Tag Archives: music

Gadget Man – Episode 131 – Retro Gadgets – Part One – Casio MG-880 Music and Game Calculator

This week begins a 10 week series of Retro Gadgets. Technology which has featured in my life and evokes childhood memories.

Listen in on the audio recording above. I have included a surprise at the end which wasn’t recorded at the time. 

If you grew up in the  ’70s or ’80s, you may have experienced some of these gadgets. You might be still using them or maybe they are gathering dust in a drawer.

The first of these is an absolutely awesome gadget. A gadget which opened up the national curriculum to the use of calculators. It also introduced us to mobile gaming.  Leading thousands of young people to huddle around each other in the schoolyards of the early 1980s.

Casio MG-880

Released in the summer of 1980, the Casio MG-880 was ostensibly a calculator aimed at young people. The 1980s saw a revolution in the teaching techniques applied to mathematics in schools. Initially seen as a way of ‘cheating’. Soon, however, it was accepted as a legitimate means to ‘check’ calculations, whilst continuing to show workings-out’ in answers.

Casio had something up their sleeve though. Their customers not only received a calculator, but they also received a musical instrument and game. This was genius marketing, Casio tapped into the school market and rewarded the kids at the same time.

The Calculator

The calculator functionality allowed for addition, subtraction, multiplication and addition. In addition to this, results could be written to memory, recalled and directly subtracted or added to further calculations. Percentage calculations were also included.

It was a beautifully designed device which hasn’t aged at all.

The Casio MG-880 Pocket Calculator
The Casio MG-880 – a creation of a timeless design that hasn’t aged over its 40 years!

Music

MG-880 provided musical entertainment by either a preprogrammed ‘Oh When the Saints’ or by users composing their own music. Musical keys illustrated by the relevant Solfège above the enabled buttons allowed for simple compositions.

Musical keys on the MG-880 were illustrated by the relevant Solfège above each key
Musical keys on the MG-880 were illustrated by the relevant Solfège above each key

The sound came from a piezoelectric speaker. The result was a fine 80s sound that comfortably sits alongside games to follow. I was fond of playing the Star Wars’ theme. For for those interested is 1-5-4-3-2-8-5-4-3-2-8-5-4-3-4-2.

IYou can hear this being played at the end of the attached podcast. 

It was no secret that switching the calculator to ‘music’ mode in a lesson would result in its swift confiscation.

The Game (Digi-Invaders / Space Invaders / Invaders)

The ace in the pack was in the inclusion of the Game. This took the form of a button mashing invaders themed game utilising the simplest of graphics, the number display itself.

The invaders game required the using decimal-point to cycle through 0-9 and n which denoted the mothership. Digits slowly advance across the screen from right to left. The player matches the number and presses ‘fire’ to remove it. Each level became faster and more difficult. Lives are lost when invaders reach the base.

The game was an instant hit across the planet, from my school in Hitchin, England to schools in New Zealand, every child wanted to own one and more-so, they wanted to excel at the game. Millions of the devices must have been sold with a substantial amount of them confiscated by over-enthusiastic teaching staff!

As with all fads, the MG-880 fell out of favour to be replaced by more advanced handheld games and creating a new boom in entertainment. Perhaps thousands of them still exist in boxes on the shelves of staff-rooms around the world.

This was the beginning of Casio’s boom. Relentlessly creative, they produced some the most ingenious of technology of the 80s. From calculators to watches with built-in calculators and melodies, they were the kings within their marketplace.

Don’t forget to listen to the audio using the link above. It was recorded at BBC Radio Suffolk & broadcast on the 11 May 2019. Listen to the VERY END! I have included something geeky and special.

Thanks to Matt Marvel at BBC Radio Suffolk for inviting onto his show. Keep tuning in for the next 10 weeks for more gems!

 

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

Edifier MP280 – A New Generation of Portable Speaker

Lighter evenings are upon us at last! We can start to look forward to getting out in the fresh air again after hibernating over the winter months. As always when I start thinking of spending more time outside I begin looking for gadgets that I can take with me.

I’ve recently been sent the Edifier MP280 Portable Speaker something that is clearly marketed to outdoor enthusiasts.

Edifier MP280 Portable Speaker
Edifier MP280 Portable Speaker

I’ve always found Edifier really high quality and the MP280 checks that box, it feels solid and well made with special silicone material and metal. The speakers are wrapping around the cylindrical design and give 360 degree sound along with professional grade DSP chips to give exceptional sound quality.

Edifier MP280 Portable Speaker
Edifier MP280 Portable Speaker

The MP280 comes with Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, microSD and Aux sockets. There is the added bonus of a USB out port which means you can use the speaker to charge your phone or other USB device when you are out and about. The speaker can be charged using a standard micro USB socket and when fully charged, the lithium ion battery should give 10 hours of constant playback.

Edifier MP280 Portable Speaker
Edifier MP280 Portable Speaker

The on/off button is placed on top of the speaker along with the Bluetooth pairing button. When switched on, the speaker plays a pleasant tune to let you know it’s working and to demonstrate it’s lovely sound quality. On the side is the volume controls and also a button used play and pause music which can also be used to display the current battery charge status which when pressed for 2 seconds displays the battery status using 3 green LED’s.
At the bottom of the speaker is the power / status light and just above this is an NFC contact point. If you have an NFC (near field connection) compatible phone you simply tap your phone on this and it sorts out the connection for you.

Edifier MP280 Portable Speaker
Edifier MP280 Portable Speaker

As a smartphone user, I am constantly faced with battery anxiety, where I might struggle to the end of the day without having to plug my phone into a charger. The MP280 can remove this anxiety by doubling as an emergency recharge station to give your phone a boost and continue to play your music whilst charging it up again.

Edifier MP280 Portable Speaker
Edifier MP280 Portable Speaker

The speaker will operate up to 10 metres away from your phone using Bluetooth 4.0 technology and the really useful and it also doubles as a hands free device with it’s in built microphone!

If you fancy going for a hike with your friends or family, you can attach the speaker to your backpack using the inbuilt carabiner clip. Again this is feels high quality too.

There are no shortage of portable bluetooth speakers on the market at the moment and the MP280 certainly sits at the top end of this with a well made, high quality product ideal for your camping trips in the coming months.

The Edifier MP280 is available for £79.99 at the this link http://gman.ga/gman280

The Gadget Man – Review – Edifier C2V – 2.1 Speaker System for Gaming and Music

Edifier produce a wide range of high quality audio equipment, from the tiny Bluetooth MP211 portable speaker with built in microphone to the earth shaking S760D 5.1 surround sound system.

Edifier C2V Speakers Review
Edifier C2V Speakers Review

This last couple of weeks I have been testing and enjoying the Edifier C2V 2.1 Speaker System aimed primarily at gamers and utilising their Intelligent Distortion Control.

In the box you find a main control unit with remote, two satellite speakers with 3-inch midrange and ¾ inch tweeter and a lovely 6.5-inch subwoofer which produces amazing bass! The speakers and equipment are enclosed in wooden MFD boxes, so no chance of buzzing from nasty plastic parts here.

Edifier C2V Speakers Review
Edifier C2V Speakers Review

The speakers produce a total of 36 watts output, connecting to your PC/Mac or other sound source using either RCA or AUX connectors along with a headphones connector for keeping the neighbours happy.

You can adjust the Volume, Bass and Treble using either the amplifier or remote control giving a wide range of sound options to suit your gaming or music needs.

Edifier C2V Speakers Review
Edifier C2V Speakers Review

I really enjoyed playing some of my favourite music through the C2V, I was particularly fond of Orbital Live at Glastonbury, their is nothing like Dr Who rocking out late on a Friday afternoon

I also watched a number of movie trailers, I was particularly taken by Suicide Squad especially using my 4K iMac Retina display!

The C2V speaker system is aimed at gaming and therefore Bluetooth and other related technology is not included which is not great loss when you are sitting speakers either side of your gaming machine.

All in all, the C2V is a great set of speakers and at around £89, it’s very good value for money. After a quick look around online, they are available at most high street stores.

Thanks again to Edifier for the loan of the speakers for review and Katherine at KL Associates for bringing it all together.

The Gadget Man – Episode 85 – FlyONE Dark bluetooth headphones from DEEWEAR

FlyONE Dark HeadphonesThis week I have been testing a set of FlyONE Dark bluetooth headphones from DEEWEAR.

The headphones have an real ergonomic design coupled with extremely high audio quality, they are designed in such as way as you stay fixed in your ear by using built in flaps which fit into your ear and remain there even during exercise. Deewear employed Luigi Lorenzi, Parkourer with Team Jestion to test and develop the headphones to ensure they stay in place even during somersaults!

FlyONE Dark HeadphonesThe earphones are contained in a display case charged ready to go, just couple them to your bluetooth device and you are ready to go, the box also contains a USB charger cable , buds and flaps.

The earphones utilise Bluetooth 4.1 and 6th generation CVC noise reduction which means that constant usage stretches to 5 hours music or talk time (using the integrated microphone) or 180 hours standby time.

The earphones are connected together with a flat cable which is reflective on one side which can be seen when headlights shine on it, a usual safety measure if you are exercising in the dark.

FlyONE Dark Headphones in box
FlyONE Dark Headphones in box

When you switch on the ear phones a voice is heard saying ‘Power On’ and ‘Connection Successful’, holding the centre power button will switch off the earphones again with a voice telling you ‘Power Off’.

The three button control allows you to adjust the volume up and down and pause music, you can skip backwards and forwards between tracks by holding the volume up and down for 2 seconds.

When you are ready to charge the earphones, you remove the cap on the back of the right earphone and plug in the micro USB cable. Charging doesn’t take too long, however you can only check the battery level by pairing with an Apple device, be that iPhone, iPad or iMac.

The sound quality of FlyONE Dark is supreme, although you need to ensure they are fitted correctly before using them to experience the excellent bass reproduction. While I was testing them, I viewed a film trailer on my phone, I found myself rewinding the trailer to experience the cinematic bass, it really was very good indeed.

FlyONE Dark can be purchased from Amazon currently more than 30% off at £39.99 which is a very appealing price for such a high quality item.

If you are looking for a set of Bluetooth earphones, FlyONE Dark comes highly recommended.

To listen to the Mark and I chatting about the FlyONE Dark, click on the link at the top of the page or click below

A massive thank you to DEEWEAR for providing the earphones for test and review.