1. NASA’s Spinoff – in the late 1970s, NASA began providing a report to the public regarding the technological advancements gleaned from the Space program in an attractive, easy-to-read format. Called Spinoff, this wasn’t the first attempt at a report of this nature but it was definitely the most digestible. And the most stylish.
What is it about 1970s-era NASA that’s so slick? Pretty much everything they did from that decade is a font-and-layout-lover’s dream.
The reports seem to focus on NASA’s current work among the stars, their aims for the future, and then trickle out to the practical everyday uses of their findings. Some of them are pretty obvious, like solar panels, and it’s neat to see how some of the ideas have manifested 25 years later:
Others were practical, smaller enhancements to our lives, ones that flew under the radar:
And some became the sustenance of dorm kids around the world…
if these speak to you, head over to Jarmenia2’s Prizmshare site to check out the full issues. They’re really something.
2. Dune Activity Books – Not sure the idea of a kids’ activity book comes to mind when thinking of David Lynch’s Dune movie, but the ’80s were the ’80s and this is what we got.
There was a whole line of this stuff, where the harsh material of the film was sifted through a filter and packaged up for kids. Maybe the holes on that filter were a little too big?
I remember them being available through the Scholastic Book Fair. Money well spent! A bunch of these images are from Coilhouse – be sure to check them out if you’d like to see more. Here are some of my favorites:
Everybody guess the fat man’s weight!
Yeah, this one’s appropriate! Color the dead guys!
And the kicker – a recipe for No-Spice cookies. Get it?
3. Nintendo Knitting – Nintendo is no stranger to accessorizing; the Nintendo Entertainment System practically had a 2:1 peripheral to game ratio. Some of those peripherals made their way into the “Essentials” category (looking at the NES Max), while others (cough-LJN-Roll-n-Rocker-cough) fell into a more regretful bucket.
Here’s something we never got the chance to regret, the Nintendo Knitting Machine.
Apparently the Knitting Machine was shown in a CES demo in 1987, but never heard from again. My first, and last, impulse are to dismiss this as a junk idea but somewhere in the middle I considered: how cool would it be to set your Nintendo up to knit a custom sweater, just for you, with Simon Belmont or the Contra bros on it? Something nobody else had? Could they have been on to something?
4. Manimal – This 1983 action series focused on a rich man with a dark secret. Not Batman. What if I told you it was better than Batman? Batman couldn’t turn himself into a real bat if he wanted to, could he? Well this guy could.
Dr. Jonathan Chase was the titular Manimal, a wealthy shapeshifter who knows the secrets that divide man and animal (ALL animals, apparently, like there’s one secret that unlocks every species under the sun) and can become any of them at will. He uses this ability to fight crime, obviously.
You know I was kidding about him being better than Batman, right? I promise I was.
5. Transportable Cellular Telephone – From Radio Shack, a carphone that you can take out of the car!
Sadly, the carphone/defibrillator combo unit never worked out.