1. Space Food Sticks – Pillsbury worked with NASA in the 1960s to create solid foods that the astronauts could eat in space. They created solid food cubes that were used on the Aurora 7 in 1962, and continued to research and produce foods that worked in space like non-perishable meats and cake that didn’t fall apart. That’s pretty cool, right? So what did they do next? Basically, they packaged up energy bars and used their history of producing actual foods for astronauts as leverage to sell these energy bars to kids as something other than the candy that it was.
The trademark they filed for these provides no basis for the term “Balanced Nutrition”. They’re junk food. Anyway, they were available in chocolate, peanut butter, and caramel flavor and marketed as a “between-meal” snack. They were a hit, and stayed on the shelves for a decade or so, disappearing in the ’80s. At some point they decided to expand the flavor options, drop the Space theme, and just sell them as Food Sticks. An odd, dystopian-food-of-the-future choice, but whatever.
They live on in many people’s hearts and memories today – and they’re even still sold in Australia. Here’s an old ad for them:
2. Gnip Gnop – Parker Brothers released this confounding, more aggressive, arena-style ping pong variant in 1971.
Gnip Gnop was a chamber that had three holes in its center. Players would press levers on each side to attempt to propel the ball through one of the holes onto the other side. The first person to get all six balls on the opponent’s side of the center barrier is the winner. If Ping Pong and Hungry Hungry Hippos and Tiddly Winks had a baby and the baby was a bad game, it would be Gnip Gnop.
That doesn’t make it any less charming, though. Here’s an ad that’s equally charming.
3. Conquests of Camelot – By 1990, Sierra could do no wrong as a game developer. They had several successful franchises under their belt: King’s Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest, and Quest for Glory were all hitting their stride. They had a few one-offs at that point like Codename: Iceman and the Manhunter games that were mixed bags but still pretty good. In 1989 they released Conquests of Camelot: The Search for the Grail, and it scratched my seventh-grade nerd itch perfectly.
The presentation was similar to the other Sierra adventure games of the time, which is to say it was a cut above most other games. The game itself centered around King Arthur’s search for the holy grail – starting with the love triangle between him, Guinevere, and Lancelot that threw Camelot into ruin and taking him through several trials to find the grail to save the realm. Along the way Arthur comes across several Knights of the roundtable and other characters from the legends. The game was obviously a labor of love given the amount of depth there was to the lore in the game.
Conquests of Camelot featured more puzzle and riddle action than standard Sierra fare, making the game slightly more difficult than maybe people expected. Combine that with the usual Sierra “do one thing wrong and you’re dead” mentality and you’ve got a pretty tough overall game. That may have turned people off to the franchise, as Sierra moved away from Camelot in its next installment to focus on Robin Hood, and then abandoned Conquests completely.
It was a shame. That game was awesome. Here’s the game intro and a few of the deaths, both fair and unfair, that you can experience.
4. Mushroom Jazz – I’ve been a longtime fan of Mark Farina, and just recently saw him at Moogfest where his set was a highlight of my week. His house sets are great but his downtempo Mushroom Jazz series was what really made me a fan of his. There was/is a CD series of Mushroom Jazz releases, but there were also a bunch of mixtapes that I found far superior. Turns out, he’s got a soundcloud and he offers several of them for download! Enjoy one of my favorites:
5. Ann B. Davis – Rest in Peace, Ann.