Homework assignment: building a better robot

We can do it!

Gerry Anderson Andromedan Warbot. 1979. UK.

Starlog Japan. 1981. Maximilian.

Magic Robot Quiz Game. 1983. UK.

Hulk: Baptism of Fire. John Byrne. 1986. US.

September was pretty cool. It was my birthday, and I was pleased to get Kim Wilde’s last album Here Come The Aliens after seeing Kim and her band live in concert in July. The album is ridiculously addictive, with every single one of its pop/rock/80’s-vibe songs staying in your head long after listening.

Kim Wilde Here Come The Aliens 2018 CD. Artwork by Scarlett Wilde.

I also got The Desaturating Seven CD by Primus, a concept album based on the children’s book The Rainbow Goblins, written by Italian author and artist Ul de Rico. For those who don’t know, Primus is an amazing funk/metal/progressive rock band, recording since 1989, and who composed the original TV theme music to South Park. Primus sucks 🙂

Primus The Desaturating Seven CD

In September I had a story published…

My short story The Shores We Scavenge was published in a print anthology called Secrets in the Water. This is the fourth short I’ve had published to date, as well as a fair bit of poetry. It’s my dream to publish a full length novel… something I’m working on. In the meantime, short stuff is wonderful 🙂

Detective Comics N°1000!

Finally got a copy of the landmark Batman issue, and with a very cool variant cover. Thanks to a good friend in the UK who sent this over.

Detective Comics N° 1000. May 2019. Jim Lee / Scott Williams / Alex Sinclair cover.

Pez love. Love Pez!

Plus two little Smurfs I needed to complete a Kinder Surprise Chocolate Egg collection that I’ve been putting together – look out for an upcoming post all about that! 

Robots…

They can spin!

Shogun Rocket Tops. 1979. Italy.

Robots can attack and compute! 

ATTACKING MARTIAN, battery operated tinplate robot, by Horikawa, Jaman, 1960s. ANSWERGAME, battery operated tinplate robot that executes simple mathematics, by Ichida, Japan, 1960s. From Christie’s South Kensington auction catalogue. 1988.

Robots can talk!

Power Rangers Robot Ranger. 1995. France.

All in all, September was a great month. Thanks for looking (back) with me, and remembering to love your robot  🙂


Poem:

A Quick Digital Lesson

A+ plus a teacher, Teacher-Teacher, back row cheater, front row swot (I’m a girly, girly swot and I don’t care), digital faces preach to reach, upturned calculators, speak and spell, red LCD warnings readable only in reflections, reflections of the mind and soul, hearts chopped up for lunch on a mirror, believing in youth because you’re no different and it hurts just the same and it always will, you, hey you, it’s you because… the song and the dance and the early morning impressions, lessons, torn-open depressions, bleeding hearts and knife-twisting regressions, dreams that violate night after night when you should be sleeping and resting oh my poor dear one, you, you who deserve divine and pure realignment while preparing for your homework assignment, history, history, history, repeat after me: honestly now, if you could go back and change things, would you? Would you take a shiny merit, a prefect badge, 10 points for Slytherin or Gryffindor, detention or lines, the walk of shame to the headmaster’s office – he’ll burn your books and make an example of you in morning assembly in front of the school, idiot, dunce, waster, fool, words so cruel whether said verbally or spelled out on the latest computer or the shiniest screen of the shiniest phone, yes there are Apps for that – they bring you down the moment you soar, are free to use with personalised ads, harvesting away while you study and learn in the digital school where you’re a number not a name, but then… hasn’t that always been the same even when analogue was queen for a day, along with paper and poems and song and word of mouth, and painted cave walls and the primordial grunt? Bell rings. Ring-a-ling-a-ling. Lesson over for today. School’s out. Freedom beckons but only ever of sorts… yet… listen… do you want to know an organic secret straight from the human heart and soul? My digital master, he loves it when I sleep, because he believes he can read my dreams. What he does not know is that I only ever dream in colour.


 

The Prize of the Cat: Wooof’s missing pony from 1979!


A TVTA Short Story Mystery Special !! 


WHSmith Pony competition Look-In N°15 1979 UK


Our intrepid office cat Wooof reckons that in 1979 he won a pony in a W.H. Smith ‘outdoors’ competition, and that W.H. Smith cheated him out of his prize by deliberately misplacing ‘Bess’ at the Bull Ring Shopping Centre in Birmingham, England (Wooof told me he had already named the pony ‘Bess’ even before the ink had dried on his entry form, such was his confidence in winning!).

“I vote we crank up the TVTA time machine and go back to 1979 Birmingham to find out what happened,” said Wooof.

“Right now?” I replied. “I haven’t finished scanning those vintage egg-cosy knitwear patterns Mrs Coldkettle the tea lady donated.”

“Forget fashion accessories for boiled eggs,” said the cat. “We need to find Bess!”

CUT TO:


** TEN MINUTES LATER ** DIAL SET TO 1979, BIRMINGHAM BULL RING SHOPPING CENTRE ** SOUNDS OF TVTA TIME MACHINE WARP-WHOOSHING!! **


1979!!!

Crivens! Wooof and I arrived in 1979 Birmingham to absolute mayhem… flipping dinosaurs everywhere!! Funny, I don’t remember dinosaurs being around in 1979 in the West Midlands… Gah! Worse was that one of the vicious beasts, a T-Rex no less, had captured our missing nag and was about to make a pony sandwich out of her! Poor Bess!

“NOOOOOOooooooo!!!!” cried Wooof.

“It’s okay Wooof,” I said. “I don’t think that’s actually Bess in the jaws of that mad dinosaur… look closely… the poor creature is a fully-grown horse… whereas Bess is a mere pony and has WHSmith gift tags attached her!”

“Thank goodness for that!” said Wooof. “So, tell me, if the dinosaur doesn’t have Bess, who does?”

“A simple process of elimination will have us arriving at a satisfactory answer in no time at all,” I replied.

“I’m all ears,” said Wooof. “Who’s the culprit?”

Elvis Costello!”

Wooof frowned. “No way. Elvis Costello would never stoop so low as to rustle a pony!”

“Alright, fine, if not Elvis, how about the TV versions of Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and the Incredible Hulk?”

“That’s just sick!” said the cat. “Superheroes are sworn to protect all ponies!”

“Even the TV superhero ones?”

“TV ones especially! There was no one else to look up to back in their day.”

“Maybe TV Hulk accidently stepped on Bess?”

“Are you serious?”

“Sometimes.”

“Next you’ll be accusing Captain Kirk!”

“Don’t be daft,” I said. “But maybe, just maybe… Spock has Bess!”

“Spock doesn’t have Bess,” sighed Wooof.

“Monkey?”

“Gahhhh! No,” said Wooof.

“Wonder Woman then?” said I.

“!!#!@!!! No!!!” cried the cat. This process of elimination is going to take ages!”


** SEVEN AND A HALF HOURS LATER **


Finally… I came up with a good solution to our dilemma…

“How about I call Spaceline?” I said.

“What in the name of holy cat biscuits is Spaceline?”

“It’s a recorded information line in 1984 that sometimes deals with time travel issues. All we have to do to access it is travel to 1984.”

“Well what are we waiting for!” said the cat, “Let’s hit 1984!”

CUT TO:


** DIAL SET FOR 1984 ** SEATBELTS FASTENED ** POWER FROCK SHOULDER PADS IN POSITION ** DURAN DURAN CASSETTES INSERTED INTO SONY WALKMANS ** SOUNDS OF TVTA TIME MACHINE WARP-WHOOSHING!! **


Wooof and I arrived in 1984 quicker than you can say ‘Big Brother is washing your Mullet.’ After several attempts we managed to locate a working red telephone box, and Wooof dropped a 10 Pence coin into the slot while I dialled the number on my print advert. We waited. Beep. Beep. Beep. ‘The time sponsored by Accurist is…’

Oops, wrong number. Try again…

We were eventually connected to a well-spoken female robot, and she said to us: “Welcome to Spaceline. You are speaking to Trinity9. How may I be of assistance?”

“We’re looking for my prize pony,” said Wooof. “Her name’s Bess…”  and he went on to explain the whole sorry story down the phoneline to Trinity9.

“I see,” said Trinity9. “So… you believe you were cheated out of a 1979 first prize pony by the competition organiser, and you suspect that this pony, who you named ‘Bess’, is currently located somewhere in a shopping centre in 1979 Birmingham, England?”

“Absotiffily!” said Wooof.”

“Liar!” said Trinity9, making Wooof jump. “There is no way you could have entered that competition in 1979… you weren’t even born!”

“I resent that undeniable fact!” said Wooof.

“He’s actually sixty-one in cat years,” I said.

“Your office cat is a big cheater!” said Trinity9.

“How dare you call me a cheetah!” exclaimed Wooof. ‘I’m a mixed breed Domestic Panther Tabby Green Nikto, if you must know!”

“He’s cross,” I said.

“I’m fuming!” said Wooof.

“We don’t appreciate these slurs,” I said.

“Too right,” agreed Wooof. “And I’ve been working hard on being appreciated!”

“Whatever,” replied Trinity9. “It doesn’t change the fact you manipulated your way into the past with the sole aim of winning a pony. This cat is a law breaker!”

“Operator, you’re crossing the line with these accusations,” I said.

“Mm.. actually, can you hold the line a moment…”

  • Please hold while you are connected to the next available agent.
  • For English press 1. Para Español presione el número 2.
  • Would you like to upgrade to our Elite Gold Viscount Emperor plan?
  • Your premium-rate call is important to us. Please continue to hold.
  • We’re sorry. All of our agents are busy. Please hang up and try again.

“Hello, Spaceline operator,” I said. “Trinity9, are you still there?”

“I’m still here.”

“What happened?”

“Nothing. I just put you on hold while I called the police.”

“Seriously? You called the police on us?”

“No. Not this time,” said Trinity9. “But think on… your cat cheated by secretly time-travelling to 1979 in order to win a pony. Just this very morning, he picked up an entry form from W.H. Smith… filled it in… posted it… then dashed back to the present time before you even had time to finish your breakfast! Cock-a-doodle-cornflakes!”

I turned to the cat. “Wooof, is this true?”

“I cannot lie,” replied Wooof. “I entered the competition this morning. I travelled back in time. I cheated. And I would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for that pesky Spaceline operator!”

“Wooof!” I cried. “Why? Why?!? You know our New Year’s Resolution this year was to stop cheating. Pfft. Failed once again… and we made it as far as October this year!!”

“Actually,” said the cat, “didn’t we, like, fail in February when you ‘accidently’ scanned 180 euros which you tried to pay the electricity bill with, and then we ended up…”

“Shhhhh! Not now, Wooof!” I hissed. “That was just an April Fool prank.”

“In February?”

“Ahem, ahem,” coughed Trinty9.

“Yes?”

“Talking of euros… it is my duty to inform you that your call so far has cost 50 euros in charges.”

“50 flippin euros!?!!”

“It’s a premium phone line, sir!”

“Well, for 50 euros you can at least tell us if Wooof won that perishing competition or not.”

“No, I’m afraid your cat didn’t win.”

“Not even the sailing holiday prize?” Wooof asked hopefully.

“No.”

“A Binatone TV?

“Nope.”

“The runner up prize of a camera?”

“No,” said Trinity9. “You won absolutely nothing. And good… serves you right for cheating!”

“Well that sucks massively,” said Wooof. “So how do you explain disappearing ponies called ‘Bess’ in the middle of Birmingham, shopping centres, dinosaurs on the loose, and all the other crazy things we haven’t even had time to mention yet?”

“I’m afraid your time-travelling shenanigans caused multiple time paradoxes,” said Trinty9. “Your competition cheating has damaged the very fabric of time.”

“Like the Butterfly Effect?” I said.

“More like the Bull-in-a-china-shop Effect,” replied Trinity9.

“Yes,” said Wooof. “We wondered why we saw dinosaurs in 1979 Birmingham. That really was stretching credibility to its absolute limits.”

“Yes,” I said, adding, “About as likely as finding King Kong in the Bullring Shopping Centre in 1972!”

“Ha, ha,” laughed Wooof. “Imagine that!”

“Ahem, ahem,” coughed Trinity9. “Sir, may I inform you that your call charge to Spaceline is about to exceed the 100 euro mark? This call is costing you and your cat a small fortune.”

“Wooof,” I said to the cat, handing him a shiny 50 Pence coin. “Nip to the nearest newsagent for two 10p mix-ups and a couple of comics, while I chat to the nice Spaceline operator.”

“Yippee!” cheered Wooof, leaving me alone in the phone box while he made for the nearest John Menzies.

John Menzies. Look In N°15. 1979. UK.

“So, what do you suggest I do?” I said to Trinity9. “I can’t possibly take Wooof back to the present time without some kind of pony prize… the poor cat will retreat into weeks of solitude and dark reflection, like how he did when he found out SpongeBob SquarePants wasn’t real.”

“I myself was equally shattered when I discovered Bob was only a cartoon,” replied Trinity9. “Didn’t sleep properly for days… and normally I’m a out-like-a-light-kind-of-robot-gal the moment my head hits the pillow…”

“Listen, Trinity9,” I said. “I’m not here to talk pillow talk… I’m here to kick missing first prize ass and chew nicotine replacement gum… and right now I’m all out of both! Come on, Spaceline lady robot buddy, help an editor out here… We can’t disappoint the cat! Fix it so that Wooof wins the pony, hm?”

“If you are suggesting I try and help you cheat in some way…” sniffed Trinity9.

“Not cheating…” I said, “Think of it more as bending the integrity of truth into a funny shape kind of thing… like those Bend ‘Ems toys, or Stretch Armstrong.”

“Or Play-Doh?”

“Yes! Absolutely! Do it for Play-Doh… think of the children!”

The phone went silent for an agonisingly long time.

Then: “Okay, Mr TVTA editor,” said Trinity9. “I have just the idea…”

“You do?”

“Oh boy do I!”

CUT TO:


** ONBOARD TVTA TIME MACHINE ** 1970s SWEETS AND COMICS BEING ENJOYED ** VERY HAPPY OFFICE CAT AND RELIEVED EDITOR ** DIAL SET FOR PRESENT TIME ** TVTA TIME MACHINE WARP-WHOOSHING!! **


“How do you like your new pony then?” I asked Wooof.

“She’s adorable,” replied the cat. “And you’re right… doing things the honest way is far more rewarding than cheating.”

“Correct,” I said. “Wooof, you know… cheating is never good… cheating is like…

[INSERT 4th wall break – brief lecture on the virtues of honesty vs cheating to get ahead, followed by back-slapping congratulations and manic laughter]

“Oh man! You are so right when you say all that!” agreed Wooof.

“Absolutely so. Now, tell me, old cat, what are you going to call your new pony?”

“I’m going to call her New Bess… In honour of Old Bess.”

“Wooof, that’s so thoughtful of you. Old Bess would be pleased to know you cared about her so much.”

“I miss her terribly,” said Wooof, gazing off into space, a sadness coming over him.

“I know, old cat. It’s going to take days to get over something like this.”

“Good thing I have my replacement pony then,” said Wooof, perking up a little.

“I admire your courage to move forward so quickly. Especially as it’s only been thirty minutes. Say, where is New Bess?”

“She’s right here,” said Wooof. “I just finished tidying her stables, and we’re all done with her grooming. Time for sugar cubes I think. New Bess…” Wooof called out to his pony… “Come to Wooof-daddy. It’s chow time!”

Enter:

New Bess

LATER…


TVTA EDITOR AND OFFICE CAT RELAXING IN FRONT OF LOG FIRE AT TVTA TOWERS ** COMICS, SLIPPERS, WARM MILK, G&T, PELICAN BEER, PIPE, VEGGIE CAT BISCUITS, PIZZA **


“What are you reading there?” I asked the cat.

He looked up from his vintage comic. “Catwoman,” he replied. “She’s my hero. But hey, I was just browsing some of the ads… and I was thinking of entering this, erm, competition thingy…”

“Hmmm… And what competition would that be?” I asked suspiciously.

“Oh, nothing too crazy.” Wooof handed me the comic, the page open to an advert… a competition… 1985…

“Wooof, no!!” I said, horrified.

“Come on… it’s only a quick trip to 1985… that’s just like yesterday man! And you know how much I’ve always wanted my own collection of art dinosaurs…”

“Absolutely no Wooof! No, no, no!!!!”


FIN


Story: TVTA

Images: scanned from the collection of TVTA

Dinosaur eating a horse comic strip images: Eagle, UK.

King Kong Bull Ring photo: Birminghammail.co.uk

Disco-claimer: No ponies or dinosaurs were harmed in this short story. Birmingham is a fictitious city and any resemblance to second cities in the UK either alive or dead is pure hearsay. No competitions were entered into illegally. W. H. Smith please don’t sue us… the above short story you have just read has been deep faked into the electronic pages of TVTA without our permission and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. Please help save TVTA immediately by donating cryptocurrency or sending hard cash in an envelope. We also accept diamonds, speedboats, Duran Duran tapes, pizza, cake, and cameo roles in indie or big budget films. Thanks.

Willy Wonka’s Magic Jumping Disc and other curiosities

Willy Wonka’s Magic Jumping Disc. US. 1982. I remember some jumping toys that were sold in the 80s and 90s – they were spring-loaded and you had to moisten a rubber suction cap then press it down onto its base. A few seconds later, the force of the spring would release the cap and the toy would jump. There were multiple variations of these toys featuring novelty animals and things, and I’m wondering if the Willy Wonka Magic Jumping Disc employed a similar method… or was it really Wonka magic at work?


Cube Lube

Cube Lube. US. 1982. Cleverly marketed on the back of the Rubik’s Cube craze yet not once mentioning the word ‘Rubik’ – possibly for fear of legal action. Cube Lube was deployed into being as a lubricant to increase your time at solving puzzles like… Rubik’s cube. The ad states the product’s greatness for other toys with moving parts, as well as the benefits for bikes and cycles. 


Triple-Flips by Takara

Takara Triple-Flips. US. 1982. Japanese toy company Takara had a number of successful toy hits it was proud to put its name to such as the Japanese license to sell Kenner Star Wars toys for the first Star Wars film; Microman (Transformers); Micronauts; Battle Beasts and Beyblade. Therefore I was surprised to see today’s Takara advert in all its low-tech and simple gadgetry – Triple-Flips – a humble travelling 3-in-1 pocket board game with magnetic playing pieces.


Hostess Cup Cakes – The Flash

Hostess Cup Cakes. The Flash. US. 1982. I’m always pleased to discover a Hostess advert I haven’t added to my collection yet, and this is my first ad for The Flash! Cup Cakes, Twinkies, and Fruit Pies products were advertised by Hostess in the pages of DC and Marvel comics in single page strips that starred famous superheroes allied with Hostess cakes to take down evil villains. There are hundreds of these quirky, bizarre and sometimes plain weird adverts to be found inside comics throughout the 1970s and 1980s. To date I have 44 in my collection, thanks to The Flash! 


The Jorvik Viking Centre, York

Jorvik Viking Centre Eagle comic competition. 1985. UK. Early print advert featuring the Jorvik Viking Centre in York, England. The advert is a prize-winning promotion in conjunction with Eagle comic in 1985. The Jorvik Viking Centre was opened in 1984 as a museum and visitor attraction on the excavated site of what was once the Viking city of Jorvik in the 10th century. The centre is still open to date and is one of the regions most popular visitor attractions.


Peter Pan Playthings Stunt Man Hang Glider

Stunt Man Hang Glider by Peter Pan Playthings. UK. 1983. Another promotion for the readers of Eagle comic with the chance to win a Stunt Man Hang Glider toy.


Worzel Gummidge – Scatterbrook Farm’s resident scarecrow since 1936 

Worzel Gummidge. Look-In N°15. 1979. UK. Worzel Gummidge was a massive TV show hit for children back in the 1980s. The title character was played by ex-Doctor Who actor Jon Pertwee. Worzel Gummidge was first featured in children’s books in the 1930s and was written by author Barabara Euphan Todd. In 2018 it was announced that the BBC is planning to make a new TV series based on the Barbara Euphan Todd books, with Pirates of the Caribbean actor Mackenzie Crook playing the Scatterbrook Farm scarecrow. 


Capsela Construction Action Vehicles

Capsela construction. US. 1982. Snap-together interchangeable parts for building motorised land and water action vehicles. 


Four Monogram models adverts


Magnum 440 by Tyco

Tyco Magnum 440. US. 1982. Slot-car racing for use on Tyco and AFX racing tracks.  


Bubble Yum Sweepstakes

Bubble Yum Sweepstakes. US. 1982. Some superb prizes on offer in this Bubble Yum bubble gum sweepstakes promotion.


Thanks for looking 🙂

Latest ads – SSP, Solar Ball, Skittle Baseball, Sea-Monkeys and more!

Kenner SSP Racers. 1971. US.

Glow in the Dark Solar Ball. 1985. US.

Aurora Skittle Ball. Weird War Tales N°1. 1971.

Seamonkeys. 1977. US.

Space 1999 model kit by Centuri. 1976. US.

Doctor Who Records and Tapes. 1980. UK.

Sphere sci-fi books. 1989. UK.

Sizzlers Fat Track. 1971. US.

Aurora Powerslicks. 1971. US.

Fleer football cards. 1991. US.


Thanks for looking 🙂

Happy 50th birthday the Apollo 11 moon landing!

Examples from the “Luna Station play set” by Jean Höfler, early 1970s, West Germany. From the collection of TVTA.

Inspired by good friend and WP blogging buddy Wibi Wonders I’m joining in the celebrations of the Apollo 11 moon landing which is 50 years old today! Be sure to check out Wibi’s wonderful space exploration stamps 

Here are four of my own Apollo mission stamps, along with vintage print ads and other retro space and moon-related goodness.

Thanks for looking 🙂

Ajman Apollo 11 moon landing stamp. 1970s.

Space stamps. 1982. France.

Atari Moon Patrol. 1984.

Playmobil Space. 1981. Denmark.

MOON ROCKET, battery operated tinplate spacecraft, by Masudaya, Japan, 1960s.

Space pinball. UK. 1983.

Space Shuttle Mission Jacket. US. 1982.

NASA Poster. Space Ship by Kotaro Hirano. Starlog Japan 1981.


Thank you for mooning with us 🙂

The gift of the cat … Chet Phillips Vintage Travel Posters!

The editor and office cat of TVTA in rare moment of relaxation.

How lovely! Yesterday morning in the TVTA mail room, while opening envelopes containing our usual assortment of comics, catalogues, adverts and, erm, bills, I managed to find a surprise gift just for little old me!

Wow, thanks Wooof! I can’t believe you ordered me a set of Chet Phillips Vintage-style Travel Poster Postcards!

Chet Phillips is a digital artist, and you can check out his work here

In the meantime, feast your peepers on the the cool pressie Wooof got me – six vintage-style British and Scottish Tourism posters, upon which not just a splendid tour of Britain is promised, but something else lurking in the scenery!

Enjoy 🙂


As always, thanks for looking 🙂 Thanks Chet for making some wonderful art! And thanks Wooof for the cool gift 🙂

Bionic Battle Saber – Inspired by the Six Million Dollar Man and toys

Gallery

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Originally posted on FTSabersite:
Hello Everybody, today I am taking on another “The Vintage Toy Advertiser Challenge” and it will take us back to the 1970’s TV show starring Lee Majors…The Six Million Dollar Man. The show which was loosely…