This Happened With Our Very Nostalgic Technology!

Just because our beloved technology is dated, doesn’t mean you can’t find out something new about it!


This interesting idea for an article came to me while writing about what happens when you insert a LaserDisc “dead side” up.

Call me crazy, but inspiration hit to look back at some other interesting things we tried to do or figure out with our “primitive” 1980s technology. Truly it was a fun time that can’t be explained to today’s modern kids, who “know” and “discover” everything!

I’m sure some (or all) of this is not new to our very nostalgic minds, but humor me, this was a fun little bit of research! Plus, nostalgic technology! :-)

Our Very Nostalgic Technology

Did you have one like this?

We loved our gadgets in the 1980s just as much as we love our gadgets now. Sure our tech has advanced – Walkmans are replaced with mp3 players and phones, our portable phones are truly portable, cassettes and records have evolved into CDs and digital media, and BETA and VHS became DVDs, Blu-Rays, and like our music, digital media. We love our technology, and as it advances, it makes our lives better. But there was this awesome time when we tried to figure out what our “primitive” tech was doing, or what we could make our “primitive” tech do to work for us!

Because we loved experimenting with our tech then just as much as we do now!

Consider us the early innovators…or just a bunch of creative kids.

The Videocassette Dial-Up

Uploaded by BlueOctopede


I wasn’t the only little kid that heard the dial-up tone at the beginning of my videocassettes. And like the wonderful BlueOctopede (whose videos I highly recommend!), I heard this on my Disney videocassettes. Which reminds me, I really should pull out my Beauty and the Beast VHS for the nostalgia factor…but mostly to catch that dial tone.

The tone at the beginning of our videos is the Dual Tone Multiple Frequences, or DTMF, tone. This “dialing” sound, as described by Reddit user NerdyGerdy:

“DTMF signaling tones can also be heard at the start or end of some VHS (Video Home System) cassette tapes. Information on the master version of the video tape is encoded in the DTMF tone. The encoded tone provides information to automatic duplication machines, such as format, duration and volume levels, in order to replicate the original video as closely as possible.”

But why was this more commonplace on Disney videos?

…And the Videocassette “White Screen of Death”

That is actually more gray than anything.

Uploaded by Princess Daisy Fanatic Backup

And sometimes red…

Because a blood red screen and a long beeping squeal were perfectly acceptable at the end of a videocassette, when white/gray wasn’t scary enough. This color just screams “I murdered your favorite Disney video!”

Actually, it is a from a United Kingdom print of O Brother Where Are Thou?, and was uploaded (bravely) by You Tube user Daniel Mullins.

…Or This Strange Noise

Guess whose headphones were (accidentally) turned up for this one?!

Uploaded by tititag89

Because the White Screen of Death (and its snappy British cousin, the Red Screen of Death) wasn’t terrifying enough, here’s some loud music, followed by a faux siren!

Teddy Ruxpin Sings!

Uploaded by scbird

Everyone tried this at least once. I tried it with Cricket and my New Kids on the Block tape!

The whole thing with getting our talking dolls to rock out to our other cassette tapes is that, unfortunately, it doesn’t work well. Unless you’re uploader scbird.

This video’s uploader explained in the comments section that they recorded the song on the right channel, and the tones on the left channel to control the eyes and mouth, resulting in what everyone with a talking doll wanted to accomplish in the 1980s.

And this was the best video of the “experimental” bunch. Unfortunately, all the other videos trying the same thing were done by kids who probably found out about this…and felt the need to talk on the video. Nope, couldn’t handle them. This, on the other hand? I could seriously rock out to this!

…And Talking Doll Tapes Do This In Standard Tape Decks!

This was something I tried with my Walkman when I was nine years old. I still had all the tapes from my Cricket doll that I gotten about five years earlier, and while I wasn’t incredibly fond of the doll anymore, I still liked her stories and figured taking one “one the road” would be fine.

This is exactly what happens when you play a talking doll cassette in a standard tape deck (and no, it is not my video):

Uploaded by BB182000

You can hear the recording just fine, but your enjoyment had to contend with the beep boop bop sounds. These “beep boop bop” sounds are the signals that control the eye and mouth movements of our classic talking dolls. As explained with the Teddy Ruxpin video, there is one channel for the recording (right channel), and another for the eye/mouth motion controls (left channel).

Give ‘Em Credit!

Our tech was much more sophisticated than most will ever give it credit for, because someone had to figure out how to make our toys talk and get our videos to work correctly in our VCRs! Sure we were weirded out by the sounds things made, and equally fascinated by how those weird noises made things work. But in the end, it was our technology, and we always made do with what we had…while figuring out all the cool ways to make something work for our adorably nefarious purposes.

Those kids trying this stuff probably think they’re the innovators. If they only knew how many 30-somethings were so far ahead of them…

Video/VCR Test – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie

Previously, in an Allison Venezio-published Retroist Post


Last week, when I was digging around in my videocassette collection, I grabbed my VHS of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie. I’ll contend that I was not in my basement strictly to find this video – I was doing laundry, and the shelf with the videos was right there.

Like all good nostalgia buffs and writers, I own a VCR. And not some DVD/VCR combo that I picked up for $200 last year, I’m talking about an actual VCR. From the 1990s.

How good is this VCR?


Meet my Sharp VCR. The standard VCR of my middle and high school’s AV equipment. It was an expensive VCR in its day, but it was nice and it was exactly what I asked for for Christmas in 1996. And my dad delivered on it, big time.

The VCR is so awesome, it outlived the DVD recorder I bought in 2006 (which went kaput after seven years). Before that, it outlived my first DVD player, which only lasted about four years. This VCR outlived the first three televisions I’ve owned (I’m on my fourth, which is the one in the picture). This VCR even outlived the original remote it came with.

I’d call it something snappy, but it doesn’t need a fancy nickname.

I got it! My VCR is Chuck Norris!

The point is, this VCR works well. When I was researching options for recording from my videos (you know, for nostalgia purposes), I was coming up short on options that weren’t combo players. I’m aware my VCR is 20 years old, has lived a good life, and has gotten much use over the years, but it isn’t ready to be retired. It works way too well to even consider that. May it continue to do so. So the idea of putting out $200 for a combo player is unnecessary to me.


I recently invested in a Hauppauge HD PVR (that little box next to the rest of my equipment), which acts as a pass through device for VCRs, DVD/Blu-Ray players, and video games, with one’s computer as the recording source. Expensive yes, but it has composite jacks on it, and the two devices I own that utilize these (the lovely VCR and my Nintendo Wii) work well with the device. The biggest problem I encountered with the VCR while the Hauppauge is connected to the computer (and I’m assuming it has something to do with recording from analogue to digital) is the signal cuts out from the VCR to the device. I found a workaround for that – turn the VCR off and back on. Boom. Problem solved.

All technical talk and “hey, this is an awesome investment!” aside, I’ll get to the meat of this article.

I had originally planned to do voiceover work for this post, but I’ve had a sinus infection all week (pretty much since I posted the last article), so my voice is more nasal than it usually is. And while I’m sure no one has a problem with that…I’m incredibly vain. And I cough too much. I don’t want to make the viewers believe they’ll get sick watching my video. There are plenty of opportunities out there to fear disease from something you’ve watched on TV…oh, no one has ever worried about that before?

Moving on…

If you’re feeling particularly interested in reliving some awesome early 1990s nostalgia, look no further! Click play below to start the video!

Video uploaded by Allison Venezio

My brother and I owned one of those animated videos shown at the end, and we also had the soundtrack, which, coincidentally, we got from that corporate sponsor at the beginning of the video. And that was on audio cassette!

So, as you can see, the quality of the tape is fairly good, considering the age of both the video and the VCR. I’m considering upgrading this movie to Blu-Ray, but this video is nice to keep around for the nostalgia it oozes!

Not to mention the Family Home Entertainment logo. Who doesn’t love a little slice of home video company nostalgia with their VHS tape testing nostalgia?

Now, as one of my equally-nostalgic friends said last night, if only Hostess could bring back the Ninja Turtle Pudding Pies…

Allison has a kinda cool collection of home-recorded videos, as well as a few good store-bought videos. If you like what you’ve seen here, she can also be found peddling her fun wares over on Allison’s Written Words. You can follow her blog on Facebook, and she is also on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut.

She has the legendary Ninja Turtles concert from Madison Square Garden somewhere. She just has to find it!