02 September 2007

Retro Wishlist

Today, dudes and dudettes, I present to you my Retro Wishlist. This post will have pictures to look at, since apparently that plays a big role in whether or not people read something.

Anyway, I plan on adding to the Wishlist whenever I happen to think of a new item, so this is just the beginning.

01. Teddy Ruxpin and Grubby

Possibly the coolest toy to come out of the 1980s, Teddy had a cassette player in his back in which you put special tapes. He would tell stories that you could (sort of) read along with in the accompanying books. His eyes and mouth moved along with the sounds, and 20 years ago, that was pretty badass technology.

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I got a Teddy Ruxpin for my third birthday in 1986. I was instantly enamored. Teddy became my best friend. Even though he weighed about 50 pounds, I still managed to lug him around with me whenever the opportunity presented itself.

My parents bought me a bunch of the book/tape sets and I played them over and over. They even got him a little red aviator outfit that came with a hat and a vest. And eventually, they even got me his partner in fun: Grubby, a...giant yellow worm-thing called an "octopede" if memory serves me well. If you hooked the two of them up with a special cable they would "interact". More innovative technology. I never really used Grubby that much for whatever dumbass reason.

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Anyway, even after this boy I used to play with broke Teddy's lower jaw off, I still loved him. Apparently that jaw thing was a common problem, but I was still pissed off at that kid. Why are little boys so bent on destroying other people's shit?

Over the years, Teddy and Grubby got lost. As soon as I get over my fear of eBay and acquire some cash, I'm probably going to buy Teddy back, hopefully one that doesn't have a broken jaw. I hear talk that they made a new version that uses cartridge thingies instead of tapes, but that just doesn't sound the same to me. Plus, I want to see if you really can make him react to other cassette tapes, because hearing Teddy blare out some 80s hair metal would just be too funny to pass up.

02. Rainbow Brite's Dress

No, I'm not talking some freaky cosplay thing. I mean, I need a dress for my Rainbow Brite doll that I bought at a thrift store last year. Amusingly, she came dressed in some camofluage doll clothes. I hate to just buy another doll, but it might be easier.

Like I've said before, Rainbow Brite was my world when I was little. I had all manner of Sprites, a small Rainbow doll and a plush Starlite.

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The Rainbow doll had come all the way to Oklahoma with me when we moved from California in October '85-- I was two, with my third birthday coming in February. She, too, was missing a dress...I guess it got left behind. Anyway, much like Teddy, I carried Rainbow around with me everywhere I went. As a result, I remember her being quite dirty and kind of beat up. But we still had some good times.

I did have the larger Rainbow doll at one point, but it vanished into a black hole somewhere along with virtually everything else I owned back then. So when I saw one for two measly dollars, I snatched it up faster than you can say "I'm 24 and still play with dolls".

Now if I could just find her a damn dress, life would be one step closer to complete.

03. A (Working) RCA Selectavision Player and Discs

I'm pretty sure nobody reading this knows what the hell a RCA Selectavision player is. Well, allow me to enlighten you. It's only one of the coolest pieces of obsolete technology ever! At least, it is to me.

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Sometime in the past, some guy thought it would be a good idea to put video on a groove-based medium, such as a vinyl record. RCA developed the technology for years, and wanted to launch in the late 70s, but didn't get the system on the market until sometime around 1981.

Most people call them "videodiscs", but the fancy-schmancy term is Capacitance Electronic Disc. I don't entirely know what that means (I looked it up once but it only confused me more), but it's essentially a type of video record.

Since the discs were quite fragile and would be damaged if touched, RCA developed a special caddy for them to extend their lifespan. So, CEDs are not to be confused with Laserdiscs. They actually looked like a big plastic rectangle. You would insert the caddy into the player, and a quite sophisticated mechanism inside would extract the disc from its protective armor. Snazzy.

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Unfortunately, the system came onto the market way too late, because certain other formats were already entrenched in epic combat (that's another story for another time).

The system's major downfall was that you couldn't record onto it, which was a huge factor in the success of home video formats back then. You also couldn't really pause it-- well, you could, but it couldn't freeze frame, it just blanked the screen, which was another inherent flaw that came with it being a grooved medium.

The system was, for all intents and purposes, dead by 1986. VHS reigned over all others as the King of Home Video. Shortly after the demise of Selectavision, RCA was bought out. (The name lives on, but they don't actually develop their own technology anymore as far as I know.)

However, this doesn't mean that Selectavision didn't have its day in the sun. Thousands of titles were available for the system and people actually bought them, even after player production had stopped.

My dad bought one of the players when we still lived in California. I'm guessing sometime in 1984 or so, probably when they were cutting the price way down just to get the players sold. He brought it with him when we moved, and since the format was dying by then, you could get discs pretty damn cheap.

As a result, we had a whole stack of the damn things, including the Star Wars movies, Alien, and a few Rocky movies. We also had what I recently learned is a hard title to find: a disc with two episodes of Rainbow Brite on it. I watched the shit out of that thing even though the disc skipped a lot. Eventually my dad copied it to VHS for me, before the disc totally crapped out.

My dad still had the player and the collection of discs as recently as 2003, but then he GOT RID OF IT. Without asking me if I wanted it first. He said it didn't work anymore, but according to what he said was wrong with it, it probably just needed a new belt and a new stylus. I would have taken good care of that thing. Therefore, one of these days I'm buying another one. I've heard that if you know how to contact them, RCA (or whoever owns them) still has a large inventory of styli stashed away somewhere, probably in a warehouse that looks like the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I didn't mean for this to get as long as it did. But there you go.

Afterthought: The singular of "media" is "medium". It took me until now to notice the errors. I'm not an idiot, honestly.

8 comments:

bigsleepj said...

Interesting! I've never heard of the RCA Selectavision; it sounds like an interesting bit of technology!

And oddly, I can remember a Teddy Ruxpin TV show, but I can't remember those bears.

Saturday Morning Central said...

Hey cool blog!

Its nice to see someone else who remembers the Videodiscs. They were on the out when I was born, but my family had one when I was growing up, and I have many many fond memories of flipping the disc over so I could watch the second half of the movie.

Magic Toy said...

Wow, I had never heard of those before. That was a great read!

I would love to track one of those down as well.

aykon said...

That was a great read! Again with the Selectavision! I think I read about that in your main blog from time to time but it fits better here. Hmm...a Rainbow Brite dress, a SelectaVision player and a Teddy Ruxpin...I think I have some ideas for Annette's Christmas present!

Anonymous said...

Wow I had my Teddy Ruxpin with tapes until about a year ago. Gave him to my tiny cousins. Never had a selectavision... But I got like 8 VCRs in my house

--Vanbilderass

Metal Misfit said...

Ah, Teddy Ruxpin... What great memories I have of you.

William Rendfeld said...

Hi there. Believe it or not, I actually know what an RCA SelectaVision system is; my dad's a nut over them. Feel free to contact me whenever you get interested in purchasing a system or some discs.

chancy said...

so I have lots of rainbow brite stuff I am trying to sell and strawberry shortcake if intrested. anyway I have many rainbow brite dolls from 1983 big ones and little one and her friends some still with plastic protecting their hair may be willing to sell you one cheap. and they are vintage.