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


Space Hoppers



Let’s play some bubblegum music and drink babysham in our hotpants.

(now, for today’s post…)

Space Hopper in original Seventies OrangeHopping mad I was that I didn’t have one of these ingenious devices for myself as I would have bounced all day. I think we may have had one between us for a short while, or a neighbour had one, or something. Anyway I do remember there being an orange inflatable with horns and a funny face in my life at some point. Those horns got very dirty and were prone to be sucked on by younger siblings. I still remember the rubbery smell of it.

I could go into all sorts of detail about the stories I’ve heard of what uses the double-horns of the space hopper got put to, but this is a reasonably clean site so far and I’d like to keep it that way!

They were introduced in the very early Seventies, according to wikipedia, and I believe they are still available, and in different colours to the original orange. The most popular period was definitely the Seventies and the name, the image and everything about the idea of bouncing down the street in the absence of health and safety rules conjures up the Seventies for me. It is such an iconic image that it’s on the BBC cult site.

There is no other purpose for the space hopper than bouncing, as this nifty bit of youtubery demonstrates. Of course you’re always going to get the idiots. And it’s interesting how many adults play with the space hopper now, perhaps because they loved it so much as children?

I’ll leave you with Coppers on Hoppers while I go and pee myself.

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

Joe 90

Joe 90 on his video coverOf all the supermarionations, my favourite was Joe 90 which was repeated through the Seventies though it was first shown in 1968 and according to Wikipedia only one series was made. So technically if you’re going to be picky I shouldn’t be talking about it here. However, this is my site so I will.

My name being Joe (and I spelled it like that then) and having blonde hair and glasses made me a candidate for being called Joe 90 as an insult. I think it happened twice before the children who were trying to insult me realised that I was pleased to be called Joe 90 and so they stopped. Of course.

Joe 90 inside the space ballThe idea behind Joe 90 was that he was the son of a scientist who created a machine called BIG RAT and these special specs that made him have superpowers and he was a the first Spy Kid.

During the opening sequence Joe was sat inside a big space-age ball, with a bells-and-whistles computer. It all looks laughable now but it definitely has the culty kitsch that will outlast computer fashion.

Joe 90 merchandising packagePersonally I think the whole thing was to get kids to think that glasses were cool. A bit like Popeye and spinach. Sort of. And sell toys of course.

The supermarionations were all interrelated with some of the puppets from one show appearing in the others. Now they are having a major comeback (again) so there’s sure to be more about them soon. It’s showing on Sci Fi UK channel. Like with many of these programmes from when I was a kid, it outshines the modern equivalents by far.

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

Trumptonshire Folk

Trumpton firemenTrumpton was the major town of Trumptonshire, in which there was also a neighbouring village of Camberwick Green.

This was the name of the stop-animation children’s program which was first produced about this fictional English county. The shows were all named after the location, so there was Trumpton, Camberwick Green and Chigley (also a village).

Windy MillerThe characters are reminiscent of Playmobil models, and I used to think that’s what they were. I loved all of the shows and characters, especially Windy Miller who would always manage to walk out of his mill without having his head chopped off by the sails.

Other memorable characters are the women who worked at the biscuit factory and stopped for the six o’clock whistle and the firemen: Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb, and their commander Captain Flack. (Pugh and Pugh were twins) According to the Trumptonshire Web, these names are often remembered wrongly, but they very handily have the original role call on audio on the site.

The problem for my memory is that because of the shows being interlinked, some characters appearing in two or all three, and narrated by the same voice – Brian Cant – I always mixed them up. And if I mixed them up as a child, there is no way I’m going to distinguish them nearly forty years later. Luckily Wikipedia has some quite comprehensive information about Trumpton, Chigley and Camberwick Green.

Opening and closing credits were different for the three programs, with the firemen playing a brass concert on the bandstand in Trumpton and one of the others finishing with the six o’clock whistle and all workers in the biscuit factory having a dance. One of the programs opened with a toybox like a drum opening up and a figure appearing, it would be a different figure each day and you would have to guess who it was. The last time I watched any of these programs was when I was about five, so I’m amazed I remember this much.

My favourite song was Time flies by when you’re the driver of a train and I still remember the tune. Brian Cant, in this BBC interview says that Wallace and Gromit was influenced by the Trumpton trilogy. It’s nice to know that it wasn’t just me that dreamed about making my own models and animating them. And at least the Aardman people actually did something about it.

If you’re interested in Trumpton trivia, you may want to try out the BBC quiz – at least one of the questions has already been answered for you in this blog!

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

Basil Brush

Basil Brush how he looked in the SeventiesOne of my favourite Children’s TV characters was the snappily dressed fox Basil Brush.

I loved the way he laughed at his own jokes – mwahaha-HA-HA boom-boom. I don’t remember whether the jokes were funny, but we always laughed because he did. I think that was the point.

Basil had a helper, a bloke who always took the rap for any mischief that the Brush got into. The helper changed over time and the ones I remember are Mr Roy and Mr John.

According to Wikipedia there were quite a few other helpers, all blokes. Whoever the stooge was used to say ‘shut your bone chute’ to Basil, and Basil used to say ‘shut your cake hole’ back at him. Those two phrases became well-used in our household and many others and can still be heard today.

One thing that I loved was Basil’s little yappy dog. I had one of them myself. It was mechanical and under the fur it was like a robot. I know because I took all the fur off so I could see what was underneath. All it did was yap and sit up on its back legs and it used to drive Basil bananas. And mine drove my mum bananas too, but she was still annoyed when I took the fur off.

Basil Brush updated for a modern audience - cuddlier I thinkBasil is still around, though he’s been updated. And the new stooge is Mr Steve. Apparently Mr Steve got complained about because he was gay-bashed on one show in recent years. And another one about him being racist. Oh dear Basil, your new image may be cuddly but your views are perhaps a bit out of date?

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

Rubik’s Cube

Rubik's Cube pic on WikipediaThe Rubik’s Cube shot to worldwide obsession in the early 1980’s. I think I was about eleven or twelve when I first had a go on one. However, it warrants a popandcrisps moment because it came out of the Seventies. Invented in 1974, it was repackaged worldwide in 1979 for a 1980 launch, according to wikipedia.

There has been a recent upsurge in the Rubik’s Cube and related toys for a new generation, and my son had one for his birthday last week. The satisfying crunching sound it makes when you turn a slice took me right back! I remember the solutions I was determined to work out without the books and the agonies of those last few corners.

We bought one from the market and didn’t find out until after a few weeks of hard graft that the stickers had come off two of the central squares and been replaced incorrectly! The way we discovered this was that the corner pieces didn’t match up and would be impossible. I think it was a red and a green, which meant that there should have been a red-yellow-orange square and there wasn’t one! I’d like to think that this was a genuine mistake – perhaps by someone who was colour blind – rather than a deliberate piece of mischief with the culprit chuckling over our potential frustration.

Eventually I took the Rubik’s Cube apart, like I took everything apart, to see how it worked. I was fascinated by the simple design of interlocking plastic cubes. I did put it back together again, but it never worked as well and bits would fall off it if you were too heavy-handed. I’m not the only one who has done this, as I found out there is a specialist site for taking stuff apart.

I’ve just been on the Rubik’s Cube website and it has some great games!

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

Chopper Bikes

Chopper Bike on BBC article about relaunchThe Raleigh chopper bike was all the rage for boys in the late Seventies. At this time bikes were just bikes, not brightly coloured like the BMX in the eighties, not fashionable or trendy. Just a bike with a shopping basket if you were a girl and a crossbar if you were a boy. Before the chopper, you were only interested in any particular brand or style of bike if you were a mega bike enthusiast, or a racer. Like with trainers and sunglasses, back then people just wouldn’t ask, ‘What make have you got?’ Until the chopper came along. Suddenly if you didn’t have a chopper then you were a member of the underclass.

My next door neighbour (boy, of course) had a chopper. I wanted one so badly I could have killed for it. But girls didn’t have them. It was something about the saddle, you had to have a penis: there was a special slot for it or something. If a girl tried to ride a chopper then she would explode into tiny bits which would be eaten by wild dogs, or she’d be laughed at, which amounted to the same thing.

The boys that had choppers didn’t really ride them. They pushed them around and sat on them posing. They were status symbols rather than transport. Did you want a chopper? Were you the only one in your street to possess one? If so, please send me a blog post telling me what it was like to be so smug. Did you know that choppers have been relaunched?

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