Red Quarters

The Mystery Of The Red Quarters…Solved!

When I originally thought of writing about red quarters, I had three examples ready to be photographed as accompanying artwork.

However, when you have a young son who is fascinated with arcade games, ticket redemption machines and all manner of gumball dispensers, keeping quarters handy is difficult.
Red Quarters

So, just imagine that this is a photo of a real red quarter taken on my dining room table, and not one I grabbed online this morning.

Have you ever sorted through your change and found an older quarter painted red, or the remnants of red paint that has been worn away during a few decades in someone’s pocket or change jar? Congratulations! There is a good chance that you are holding a piece of arcade history.

First of all, let me point out that there are a few alternative origins that are possible – but, not as neat as the arcade connection. Red quarters are also used for free laundromats and the occasional jukebox at the local tavern, but with change machines more available in 2017, and the increasing prices of these services, dollar bills are used much more often.

Red quarters are known as “shills” or “house coins.” When I managed an Aladdin’s Castle arcade back in the early 1990s, I called them “freebies.”

Arcade machines are amazing pieces of technology. From the start button, to the circuitry, to the joysticks, to the screen and speakers, millions of bits of high-tech electronic signals are bouncing around inside that pressboard cabinet before “Ready Player One” ever appears in colorful, pixilated glory to you.

But, before the credit button can ever be activated, the quarter has to make its way from your pocket through a series of mechanical twists and turns before the game recognizes your offering as a legitimate form of payment. Along the way, there are many places for your quarter to become lodged or even fall through to the coin collection box without giving you a credit to start the game.

If your arcade didn’t have an attendant back then, you usually just kicked or beat the coin door in a futile attempt to make it either accept the quarter – or generously return it to you. This usually never, ever worked.

Arcade attendants were the best people that minimum wage could hire at the time. While many could be trusted to open the front doors on time, most arcade owners did not trust their minions with keys to the coin doors or collection boxes.

When a customer complained about not receiving credit for their coin, an attendant would use a red-painted quarter in the slot to make the game work. If it did, the customer could then play their game and smile. If the game still did not work, an “Out of Order” sign would be placed over the screen until a repair technician could render first aid.

When it came time to count the game’s coin box each week, the red quarters would be sorted out from the silver ones and returned to the attendants to use again. They wouldn’t be counted as income and the arcade owner’s accountant would celebrate and rejoice at the reduction of paperwork.

At Aladdin’s Castle, we also used painted quarters, but only for the Rowe change machine or crane game. Our attendants had access to the coin mechanisms because tokens were used to credit the machines instead of cash – and our accountants rejoiced at the reduction of paperwork.

Why the red paint? Red paint stands out better in a sea of silver coins in the automatic counter, and in many cases, it’s also the only shade of nail polish that a female employee had handy at the time.

The next time you spot a red quarter, and the date on it is from before 1992, there is a very good chance that it was used to make someone’s arcade experience a happy one. Keep the cycle going and use it to credit-up the next video game you come across!
Retro New Year's Eve - 2016

Allison Doesn’t Know Jack

Actually, she does. Because she does stuff like this! :-)

Ever since my first gameplay video, for the Nintendo Entertainment System game American Gladiators, I’ve been wanting to do another gameplay video. I wanted it to be as perfect as the first one, because yeah, it was pretty freakin’ perfect. And awesome. Did I mention perfect? Did I mention awesome? It was perfectly awesome.

Yes, that is an expression.

Jack TV

One of my favorite “party” games (and by “party,” I mean “party of one,” because no one would play against me, because mad television-watching skills) was You Don’t Know Jack Television, and one of the sibling games, You Don’t Know Jack Movies. Both were gifted to me by a high school boyfriend back in the early 2000s (it was actually in 2000). The relationship may not have lasted, but I played the games for years until I lost track of the CD-ROMs about a decade ago when my family moved. I’d tried to find an online version, and eventually, I lost track of attempts to locate the game. On chance, I had started looking for the game again earlier this year, and was fine if I had to pay for a download or even CD-ROM version. I knew that may not be feasible, having a Windows 8 laptop (that keeps trying to prompt me to set myself up with Windows 10), but I was determined. And when I found it on both Steam AND Amazon as downloads, it was destiny.

Nice to know what constitutes as “destiny” in my world and thinking.

I found both the Television and Movie games as downloads for $2.99 each on Amazon, and I knew they were supposed to be mine forever.

To come back into playing these games after many years away from them was the equivalent of greeting an old friend. I hadn’t lost my edge with the Television game, and was slightly rusty with the Movie game, but I got over that quickly. Turns out I’m none-too-shabby with games from 1997, with questions about movies and television stuff?that was older, and I hadn’t played the game in ten years. I’m impressive, wouldn’t you say?

So, without further ado (ok, fine, a little ado…or is it “much ado about nothing”?), my second gameplay video for Retroist, as I play the 1997 game You Don’t Know Jack Television. I’ll let you know right off the bat that I refrained from talking during the video, due to the potential to miss some cheesy jokes. This really is a fun game, and I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed playing it.

First, some technical specs…

Screenshot (113)

The game was recorded with Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), and compressed into a smaller, easier to upload file using Freemake Video Converter. I also used Freemake to cut out a short section where I hit pause.

Oh, and that one insanely high score you’ll see at the end. I’m just that good.

Enjoy!

Allison is a lover of video games from her childhood and teenage years, especially when she can still master them in her 30s the way she did in her teens. She loves trivia games, and as you can clearly see, You Don’t Know Jack is a beloved game. If you’d like to see more of what she does best, come on over to her blog, Allison’s Written Words, and follow her blog on Facebook, just so you’ll never be out of touch with the not-so-relevant stuff she writes about. She can also be found on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut.

She doesn’t mind being insulted by the host on these games.

 

The Video Game Music Choir sing Donkey Kong, Pokemon and more!

Video Game Music Choir

I love video game music and I’m really very fond of musicals and so I’m always thrilled when the two combine. The Video Game Music Choir are obviously high on my listening list and they’ve just released a new set of tracks on Bandcamp called “The Loft”.

You can hear the music below – I recommend the DK Medley or Pokemon Gold/Silver – and if you like what they are doing, please consider making a purchase. You should also check out their other work which is always sublime, including free tracks such as Tetris and a World of Warcraft medley.

And if you love them as much as I do, they have a great Youtube channel, with gems like this one:

An evening of gaming, cake and voices – what more can you ask for!

A Brief History of Mattel Electronics

MattelElectronics

I have a soft spot for defunct toy companies. Ideal. LJN. Worlds of Wonder. Coleco. Kenner. And my personal favorite, Mattel Electronics. Whether its specific products, the logos or the retro technology, Mattel Electronics is one of those extinct brands that instantly ignites nostalgia in me.

Simply put, Mattel Electronics was just what the name implies. It was a subsidiary of Mattel, founded in 1977, that focused on the creation of electronic games. It was an innovator in handheld electronic games, most notably Football, and evolved into one of the pioneers of the home video game boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s with the introduction of the Intellivision and corresponding games and accessories.

As the video game industry grew, so did Mattel Electronics. The company grew from 100 employees to 1,000 in 1982 as a response to demand for creating their own game titles.

Since many of us have strong memories of the Intellivision it is easy to forget that Mattel Electronics wasn’t in business for very long. Due to heavy competition from Atari and new consoles, like the Colecovision, and market saturation, Mattel Electronics suffered from the Great Video Game Crash recording $394 million in losses by 1983.

Those losses were too much for Mattel so it had no choice but to sell or close all of its non-toy-related subsidiaries. On Jan. 20, 1984, Mattel Electronics ceased to exist. Even though the company lasted less than 10 years, it wasn’t without its impact on pop culture.

Beginning in 2013, I have started to collect anything with the Mattel Electronics name on it. Through a series of articles I will be highlighting different aspects of the company. Whether its specific products or product lines, there is a lot to reminiscence about Mattel Electronics.