Space Invaders

Space Invaders screen shotNot just the name of a crap crisp, Space Invaders were the big video game of the late Seventies and early Eighties. According to wikipedia the game was invented in 1978 (so like the Rubik’s Cube it qualifies for popandcrisps even though it didn’t filter through to most of us until the eighties).

In the original game, strange skull-like aliens in regimented armies would blip across the screen to be shot at by your ship at the bottom, with houses in between that would provide shelter but be gradually destroyed by the alien fire and your own fire.

There are generally two types of rank-file aliens, sometimes more, and a mothership style saucer that flies across the top once in a while. Each time the aliens blip across the screen, they go down another row and get quicker. If they get to the bottom before you’ve shot them all, you’ve lost. They can also shoot you and if you lose all your lives you’ve also lost. After you’ve destroyed all the aliens, another batch appears, which is exactly the same as before so not like going up a level (although in some games they start quicker or lower on each new screen).

The best replica free-web space invaders game I’ve found is this site.  According to that site, the targets in the game were originally soldiers not aliens, but this was thought inappropriate for children to be shooting at.

I had a hand-held space invaders game in about 1982, and before this I would watch the demos in the arcade under my Dad’s flat, him refusing to give me 10p for a game. Other games in the arcade were Tracer and Pac-man and a strange caterpillar game, of which I also loved to watch demos.


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

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Advertising in the Seventies

In 1970 TV advertisements were more like cinema ads with the posh voiceovers and orchestral music. Take a look at this precious collection of eight ads. Want to emigrate to Australia or join the men in mining?! The sinister voiceover for Tufty is worrying as his friend gets hit by a car because he didn’t take his mummy with him to the ice cream van. We don’t get these types of scary voices now unless it’s in the advert about not paying your car tax. I wonder what that says about society/government 40 years on?

For mash get smashBy 1976 ads had changed quite a bit and they were more like short films. ‘The family’ was sacrosanct at this time when most were falling apart and the adverts that we saw on TV were either fictionalised sets of idealised family life or images from the past. This montage of seven ads clearly demonstrates the shift. The burger ad here is a classic example of the short film style of ad. The bird in the BT ad is reminiscent of Roobarb & Custard, a very British cartoon. However, the American influence is obvious with the Yorkie and Corona ads, both British companies. The Smash advert is classic ironic sci-fi in which we all believed that robots would replace us in the future.

The 3p Curly Wurly ad with school kids and Terry Scott playing the school boy role is funny. Very ‘Just William’ and possibly true to some school experiences but not mine! More like 1940’s or 50’s. Tufty was replaced by Charley Says, a difference in animation style and also the funny cat made to make you laugh rather than a fluffy toy style squirrel. But still as sexist with the asking mummy business (plus, can you imagine a kid being called Vera now?).

And just in case anyone hasn’t got lost down memory lane already, what about this Thames TV linkage. Classic!


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Roobarb and Custard

Roobarb (left) and Custard (right)According to Wikipedia, the program was just called Roobarb (the dog’s name) but we used to call it Roobarb and Custard, obviously a common error or it wouldn’t be mentioned in the fount of all knowledge. Custard was pink and Roobarb was yellow but apparently not, apparently he was green. I beg to differ. You see in reality, custard is yellow and stewed rhubarb is pink, so the logic is that the cat called Custard will be pink and the dog called Roobarb yellow. No-one ever heard of green custard unless it was that gross school dinners thing where a chocolate cornflake cake would be covered in green mint sauce which we used to call ‘hedgehogs and toothpaste’. I rest my case.

I loved this cartoon because the cat was so sarcastic and there were also loads of groany awful puns. “Roobarb shook off his disguise as he decided the whole idea of being a piece of bread had gone a bit stale.” It was basically battles between a cat and dog which was closer to my experience than the Tom and Jerry cat and mouse thing. And the birds were hilarious. I loved the music too, used to sing it loudly.

According to the creator Grange Calveley on roobarbandcustard.tv, the first Roobarb film was When Roobarb Made a Spike. He based the character on his own dog (who wasn’t yellow or green but a border collie) and stalked the BBC until they agreed to let him make some animations. They contracted him for 30 5-min episodes after watching the Spike pilot. Wow. Imagine that now? Another fave is When Roobarb Didn’t See The Sun Come.

It was narrated by Richard Briers and animated badly (deliberately according to Wikipedia) giving it a homespun feel. Animated by Bob Godfrey, this pair also wrote Noah and Nelly in the Skylark which was one of my favourite cartoons due to the knitting (and I’m sure will make an appearance on Popandcrisps soon). Kids now think it’s bad (see some comments on the youtube vids) but what they may not realise is that we thought it looked bad back then as well – compared to American slick animations – but it was cult-tacky and we loved it because it was so bad. The fabulousness was the story and character, the simple images firing our imagination. Slick animation with a boring plot doesn’t get close. In fact, the shaky animation was part of the appeal, and I would vibrate with excitement in a very good imitation of Roobarb.

There’s a new series now Roobarb and Custard Too, which is computer animated but is still shaky, which I’m glad about. Unlike many of the Seventies remakes, this is written by the same person as before and narrated by the same person. So it’s updated in some ways but retains the fabulousness.

Roobarb runningI have noticed something since watching these old episodes. When he runs with his ears up, Roobarb looks like my dog Mika.

 


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room