Wednesday, July 24, 2013

#0073: Speak & Read

Just as a precursor, I am currently unable to access my camera, so this entry will be briefly featured without any photographs. So if you're reading this and wondering what's with the lack of imagery, there's your answer. If you're reading this at a later date, and there are indeed pictures, then might I say, that is the most fantastic photo of the Speak & Read that I have ever seen. Practically orgasmic.

Though they're now better known for calculators, in the late 70s Texas Instruments hit a home run when they came up with the Speak & Spell device. Effectively an electronic tool that taught kids how to say some shit, it was a major revolution for its time, back when using technology as a learning tool was still a novel concept, and not completely and utterly crucial and necessary in every facet in life and kids know how to operate iPads before they even know how to wipe their own ass and what the fuck is up with that and this sentence is over now.

So significant was the Speak & Spell, it was referenced frequently in popular culture, most significantly in E.T. as a means of intergalactic communication, and in Toy Story as a key contributor to the toy society. So far, I haven't been able to use the Speak & Read to contact Mars or to help make plastic corrosion awareness meetings run smoothly, but in all fairness, maybe such features were only available to the Spell model. My loss, I guess.

Supposedly, the Speak & Read helps kids aged 4 to 8 increase their vocabulary, possessing a small army of 250 words. Unfortunately, I lack the four C batteries (or the ability to give a shit) necessary to power this thing, so I can't confirm which of your favourite rude words are included. It's probably for the best, because I don't know how productive spending six minutes shouting 'fuck' at this thing and waiting for its response would be.

It also has six different game modes; Word Zapper, Word Maker, Read It, Picture Read, Letter Stumper and Hear It. Of course, these games mean nothing to me, because other than their titles and the images on the corresponding keys (Letter Stumper appears to have Phanto from Super Mario Bros. 2), I know nothing about what each one consists of. Let's assume Read It lets you read words, Word Maker has you make up bullshit words like Kwyjibo, and Word Zapper forcibly removes words from your memory. That last one isn't very popular, because frequent play has limited the amount of words I currently have at my disposal. I honestly had a really good word I wanted to use today, but I can't remember what it is. So instead, I will use the word 'qualm'.

Want to see the thing in action? I kind of do. Like I said, I'm not going to bother chucking batteries in there, but fortunately the venerable sbdivemaster has the patience, the batteries, and the lovely looking towel to undertake such a task.

Oh wow, that's annoying as shit, isn't it? I had forgotten what these old talking devices sound like. I mean, I shouldn't be too harsh, this thing premiered in 1980, but those tones and buzzes are taxing to my ears. With the amount of knowledge I sucked out of this thing, it also explains why to this day I often talk like the Intellivoice. Damn you, Texas Instruments. Come back to me in twenty-five years when I'm failing math class because I'm too busy playing 'snake' on my calculator to learn anything about bivariate data and box and whisker plots.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

#0072: Thomas and Friends

My fiancé asked me a question recently: it was, plain and simply, why our spare room is being cluttered with a bag of old Thomas the Tank Engine toys. Though I tried to state the honest truth; that once I had blogged about them, they were going to go off to charity, she countered with an argument that proved most damning to my cause. These trains are dirty, worn, and in some cases, chewed on by my dog, or possibly a small infant in the garage I was unaware of.

I had nothing. So sadly, I sit here today, a veritable executioner about to give the last rites before sending my dear old friend Thomas off to the train graveyard. There, he will hopefully take solace in the fact that he can collect 3 hi-potions and an echo screen. ...Mildly obscure reference.

Once upon a time, I lavished upon you a tale about Duck the Great Western Engine. In all truth, Duck was actually perched right atop the pile whereupon his compatriots were resting, but somehow he came out of the whole thing a little bit less worse for wear. After a bit of a wash, he was good to go, as long as your standards weren't lofty. Today's guests weren't so lucky. Let's take a squiz at the worst of the lot...

Dear God... why do you hate my trains? The titular Thomas and perennial asshole Gordon are truly on the threshold of death, their once shining blue hulls now encrusted with filth, and years of abuse at the hands of a ruthless Jack Russell rendering their chassises warped and useless. Frankly, Gordon had it coming, but poor Thomas? He deserved better than this. He's one of my oldest, dearest friends, he should have aged with dignity. But alas, we can't have everything. I at least pray they proved tasty?

Elsewhere at the station, my pair of Henry twins are, by comparison, not too bad. Why I owned two Henrys is a mystery to us all (in the hopes of increasing productivity, perhaps), but more curiously, these Henrys, 3 years apart in their creation, feature two similar yet different shades of green. True Thomas historians may declare this to have been a by-product of some sort of 'green paint scandal' running rampant at the time, but to me, it's a riddle. I like the lighter shade, personally. It's more festive. I like my trains to be festive, after all.

Donald and Douglas, trains who appeared in the second season, therefore I don't give a shit about, are dirty, but otherwise in great nick. Strangely enough, the troublesome truck is in absolutely perfect condition, not even a little bit dusty, and James is a little bit banged around, but still has that million dollar smile, and


I don't even know who this is, but he looks fucking evil. Familiar faces Percy and Toby are nowhere to be seen, and instead I'm left with this sinister prick. I think he was a diesel engine. I should probably Google it, but it's actually kind of fun just assigning him whatever identity I choose. So henceforth, his name is Howard Bachman, he's the local drug peddler, and his passengers are 300 illegal eastern European prostitutes. ...I must confess, I now like him even better than James (who only carries a modest 75).

I have to say, I'm a bit disappointed with how little care I've given my Thomas toys over the years. I mean, had they not stayed in the garage, they would have been fine, but I had about sixteen years to retrieve them, so the fault is mine and mine alone. Could Thomas live on in some fashion, long after his haggard body has been tossed away like (Superted narrator voice) a piece of rubbish?

Maybe the answer is yes. Maybe the answer is no. I'm not sure at this point, but hopefully... someday... we'll find a way.

Oh wait fuck that, the answer is a resounding YES.
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