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...