Long before Pete Burns and his rubber lips had our heads spinning right round, we were dizzy with glee over a game which had us throwing some serious shapes down on paper and creating our very own Art Attack.
Creative games were always added to my Christmas list; along with 5 selection packs and a Now That’s What I Call Music’ cd, and I remember opening Spirograph and thinking ‘WTF? And why?’ But once I’d cracked it open and took those bad boy cogs out of the packet my mind became a visual kaleidoscope; I was addicted.
Continue reading “SPIROGRAPH” »
He sounds like he’d be fun at a dinner party doesn’t he? Well he wasn’t – he was probably in the corner twisting a white, red, blue, orange, green, and yellow box around instead of commenting politely on the pavlova.
In the 80s, EVERYONE had a Rubik’s Cube, whether you wanted one or not. It was the law.
For anyone not around in the 80s, it was a small plastic puzzle with 54 different coloured blocks making up a six sided cube. To win, you had to make each of the six sides the same colour by rotating each face.
SOUNDS EASY RIGHT?
Well, did you ALSO know there are exactly 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 permutations of the Rubik’s Cube – that’s approximately forty-three quintillion.
And this is a present they gave to ten-year-olds. That’s the equivalent of being a forty-three quintillion piece jigsaw – and at least you get a pretty picture of a dinosaur when you finish that. With the Rubik’s Cube, all you got was a cube with six coloured sides – completely useless except for throwing at the cat.
To me, this was just a gift designed to make you feel stupid, angry and bored – in exactly that order – then go back to watching your Ghostbusters VHS.
Anyone who told you they could complete the Rubik’s Cube was lying. Nobody could do the Rubik’s Cube – unless they did it the way I did: peel off all the coloured stickers and re-stick them so all the sides match up. Then take it into the playground the next day and look smug.
(One man who could do it was Feliks Zemdegs, who holds the world record for completing the cube in 6.65 seconds)
An even easier way to solve the cube was merely to twist off the smaller individual cubes, then shove them back on in the correct order. I reckon I could do that in 6 seconds. EAT THAT FELIKS ZEMDEGS.
Poor Professor Rubik could never quite match the success of his multi-coloured cube – but I did own his follow up, Rubik’s Magic. Bored of squares, he’d come up with an exciting new innovation – circles. Basically you wibble-wobbled connected titles around ‘til you made a picture of a circle. This one was more annoying than the Cube because there was no way of dismantling it and cheating.
(BONUS FACT: Yuxan Wang holds the world record for completing Rubik’s Magic in 0.71 seconds.)
The Cube, however, remains an iconic image of the 80s. Every household really did have one, even though 99 per cent of them would just use it as a paperweight. Somehow Prof Ernő managed to convince the world to buy his useless plastic puzzle even though few had the brains to solve it. Now that’s real genius.
By Luke Chilton
That salty, sweetness which smelled oh so good but (when temptation and curiosity became just too much) tasted oh so bad!
In 1992, my three-year-old self, received one of the greatest Christmas presents EVER – my first pack of Play-Doh.
I happily spent many an hour molding and creating what can only be described as modern art, whilst at the same time inventing a whole new colour – a mucky brown, which can be made by cleverly (or clumsily, whichever you prefer) mashing the once vivid colours together.
And the creative juices really flowed once I was given the different instruments that could make the Play-Doh into things like spaghetti and other modeling shapes.
The downside, however, was the inability to remove it from carpet – and trust me it was definitely impossible, my mum tried everything!
Every kid had Play-Doh, as did most nurseries and primary schools, and for me, it was an essential part of my childhood. Not bad for something that started out life as wallpaper cleaner ay?
Yes that’s what you read…
Back in the 1930s, (and in America no less), a mixture of flour, water, salt, boric acid and silicone oil, was making the rounds as wallpaper cleaner and it wasn’t until some clever children started messing and playing with it that the idea of Play-Doh came about.
The squishy substance has come a long way, sporting many colours since it’s original off-white – with gold and silver even being added to the palette in 1996 as part it’s 40th anniversary.
There have also been more than two billion tubs of Play-Doh sold over 50 years, and because of that, in 2003, the Toy Industry Association added it to their ‘Century of Toys’ list.
By the 1980s, Play-Doh came in a variety of eight colours, called the ‘Rainbow Pack,’ with four new colours being added to the red, yellow, blue and white.
It was also in the 80s that Play-Doh’s packaging had an upgrade. In 1986, we said goodbye to cardboard containers with prone-to-rust metal bottoms, and hello to tight-sealed, easy-to-open, plastic tubs.
Beret-wearing ‘Play-Doh Pete’ was thankfully kept as the mascot (although his image was pimped too, but not until 2002, when the beret was replaced with a much cooler baseball cap!)
Even though it was first sold in 1956, it wasn’t until its export in 1964 that we British folk got to experience the joy of Play-Doh, but we’ve been molding and making ever since!
In an age of Xbox’s and Nintendo 3DS’s, it’s nice to know that Play-Doh is still going strong, and children of today continue to make that same mistake of wondering whether it tastes as good as it smells…
By Stefanie Keeling
When choosing toys as a child, anything with a catchy theme tune and appealing cartoon was definitely a winner in my book, and the advert for Hungry Hungry Hippos had both. The giant colourful hippo characters doing the conga across the screen, singing ‘hungry, hungry hippos’ made a real impression on me and I was always left wanting more once the advert had finished! Continue reading “HUNGRY HIPPOS” »
The first computer I ever saw, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum was about the size of a large paperback book, jet black (save the rainbow flash of colours zipping across the bottom corner) with tiny grey rubber keys.
Invented by balding scientist Sir Clive Sinclair in 1984, the Spectrum was one of the first home computers. Plugged into the telly, you could play games in your own front room! Granted, they were all rubbish, but I wasn’t allowed in arcades, so to me, they were like stepping into TRON.
If you could go back in time to visit the eight-year-old me, and swap my Spectrum for an XBOX, it would be like giving a caveman a Cornetto. I’d love it for five minutes and then throw up, my body unable to comprehend the assault of colours, music and hard-core violence. (That is exactly what would happen if you gave a caveman a Cornetto)
For one, all the games for the Spectrum were on cassette tapes.
While this made copying your mate’s games pretty easy (all you needed was a tape-to-tape HiFi) it did mean that most Spectrum games took at least eight minutes to load. EIGHT MINUTES. Can you imagine any child today waiting eight minutes for Call of Duty to load? No, they’d be off spray-painting the library.
I found those eight minutes quite handy – you could pop downstairs for some toast and cup of tea and be back before the game had loaded. That way, you also avoided the EXCRUCIATING loading noises. Like scraping a cat’s claws down a blackboard while simultaneously putting its tail in a George Foreman grill. No one who owned a Spectrum will ever forget that noise – and it lasted EIGHT MINUTES.
(Later, when the games became more complicated, you often had to inset ANOTHER cassette tape and wait AGAIN. Even then around 75 per cent of the time, you’d just get an ERROR message and have to start over.)
However, if you were patient, you were rewarded with an embarrassment of riches.
Take the game Horace Goes Skiing for example. Check out these state of the art graphics. And the gameplay! You could move Horace left AND right!
Another staple of the Spectrum was the text based adventure game. These dispensed with graphics and moving characters completely, opting instead for descriptions of what was happening. The player would simply type instructions such as ‘go north’ to move to the next location.
But the rubbish nature of the graphics eventually forced programmers to be wildly creative with gameplay resulting in some of the cleverest, most inventive games ever made.
Sinclair brought out a 128k memory version, allowing software companies to make games like Chaos (chess with wizards), Laser Squad, (vast tactical warfare) and Elite (a never-ending space trading game). Soon, the Spectrum had become the most popular home computer in Europe. Kids at school that had the rival Commodore 64 were losers – the ‘Speccy’ was king.
Back then, you didn’t need 72 programmers, voice-artists, musicians and script-writers to make a game. Anyone could learn to code games on their own machine, meaning there was no end to the bizarre titles that came out. If a programmer had an idea, they could make a game out of it.
Want a somersaulting egg that solves puzzles? No problem, you had Dizzy – a sort of Indiana Jones.
Then there was Paperboy (you just had to deliver papers), Marble Madness (you were a marble), School Daze (you were a naughty schoolboy who had to terrorise fellow pupils without getting detention) and Jet Set Willy (not too sure what happened in that one…)
I loved my Spectrum more than it was normal to love a stupid noisy box of wires. It became more than a hobby – hunting down second hand games at car boot sales and devouring both monthly fan magazines, Sinclair User and Your Sinclair.
Even when Amiga’s, Mega Drive and Nintendo arrived, I stuck with my old Speccy. The new games dried up, but there was still a hardcore fan base still programming their own. I still remember the last ever issue of Your Sinclair – a massive double edition that paid tribute over a decade of Sir Clive’s revolutionary home computer. It was like Michael Jackson had died.
Now, the entire concept of the Spectrum is so alien to today’s youth, it’s hard to believe they even existed. But they did, and I’ve still got mine in the loft somewhere to prove it. I’ve got an XBOX now, and while the games look like Hollywood movies and you can spend hours recreating World Cup finals against 12 year-olds on the other side of the world, I’d still rather sit through eight minutes of screeching and play a two-dimensional black and white game featuring a somersaulting egg every time.
By Luke Chilton
For kids growing up in the 90s, it was the one toy you and all your friends had to have. The idea of having a virtual playmate to feed and play with was just so much fun! The obsession with the Tamagotchi as it was known was definitely a phase I went through! I had a white and pink one, and it could be attached as a key ring with a little chain. The idea of mothering this ‘child’ from birth, and essentially seeing it grow made me feel responsible and important. I think this was its fascination for many kids out there. Continue reading “TAMAGOTCHI” »
Bulky, grey, chunky and with buttons which could be seen from outer space; no I’m not talking about Saved By The Bell’s Zach Morris’ cell phone, but the best thing to come from the 80’s (apart from George Michael’s Club Tropicana speedos…) it is of course the Nintendo Game Boy. Continue reading “GAME BOY” »
It’s said that DNA is the building block of life but I would beg to differ. When having a building block contest there really is one that trumps them all…Lego of course! Its tiny form belies its mighty power but any child (particularly one who grew up in the 80s – before advanced computer games really took over every young boy (and girls) playtime) will tell of the magical properties held in the little bricks. And plus, what other toy has a whole theme park dedicated to its cause!?!
When you look at some kid’s TV characters/toys today, it’s astounding that children don’t run away from them screaming in fright. Take for example the terrifying cast of In The Night Garden, who look like they should be locked away in a secure unit, I wonder how many parents have to soothe their distressed offspring from nightmares about Igglepiggle, Makka Pakka and the rest.
But this love for frightening visages is not restricted to today’s tots! When I cast my mind back to my own childhood, a familiar face looms into my memory – that of the Cabbage Patch Kid. Although undoubtedly one of the most popular dolls of the 80s, there’s no denying the fact that they had faces only a mother could love. With giant puffy cheeks, woolen hair, stumpy limbs and staring eyes they didn’t look like any baby I’d ever seen! But their distinctiveness certainly didn’t stop them from doing well. Continue reading “CABBAGE PATCH KIDS” »
When we were young and the future was still wide open, our favourite past-time was to colour it in with fantasies. Scientifically supported fantasies, mind you. The one that drew most on an ability I could actually use later in life, was calculating the percentage of love or the mathematical compatibility between you and another person, preferably your love interest of that particular week. With a bit of plain old math you’d know within minutes whether it was worth chasing the boy or girl of your dreams.
For those of you who’ve never indulged in this widely respected practice, here’s how it works. Write down your name and the name of the person you fancy, then count how many times you see the letters L O V E S. You will end up with a five-digit number – one digit for each letter. Then simply add up the first and second, the second and third, the third and fourth, and the fourth and fifth. Rinse and repeat until you end up with a two-digit percentage representing the chance of romantic success.
Now, these were binding percentages: if the result was anywhere below 50 percent, you might as well break up immediately as you’d be doomed to fail anyway. Fortunately, pre-teen girls are both helpless romantics and conniving little monsters. We were not going to let cold, hard science steal our dreams and soon found ways to manipulate the results. You could either add last names or leave them out, or include or exclude the letters L O V E S when it came to counting, and simply pick your favourite result. For example, I’ve just calculated the compatibility percentage for the man who recently asked me to marry him (unfortunately, I said yes before even thinking of checking whether science agreed) and the four trustworthy percentages my little research resulted in were 26, 42, 68 and 94 – you can guess which one I’m sticking with for now.
However much fun math is, the absolute favourite fortune-telling technique was the chatterbox, or cootie-catcher. In these days of Xboxes, iPads, the Internet and trashy-but-addictive reality TV shows, it’s almost unimaginable that once-upon-a-time young girls could actually enjoy themselves for hours with just one silly sheet of paper. Even though we probably should have cared more about our professional futures, recycling and the ozone layer, all our hormone-ridden brains wanted to know was when and whom we would marry, how many kids we’d have and what their names would be.
Moreover, it seemed of vital importance to avoid getting imaginarily hitched to the class nerd or have children named Silly ans Billy. After all, one’s ‘destiny’ was dependent upon the number of switches and the choice of arbitrary colours. We would spend hours giggling producing them, and all breaks were filled with hysterical pre-teen laughter. It didn’t really matter what the results were, any outcome was hilarious. Perhaps we were simply craving the nosy, slightly worried looks the boys threw us while we let faith decide on their destiny. How about that for feminism?
By the time we expanded our spouse search beyond the playground and decorated our bedroom walls with posters of the heartthrobs-du-moment, they too were included in the chatterbox. One lucky morning, destiny told me I would marry Leonardo DiCaprio after he’d asked me at to the local supermarket and I would give birth to twins named Ann and Rose. I decided then and there that I would just omit the supermarket bit when I would retell the story to the 27 grandchildren me and Leo would have, according to the chatterbox.
If only we could trust a simple piece of origami or adding up some numbers when it comes to today’s bigger life questions. What job shall I look for? Where should I live? Should I buy these shoes and eat noodles all month? I’ve already nicked a sheet of paper from the office printer, and am folding my future as we speak. Anyone want to marry both Ant and Dec?
By Janneke de Jong