“It’s not a retro record” said TZU of 2008’s Computer Love. “It’s not even an 80s record. It’s just that we all grew up in the 80s”. Find out what the difference is in the Culture Club’s pocket history of nostalgia in art – from Marcel Proust to Mylo (via Morrissey).
The 1980s were the golden years of toys.
Forget what your baby boomer parents told you about the good old days of toys being sometime in the 50s and 60s. Baby boomers have always exaggerated the magic appeal of their childhood. Let’s face it, how exciting can yo-yo’s, hula-hoops and sparking tin robots be? I mean, really, it’s a no-brainer if you have the choice between playing Donkey Kong, or Snoopy Tennis on your new Game & Watch, or dragging along a tin can on a string.
No, the real halcyon days of toydom were undoubtedly the 80s. Which is why so many of the toys of that fabulous era are being relaunched for a new generation of kids to enjoy today: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, My Little Pony, Star Wars figures, even GI Joe…all back on the shelves of a Kmart store nearby.
And this week it was announced that the very groovy Voltron: Defender of the Universe will be returning this year as a new toy line from Mattel.
What’s the reason for this 80s toy renaissance? Firstly, there’s the obvious commercial tie-ins with the blockbuster 80s films. Movie franchises make more money from the action figures than the actual cinema release. Secondly, the folks at the creative helm making these films and designing the toys are drawn largely from Generation X, no doubt nostalgic for their misspent 80’s youth. They got the power, and they’re wielding it, baby.
My biggest regret in life is that I was born a decade too early. For me the 1980s were the nightclub years, hanging out in Baker Street Gosford, dancing to Spandau Ballet and Tears for Fears. I was much too old to be interested in Ninja Turtles or Transformers. And being a suburban new romantic male with a penchant for Adam and the Ants, My Little Pony just wasn’t on the radar.
But I do remember my parents buying me a Rubik’s Cube in the Christmas of 1980. I promised myself I would solve it by Boxing Day. After that deadline past, I gave myself until New Year’s Eve. Not a chance. I could have given myself until New Year’s Eve 2050 and been no closer.
Part of the problem was the fact that I attacked the cube with no real mathematical system in mind, just a series of completely random twists and turns. And seeing as there are exactly 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 permutations, my chances of solving the puzzle strictly by chance and a whole lot of hope, would have taken me the best part of the age of the universe, or at least until the National Party were relevant again.
To make matters worse, my smart-arse cousin who studied 3-unit mathematics at high school and wore burgundy fair isle sweaters even in the summer, arrived on Christmas afternoon and made a bee line straight for my Rubik’s Cube.
“Can I have a go?” he asked.
I shrugged and handed it to him. “It’s impossible.”
Two minutes later he handed it back, completed. “That was easy.”
I was seething. My parents were completely embarrassed. They thought they’d nurtured a genius. Now they knew the truth, that I had the brain of a pantry moth.
I grew to hate the cube. The cube was the enemy, a multi-coloured mocker, chiding me for my lack of functioning grey matter. So, to save face I did what every other idiot schoolboy did. I bloody-well cheated. With the aid of screwdriver, the cube was surprisingly easy to prise apart and reassemble, with all the coloured faces lined up as that Hungarian sadist – Mr Erno Rubik – intended.
To solve the cube in this manner might not have been in the spirit of the challenge, but it demonstrated some lateral thinking, so maybe I wasn’t so dumb after all? My parents were certainly happy when I presented them with the finished cube.
“I don’t know where he gets his brains,” Dad said to Mum, swelling with pride.
Why Erno Rubik would create such a demonic puzzle in the first place is anybody’s guess. Maybe he’d had a bad argument with his missus? Or maybe, just maybe he just liked to make people feel more dim witted than a line dancer? Whatever the reason, he was onto a winner. By January 2009, some 350 million cubes have sold worldwide, making it one of the world’s best selling toys and accounting for a hell of a lot of psychotherapy.
This year the cube celebrates its 30th anniversary. You can buy special glitzy editions at your local toy store. And if you still need convincing that the 80s are back, consider that the world record average solve for the puzzle – 9.21 seconds – was set this year at the Melbourne Open (maybe the tennis was boring that day?). And only this March, 134 schoolboys from an English grammar school broke the Guinness World record for the most people solving a Rubik’s cube at once in 12 minutes.
But enough about the damn cube. Let it go people.
Generation X will have fonder memories of toys that don’t do your head in, such as the aforementioned Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1988) and Transformers (1984). Walk into any toy shop in 2010 and it’s like stepping into a time warp with entire aisles given over to the Turtles and Transformers. Heck, if Bananarama were playing over the PA, and the checkout girls were wearing bubble skirts, the illusion would be complete.
Transformers are still hugely popular, following the release of Transformers the movie in 2007, followed by a sequel (Revenge of the Fallen) in 2009 and the third of the trilogy slated for July 2011. The Transformers feature a constant struggle between good and evil, in the form of the heroic Autobots versus the rather nasty Decepticons. Generation 1 (1984 to 1994) were the original Transformers, seeded from a 1980 Japanese toy-line and re-branded by Hasbro with astounding success. The main character of the Transformers is Optimus Prime from the planet Cybertron. After his ship crash lands on Earth he stays unconscious for millions of years before woken by an earthquake in 1984 with the ability to turn into a bloody big truck. (And to think, Tom Cruise, believes this kind of stuff).
“I still remember going into the toy shop in Gosford to buy Transformers with my pocket money,” says Damo, 37, a personal trainer from Umina. “I still have most of them. It was always my dream to be able to morph into a motorcycle.”
“I saved for weeks for an Optimus Prime,” says Scott, a 36-year old accountant from Hornsby. “When I got him home I was afraid to play with him in case he broke. He’s still in the original box. I suppose he might be worth some money.”
While original, Generation 1 Transformers do sell regularly on the internet (a mint condition, but not boxed, Optimus Prime is currently on Ebay for $100), the real money is being asked for a lesser known mid-80s toy called Omnibot, manufactured by Japanese toymaker, Tomy.
The Omnibot was, for its time, a pretty sophisticated little robot, that could be programmed to move around the house and bring you a drink (hopefully a martini). The more advanced version, the Omnibot 2000, had a tray on which to carry things.
Omnibots are selling on Ebay for up to $3,000, with 80s collectors eager to have one in their living room to impress their gullible guests. Jason, a web producer, 44, from Darlinghurst is the proud owner of three Omnibots. He purchased them on Ebay 8 years ago for around $100 each.
“I don’t remember them as a kid,” Jason says. “I happened to see one used as a prop in a designer store several years ago and fell in love with it.” Nowadays Jason’s Omnibots are displayed in his apartment, gathering dust, except for the one that he loaned to the Powerhouse Museum, for ‘The 80s Are Back’ exhibition. “I’m rather attached to them as objects,” he says. “I did set one up once for my wife’s grandmother when she visited us one Christmas. I programmed him so it would come into the room and say hello to her. She thought it was amazing. She believed she’s stepped into the future.”
Because the 80s are back, Tomy (now Takara-Tomy) in 2008 released a new version of the Omnibot, called the i-SOBOT. Sure it’s clever and can probably fill out your tax returns and light your cigars, but it doesn’t look near as funky as the original.
Also on the shelves this year is My Little Pony, first introduced in 1983 and relaunched globally in 2003. The Ponys’ boast colourful bodies and manes and are identified by the symbols found on their haunches, with names like Minty, and Cheerilee. Amy, 31, a psychology student from the Central Coast had a My Little Pony named Bowtie.
“She had a pink mane and turquoise body with pink bow ties on the rump,” Amy recalls. “I’d sit in my room for hours, just combing her mane with her little plastic brush, or pretending to gallop her around on the carpet. I became horse obsessed and got a real one.”
Another famous pony – well, more a flying horse actually – was Starlite, the equine friend of Rainbow Brite, a billion dollar character franchise created in 1983 by (believe it or not) Hallmark Cards.
“Rainbow Brite was totally 80s,” says Kate, 33, a graphic designer from Brisbane. “She had these crazy stripey leg warmers and a shiny metallic dress and big orange hair. She was a space cadet like Cindi Lauper. She was obviously on drugs.”
Kate, like most of her friends, also owned one of the decade’s most popular toys; a Cabbage Patch Kid.
Many years ago, a young boy named Xavier happened upon an enchanted Cabbage Patch, where he found very special Little People who called themselves Cabbage Patch Kids. To help fulfill the Cabbage Patch Kids’ dream of having families with whom to share their love, Xavier set about building a special place known as BabyLand General, where the Kids remain until each is chosen for adoption. Won’t you adopt a Cabbage Patch Kid and fill a little heart with love? So reads the blurb on the back of the box in which your Cabbage Patch Kid arrived.
Unless you were a kid in the 80s you could never understand the extent of the hype around these simple little dolls with their pudding-shaped vinyl heads. Yes they were cute. And yes, they came with their own adoption papers (featuring the doll’s name, birth date and adoption oath) but it hardly justified the sheer frenzy surrounding them.
Produced by Coleco from 1982-1989, their appearance in department stores sparked riots, as parents scrambled over the top of each other, calling each other bitches and bastards, to grab one for their children. Or indeed for themselves, as my mother did in 1984. My mother sadly has gone, but the doll remains, watching me from the shelf in my writing studio every day.
Many urban legends grew up around Cabbage Patch Kids, the most insidious being that if you sent your doll back for repairs, it was issued with a death certificate.
The real appeal of Cabbage Patch Kids was that each one was an individual, with it’s own distinctive combination of hair-colour and style, clothing, face and name.
“My Kid’s name was Carrie-Anne Leonora. I loved her, to me she was real,” Kate says. “You could write in and change your Kid’s name, but it wasn’t considered a very thing to do.”
“I took Carrie-Anne everywhere. We’d go out to dinner with my parents to this crap Chinese restaurant in an old service station and I’d always ask for a high chair for her, so she could sit beside me and eat. She’s still at Mum and Dad’s house. I promised her I’d never stop looking after her, but I was onto the next thing in a couple of months.”
That next thing was most likely Strawberry Shortcake, another character born on an American greeting card, back in the late 70s. Strawberry Shortcake herself was a knee high ‘ranga’, with her ginger hair smelling permantly of strawberries. Her friends were similarly fruity, with names like Orange Blossom and Lemon Meringue. They had sickly scents to match. The Strawberry Shortcake empire was relaunched just last year, with the release of a new Strawberry Shortcake movie, The Skies the Limit.
Which brings us to Star Wars. While not the definitive 80s toy – seeing as the original movie was released in 1977 – it sure did sell a lot of action figures (around 300 million) for Kenner with The Empire Strikes Back (May 1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983).
Now under the Hasbro label, Star Wars continues to sell, as a new generation of kids are discovering the pleasure to be had from pretending to be Jedi Knights and wielding plastic light-sabres.
May the force be with you.
Digital Freakazoid was the street name of Jacques Capdor, an old-school break (street) dancer, from Blacktown, Sydney. Capdor was initially exposed to Hip Hop culture in the early 1980s while still at school and it made a big impact upon him. He became heavily involved in breaking, forming his crew the Break Lords in 1984. Capdor remembers the 1980s fondly and relates some of his early experiences breaking in Blacktown…
I started breaking back in 1982 at the age of 11, with my cousin Eric Capdor aka Apache. We were always in high demand at family weddings and parties. Eric always had this one move that he loved doing where he would pretend to pull out his eye, swallow it (using his popping, locking and wave techniques) then do the motion of swallowing incorporating a body wave, he would than bring it back up using the same method, coughing it up into his hand. He then would pretend to throw his eye at me. I would then mimic the same moves, cough it up and throw back his eye at him where he would pretend to put it back into his eye socket. All the while he had one eye shut to give the impression that he had removed his eye.
I didn’t become part of my crew the Break Lords until 1984. The Break Lords were a trio hailing from Sydney’s west side (Blacktown); the crew was Marc Nemorin, aka Machine, Abilio Pascoa, aka Speedy and I.
We came together as a trio by accident in 1984 at school. The school was organizing a gala day which showcased our school’s talent, so being the only known breakers in the same year; we decided to come together as the Break Lords. I can remember half an hour before going on stage, that I hadn’t laid the cardboard, and the guys were relying on me. So I bolted into Blacktown Franklins, gathered up boxes, broke them up, put them in my armpits, struggled back, losing my kung fu shoes along the way, and having to regather. Marc and Abilio’s jaw dropped to the ground, when they saw the cardboard I’d gathered. They were the crappiest and smallest boxes and were soggy in some parts. I only had less then five minutes to tape them all up; I didn’t even have time to remove the staples, and came off second best. My clothes had small rips, I had a few scratches, and I can remember looking at the staples and seeing tufts of hair stuck in it.
In 1982 breaking was only new to Australia; it was Malcolm McLaren’s ‘Buffalo Girls’ that left an impression on me and the youth of Australia, we were all attempting the dance moves.
I can remember laying my parents’ garage with cardboard and practicing day and night bruises and all. The garage ended up like my own dance studio, I had kids in the street rushing over straight after school just so I could give them lessons, they were all dressed like they’d just walked out of Olivia’s ‘Let’s get physical’ music clip. These kids would tell me they needed lessons badly as a family member was getting married or having a birthday and their parents wanted them to impress and put on a show. The only time I’d get a rest was when the milk man came by; we’d all rush over and pick up our favourite beverage, chocolate Moove for only twenty cents.
We would hang out break dancing on footpaths, in parks, basketball courts, outdoor parties, car parks, police boys clubs, blue light discos, even notable parts of Sydney like Circular Quay was a popular hangout for breakers. During the 80s it was common to see breakers outside or in shopping malls with a sheet of cardboard and a ghetto blaster performing for an audience.
We’d hang out at Franklins, waiting for cardboard boxes to come down the caged shutes, we’d rush off when we had enough, pull them apart, tape them up and before long we’d have our dance floor. Scoring industrial cardboard was a big bonus; the sheets were thicker and in bigger pieces and lasted longer, as you can imagine recycling techniques have changed since the early 80s. Some kids would show off and roll out a piece of lino.
We would battle and challenge against each other showcasing our dance moves. The winning side was determined by the breaker who could out perform each other by displaying a set of more complicated and innovative moves.
Marc aka Machine reminded me of the days when we use to record the music off the radio. All prepared with the finger on the record button, only to have his Mum half way through the recording come in and say dinner was ready. We’d be out there breaking away and have his Mum’s recorded voice on the tape which was way uncool but funny at the same time.
In the 80s breaking got a lot of kids into trouble from their parents. I can remember some kids that smoked, would forget to empty their pockets of one or two cigarettes and their lighter. Their break moves would send it all flying out onto the dance floor, in front of parents and family members. In disgust the parents would drag them away by the ears, how embarrassing.
We wore nylon Adidas and Puma tracksuits, double breasted shirts and baggies with kung fu shoes, or jeans with hooded jackets. We wore the same outfits to show uniformity. Our sneakers had thick laces. Bigger crews with the same matching outfits were perceived as a threat to other breakers by their strength in numbers.
Our heroes at the time were the Rock Steady Crew; they pretty much took break dancing around the world. On the 29/07/1984 Countdown featured the Beat Street grand final with special guest the Rock Steady Crew. The finalists were Electric Troopers from Queensland, Street Patrol from NSW:
Electro Shock from Tasmania:
Shane Mathews from Northern Territory:
Rap City Connection from South Australia and Energy Transfer from Victoria, who were voted the winners:
The Rock Steady Crew performed live and announced they were touring, to the excitement of breakdancers across Australia.
Like Countdown, other television programs from the 80s which showcased local breakers as well as other elements of Hip Hop culture were: Sounds, Young Talent Time, Hey Hey it’s Saturday and Star Search. Break dancing in the early 80s got a lot of media exposure through movies and documentaries such as Wild Style, Beat Street, Krush Groove, Breakin’, and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. These films helped to expand the appeal of Hip Hop culture in Australia.
The popularity of the break dancing scene eventually faded in the mid 80s, it went pretty much underground until it made a comeback, in 1997. Break dancing is much alive in Australia again, but there are some considerable differences to that of breakers of the 80s. Nowadays you won’t find breakers out there on the streets, breaking in their tracky dacks with a ghetto and a piece of cardboard. These days we have a lot more breakdance comps, events and festivals that showcase break dancing, not to mention workshops and dance schools adopting Hip Hop due to its popularity.
A lot of critics of Hip Hop have said that non-Anglo Australians were more attracted to the Hip Hop culture because of its lyrical content of racial opposition such as in African American Hip Hop. I don’t think we were attracted to Hip Hop because of race. Sure there were issues with race, I can’t remember how many times I was called a wog, but that didn’t make me turn to Hip Hop, I just wanted to dance and belong. Non Anglo youth embraced Hip Hop better than the Anglo youth of Australia, who were pretty much already part of the Rock scene. Hip Hop appealed to us more because of its fusion of funk, disco, soul, jazz and R&B which had been exposed to us one way or another through our parents’ cultural music. On a typical Saturday night the Aussies would be at their local pubs while the Wogs would be lined up outside clubs like the Apia Club, Vibrations, Mystics and Flashez to name a few.
Hip Hop from the early 80s was all about everyday, family, having a good time and being a ladies’ man.
There may have been elements of social issues, like ‘The Message’ from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five; a classic song which spoke about surviving day by day in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. But Sydney’s west was no way like the ghettos in America.
In the early 80s Hip Hop was pretty much an underground culture, a lot of the music we listened to was American Hip Hop, the likes of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, the Sugar Hill Gang, Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force and Run D.M.C.
Other then American Hip Hop, one notable Australian artist at the time that we listened to was Sound Unlimited who originated from the western Sydney suburb of Burwood in 1983. Sound Unlimited, (previously called Westside Posse, then Sound Unlimited Posse) became the first Australian hip hop act signed to a major label.
They have contributed to the Australian Hip Hop scene supporting several other bands. The group supported acts such as New Kids on the Block, Public Enemy and De La Soul during their Australian tours.
Hip Hop in the day, was very hard to get a hold of, only a few DJs, radio stations and music stores stocked imports. We relied on music stores like Central Station Records, to keep us up to date with the latest imports. Community radio stations like 2RDJ FM, 2SER and 2RRR, and youth network Triple J kept us up to date with the Hip Hop scene.
One thing I learned from the 80s was a lesson in recouping from “Mr T” through break dancing. If I ever fell to the ground rather then get up and brush myself off, I would save myself the embarrassment and break out into some dance moves like crazy legs or the caterpillar. It worked a charm always; I’d always get my high fives afterward, instead of snickering of embarrassing laughter from bystanders, as they say, in case of an emergency Break Dance!
I’m glad to have been part of the 80s, for me I feel it was the best decade of music and fashion. This is a message to the 80s come back, all is forgiven.
Robotron: 2084 is one of the most intense and revered games of all time. Released in 1982 by Williams Electronics, it was designed by Eugene Jarvis and Larry DeMar, both also of Defender fame. It was a huge hit in the first wave of arcade games, but has also gone on to develop somewhat of a cult following.
The game starts each level with the humanoid player in the middle of the screen surrounded by robotic enemies. The enemies shoot and swarm towards the player, who must dodge and destroy them all before progressing to the next and progressively more difficult levels. By surrounding the player in an enclosed space, Robotron moves away from the one-directional focus of shooters such as Space Invaders and Galaga. The intensity and speed of the struggle is made all the more powerful by the simple and intuitive controls: 2 joysticks, one for movement, the other for firing in an independent direction.
Added into the mix, is a ‘last human family’ that must be rescued. They provide an important conflicting goal that balances aggression with preservation. The screen is filled with so much danger that the player usually dies quite quickly. This is countered by the relatively generous issue of new lives every 25,000 points, but these points can really only be earned by saving most of the humans. Skillful play involves continuous ‘death management’, where one has to constantly finesse risk and reward every fraction of a second.
Robotron: 2084 has been described as a ‘twitch’ game. Each wave is over in a flash and the speed of the game seems to put play slightly ahead of conscious perception, as though the game takes place in the muscles. Long sessions leave players in a sweaty mess. The bright cycling colours and harsh electronic sounds (reminiscent of Defender) leave a mental ‘burn in’ that is hard to forget.
The world of competitive Robotron gaming continues today, with two variations currently recognised by Twin Galaxies. The first is Marathon settings, which are the default settings of the machine. This is because the most skillful gamers are able to play indefinitely; the only limitation being the need for sleep. This world record is over 300 million, set in 1983. There is a controversy however over this score as it ends in the digits ’80′ which is impossible in Robotron. Furthermore, the game would have to have taken about 67 hours, which is considerably longer than any other marathon gaming session on any video game. The matter is part of an ongoing investigation at Twin Galaxies.
The other variation is Tournament settings. This removes the free lives that normally come every 25K. For a long time Abdner Ashman, also the Ms Pacman world champion held the title but it was recently broken by John McAllister with 1.2 million.
Interestingly, a problem has started to emerge for contemporary players playing marathon sessions on early 80′s games. Twin Galaxies along with a seeming consensus of players considers games played on the original arcade machine to be in a separate category to those played on the emulator MAME using the original ROMs. The problem is that the aging electronics frequently cannot cope with marathon play and the machine ‘resets’ mid-game, ending the chance of a high score. Thus a number of classic games have high scores set in the early 80′s with no realistic chance of being beaten today. This was detailed in the disheartening documentary “High Score” about a Missile Command player suffering the same problem.
This problem could perhaps be overcome by manufacturing new original arcade machines with the same electronics. However this would be prohibitively expensive, and there would always be the possibility that slight differences in the circuitry would create minute timing changes that would change the difficulty imperceptibly, but that would have an effect over the length of an elite gamer’s game. Few would consider such records official and in the same category. This is probably the same reason why the MAME emulator versions, despite being logically identical to the arcade machines, are generally considered ‘different’, and their high score records not classed together.
Perhaps, even within the narrow confines of digital gaming, the conditions of the early 80′s will never be reproduced closely enough to allow us to make fair comparisons of high scores. Then Heraclitus’ maxim that we cannot step in the same river twice will continue to hold.
It was with some trepidation I re-viewed ‘Bagdad Cafe’ again since first seeing it shortly after it was released in Australia. Produced in 1987, directed by resolutely independent filmmaker, Percy Adlon, it was a hit with audiences – and with me – back then, and I was concerned the freshness may have faded in the intervening years. I need not have worried.
Adlon was a German filmmaker (I guess he’s still a German filmmaker – but since ‘Bagdad Cafe’ he has been based in California), with European sensibilities, making a movie set at a truckstop cafe/motel in the Mojave desert on route 66.
A tourist couple from Bavaria are driving through the desert. (Spoiler alert for the rest of this paragraph – not much of a spoiler as it happens only a few minutes in.) Their marriage is unravelling. When the Mrs – Jasmin Munchgstettner, played by Marianne Sagebrecht – decides enough is enough, leaving the car and her husband, we see her pulling a wheelie suitcase along the desert road, wearing a woollen suit, Bavarian feathered hat, and heels. She is strikingly out of place here.
We find our way to the Bagdad Cafe, peopled by a motley cast of characters, including the owner of the place, Brenda (played by CCH Pounder), whose hostility appears impenetrable.
Neither Jasmin nor Brenda have ever met anyone like the other before, so each is alien and unknown to the other – the ample, white Bavarian with the coiffed hair and the wild-haired, angry, black roadhouse owner.
Jack Palance plays Rudi Cox, formerly from Hollywood and ‘the pictures’ – adorned in a variety of headbands and a rainbow assortment of wide-sleeved satin shirts, living in a caravan onsite. Palance brings compassion and tenderness to this role.
Adlon reveals the humanity of characters that, in other hands, may have appeared only as superficial stereotypes. These are people not of the mainstream; on the borders of the current of life. We feel them battling anger and loneliness, quietly yearning for human warmth and understanding in the desolation of the desert. There is also delight in the humour Adlon weaves through the film; humour not at the expense of his characters but which provides insight into them.
And for me one of the great joys in this film is the delicious Marianne Sagebrecht, who plays the central role with depth, compassion and sparkle. It is marvellous to see a large woman express herself as sexy and playful. Still, after all these years, very rare on screen.
This is a film of gentle surprises and surprising gentleness (despite a few cheesy moments).
Percy Adlon’s method is beautifully described on his website, where he quotes from a letter he wrote to a German film student:
“I never forced my filmmaking but made the necessary decisions step by step when they were needed – a beautiful and exciting and not always successful procedure.
“Style was always very important to me. A lead color for an entire film. A sparse environment. A limited space. One song. No real score. Just the separate instrumental tracks of the song. A lot of original sounds. Not too much dialogue. No violence. Praise of woman. A mood between tears and laughter. Others later called it my ‘poetic realism’. Light and color, motion and calm, emotion, surprise, hope, joy, being touched, fulfillment, images that doesn’t have to be explained. This is what’s important for my films. Some conflict, some suspense. But just very carefully used like some spice that should never overpower the more subtle flavors.”
Adlon trivia: Percy Adlon’s grandfather, Lorenz Adlon, developed the Adlon Hotel in Berlin – where Greta Garbo uttered the famous line: ‘I want to be alone’ in the film ‘Grand Hotel’. It also has the room from which Michael Jackson showed his son, Blanket, to fans by dangling him over a balcony.
This week in the 80s…on 10 June 1982 Steven Spielberg’s science fiction PG-rating film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, became one of the highest-grossing box-office success, that is until Jurassic Park was released many years later in 1993. “Phone home”!
On 12 June, 1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark was released. It set a major standard for many action-adventure films to date.
Thanks to everyone who came along to the 80s Mod Revival weekend! Our staff photographers Marinco Kojdanovski and Sotha Bourn documented the weekend, with pictures of the bands, scooters, fashion shows and, maybe you!
The evolution of gaming in the 80s is particularly fascinating, not only for the brisk pace at which new technology was developed but the fact that it all seemed to happen simultaneously. Dozens of enterprises and studios rose and fell over the years, and certain platforms and types of games came along only to quickly go out of fashion but by the end of the decade you could still play in the arcade, in the lounge-room, on the computer, and while in transit or on the toilet with your phenomenal new handheld device.
In the interest of complete historical accuracy, handheld gaming officially began around 1977 when Mattel introduced Auto Race, a game in only the most generous sense of the word, and virtually impossible to find in working condition today. Essentially you could control a bright blip on a tiny screen that was meant to represent a race car, and your goal was to race against the computer in the shortest time possible. To win, your time had to run under 99 seconds, as this was as high as the two-digit game timer display could go.
A few years later board-game giant Milton Bradley released the very first handheld console with interchangeable cartridges – the Microvision. Jay Smith’s design was a massive leap forward from Auto Race, and despite the fact that it made an appearance in ‘Friday the 13th Part 2′, technical issues and lack of software support meant that it was taken off the market only a short time later in 1981. The Microvision design effectively looked like a miniature arcade machine, and featured a mini joystick at the base of the device for game control.
In 1980, Nintendo began releasing its ‘Game & Watch’ series of handhelds. Created by designer Gunpei Yokoi, each device featured a single game on a dual LCD screen and a clock with an alarm – hence the name “game” and “watch”. Yokoi’s design featured a cross shaped directional pad (D-pad) for controlling characters within the game, a feature that would become standard on gaming consoles across the industry. Despite the limitations of the device, the series proved to be immensely popular, and Yokoi eventually began work on a followup device that, like Milton Bradley’s Microvision, would feature interchange game cartridges. After years of development, that device was released in 1989 under the name Game Boy.
The success of the Game Boy was unprecedented. In the U.S it sold a million units within weeks of its release, and to date over 118 million Game Boy products have been sold worldwide. Initially bundled with the puzzle game Tetris, hundreds of titles were released for the Game Boy, including many of the classic Nintendo franchises like Super Mario Brothers.
The design featured many similarities to Yokoi’s Game & Watch, including the D-pad, rounded B & A action buttons (similar to the G&W jump/start button) and select and start buttons, which were essentially elongated versions of the G&W Game A, B and time buttons. Overall, the Game Boy’s design was typically stylish and minimal, while also being slightly bubbly and cartoon-like. The design also featured a trademark rounded right corner, which housed a stereo speaker. Like all their consoles, Nintendo’s Game Boy was a singular and unique design, unlike anything else on the market.
While the Game Boy was ultimately the most successful of the handhelds in the 80s it wasn’t the only device on the market, in fact many of its competitors boasted superior technology and features, not the least of which was a colour screen. Almost ten years later, a colour Game Boy would be released, but the original device was given a simple square screen with dot matrix graphics in four glorious shades of grey.
The Atari Lynx, an early Game Boy competitor, had a large, backlit colour screen, and a wide body with similar controls, however sales were hampered by poor battery life, an expensive price tag and a lack of compelling titles. The Sega Game Gear improved on all those fronts, however it simply couldn’t compete with the overwhelming hype surrounding the Game Boy. Sega infamously tried to battle this with an anti-Game Boy ad campaign but despite decent sales, they simply couldn’t overcome the console giant.
Sega – Anti Gameboy Ad
The Game Boy series also saw numerous ad-on hardware and upgrades which kept users engaged with the device, including a link cable for multi-player sessions, a printer and a camera. The success of handheld consoles and the demand for mobile entertainment continues today. The Game Boy has since evolved into the Nintendo DS, and new handhelds like the PSP and the iPhone have again revolutionized the industry.
Life is tough. Listening to music can make us feel better about it, but if you think it’s going to bring about any real improvement in the conditions of everyday life, you’re kidding yourself. Pop music is part of the problem. It’s like this…