1. Atari Touch Me – Atari released this unconventional arcade cabinet in 1974, a screen-less game that held four circular lights.
Players had to follow the pattern in which the lights lit up, getting three tries before the game was over. It was stylish, but unpopular compared to the other, more engaging games out there. The concept had merit, though, as Ralph Baer proved when he released essentially the same game in handheld form in 1977, coloring the lights and calling it “Simon”. Atari saw the success Simon was enjoying and scrambled to develop a handheld version of Touch Me, which they released in 1978. It was too late, though; Simon was the game that resonated with consumers and lives on as a cherished memory.
Terrible name aside, there was a lot of style to Touch Me. Here’s a poster for it:
And a magazine ad:
Even the device itself is slightly more stylish than Simon, though it’s a tough call:
2. Action Center U.S.A. – I grew up in Orlando, Florida and I can tell you, for certain, that it is not “Action Center, U.S.A.” That aside, this ’60s promotional film is a pretty great attempt to make it appear that way. It’s interesting to see the ‘moment-in-time”ness here: Disney World had been announced but not yet built, meaning that most of Florida and primarily Central Florida were considered backwoods by the rest of the country. That would soon change once the Magic Kingdom came along but for the time being the film had to rely on the Minute Maid and Tupperware headquarters to really sell this hot town.
3. How to Beat Video Games – Before you could just go to YouTube and get tips on the specific game you wanted help on, you had to order a VHS tape that was an hour long and wait 6 to 8 weeks for it to arrive in the mail and then, assuming you were still stuck on the game that compelled you to order the tape in the first place, fast forward to that particular part.
I can’t imagine that this was a very successful business. There were books that served a similar purpose, giving tips for dozens of games (Nintendo’s is a particularly good one), but the tapes just seemed to be a little bit before their time.
Nevertheless, they’re full of ’80s video toaster effects and music and the game footage is pretty fun to watch, so here’s volume one:
4. 1-900-MONSTER – Here’s an ad for a ’80s hotline that told you scary stories. The local news special being promoted right after this thing sounds way scarier than the hotline could have possibly been, but the hotline was probably the bigger success. You paid out the nose in 900 number fees back then!
5. Jollity Farm – A fantastic animation by Dave Stone to a fantastic 1967 version of Leslie Sarony’s “Jollity Farm” played by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. It’s just good!