Category Archives: retro

The Gadget Man – Episode 120 – The Resurgence of the Cassette

As the new year dawns, we again look back, but this time it’s more than 30 years to yet another audio format resurgence. Now that Vinyl has once again become freely available to the masses after being all but condemned by CD’s, MP3’s and then streaming music, another format becomes the trend of choice. Yes, we are now being encouraged to revisit the Cassette Tape! Another Hipster trend or is there more to it?


HEAD’S UP!! You can listen in to me talking on BBC Radio Suffolk with Mark Murphy about my memories of cassette tapes, don’t forget to Like, Share, Subscribe or Listen directly.


For me, it’s difficult to understand how revisiting this format has any real appeal. The audio quality was mediocre, to say the least. Unless of course, you could afford $2,500  ($5000 in today’s money) for a Nakamichi Dragon Cassette Deck which in 1991 was widely considered to provide the best audio reproduction available.

Nakamichi Dragon Cassette Deck
Nakamichi Dragon Cassette Deck

For those of us unfortunate enough to be devoid of 5000 bucks, we instead looked at more portable alternatives, either in the shape of your unfriendly neighbourhood ‘Ghetto Blaster’ or the even smaller ‘Sony Walkman’. Whilst our aspirations for these two devices may have been the popular ‘break dancing’ movies of the era, we would have to face up to lesser versions of both.

Ghetto-Blaster or Boom-Box
Ghetto-Blaster or Boom-Box

The giant Ghetto-Blasters we dreamed of with 20 D-Size batteries, would, in fact, end up with less bulky and much less ‘blasting’ boom-boxes.

Sony Walkman Professional
Sony Walkman Professional

The incredibly sleek Sony Walkman’s would also be too expensive and thus instead we ‘made-do’ with cheaper and much poorer alternatives featuring tinny headphones and literally all DSP (digital signal processing) technology removed to either keep down costs or avoid licensing fees being paid by the manufacturers.

Tape Cassettes did launch the car and personal stereo experiences,  which went on to launch the digital experience that we all enjoy today. So just for this alone, we should be thankful. It does not, however, mean that cassette tapes sound any better than anything else that is currently available. We now don’t need to arduously fast-forward or rewind to our favourite tracks and we most certainly do not have to spend hours fiddling around with pencils to re-tension cassettes, it’s now so much easier. So maybe they should stay consigned to charity shops and eBay.

Matt

The Gadget Man – Episode 105 – On the Sofa with Sarah Lilley at BBC Radio Suffolk

As I continue to ride the wave of euphoria of completing the 1200 mile east to west  Gadget Road Trip with my lifelong friend Andy. Today I joined BBC Radio Suffolk’s Sarah Lilley on the Sofa in Ipswich and explained how the challenge came about and how it felt to drive 1200 miles in an Electric Car and why I love Gadgets!

I also talked about how I met Vanessa, how I listen to music and an ill fated trip to Tunisia in 1996.

Listen in to the stream, bookmark the site, we have a LOAD of reviews coming up over the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

The Gadget Man – Episode 98 – The Return of the Nokia 3310

The Nokia 3310 is set to make a comeback in the second quarter of 2017
The Nokia 3310 is set to make a comeback in the second quarter of 2017

Once again this week I was delighted to chat to James Hazell. Today we discussed the relaunch of the Nokia 3310, an iconic mobile handset in it’s original form which went on to sell 126,000,000 units.

In 2017, HMD the new licence holder of the Nokia phone brand will be launching 4 new phones, three of these phones are Android handsets, namely the Nokia 3, Nokia 4 and Nokia 5. Alongside these modern smartphones will be the reborn Nokia 3310. Make no mistake this is a brand new ‘feature’ phone, but there exists the spirit of the original 3310 which is held in such high regard.

Listen in to the stream and find out what I think of the new handset and also what other tech could be making a comeback.

Forget BST and GMT, All you need is Matthew Mean Time!

I sit here after reading debate after debate on the need for BST or British Summer Time and it has brought back some fond memories with my own personal battle with time keeping aged 17 – 22 years.

In 2016 there is no reason to EVER be late for anything. We have electronic gadgets to remind us by phone, text, email, popup reminders and our wrists now buzz with the wide variety of wearables. Simplicity is supposed to be the key, we can now set alarms then pause (or snooze) or even postpone them completely. Of course everything is now synchronised on all manner of electronic equipment connected by WiFi, 4g, 3g and bluetooth, it now seems we don’t have any excuse to be late anymore, we can even ask our gadgets to do things without actually physically interacting with them. With the advent of a new generation of ‘smart speakers’ such as Amazon Echo and Google home we won’t even need to remember when it’s time to go to work because these devices will already know. It truly is the dawn of artificial intelligence and machine learning. We are now standing on the precipice of self aware technology.

Sam Fox 1986 Calendar, popular in the 80's
Sam Fox 1986 Calendar, popular in the 80’s

Now… let us take a step back 30 years to 1986 where things were oh so different.

Smartphones? What the hell are they?. Bluetooth was a long lost King of Denmark and email was something people at Berkeley University used to send to each other between classrooms. Calendars hung on walls, normally fixed on one particular month if you happened to own the 1986 Sam Fox Official Calendar.

The master of timekeeping was sitting next to your bed, a wonder of technology who’s sole purpose was to ease your from sleep to awake in an instant, an efficient mechanism which could wake your either brutally with a ear piercing beeping noise or with the assistance of DJ Mike ‘Smithy’ Smith (Rest in Peace) gently coaxing you from your golden slumber, easing you into realities of Monday mornings.

What ‘Gadget’ do you speak of? What mastery of 80’s technology could this be?

Of course this invention was the ‘Digital Clock Radio’.

Mine was your ‘bog standard’ affair, equipped with Radio or ‘Beep’ alarm with the addition of snooze. An amazing invention to be ignored, paused and sworn at for many years until 1993 when lack of sleep and long hours of work forced be to put my fist through it early one Sunday morning!

There was however a big problem with my digital clock radio, a VERY big problem.

My boss enquiring as to my expected arrival time at the office.
My boss enquiring as to my expected arrival time at the office? Bosses in the 1980s provided workplace based motivational encouragement under a dark cloak of unpleasantness and aggressive threatening undertones.

The device only only allowed one alarm to be set at any one time of the day. This would work fine if every morning you had to rise at 6:50am. During the weekend you would switch the alarm button to OFF, allowing you a short lay-in on a Saturday or Sunday morning (what are they???) and making sure the switch was placed in AUTO on Sunday evening to avoid that ‘Where the HELL are you? call at 10.50am from your boss the next day!

Setting the alarm on a clock radio
Setting the alarm on a clock radio. A strange contortion of finger and thumb was needed to alter the alarm time.

However, my work hours weren’t regular back then. Sometimes a project needed completing early and the alarm  would need to set a couple of hours earlier for the next day. The radio didn’t allow for setting the alarm back a hour, it required repeatedly clicking one button whilst holding the other in order to advance the alarm 22 hours to set it from 7am to 5am, the buttons were never that comfortable or ‘ergonomic’ thus 22 hours of clicking would mean a cricked thumb and sore fingertips. Setting the alarm forward two hours was obviously much less painful. Things got more frustrating when you ‘missed’ an hour whilst cycling past it in haste,  causing yet more endless clicking until the desired hour was found (lets not even get on to minutes!).

It came to me in an instant, the solution was obvious
It came to me in an instant, the solution was obvious!

it was while advancing the alarm through this 22 hour period that it suddenly hit me like a bolt of lightening!! A solution found my accident, by the slip of a thumb, an accidental advance of time rather than alarm! There was no need to go through this tedious task at all! Setting the alarm back 2 hours was easily achieved by simply advancing the main clock forward 2 hours and leaving the alarm where it was, 8pm became 10pm, then the alarm would be shifted forward an hour, the ‘real’ time remaining still, time adjustment was always achieved by setting alarm or time forward, there was not tediously clicking needed anymore.

Thus on that fateful day in 1986, MMT was born, but this wasn’t the internationally recognised Myanmar Mean Time, no this was my personal time zone named Matthew Mean Time, a constantly moving time zone designed to allow me to get into work on time without sore fingertips!

A nonsensical time to visitors
A nonsensical time to visitors who remained befuddled and annoyed at the clocks apparent state of incorrectness . Interference commonly threatened the  consequence of unplanned, unexpected  and unwanted early morning awakenings.

The nonsensical mess of time displayed on my Digital Clock Radio that mean’t so much to me, the protector of timekeeping, the barrier from verbal and written warnings for repeated lateness at work mean’t absolutely nothing to visitors who remained confused and befuddled by the meaningless number displayed on my bedside clock. Some would bring the ‘error’ to my attention even offering to correct it for me. On one occasion a friend adjusted the time to GMT for me whilst I was out of the room and thus cause the alarm to sound at 2.30am the next day! But still MMT continued until 1991 when it travelled with me to live in Harrow but was deemed unacceptable by my partner and it’s use immediately ceased.

Although a good idea, MMT was sometimes met with confusion and derision
Although a good idea, MMT was sometimes met with confusion and derision. Frustration led to attempts to correct the time which in turn had drastic implications.

Whilst I sit here writing this article, the day after the clocks have ‘gone back’, the end of British Summer Time 2016, with the inevitable drag of darker, colder evenings, I lament at the demise of MMT and it’s five year reign in my life, along with the repeated “What the HELL is wrong with your clock Matt?” and it’s proud reply…

“Oh that? Don’t worry, that’s just Matthew Mean Time”

Happily the need for such amateurish horology related hokum is unnecessary in todays world. Altering your alarm time is now as simple as uttering the words ‘OK Google’ and crossing your fingers.

Grumpy Old Gits – 9th September 2016 with Matt Porter, Neil Bowles and Tim Edwards

Grumpy Old Gits came to an end a couple of weeks ago. Here’s the episode from 9th September 2016 with Matt Porter, Neil Bowles and Tim Edwards all kept in order by Mark Matthews!!

Queuing, a very British passtime
Queuing, a very British passtime

 

Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System, now we can all relive the 80’s

This week has been all ‘GO’ with Nintendo, but some surprising and particularly pleasing news came along today with the announcement of the.. Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System !

Yes, we get to relive those halcyon days of playing Super Mario 3 into the wee small hours of the night and best of all we now get to play on a HD TV.

Nintendo have indeed announced the release of a mini version of the famous Nintendo Entertainment System or ‘NES’, coming to a store near you from the 11th November 2016.

The console is a cut down to size replica of the original million selling home games console. This time we plug it into our high def TV’s with the included HDMI cable and power it using a mini USB power cable (We supply the plug, possible from the dozens we have accumulated over the years from mobile phones and tablets).

CI_NintendoClassicMiniNES_PS_Announcement_MS7_image912w

This time around there is now fiddling with games cartridges, instead Nintendo are loading the console with 30 NES classics, from the legendary Super Mario Bros 1, 2 and 3!! to The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, PAC-MAN, Kirby,

Bring back memories and make brand new ones with Nintendo’s ultimate retro gaming experience, launching 11th November!

Relive the 80s when the Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System launches in stores on 11th November. The classic NES is back in a familiar-yet-new form as a mini replica of Nintendo’s original home console. Plugging directly into a high-definition TV using the included HDMI cable, the console comes complete with 30 NES games built-in, including beloved classics like Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, PAC-MAN and Kirby’s Adventure and more (I’ve put the complete games list at the end of the article).

When my eldest son was a baby (He’s now 24!), I use to sit rocking him in the night when he woke for his feed, while he was getting off to sleep I spent many an hour playing Super Mario Bros 3 on a original NES that was lent to us by my old mate Mikey Moore. This was a time of classic console gaming, memory and processing power was in short supply so the programmers worked near miracles to produce these simply amazing 8 bit games.

In reality Nintendo owned home consoles for a decade before the onslaught of Sony and Microsoft and their enormous bank balances and getting to play these games again is going to prove very popular for gamers young and old.

The console comes with HDMI cable, USB cable,one Nintendo Classic Mini: NES Controller and of course the 30 including classic games. Nintendo will also sell you additional controllers to make your doubles games even more memorable.

The console is released on the 11th November 2016, look pay around £70 for the console package.

Complete Games List:-

Balloon Fight
BUBBLE BOBBLE
Castlevania™
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest™
Donkey Kong
Donkey Kong Jr.
DOUBLE DRAGON II: THE REVENGE
Dr. Mario
Excitebike
FINAL FANTASY®
Galaga™
GHOSTS‘N GOBLINS™
GRADIUS™
Ice Climber
Kid Icarus
Kirby’s Adventure
Mario Bros.
MEGA MAN™ 2
Metroid
NINJA GAIDEN®
PAC-MAN™
Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream
StarTropics
SUPER C™
Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario Bros. 2
Super Mario Bros. 3
Tecmo Bowl™
The Legend of Zelda
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link