I just spent two weeks out of town for work, and got a little bummed out when I realized I would be on the road driving instead of at home celebrating “Star Wars Day” on May 4th (“May the Fourth be with you”). While driving home I saw a sign for an antique mall that was open on Sunday. Looking for a place to stretch my legs, I pulled off the road and spent a few minutes walking around.
Oh, sweet serendipity! Finding a vintage Star Wars item for sale — on May the Fourth no less — was just what I needed to lift my spirits (and dent my wallet).
According to Wikipedia, the Star Wars Electronic Battle Command Game, released in 1979, was “the first official licensed video game bearing the name Star Wars.” The manual claims “Star Wars Electronic Battle Command Game is probably the most exciting computer game you will ever play!”, although based on the game’s 5/10 rating over at BoardGameGeek.com, I suspect that claim might be overstated.
starwarsnut77 has a quick demo of the game in action over on YouTube. You can check it out here:
One retro thought often leads to another. In my case, one retro thought often leads to ten others. I had to change a AA battery in my wireless mic today. As I did so, I began to wonder if my daughter’s generation will even know what disposable batteries are. It’s possible they won’t. It’s possible they will be so used to recharging everything via USB cable that they will never know the “joy” of trying to find replacement batteries for your handheld electronics, of learning AAA, AA, B, C and D, of trying to figure out which way the batteries were supposed to go in, of losing the lid to the battery well, and all the other quirks that went with batteries. Batteries weren’t toys, but they were so connected with the toys of the 80s that I have a lot of quasi-fond memories about them.
That thought led to a memory of one particular handheld device I had and my time trying to find batteries for it. That device was called Epoch Man.
Epoch Man was clearly a Pac-Man clone (re: rip off). I realized that even at an early age. But it somehow found its way into my grubby hands and I loved playing it. Until the batteries went out. The way batteries ran out in these devices is that the device would flicker in and out of life. It wouldn’t just shut off completely. It would still linger for a while. Because of this, I thought the problem was the device and not the batteries, and I responded as any reasonable grade-schooler would: I hit it. With my hand. Hard. Too hard, in fact. Though this technique did somehow draw a few more seconds of Epoch Man-playing power out of the batteries, it had the unfortunate side-effect of breaking Epoch Man permanently. The broken Epoch Man hung around my toy box for a little while as what I would years later come to call a “brick”, and then it disappeared.
It’s one of my saddest memories. Rip-off or not, I really liked Epoch Man, and I was sad to see him die and disappear. But that’s how it went with handheld electronics in the age of batteries.
I run across vintage Simon electronic games from time to time in the wild, but this is one of the nicest ones I’ve seen in a long time.
This particular one was priced at $20, a steal for a vintage Simon in the box. Who could pass on such a deal, especially the year after Simon was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame?
Mike Walters makes such interesting musical machines. Not only do they sound cool, but they are often visually quite stunning. Take for example his most recent creation, “The Drumssette”. Which is, in its creators words:
…is a programmable drum machine I built using a Tascam four track cassette recorder. The sounds of the drums come right off the prerecorded cassette tape, and those sounds also clock the sixteen step sequencer inside. As the cassette plays, rhythms can be mapped out on the switch interface. This is how it works…
Each of the four tracks on the cassette tape contain a single, repeating drum sound. Track one has high hat, track two cymbal, bass drum on track three, and the last track has snare. These drums are synchronized with each other, and each track is isolated from the next.
I know virtually nothing about music, except how to listen to it, but for some reason, I want to own this machine. Perhaps because it is so wonderfully retro techy:
For more information on the build of “The Drumssette” and to hear it in actions drop by The Drumssette [@] Mystery Circuits
A look at the hi tech gadgets and toys that were available in 1983 — Cassette players, mini televisions, and robots seemed to be the big hit of the show.