S2:E14 – Asteroids 40th Anniversary

We salute Asteroids 40th anniversary with a discussion of how things have changed since 1979, and with a rebroadcast of the story “Escape To The Asteroids Zone”

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S2:E13: The Haunting of the Vertical Blank


Into the vertical Blank: Generation Atari Season 2 Episode 13: The Haunting of the Vertical Blank

This time the guys discuss “scary” Atari games (mostly *not* scary all), some real-word experiences that beg the question “Was Jeff and Steve’s 520 Atari ST haunted?”, a story about a creepy pen and paper “game” that had a profound effect on the pair growing up, and finally, a look into the very scary world viral indie games circa 2007-2008.

ESP Test Photos

Here are a few of the results from the actual ESP tests we took with our dad. We found these last week in storage facility. Notice, Jeff and my dad seem to have been close on the “house” and the “tree” while I (Steve) was close with the “ice cream cone/balloons”. Memory can be a funny funny thing I guess.

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Games Mentioned:

Atari 2600 Haunted House : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFEC0ZX_f70

Atari 2600 Demon Attack : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GwoSr12kxY

Atari 2600 Demons to Diamonds : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppQ7RNLE_v0

Atari 2600 Supercharger Escape from the Mind Master : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nfw1GEMmlos

Atari 400/800/XE/XE Satans Hollow : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JppyKelUX4g

Atari 400/800/XL/XE Deadline :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HrVXBLXajo

Atari 400/800/XL/XE Suspect:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLlUsQQhz58

Satan’s Hollow (Arcade): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eChgXxuEYJY

Colecovision Mr. Do:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d37Hd2ZqXFQ

Atari ST Kult : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ealqGjO90h8

Atari ST Dungeon Master : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiEgnbqeU0k

Atari ST Phantasie II : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPlkbuPzkRM

Atari ST Hound of Shadow : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SPO7Q3IdF4&list=PLFl3jwQIfR79HDKr_LNVYS2rmurbimiK3

Atari ST Star Raiders : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdbaFHzfmvc

Atari 2600 Donkey Kong: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzI1RBdK2_g

Pumpkinman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6_gOiWNQME

DragonQuest : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZR5FzQCDgE

TV Shows Mentioned:

El Camino a Breaking Bad Story : https://www.netflix.com/title/81078819

Expedition Unknown: Afterlife: https://www.travelchannel.com/shows/expedition-unknown-search-for-the-afterlife/episodes 

Podcasts Mentioned:

Gimlet Startup : https://gimletmedia.com/shows/startup

Books Mentioned:

Arcade Perfect: https://www.amazon.com/Arcade-Perfect-Pac-Man-Coin-Op-Classics/dp/1079275541/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=arcade+perfect&qid=1571587622&sr=8-1

Nights In White Castle : https://www.amazon.com/Steve-Rushin/e/B001H6WDVA?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1571587706&sr=8-1

Music Mentioned:

The Who – The: Music Must Fade : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpKhGNaiS6c

The Who – Ball And Chain:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2IN8wYqQ6E

From  The Liturgy of 8bitrocket Pumpkin Man

Pumpkinman Mid-Mortem

New Ground Pumpkinman Page

https://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/430593

8bitrocket Pumpkinman goes gold!

8bitrocket 5 Year Anniversary : Throwing Up the Past and Top-10 Of Everything We could Think Of

s2_e12 Star Wars Part 2

S2:E12: Star Wars and Atari In The Vertical Blank : Part 2

S2:E12: Star Wars and Atari In The Vertical Blank : Part 2

In the follow-up episode to the Season 2, Episode 12, Steve and Jeff continue their discussion of the impact that Star Wars on their video game experience and video games in general.   They also add in a story by Steve and have a game play session of the Arcade, Atari 2600, and Atari 400/800/XL/XE version(s) of Star Wars Death Star Battle.

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S2:E11: Star Wars and Atari In The Vertical Blank : Part 1

Read Show Notes Here

Watch Video Of The Star Wars “A Nerd Is Born” story below:

See the photos from Sunday Sept 25th, 1977 below.

A Nerd Was Born

By Steve Fulton

Some time in September 1977 there was an advertisement in the local paper, The Daily Breeze, that announced characters from Star Wars would be appearing in-person at the local Toys R ‘Us in Torrance, California.    This was not a just a local occurrence. These characters were showing up everywhere that autumn, from Florida to California.  You see, when the movie Star Wars was released in May of that year, there were no toys available at all.  It took Kenner months to get toys on the shelves, but even then, they would not be available for Christmas 1977.  In fact, there was really only a “promise” parents could buy for their kids that toys would arrive some time in 1978. It was called the “Early Bird Certificate Package” which consisted of a cardboard background, a membership card, and a certificate to mail-in to get your toys in 1978.   If my memory serves me correctly, these visits by costumed Star Wars characters to Toys R Us in 1977 were designed so that the chain could sell kids on the amazing idea of receiving an envelope some flimsy paper products for Christmas, while waiting months for real molded plastic toys to arrive.

It worked.

This was 1977 mind you.  As kids, we had little else to keep us going.   There was no internet. Network news and newspapers were still doing their rightful job of keeping public officials honest with real journalism.  Entertainment news was scarce, with gossip about celebrities relegated to the National Enquirer.   The top TV shows were geared towards adult nostalgia (Happy Days, Laverne And Shirley) or adult situations (All In The Family, Three’s Company).   The top selling albums were by bands like Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles (although, to  behonest, the Star Wars soundtrack was in the top-10).

In this era, and news  for kids existed only in the pages of publications like Boy’s Life and Dynamite, magazines with lead times of 6 months or more.  Recent news about products for kids or toys was virtually non-existent. And what would they talk about anyway? Even video games were still an experimental fad:  in September 1977,  the Atari 2600 was still a couple months from release.

So when my brother and I read in the Daily Breeze that  Darth Vader, Chewbacca and Storm Troopers would be traipsing through the local Toys R Us to announce the new line of toys based on Star Wars, we HAD to go, and our dad decided to take us.

This was not exactly a “normal” decision for my dad.  Besides taking us to the movies on occasion, he rarely took us out any where by himself.  I can count on one hand the number of times my dad took my brother and I to any event that did not involve Christmas shopping, motorcycles or gun shows, and this magical day was one of those times.

We got up really early that morning.  Well, my dad got up.  My brother and I never went to sleep  the night before.  How could we?  We were going to meet the guys from Star Wars!  When we slipped outside at the crack of dawn to get going, my dad snapped this photo of my brother and I (below).  I’m the guy on the left looking glum. I have no idea why I look so upset.   My wife says I was probably trying to put on my best Han Solo face. I think she’s right. My twin brother is the moisture farm boy on the right.  Our brand-new ’76 Datsun 710 Millenium Falcon is just behind us.

Han Solo And Luke On Their Way To a Meeting with Destiny: : Star Wars Visits Toy's R Us In Torrance, CA, Fall 1977

Han Solo And Luke On Their Way To a Meeting with Destiny: : Star Wars Visits Toy’s R Us In Torrance, CA, Fall 1977

When we got to Toy’s R Us, there were droves of people in line to get inside.  We landed the car in the lot for the Del Amo Mall, and hiked the 1/2 mile or so to the Toy’s R Us.  By the time we made it back, people were being let into the store.  The crowd was packed inside at  the back, on a makeshift pathway from the stock room, down the board game aisle, and around the the side of the store.

We waited for about an hour before anything happened. First out came Geoffrey Giraffe.  Cool.  I’d never seen him in “person” before.  If you notice, behind Geoffrey was another giraffe.  I have no idea who that was supposed to be.  It was still awesome though.

Geoffrey Giraffe : Star Wars Visits Toy's R Us In Torrance, CA, Fall 1977

Geoffrey Giraffe : Star Wars Visits Toy’s R Us In Torrance, CA, Fall 1977

After the walking Toys R ‘Us commercial finished his march, out came A bona-fide Star Wars storm trooper.   He was escorted by, quite possibly, the most stereotypical looking 70’s Toy’s R Us clerk you can possibly imagine.    Storm Trooper : Star Wars Visits Toy's R Us In Torrance, CA, Fall 1977

Storm Trooper : Star Wars Visits Toy’s R Us In Torrance, CA, Fall 1977

Rebel Scum #1: Star Wars Visits Toy's R Us In Torrance, CA, Fall 1977

Rebel Scum #1: Star Wars Visits Toy’s R Us In Torrance, CA, Fall 1977

This is my favorite photo from that day.  Not only is it so quintessentially 1977, but notice the guy on the far top, left of the photo.   He’s pretending to shoot at the storm trooper.  This is awesome for several reasons.  First, in 1977, grown men loved Star Wars so much, they would actually do things like this.   Second of all, you could get away with it without being tackled by Homeland Security.  Third of all, I wish it was me.  Fourth of all, it’s just fantastic.  He’s made a gun our his bare hands, and he’s not taking any chances.   Good for you treacherous rebel scum.

Chewbacca came out next.  I have to say, that any 7-year old notion I had that these characters were not “real” ended right here for me.  The Chewbacca costume that day was amazing.  I have no idea where these costumes came from, but whomever acquired them, they did an awesome job.  I believe Chewie was holding his laser crossbow too, but I can’t be sure, as it’s not in the photo.

Chewbacca: Star Wars Visits Toy's R Us In Torrance, CA, Fall 1977

Chewbacca: Star Wars Visits Toy’s R Us In Torrance, CA, Fall 1977

Finally, out came Darth Vader.  I recall  there was marked hush that came over the crowd when Vader arrived.   I truly believe at that moment, Darth Vader still had the ability to strike fear in the hearts of kids (and probably even a few adults).  I know I was a bit taken aback myself.  I mean, this was the guy who magically choked his own people from across the room.  This was the guy who killed Obi Wan Kenobi for Force sake.  How could I, at seven years old, not be at least a  little scared of being in his presence?

Darth Vader: Star Wars Visits Toy's R Us In Torrance, CA, Fall 1977

Darth Vader: Star Wars Visits Toy’s R Us In Torrance, CA, Fall 1977

Rebel Scum Cowers: Star Wars Visits Toy's R Us In Torrance, CA, Fall 1977

Rebel Scum Cowers: Star Wars Visits Toy’s R Us In Torrance, CA, Fall 1977

However, do you know how I’m positive at least some people were at least a bit frightened of Darth Vader? Check out the rebel scum in the upper left hand side of the photo again.  He cowers behind the door.  Even he knew the limits of a laser blaster made with his bare hands against a Dark Lord Of The Sith.  It’s a good thing he will live to fight another day.

The whole thing was over in about 20 minutes, after which the crowd was herded down a couple of hurriedly assembled aisles crammed with every lame Star Wars product currently available: Puzzles, notebooks, posters, t-shirts etc.  It was obvious that the marketers of 1977 were caught unprepared for the success of Star Wars.  In lieu of the absent toys,  they slapped a Star Wars logo on the same items that had been prepared for movies like Logan’s Run, Planet Of The Apes, and Jaws in years prior.  Now they had nothing substantial ready for us, and the kids of 1977 were chomping at the bit to play Star Wars for real,  with X-Wings, Tie Fighters, Light Sabers, and action figures.

Even so, I was still taken by it all.  Whatever Midiclorian dust Toys R Us had sprinkled around the store that day worked perfectly on me.  I was hooked, caught, and ready to be reeled in.  In fact, I don’t recall ever feeling that way before.  I was ready to buy, but there just was not much to have. I recall my exact thought was:

I need to get some Star Wars stuff because I don’t have any.

I scanned the aisles on the the way out, and the only thing that caught my eye was a collection of Star War comic books.   I paged through it, and noticed that it followed the story of the movie pretty closely (with a few extra scenes on Tatooine added from the original script). I paid my $1.00 and  bingo,   a  nerd consumer was born.  I must have read all or part of this comic collection, (and it’s sequel, part 2 of the movie) each and every day from 1977 until 1980 when I finally saw the movie for 2nd time in re-release just before Empire Strikes Back arrived.  It was one of my few connections to Star Wars, and a cherished possession.  I still have the tattered and well loved book stored in a box in the garage.

In the ensuing years after 1977, I went from the comic books to Star Wars trading cards, The Story Of Star Wars album, and finally the toys and figures themselves, chosen from the Sears Wishbook for Christmas 1978.

After that, I moved to video games, computer games,  secretly pretending to be in the world of Star Wars while playing games like Asteroids, Space Invaders, Galaga and Star Raiders.    Not too long after, playing video games inspired me to start programming my own games on my Atari 800 computer,  and my nerd soul was minted forever.  All the while I never stopped loving the original Star Wars movie and how it changed my world,  finally morphing into the crazy dude at Target, searching the bargin bins for anything that might be interesting, cool or fun.  I can trace it all back to that one day in 1977, the day a bunch of guys in Star Wars costumes showed-up at my local Toys ‘R Us, cleared a path, and paved the way for a bunch of kids , kids just like me, to start living-out their Star Wars dreams.

 

S2:E10: Playing Outside in Generation X

To salute the end of summer, w e are re-running a story from last season named “Big Mouse And Little Mouse” that has been updated, expanded and remastered.   This is a story about the type of imaginative play that occurs when kids are trying to discover the world.   This was play in world of the mid 70’s, without screens (except the wood console one on the living room).  The events in this story are all real, and all took place on a single day that I recall vividly from our childhood.    The story take place in and around our childhood home as we used every inch of it to master our world  growing up in Generation X.

 


The Into The Vertical Blank YouTube Channel

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPnyVqBr2glJ-vAcDYDUYYw

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The Into The Vertical Blank Twitter Account

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Steve’s Twitter Account



Into the vertical blank: Generation Atari: Season 2, Episode 9 DragonStomper

In the episode, Steve and Jeff take a deep look at the Atari 2600 game Dragon Stomper, what it meant to them in the grand scheme of gaming, and also how it had an effect on early 80’s video and computer games as a whole. 

AtariProtos.com Dragon Stomper Page

http://www.atariprotos.com/2600/software/dragonstomper/dragonstomper.htm

Halcyon Days Interview with Steve Hales

https://dadgum.com/halcyon/BOOK/HALES.HTM

Forbes magazine comparing the 2600 and the xbox 360 – with a discussion Dragonstomper

https://www.forbes.com/2005/11/23/microsoft-xbox-videogames-cx_el_1123oldgames.html#6ee821d85f34

The Into The Vertical Blank YouTube Channel

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPnyVqBr2glJ-vAcDYDUYYw

https://www.instagram.com/into_the_vertical_blank/

The Into The Vertical Blank Twitter Account

Jeff’s Twitter Account

Steve’s Twitter Account


All original audio content, production and engineering by Jeff and Steve Fulton . Other content (c) copyright holders. Used under fair use limits.

s2_e8

S2:E8 The Exact Moment Nintendo Won the Video Game War

The Exact Moment Nintendo Won The Video game War (A Short, Left Handed Episode)

In this short summer bonus episode, Steve explores what he thinks is the exact moment Nintendo beat everyone and and won the video game war.  I imagine, it’s not exactly what you expect.

The Into The Vertical Blank YouTube Channel

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPnyVqBr2glJ-vAcDYDUYYw

https://www.instagram.com/into_the_vertical_blank/

The Into The Vertical Blank Twitter Account

Jeff’s Twitter Account

Steve’s Twitter Account


All original audio content, production and engineering by Jeff and Steve Fulton . Other content (c) copyright holders. Used under fair use limits.

S2:E7 Emits a shower of Sparks: Pele’s Soccer

Into the Vertical Blank: Generation Atari – Season 2 Episode 7 : Emits a shower of sparks: How we stopped playing  soccer and started playing Atari (along with Pele)

In this episode, Steve and Jeff cover Pele’s Soccer for the Atari 2600, and the cultural as well as business atmosphere surrounding the game. This game fit perfectly into the summer episode slot as Soccer in the USA is mostly a summer sport, but also because Pele’s Soccer for the Atari 2600 was one of the first games to include a fireworks show when a goal is scored. They also cover some personal stories about the time in which the game came out, and a special story that intertwines the narrative about trying to find something to connect to their father after their soccer days turned into Atari and teen angst days. 

Pele’s Soccer At AtariAge.com

http://www.atariage.com/software_page.php?SoftwareLabelID=346

Pele’s Soccer At AtairMania.com

http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-2600-vcs-pele-s-soccer_18298.html

Wikipedia Article on the New York Cosmos

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Cosmos_(1970%E2%80%9385)

The Into The Vertical Blank YouTube Channel

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPnyVqBr2glJ-vAcDYDUYYw

https://www.instagram.com/into_the_vertical_blank/

The Into The Vertical Blank Twitter Account

Jeff’s Twitter Account

Steve’s Twitter Account


All original audio content, production and engineering by Jeff and Steve Fulton . Other content (c) copyright holders. Used under fair use limits.


Armageddon In The Morning (The Alarm: “Sigma” Album Review)

(This is a review of the new album “Sigma” by The Alarm by way of a very personal story about one of the included songs. If you just want the nuts and bolts, feel free to skip to the end).

It has been, so far,  without a doubt, one of the worst mornings I’ve ever experienced in my life. This is  September 2017, and I’ve been up most of the night with one of own kids at a UCLA Medical Center, and after just minutes of sleep, I find myself driving out to visit my mom, who is dying in a recovery center in San Pedro California.

In between hospital visits, I manage to make it home, and look at my email.   There, among the “male enhancement” SPAM, password reset notices, past due notices from self storage companies, and various responses from doctor’s offices, trust lawyers, hospice workers, mental health professionals  and real-estate brokers, is an email from Mike Peters (MBE-2018) with the simple title “For Your Ears Only”. It is a We Transfer of the Viral Black album, a precursor of sorts to the new album,  Sigma.

Usually I would listen right away, but I have no time this morning.   I auto-download all the tracks into a folder while walking the dog, and then I do something I have not done for years.   I go into the garage and find a fresh CD-R disc in my battery drawer, and while in the shower, I burn myself a CD.


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Claw Hammer : Father’s Day Special Edtion

This is a rebroadcast of the the story ‘Claw Hammer’ from season 1, episode 2. specially for father’s day

(Note: My dad died 8 years ago today.  This is story I’ve written reminds me of everything my dad stood for in life, and in death.  I apologize for its’ length. )
Claw Hammer by Steve Fulton

clawhammer

When I was 7 years old my dad gave me a claw hammer.

It was summertime, just after a particularly wet spring. So wet in fact, that the roof of our garage leaked in several places. My dad decided to fix it himself.

It was a Saturday morning. I was on the couch watching The Superfriends.

“We are going to Builder’s Emporium” my dad declared.
He was in the kitchen, going through his normal routine before he left the house.
He finished his coffee.
He opened the vitamin cupboard, and took out a handful of pills to supplement his day.
He grabbed a handful of raw pecans, a banana, and headed out the screen door.

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