Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Okay, so I remember this really, really, REALLY weird computer game I used to play in elementary school. I only played it at school, because I had zero interest in owning a copy for myself. It was called Quiz Show, and... well, I've got a lot to say about it.

When you started the game up, this overly excited announcer (who, by the way, was a TERRIBLE actor) would say "WELCOME TO QUIZ SHOW!" He sounded Southern. You would then sign in. (EDIT 11/13: I forgot about this. When you were signing in, this really, REALLY weird theme song started playing, with the only lyrics being "Do ya wanna play QUIZ SHOW?" and "I wanna play QUIZ SHOW!") In the version I played (there were at least 2), you would choose from among the following categories: School, Family, Situations, and... some others that I can't remember. As with the "WELCOME TO QUIZ SHOW!" guy, the guy who said these categories sounded overly excited and was a terrible actor. Each category had nine questions, and you could bet anywhere from 1000 to 9000 points for each question.

So, let's say you chose "Situations". You pick a question, overly excited and really terrible actor announcer number 3 explains the situation. Let's say it's "You're in the middle of class, when the SCHOOL DISASTER BELL rings!" An animation plays, and terrible actor/overly excited announcer number 4 asks "What would you DOOOOO... or SAAAAAY?" Each choice is read by ANOTHER terrible actor, and then YET ANOTHER ONE tells you that you either lost or won the number of points you bet, followed by an explanation of why your answer is wrong or right BY ANOTHER ONE. When you choose the next question, you can't bet the same number of points you bet in the previous one. Once you've answered all the questions in a category, you move on to the next one.

You could also play this with more than one person. Naturally, you'd compete for points. Whoever had more points by the time you correctly answered all questions in all categories would be the winner of the game... I think. I never actually got to the end of a game. But here's the thing: all of the questions were exactly the same in every single playthrough. So you could just memorize the answers to all of the questions and totally cream your opponent.

Oh, how I wish I could find a copy of this game. But the thing is, nobody else knows about it. It's not like Compudyne, where, you know, sometimes you might be able to find a newspaper ad that mentions them (or someone else may be able to find one for you; thanks again, Mark!). Nobody else knows about this game AT ALL.

Now, unlike the Compudyne, and the Talkback, and the Magic Touch Books, this is an obscure thing that I DIDN'T like, as you might be able to tell. And I've got more where that came from (no other video/computer games, though, sadly). But for some reason, I still want a copy of this game so badly! It's just so terrible and full of Narm (yes, I am a Troper) that I want to be able to experience it again! If anyone out there can help me, please get in touch!

Anyway, the phone thing is coming soon-ish. I'm in school again, so (as usual) don't expect the post to come particularly soon, as I will be busy. Plus, finals week is coming up pretty soon. Thank you for your patience.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Obscurity

It's been far too long, friends. Far too long. But the reason this blog has been inactive: "Johnny" is no more.

You heard me right. I am taking over for the one you called "Johnny". My name? I cannot tell you. But what I can tell you is that I have similar interests to him. For this blog, of course, that means very obscure toys. And since it's Halloween... why not discuss some obscure Halloween toys?

The toys are very similar to each other: they are both teddy bears, they are both dressed like witches, and they both came with chocolates. However, the similarities ended there. For you see, one of them spoke, and the other one sang.

The one that spoke said nothing but a generic "I love chocolate!", which made sense considering it came with chocolates. The one that sang, sang a very odd song. For the life of me (so to speak), I cannot remember what the words were. Well, that's a bit unfair; I can remember some of the words, but that's because I was quite young when it sang, and I couldn't understand it. Anyway, here's the music that I remember:

(synthesized instruments)
Double, double, toil and trouble,
(something) Halloween spike (?) on the double!
So if you see the door come out (?), beware;
We're comin' to your house for a Halloween scaaaaaaaaare! (cackle)

Of course, the lines marked with question marks are parts that I was unsure of. The lines, as they are presented to you, are what I thought they were when I was young. They made no sense, but then again, a lot of things that I had misheard (or even misspoken) didn't make sense either.

Apologies that I couldn't celebrate with something a bit spookier, but that was the most obscure Halloween thing I could think of. With that, I bid you adieu. You shall hear from me again at some point or another. Who knows if it will be sooner or later?

(PS, this very technologically advanced typewriter is rather awkward to use; I have pressed the '\' key more than Backspace more times than I would care to admit...)

EDIT: Hoo boy. I don't know how THAT happened... Some nut who's apparently pretending to be a vampire (or perhaps a zombie) hacked my account. Well, at least he had the decency to post... the same thing... I was going to post... Could it be... I wasn't hacked? Could that have been me, in some sort of strange, drug-induced craze?

Okay, who am I kidding here? It was me the whole time. No, I wasn't hacked. No, the blog hasn't been taken over by a vampire. Or a zombie. But do have a safe and happy Halloween!

More stuff to come; aside from the phone thing, I'm actually in the process of writing another post, this one about a computer game. I didn't play it on the Compudyne, only at school, and although it seems no one else in the entire world remembers it, I do. Despite only ever playing it twice. And my oh my, do I have a lot more to say about it than you'd expect. Til then!


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Not Obscure: A Rant About McDonald's Commercials

Okay, so at the moment this is my only active blog. The blog I used to have is still up, but I'm not touching it ever again. I wanted to rant a little bit about McDonald's commercials, specifically radio commercials, and I felt it would be less awkward if I wrote it instead of making a video. So that's why I'm posting this here.

Now, in my family, we listen to the radio a lot. We believe that all McDonald's radio commercials fall into three categories:
1) Unbearably bad
2) So bad they're good
3) Actually good? Who wrote this commercial?

Category 3, as you may have guessed, is the rarest one, although I have heard some genuinely good and funny ones ("The days you suspect your cat is plotting against you: dollar [for any size drink]"). But most of the time, a McDonald's radio commercial will fall into Category 1: unbearably bad.

Case in point, the following extremely annoying commercial that I hear all the freaking time.

SCENE: GUY 1 and GUY 2 are sipping their drinks that they proudly purchased from McDonald's
GUY 1 and GUY 2: (sip) Ahhhhh!
GUY 1: Dollar soft drink from McDonald's?
GUY 2: Nope! Dollar sweet tea!
Enter GIRL
GUY 1 and GIRL: (sip) Ahhhhh!
GIRL: Dollar premium roast coffee from McDonald's?
GUY 1: Dollar soft drink!
GUY 2: Dollar sweet tea!
ALL: (sip) Ahhhhhhhh!

Okay, now why do I hate this commercial so much? Well, here's a picture of a McDonald's soft drink.
How can fun be thirsty?
Now here's one of a sweet tea.
Does it taste like a soft drink?
And finally, a premium roast coffee.
Yes, I would totally think something that says "McCafe" is a Coke.
Notice how none of them looks similar to another (okay, maybe the sweet tea looks a little bit like the soft drink, but you get the point).

Now, imagine if the above situation happened in real life.

SCENE: DUDE and JOHNNY are in the park, sipping their drinks
BOTH: (sip) Ahhhhhhh!
DUDE: Dollar soft drink from McDonald's?
JOHNNY: ...Excuse me?
DUDE: Dollar... soft... drink... from... McDonald's.
JOHNNY: What? No, I--
DUDE: Oh, I get it. Not a soft drink person. Dollar sweet tea, then.
DUDE: ...Dollar premium roast coffee?
JOHNNY: 2 dollar orange juice. From the convenience store.
DUDE: ...Oh. (beat) But you do read the Times.
JOHNNY: Of course.

Sorry, you'll have to have seen "Without a Clue" to get that last line. I love that movie.

Anyway, what kind of idiot could confuse those three completely different-looking drinks? My guess: all three of the characters in that commercial are blind. There's really no other explanation. Well, either that or they're all insane.

Another one that I used to hear way too often was this one.

SCENE: DAD wants SON to mow the lawn
DAD: Son?
SON: Yeah, dad?
DAD: Would you mow the lawn for me?
SON: But dad, it's hooooot!
DAD: I'll give you 49 cents!
SON: Come on, Dad! Maybe kids mowed the lawn for 49 cents in, like... the 90s...
DAD: Ah, I see what you mean. Well okay, how about this: if you mow the lawn, I'll get you a soft-serve cone from McDonald's!
SON: Now you're talkin'!

The point of the above commercial was that now, you can get a soft-serve ice cream cone from McDonald's for just 49 cents. But really, why would he want to mow the lawn just for a soft-serve cone from McDonald's?

Imagine the above situation in real life, after the son refuses to work for 49 cents.

DAD: Ah, I see what you mean. Well okay, how about this: if you mow the lawn, I'll get you a soft-serve cone from McDonald's!
SON: ...
DAD: ...What?
SON: Just a soft-serve cone?
DAD: Well, yeah! They're worth 49 cents!
SON: But it doesn't come with a toy. It's not a Happy Meal.
DAD: Okay, fine. Can we settle on... 2 dollars? Get yourself an orange juice from the convenience store?
SON: (sigh) You're so cheap... Fine. 2 dollars.

And as if that wasn't stupid enough, they actually started showing another commercial for soft-serve cones, and this one's even worse.

SCENE: DAUGHTER is getting ready to leave
DAUGHTER: Mom, can I have some McDonald's soft-serve cones?
MOM: Oh, check between the couch cushions, honey. There are always some soft-serve cones there.
DAD (from a distance): Honey, have you seen my keys?
MOM: They're on your dresser. Next to your tray of soft-serve cones.
DAD (still from a distance): Oh, there they are. Thanks! Love you!

I... this... it's... the...

I don't know, every time I hear this commercial, it leaves me speechless. It's that stupid. I mean, they're trying to make "49 cents" synonymous with "McDonald's soft-serve cones"? What in the name of the ever-loving mother of Ronald.

Oh, and if you thought the drink one wouldn't work out in real life, wait til you see this one!

DAUGHTER: Mom, can I have some McDonald's soft-serve cones?
MOM: Um... isn't it a bit early for ice cream?
DAUGHTER: ...Ice cream? Mom, I'm talking about McDonald's soft-serve cones.
MOM: Yes, exactly. Ice cream. Why do you want ice cream so early in the morning?
DAUGHTER: Change, mom! I'm talking about spare change! McDonald's soft-serve cones are 49 cents now, and--
MOM: Okay, you know what? I'm taking away your clock radio.
DAD (from a distance): Honey, have you seen my tray of McDonald's soft-serve cones?
MOM: Not helping, dear! Not helping at all! Am I the only sane person in the house?
DAUGHTER: Oh, never mind. I found an any size soft drink, premium roast coffee, or sweet tea in my purse.
MOM: I'm never going to McDonald's again.

I could go on and on and on about why I hate these commercials, but I think by now you get the point. And I know that it's just a commercial, and it's not supposed to be realistic, but that doesn't matter! It's stupid, end of story!

Wow, I think this may be the longest post I've made so far. I had a lot to talk about (a little over two weeks after I said I would be taking a break). Okay, so the next obscure thing will be that other toy I mentioned. And maybe y'all could help me figure out what it was, who made it, where I might be able to find another one, etc. But again, that won't be for another couple of weeks, because I'm busy, busy, busy. But I will see y'all later!


Monday, July 15, 2013


As I may or may not have mentioned, I am taking two classes this summer. As a result, I have had very little time to blog about obscure toys and stuff. So I would like to apologize for not updating very often.

I do have good news, though: I just thought of another toy that I could talk about that I had when I was a kid. Like the Talkback Voice Recorder (no relation to the YakBak or any of its variations, by the way), I can find absolutely no information about this particular product.

When I find the time, I will write a post about that. So there's something for you to look forward to. In the meantime, just be patient; I just started the 5th week of classes, out of a total of 8 weeks. I am going to have to work extra hard during this second half, meaning I'm probably not going to post anything until after my classes are over. Catch y'all later!


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Playskool Magic Touch Talking Books (finally!)

As you may recall from my last post, I said that I may be getting "Pooh: the Surprise Party Surprise", which is a book in Playskool's Magic Touch Talking Books series. I said I would be getting it if and only if my dad said yes.

He said yes.

So, now it's time to talk a little bit more about it, now that I finally have it. First off, remember Living Books? They were a very cool concept: take a book, put it on CD-ROM, add a bit of narration here, some animations and activities there, and voila, you have an excellent edutainment series. I grew up with Living Books and one of its more popular clones, the Disney Animated Storybooks. The best part about them (and what made them "living" books) was that on just about every page, you could click on the stuff on the pages and they would "come to life", in a sense. For example, you could click on a toaster and two pieces of toast would pop out, one with a moustache and one with a beret, while Frere Jacques plays in the background (French toast, get it?).

These... take a bit of a different approach. It's basically the same concept, but flipped around a little ways: you have an actual, physical book, one that has pages made out of real paper, and you would touch a picture on each page and it would play a sound.

The sounds themselves were very short; I think the longest sound (not counting the intro) is somewhere between 5 and 10 seconds long. This is because these books were made in the 90s, and many products of that time period used sound samples instead of real sounds (if you don't know what that means, think of how speech sounds in a really old arcade game like APB, Altered Beast, or Bad Dudes), because there wasn't a lot of "free space" to fit whole sounds.

As a result, a lot of the sounds sound choppy. On TV Tropes, this is known as "Mad Libs Dialogue". When you're a kid, though, you don't even notice (well, I didn't notice, anyway).

I'm in the process of making a video explaining my Magic Touch Book in greater detail, so not only will you be able to see the thing, but you can hear it, too! Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, it's taking me longer than expected to edit the thing, so expect some delays.

Until then, I don't have many other obscure things to talk about, and I will be starting a summer session at my college soon, so I will be on hiatus for the time being. As always, though, I will keep you posted if I happen to acquire anything obscure, including Compudyne-related stuff.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Tales of Beatrix Potter

Okay, okay. I know what some of you may be thinking. "Johnny, I've heard Beatrix Potter's stories before. I'm very familiar with the Tale of Peter Rabbit, and the Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, and the Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle. They are classic, well-known tales. How are they obscure?"

Hear me out. Cassette tapes by Smarty Pants.

There, that got your attention, didn't it?

Smarty Pants was a company that... well, I don't know much about them aside from doing these tapes. But they did these tapes. The thing is, they weren't just the stories; they all had original music, as well. Every single one of them started with the following song whose lyrics I still remember to this day, despite only having one tape at the moment, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin:

(catchy jingle)
Come along and listen to the Tales of Beatrix Potter
They'll charm you with the way they tell of young sons and fine daughters
There's Peter Rabbit, Jeremy Fisher, and others that we love
Oh yes, Jemimah Puddle Duck, she flies the skies above
So come along and sing the songs that tell the happy deeds
Of Benjamin Bunny, Squirrel Nutkin (he lives in a tree)

Others that we tell about are sometimes shy, you see
Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle likes to hide behind my knee
Mr. Johnny Town-Mouse is another friend of ours
He and Timmy Willie visit for some hours
They play and run and eat some cake, go to sleep and then awake

(brief interlude)
So come along and listen to the Tales of Beatrix Potter
They'll charm you with the way they tell of goods sons and fine daughters
(jingle from the beginning)

And for some reason, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin cuts out the bolded part (and maybe some others do, too, but I can't remember).

Now, why am I mentioning these? Well, I've seen maybe one or two tapes on eBay, and they've all been decently priced; it seems to be one of those rarities that nobody knows is a rarity.

None of the ones I've seen online are the one I remember: one that only had the songs. But for some reason, it didn't include any songs from Squirrel Nutkin (although I guess it's because that one had an excess of "riddles" that were sung). I can still remember a few of the songs, although I can remember the melody more so than the lyrics. Since it's impossible to put the melody in words, I may post some of the songs online if I'm brave enough (and obviously, if I get the tape again). I'll keep you posted!

Oh, and about the Magic Touch Book: I may be getting "The Surprise Party Surprise" (the one I had) from Amazon for 48 cents plus shipping. It all depends on what my dad says, though.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Compudyne Update!

It has happened.

Thanks to one of my good friends, I now know all of the software that originally came with my Compudyne 575HD, as well as its original specifications. I would love to share them with you guys, so here we go!

* MS-DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.11 (eventually came with a free Windows 95 upgrade; we purchased ours before 95 was released)
* SimCity Enhanced CD-ROM Edition (although the disc and documentation labeled it as just SimCity)
* ClarisWorks
* Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia (although my dad claims it was actually Encarta)
* SuperVoice
* Battle Chess
* Alone in the Dark
* Descent
* SpinWizard

Original specs:
* 75 MHz Pentium processor (still has it)
* 16 MB RAM (since upgraded to 40 MB)
* 1 MB Cirrus Logic 5434 (still has it)
* AcerMagic S20 16-bit sound card with Acer amplified stereo speakers (sadly, we no longer have the speakers, but the sound card is still the original)
* 850 MB IDE hard drive (since upgraded to a 2 GB one)
* Quad-speed CD-ROM drive (still has it)
* 3.5" 1.44 MB floppy drive (probably still the original one, but does that really matter? They're all generic anyway)
* Compudyne-branded 15" SVGA color monitor with a native 800x600 resolution (died early on in its life)
* 14.4 fax/modem (still has it)
* Compudyne PS/2-compatible keyboard (long gone)
* Compudyne PS/2-compatible mouse (long gone)

All this was taken from an ad for CompuTech, which was an international computer store chain spun off from CompUSA. Imagine that, a Compudyne that was sold outside of the United States!

I'll try to get the pieces back, but I'm almost positive I never will...


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Preview of things to come

While searching for more information on Playskool's Magic Touch Books (because they're not as obscure as I had originally thought), I found a manual for them. As in one instruction manual for all of them.

The manual can be found here. The one most relevant to me is "Pooh". When I read that section, the memories came flooding back immediately. Now I just wish I could get my hands on a copy of the book itself. Maybe Paperback Swap or Half-Price Books will come through for me as they have in the past.

Anyway, I may or may not talk about these, because it seems more people are finding out or reminiscing about them. Either that or there's just more information about them in general. I will likely not write another post this month, because honestly, school work is more important. Much more important.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

More info on the Gamebreak Sampler

When I posted about my Compudyne 575HD, I mentioned that one of the games installed on it was a demo for Disney Interactive's Gamebreak! games, Timon and Pumbaa's Jungle Games and The Hunchback of Notre Dame Topsy-Turvy Games. This was known as the "Gamebreak! Sampler". I originally thought it came with the computer, but my dad said it didn't. Now, I believe I know where it came from: Burger King.

Yes, you read that correctly.

When I was a kid, I was a member of the Burger King Kids' Club. I remember they had different toys for The Hunchback of Notre Dame (both puppets and little figures that... walked or something), and of course, one of the games in the Gamebreak! Sampler was based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I figured that this could be a coincidence, but it was more likely to be this than, say, a prize in a cereal box (which would have been a loose CD-ROM, whereas this came in a cheap-o cardboard case).

Sure enough, after doing some Google searches I found that in 1995, Disney partnered with Burger King to bring some of their Disney Interactive titles to Burger King Kids' Club members through the mail. These titles included the Animated Storybooks, and I'm almost positive the Gamebreak! line as well. Still, now that I have the full versions of both, it would be sort of stupid to want the Burger King demo disc, right?

Wrong. Since I'm a collector of vintage computers and computer-related stuff (and this sampler CD is obscure anyway, right?), I am trying to see if I can find this thing. If it turns out I'm wrong, and this was in fact not from Burger King... well, I'll keep looking anyway. Plus, I think the little screen at the beginning where you choose a game is neat. I'll keep you posted!

Oh yeah, and I'm really sorry about not mentioning the Magic Touch Books yet, but I've been really busy and there's not a lot to say about them since I don't have any anymore. But I'll talk about them soon, don't worry.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Another Compudyne has been found: Compudyne PT66HB!

Yes, thanks to one Billy Coore, I have discovered the existence of another Compudyne computer!  I'm really excited.  (Also, sorry, no Magic Touch Books today...)

Unfortunately, I have found no information on this particular Compudyne, because (as usual) nobody has ever heard of it.  The model is PT66HB, and... all I can tell from that is that it had a 66 MHz Intel 486.  Yeah, this is only the second Compudyne I've ever seen the model number of, and as such, I don't know how to interpret Compudyne model numbers yet.  That, however, is why I want to collect as many Compudynes as possible!

So, I have no idea what the original hard drive size was or how mach RAM it had, but I do know the following.  It has the same sound card (Acer Magic S20).  Its graphics card is a Cirrus Logic CL-GD5428, whereas mine is a Cirrus Logic 5434.  The PT66HB also has a dual-speed CD-ROM drive (unknown manufacturer, but judging from the picture I saw, probably Mitsumi like my dying quad-speed).

Do I want it?  Of course!  It's another Compudyne!  Unfortunately, I have neither the space nor the money, so I will not be purchasing it.  Ah well, maybe I'll find another one someday.  Here's hoping!


Monday, February 4, 2013

Long Overdue: Anything

Yes, I have been gone for quite a while now. I am very sorry about that. However, please note that I am very busy. I am now officially a college student. An honors college student, at that. So I probably won't have a lot of time to write stuff here.

My next post, when I do have time, will finally be more on the Magic Touch Books! Keep an eye out for that.

Other than that, this post was just to remind anyone who views the blog that it has not died! Yay!


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Long overdue: video of the Compudyne 575HD

Here's a video I made of the beloved Compudyne 575HD. This should give you a better idea of what the thing can do. Also, I test out my $30 mic on this computer. I love how it sounds better than it does on my main computer.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

NOT Playskool Magic Touch Books: CompUSA's "Compudyne" Computer Line

So I know I said I would talk about Playskool's Magic Touch Books today, but I figured instead that I would talk about a line of computers known as Compudyne.

The name is still used for a completely different business today and is not related in any way to the computers I am going to talk about. With that, let us begin.

Back in the 90s, you didn't only have to get computers from an electronics store, and the Internet was... very young. Too young to handle shopping. You had mail-order instead. But if you really wanted to get it from a store, there were plenty of stores that specialized in computers. Notable computer stores included Computer City and, my personal favorite, CompUSA.

At CompUSA, you had your Packard Bells, your HPs, your Compaqs... but if you were really on a budget, you went with their store brand, Compudyne. And really, like a lot of store-brand products in general, Compudyne computers were as simple as re-branded computers from other companies (in this case, Acer).

The Compudyne 575HD was the second home personal computer we had in this house, but it was the first that I remember using. As such, it means very much to me. It still works, surprisingly, and because of these factors I will never--never--get rid of it. Ever.

Sadly, there is not a whole lot that I know about Compudyne, as there is not a whole lot that anybody knows about Compudyne. But from what I have found out, Compudynes were simply re-branded Acers, complete with original Acer-branded parts. My computer, for example, comes with an AcerMagic S20 sound card, which is one of the many Sound Blaster clones of the time (1995).

Mine originally came with Windows 3.1, but soon the hard drive died (I do not remember this happening) and my dad went back to CompUSA to get it replaced. At that time, Windows 95 was the big deal and Windows 3.1 was obsolete, so he had the guy install 95 on it as well. As a result, some DOS games didn't work like they should have. SimCity Enhanced CD-ROM Edition, for example, always said "Insufficient funds to build that" after building a residential zone, a road, and a railroad. Either we (my sister and I) had spent too much time and money building those without realizing it, or the game was just broken in general.

And as of now, I have ruled out the latter. I bought SimCity Enhanced at a toy fair, but it was an earlier release, and it was not the Compudyne or Acer OEM version (which is the rarest of all of the versions of SimCity Enhanced). It also works perfectly on the Compudyne. The memories came flooding back for me and my sister.

Sadly, I don't remember what other kind of games came with ours. I do remember having a very strange collection of edutainment games, including "The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis," but I'm not sure if this was OEM software or what. There was also a Disney Gamebreak! Sampler, which included demos for both Timon and Pumbaa's Jungle Games and The Hunchback of Notre Dame Topsy-Turvy Games, but again, I'm not sure where it came from.

Most of the pre-installed software was uninstalled, so I don't really know what all else came with it. But if anybody else owned a Compudyne or Acer of that time, please, please, please let me know what kind of things came with it! I really want to restore my Compudyne to the way it used to be, but I can't do it without the original software and restore media. If anybody can help, I would really appreciate it!