Tag Archives: Atari 2600

I’m obsessed with the LoEB’s return!

6883501769_16f5716f51_oThe League of Extraordinary Bloggers has been on hiatus for a while as Brian over at Cool & Collected has been “extraordinarily” busy with his C&C print magazine project, but it’s finally back this week with a new topic. To kick things off again Brian asks what our current obsessions are, and this just happens to coincide with a slight shift in my personal 80s collecting habits of late. Outside of a few sets of Garbage Pail Kids, I really didn’t start buying up stuff from my in and around childhood until I started work on this site. Then for the first 7 years or so of running Branded I focused most of my efforts on acquiring all sorts of ephemera, be it stickers, old magazines, or trading card wax pack wrappers that spanned all sorts of pop culture subjects from cartoons to food. I love talking about the 80s, specifically the marketing and “branding”, and I wanted to touch on all sorts of stuff from Sizzlean to amazing Return of the Jedi Jungle Gyms. Needless to say, digging up all of this stuff wasn’t cheap, so finding content to talk about on the site sort of dominated my collecting. The majority of the stuff I was hoarding storing in my flat-file, while awesome, didn’t necessarily always reflect the stuff I personally had as a kid.

Over the last year though I’ve decided to concentrate on rebuilding a small collection of things that I actually had as a kid.  Whether it’s the reproduction Masters of the Universe figures Mattel put out just after the millennium…

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…or picking up the occasional mint on card vintage toy like the super cool Transformers Afterburner I recently found.

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I think this all started just over a year ago when I managed to get a hold of my original childhood Atari 2600 system.  Reconnecting with that faux wood-paneled beauty really got me thinking about where I really wanted to spend my money when it came to my collecting habits.

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Lately this turn towards reacquiring treasures from when I was a kid has morphed into some more obscure purchases.  Instead of trying to get all the actual toys I had I’ve been cherry-picking specific pieces I owned from various toy lines, stuff that when put out on a shelf illustrates my childhood experience.  This has led to some more obscure toy hunting leading up to snagging stuff like a Demon from Blackstarr, Warduke from the D&D line, and Tonto from the Gabriel Legend of the Lone Ranger line

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I’ve also started following this urge to round out my collection with more offbeat stuff by picking up some weirder childhood reading material.  For instance, I was just recently reminded by my mom during one of our weekly phone calls about a cookbook she gave me when I was eight, the Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls (a version published in 1985 by Golden.)  I immediately flashed upon the iconic cover and felt an insane desire to pick it up and hold it again.  So I logged on to eBay immediately after the call an proceeded to track down and buy a copy…

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I must have stared at those disturbing cheeseburger people a million times as a kid.  Even though this isn’t my original copy (which is probably no longer in existence or mostly disintegrated in a landfill in Florida somewhere), mine was as beat-up and well read as this copy I now have on my shelf.  Clocking in at just under 100 pages, this cookbook was my go-to tome when learning the basics of recipe-reading and trying my hand at some culinary concoctions that were always just this side of edible.  Though I learned a lot from watching my mom in the kitchen, I always took pride in exploring on my own and trying to make lunches or breakfasts on the weekends, and a lot of that inspiration came form the dishes in this book.  Speaking of, the recipes range from the ridiculous yet fun arrangement of canned fruit on a lettuce leaf like this Friendly Dog Salad below…

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…to the surprisingly difficult to master (as a kid) Eggs in Bologna Cups.  Mine never tasted right.  In fact they were pretty noxious if I remember (probably due to over-use of the paprika which I practically caked on top of each cup…)

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The book is filled with glorious 70s/80s era design, from the style and color of the cookware depicted in the recipes to the bodacious font choices.  I actually kind of love it to death and am curious about seeking out some other more standard 80s era cookbooks for my kitchen…

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Reading back through it I was surprised at the level of complexity in some of the recipes (like a giant baked ham loaf that required grinding up smoked ham steaks), and some of it actually looks like stuff I’d love to try today as a way more accomplished home cook.  In fact I’m toying with the idea of trying to replicate all 120 or so dishes in the book at some point.  I mean a lot of this stuff is pretty simple, but I remember it being sort of like comfort food.  It might be easy to turn one’s nose up at it as an adult, but stuff like this Polka Dot Pizza (aka Hot Dog Pizza) looks like the perfect comfort food for a lazy Saturday afternoon…

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If you enjoyed reading about my currently 80s collecting obsession, why not take a moment to check out some of the other League participants to see what they’re focusing on like…

Brian at Cool & Collected who is currently binge watching Band of Brothers and True Detective

Lee & Linz at Pop Rewind who are obsession over McDonald’s Orange Drink

Derek at Really Rather Random Guy who is having a an existential obsession crisis

Victoria at Vikki Verka who is glad she found the sci-fi series Charlie Jade

Tim at Flashlights Are Something to Eat is listening to the Scorchers, watching Breaking Bad, and buying some Atari games!

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Collecting Deconstructed

I made an admission recently about how small my actual personal vintage 80s collection is, and I wanted to expand upon that a bit.  Though it mostly pertained to my collection of things that I actually had from when I was a kid to now, surviving personal pop culture relics, I think sometimes I might give off the wrong impression as to how large my actual vintage collection of stuff really is.  By that I mean it’s kind of small, at least in terms of what I think someone who runs an 80s nostalgia site might, and probably usually owns.  Sure, I’ll be the first to admit that I have a ridiculously large collection of animation cels, specifically monsters, spooks and creeps from the Real Ghostbusters cartoon, and I still have a pretty big collection of sticker cards (Topps, Fleer, Donruss, etc), stuff that I’ve featured in the Peel Here column over the years, but outside of that so much of the stuff I’ve amassed over the last couple decades spent pining after my youth has been more modern tchotchkes.  Take my collection of G.I. Joe 2th anniversary figures.  I have around 50 of those adoring the walls of Branded HQ alongside some vintage style Star Wars figures (emphasis on “style”.)  I have a bunch of mini movie posters printed at the local Kinko’s self-serve copier when the attendants weren’t looking, as well as a scary amount of 80s cartoons on DVD.  But a lot of this stuff is more representational of my nostalgia and not directly linked to it.

Again, there are other things that I have that are more personal, my framed 1977 Halloween Horrors LP, or my sister’s collection of 80s era LPs, but these things by no means make up the bulk of my collection.  So, why am I bringing this up?  Well, I’ve been thinking a lot of what collections and collecting means to me over the last year and I’ve come to the conclusion that the desire to be a completist, or to focus on only vintage items is, for me personally, a fruitless compulsion.  That’s not to say that I’m giving up on collecting, or that I’m only buying a bunch of modern junk, it’s more of a realization that so much of the joy is not in possessing these coveted items, it’s simply the actual desire to own them.  It’s the hunt, not the trophy.  The trophy, if not the specific, actual item I possessed as a kid, is merely a representation, no more real than a memory of that same item held as a child, or a picture scavenged off of Google image search (for me at least.)  So many of the things that I desire to have back, those specific relics from my childhood, are way beyond my ability to ever secure them.  They are gone.  In a landfill most likely. That’s why the Atari system my friend re-gifted to me recently is so sacred to me.

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Part of what drew me to this conclusion was another amazing acquisition I wrote about awhile back, the near complete set of vintage 1st series Garbage Pail Kids that I lucked into for free.  When sorting the cards that were given to me, and realizing that so many of them were 1st series my heart was a lump in my throat.  After I was done and I noticed that there were about 20 stickers missing, 2 of which were A&B sister cards (meaning there was one image missing from the set of John Pound paintings) I was sort of heart broken.  I’d been searching for an affordable set of 1st series GPKs all of my life and here was one given to me for free and it took me exactly 25 minutes to go from elated beyond belief to deflated and full of grief.  To my stupid credit, it only took me another half an hour to come to the realization that I was given two gifts that day.  One, the set of coveted sticker cards, and two, because it was an incomplete set, I was also re-gifted the hunt.  That desire to keep looking.  If that was totally stripped I fear that the urge to “collect” GPKs would diminish, and I’m not sure I’m ready to ever let go of that desire.

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The other thing that really knocked home this idea of redefining what collecting means to me was when the absurdly cool Tommy Day of Top Hat Sasquatch decided to launch a new project recently called Boxsome.  In a nutshell, Boxsome is a site where you can purchase little packages of nostalgia in the form of 80s and 90s era trading card packs.  Each Nostalgia pack contains two wax packs of your choice from their inventory, and it comes shipped with a bunch of extra goodies including pogs, stickers, and little designer goodies that I believe will be rotating in and out.  At first blush one might think, what is the point?  Why would I want only two packs of Howard the Duck trading cards?  I can buy the whole set off of eBay for the same price!  But that’s just it, if I’m right, Boxsome isn’t about owning all the Howard the Duck cards (complete with a neatly folded wrapper and a set of the sticker card sub set.)  It’s about revisiting what it was like when you went to the store or gas station and you were only allowed to spend a dollar or two and you could only afford to pick up a few packs here and there.  How many kids ever completed their sets of Topps cards?  Sure, I know some of us did.  I mean I managed to complete the entire 700+ card run of the 1987 Topps Baseball card set.  But I also know that that experience is a lot rarer than we might think.  We might have a full run of a set or two, but most of us only had a handful of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman, or Dark Crystal cards.  And you know what?  Maybe that’s all we really need.  Just a handful of vintage cards to remind us how neat these sets were, reminding us how it felt to collect them as a kid, and keeping the “hunt” alive by only buying a pack here and there.

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Money buys a lot of things.  Hell, it can buy you all of the things.  But it doesn’t make one a collector, and the act of buying all there is to buy, that feeling of the purchase, will never feel as good as just the simple desire to own that stuff.  That desire, the hunt, that’s what’s worth preserving.  If you’ll excuse me I’m going to go stare at my collection of 19 Dark Crystal cards I’ve amassed.  And I’m going to dream about one day owning the rest…

For those interested, Tommy was kind enough to offer Branded readers a special offer of 20% off your purchase until April 16th! Just go to Boxsome and use coupon code “BRANDED”. Tell him I sent ya!

Being Re-Gifted My childhood, Part 1

I’ll be honest, for a guy who runs a site dedicated to his love of the 80s even I will admit that it’s weird how much of a void there is of personal vintage junk in my collection.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve acquired a bunch of stuff over the years that I cherish, but when I look over everything that I have, very little of it is stuff that survived with me through the decades.  Whether it was from my own collection purging, trading, damage, or stuff “lost” in moves (my parent’s favorite excuse for chucking my toys over the years), I only have a handful of things that have been with me forever.  There are a few kid’s paperbacks (Samantha Slade: Monster Sitter, the Lost boys novelization, and a copy of Which Way Batman), some of my sisters records, my Wicket plush, and this 5″ by 5″ square of what’s left of my original woobie…

I have a lot more of my stuff from my high school years, but I do regret not keeping a tighter grip on the stuff I had when I was a little kid.  Well, this past week I was given a couple of rare gifts by a friend (we’ll call him D) who I’ve known since I we were in the 8th grade together.  Over the years we’ve seen less and less of each other even though we only live about 15 miles apart.  You know, life gets in the way and junk.  D is about to have his second child, little D numero 2, and if I had to guess he is looking to clear out as much space as he can find to make room for the new arrival.  Well, he sent me a facebook message asking me if I wanted to take something off his hands.  That something just happened to be an Atari 2600 video game console and a bucket full of games and peripherals that have been gathering dust in his garage.  The thing is, and he knew this obviously, this particular Atari system (and 8 of those games) used to be mine before I gave them to him back in middle school.

I was never an avid gamer by any stretch of the imagination, but there were two game systems that I played a whole hell of a lot, the NES for the most part, but I, like so many other folks growing up in the 70s and 80s, was weaned on the Atari 2600.  I first bought the exact system, controller and the 8 games you see pictured with it below at a garage sale when I was six.  It was 1983, and we’d just moved to Orlando from Tampa.  I didn’t really have any friends yet, and it was kind of boring and lonely in the new house.  Heck, our cat Smokey who had just made the trip with us immediately ran away, so I was sort of in a funk.  One Saturday I ventured out into the neighborhood though, and there was a guy down the street trying to sell the last bits of stuff at a garage sale.  There was a table with the Atari inside a faux-wood paneled Game Center box.  I’d had plenty of experience with the system playing one that was hooked up to a TV in the rec room of a public pool back in Tampa, and for some reason I never imagined having my own at home.  I asked the guy how much it was and he thoughtfully scratched his chin and squinted at me (at least that’s how I “remember” his expression in my mind) before saying “Ten Bucks Kid.”  I asked him to hold it and I sprinted back home to beg for the money from my dad, who quickly relented.  I ran back, slapped the ten buck on the table (again, probably artistic license with my foggy memory) and stole home with the system held high above my head.

As I mentioned, the console had eight games included, Combat, Surround, Berserk, Space Invaders, Asteroids, Chopper Command, and the much maligned E.T. and Atari port of Pac-Man.  For some reason I never acquired any more games, and I was pretty content with these for the next three years until I scored my first Nintendo system.  Back in 1990-91 when I gave the Atari to D, I didn’t think much of it.  Heck, at that point I said had a fair number of my original childhood toys and never thought I’d miss the clunky wood-paneled beauty.  Fast forward 23 years and I can certainly attest to missing the ever-living hell out of it.  I mean, it’s not like I was lying awake at night wondering where it was, but from time to time when I’d see people blog or podcast about their vintage systems I would feel a little pain in my heart.  So when D asked if I wanted the system back after all these years I was pretty damn floored.  When I drove over to pick it up I did everything in my power not to point at it and say something stupid like, “There, there it is, that thing, those beautiful things that I used to have in my house back in Florida, look at it, it’s right there, that thing that I had when I was six!”  Those where statements that I made in the car on the way home though, just saying.

As soon as I got home, I immediately cleaned off a table, took out the system and very gingerly cleaned her up.  There was a massive amount of dirt and grime on it, but with a little warm water and a crap ton of paper towels I was able to get it looking almost like new.  To be honest, I have no idea if the system will even run anymore, and even if it will, if I’ll be able to hook it up to my TV (the vintage R/F switch is looking pretty rough.)  But really, this system isn’t so much about playing it as it is about just having it again, a little reminder of what it was like to be six with my very own copy of Pac-Man, even if it was a super shitty version of the game.  I remember playing Chopper Command, and having to flip a switch on the back of the actual console to change the rate at which my helicopter fired (short bursts or those long laser blasts.)  There was so much joyous frustration trying not to touch the walls in Berserk.  And to this day I still have no idea how the hell you get all the pieces to make the damn phone rig in E.T.

If I ever do get it running there was an included extra surprise of about 50 extra games that D had amassed over the years.  Here’s a few snapshots of what I would call the cream of the crop…

  

 

I can’t thank D enough, and to my amazement, there was another amazing piece of my childhood that came along with the Atari that I’ll be writing about in part two of this article later this week, or next.  Stay tuned.  And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to find a place of honor for the Atari in Branded HQ…