austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

With Pac Man marshmallows you can open wide

Home video game consoles in the 1980s saw a flourishing of innovation, creativity, and experimentation that we mercifully don't have to deal with anymore. This era saw many great systems and even more catastrophic failures resulting in failed companies, burnt consumers, the complete destruction of the Earth's second moon (Skippy), and these weird-shaped cartridge holders still being sold in Radio Shack because nobody's told them yet. Let's review some.

The Bozrah 8686

This classic mid-80s machine lasted only fourteen months despite a three star out of five review from the Bozrah 8686 Gazette, showing the low self-esteem and marketing issues which plagued it. Included with the console were the games Blip, in which one pressed a joystick button to sometimes produce a blip noise; Bloop, in which the noise was louder; and Fire Alarm Practice, wherein the gamer was to identify whether or not a fire alarm was false. Besides this weak starting platform, the console was also beset by a moderately steep list price of $5,795. This reflected less manufacturing costs or investors' return on investment demands, and more that the troublesome marketing department, never one to coordinate with the rest of the company, really wanted to be selling Mazda trucks instead. The company went into receivership and was ground up for baking powder.

Harwinton CQD

The CQD was an eccentric design even for the time, having as it did a ``12 or 13, maybe 14-ish'' bit architecture. Few programmers were willing to make the compromises needed for the machine and it attracted no licenses. This makes all the more mysterious that the game arrived with a well-regarded Kozmik Krooz'r adaptation, as no one made it, and the machines were shipped, sealed, from the factory without any cartridges. The end for Harwinton came when Toys R Us pulled the console from shelves, claiming they saw ``ghosts''.

Goshen Zom I

Many consoles in the 1980s came from companies with surprising origins outside the arcade or electronics lines one might expect. The iconic example is Coleco, which came to video games after a successful run producing Connecticut, which they finished in 1979 with some decorative trim put around Quinebaug. But that's almost staid compared to Goshen, which was established by a team of extraterrestrials hoping to break into the profitable yet imaginary RNA-based memory-transfer educational market. For startup capital they hoped to make a fortune in real estate. To pass the time while studying for their licenses some of the younger ones began ferry tours of the Housatonic, a decommissioned United States Navy tanker. On one tour they learned how excited the electronics trade press was for their Zom I console design, so they dropped everything to learn how to design consoles. The prototype was finally made public in 1987, but only in the sixth dimension. The successor Zom III was released in 1993, and has defied all efforts of animal control to exclude it from the waterways.

Shelton Quorum

Many consoles of the 80s are savaged for bad controller design, largely in retrospect, since we've now perfected it and nobody has anything to complain about ever. But even contemporaries appreciated the Quorum failed nearly every basic of interface design as even 1983 understood it. Nearly all operations were to be done from an unlabelled plastic sphere, with actions selected by throwing it as hard as possible at your youngest brother. Even when people began to work out this system, the console was unusable by only children, youngest brothers, or people who just had sisters.

Mistak 57

This chrome-lined beauty was for two years found in very many homes, specifically, those of the three-years-older baby sitter you were sent to those odd times your parents had to send you somewhere to be baby-sat. It is unclear why young-teenage babysitters were so tightly the focus of the company, or how they managed to sell so successfully. The company responds to all written communication by wadding up the letter and throwing it back at the writer. Available games included Dodgeball, Weaveball, Dodgeweave, and Weaveball, at which point the company begged for anyone to help them expand the platform. Anyone.

Trivia: Benjamin Franklin was born in the house his parents leased on Milk Street, just across from the South Church, were he was baptized the day of his birth. (It was a Sunday.) Source: The First American: The Life And Times Of Benjamin Franklin, H W Brands.

Currently Reading: Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed The Declaration Of Independence, Denise Kiernan, Joseph D'Agnese.

Tags: humor

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