chill Card. I would like to say that I lost it at some epic beach party, but sadly that is not the case. More than likely it wound up in a junk drawer in our kitchen and it went in the trash during a routine cleaning. Sadly, never to Chill again.
Watch the Pepsi License to Chill Card Commercial
I do not know how to play an instrument. That doesn’t mean I never tried. In school, I tried to play instruments, but that went nowhere. When I went to the mall as a kid, I inevitably gravitated to the instrument store at some point. Usually I would play around with the organs. If those were off-limits I played with electronic keyboards like the Casio Tonebank keyboard.
They would have these starter books near the keyboards. Slowly I work my way trough “Mary had a Little Lamb” or “Hot Cross Buns”. But my brain would never make the right connections. Inevitably what I would learn would drain out of my head. So each week it was like starting over. Even when my friend got a small keyboard and tried to teach me, I went nowhere. It is a mystery to me, but I could just never seem to master the skills needed to become a skilled keyboardist.
It was probably because I lacked the right tutor. Now I am not talking about a human tutor. No, I am talking about the type of tutor you pop into you VCR. Video lessons from the eighties were like magic. For the first time you could take a teacher home with you and have them repeat the lesson again and again. I learned how to do basic magic from a video tape and I am sure if I had found this Casio Tonebank keyboard tape as a kid, I would be jamming in some music club right now.
Filled with the basics, this keyboard tutorial is just 30 minutes long. In it you learn the basics of keyboarding. So that by the end of the tape you have what it takes to makes sounds that won’t have your parents regretting buying you the keyboard.
The instructions on the tape are very straightforward. So why is this video so great now? Well, even if you don’t pick up a keyboard, it is very much of its time. The crosscutting between scenes with its medium budget animation screens are things you just don’t see nowadays outside of poor parodies. But the real magic is the host. This guy is a workhorse. Not only does he know his keyboarding, but his soothing and sometimes mechanical sounding instruction is just amazing. Combine that with some wardrobe changes and you have eighties’ instructional video gold.
Learn how to play your Casio Tonebank keyboard
As you might have read last week, I have become a big fan of the COMET TV network. They are a quality curated Sci-FI themed channel. Being a fan, I was very excited when COMET contacted me to offer a box of goodies to readers of the Retroist. That is right, we are having a COMET TV Giveaway!
What can you win?
You can see the contents in the photo above, but here is an itemized list:
- Two COMET Exclusive Shirts: One – Skiffy t-shirt and the ‘We Can Hear You Scream’ Alien T-shirt
- One COMET Robot Stress Ball
- One COMET Flying Saucer
- Astronaut Ice Cream
- Popcorn and More!
Pretty great right? So not when you sit down to watch some sci-fi movie and TV classics, you can do it in style. Of course, you have to win first.
How do I enter?
First, you must be in the United States. Sorry to my non-US readers. Other than that, it is very easy. Just send me an email or DM me on Twitter. Both messages will count as separate entries. In the message tell me what Sci-Fi movie or TV show you would love to see on COMET in the future.
Winner will be chosen at random. I will announce the winner of the COMET TV Giveaway next week. If you have a hard time waiting, might I suggest you tune your TV to COMET? Might I suggest Red Planet…
Since moving to Seattle, I have been a fan of the amazing Living Computer Museum. It is a regular stop for me when I have free time. Over the short years I have been here it has continued to grow its historical collection. But this week, the museum is taking a leap into the future. The Living Computer Museum is now Living Computers Museum + Labs.
What does this mean? It means a heck of a lot more fun for anyone who has even the slightest attraction to technology. They have added a new level to the facility, this one dedicated to where technology is going. So instead of mainframes, you get to play with virtual reality. Instead of the earliest personal computers, you get robots and telepresence units. All of it done in the same interactive spirit that has made their vintage collection so compelling. According to Museum Executive Director, Lath Carlson, these additions to the museum will continue to revolve and rotate. So multiple trips to the new area of the museum will be just as compelling as the existing collection.
What I especially enjoyed about my time at the new Living Computers Museum + Labs is how they still bring history into the mix. You don’t just get to play with the most cutting edge VR technology, you also get to see how VR evolved over the years.
The museum has also added new lab and classroom space. Things that will pull people into the space to not just interact with technology, but also to learn how it works. That has always seemed to be the mission of the museum. It is interactive because it’s not a boring history lesson that gets you interested in technology. It is touching a LIVING Computer that does that. When I walked out of there yesterday, I wasn’t just thinking about the computers of my youth like I usually do. No, I was focusing on how technology and art will come together in the future. Oh, did I forget to mention they feature digital art now as well!
Fans of the vintage section of the museum, don’t think this newness is leaving you out in the cold. In addition to the spreading of vintage tech throughout the new floor, the museum continues to maintain and restore the most impressive collection of machines you will ever behold. Plus their new Atari-style retro living room corner is mighty enough to bring a tear to my eye. It was hard for me to leave.
Seattle is a pretty dynamic city. Lots of venues are vying for your attention. So it makes me so happy to see the new Living Computers Museum + Labs moving forward and doing so with an eye towards the future while maintaining respect for the past. For more information about the Living Computers: Museum + Labs, drop by their website and make sure you follow them on Twitter @livingcomputers.
Now here are the rest of the photos that I took during my visit yesterday.
All new t-shirts
Updated Gift Shop
History still alive
Compelling digital beauty
Learn to decorate
Welcome to Cyber
So many vintage keyboards
Play some Chess
I grew up in an area of New Jersey where pizza parlors were very common. They all had pretty decent pizza, but not one offered the Hair Metal Pizza Experience of Pony Express Pizza. This pizzeria existed in Redwood City, CA and according to some info I found online, “It was a place where garage bands made their break. …local bands playing there did also, as did those passing through.”
Having a pizza place for bands is interesting. Not something that would have happened in my hometown, but if it had, I am sure a lot of memories would have been formed there. NJ was a great state for hair metal and pizza, so I am a little sad that we were not the epicenter of Hair Metal Pizza.
A few videos of Pony Express can be found online, but I want to start by posting this commercial. It contains everything you would need to entice an impressionable hair metal/pizza fan in the door. High-pitched screeching voices, driving guitar rifts, slamming drums and of course pizza. It is an odd juxtaposition. My favorite part is the woman who is rocking out while a mysterious hand shoves a slice of pizza in her face. If I have learned one thing in my many years on this planet, it is that people love to be hand fed pizza.
Watch this amazing commercial for Pony Express Pizza
This is meant to entice you. To bring you in the door. But what did a real music experience at Pony Express look like? Oddly enough, I have not been able to find any videos featuring hair metal bands. Could this be an example of false advertising? I have seen a bunch of mentions of bands that have played there and some of those appear to be hair metalish. Maybe they just forgot to bring the family video camera to their shows.
Oh well. Here is some footage of a very non-hair metal band playing a show there back in 1988.
I was looking through some old photo albums last week when I found an envelope of wallet sized photos. These were all photos of my sisters when they were kids. Based on their size, I would say they must be between the ages of 4 and 8. This make sense because a regular rite of passage for both of my sisters was their annual trip to Sears Portrait Studios. This practice ended right before I was born, but our house was filled with the results of their photo sessions.
Sears Portrait Studios visits were a ubiquitous component of so many homes in the past. My town growing up was no different. All of my friends had photos lining their wood-paneled walls as well.
One thing I remember very clearly was how mothers would give out these wallet size photos. Sometimes not just to family members, but also to friends they just met on the street. Many times I was with my Mother when she would hear a fellow mom speak glowingly about her child. Then the proud mom would whip out a wallet size photo and present it to my Mom. When my Mom would try to give it back, she would say, “No, you keep that.” My Mother would smile and put it in her purse or hold it absent-mindedly in her hand. Then, when we got to the car, she would look at the photo and ask, “Now what am I supposed to do with this?”
All those photos eventually ended up in a box that my family still has somewhere. Filled with the anonymous memories of kids I don’t recognize. I guess I understand why we have so many extras of photos of my sisters. My mother hated the practice of giving photos out to people outside of the family. So no matter how many photos she was given, it was way too many.
Enjoy this classic commercial for Sears Portrait Studios (from Canada!)
Enjoy this classic commercial for Sears Portrait Studios with a Wall Portrait offer