Test your retro knowledge

A few days ago I was delighted to get the winning eBay bid on something that I’ve been interested in since I was about ten years old (no, it’s not a DeLorean, but I’ll probably get around to that one, too, someday). I have distinct memories of longing after this product when it was released in 1982. I recall numerous occasions standing in the local toyshop, gazing at it in wonder as it sat proudly inside a glass-fronted display cabinet, for ever out of reach.

Well, not quite for ever. It will be arriving in a few days. This might be another disappointing whimsical purchase, but I’m so excited about it that I ended up dreaming about it the other night. It’s not often that happens with an eBay purchase. Although, to be fair, in my dream, the thing arrived in the post covered in ugly dents, no doubt a subconscious expression of my irrational paranoia.

But what is it, pray tell? Well, let’s see if you know. Have a look at the photo. This isn’t specifically what I bought, but it’s one aspect of the product (I siphoned the picture with a Google image search). Ring any retro bells?

12 thoughts on “Test your retro knowledge

  1. A Vextrex or some such?

    Those things have amazing retro value but tend to be quite boring after that initial whimsy wears off.

    The reason I didn’t really get into these things as a child is because I was shit at them. always found the games too hard.

    Currently I’m revisiting a lot of old point and click adventures via ScummVM.

  2. Yep, those are screen overlays from the MB Vectrex console. I had a feeling you’d be first in line with the answer, Peter. The old games certainly were hard, but let’s not forget they belong to an era where each game took time and skill to master, and the whole point was to better your current high score. Whereas now much of gaming has become an easy-to-play cinematic experience.

    There’s a pretty cool homebrew programming scene that has sprung up around the Vectrex in the past decade. I’m more excited about digging into that than I am about playing the old games catalogue.

    I never played a great deal of the old Scumm games, although I have fold memories of Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. I mostly left adventure games behind when the text ones fell out of fashion.

  3. MB Vectrex console? It’s weird that I haven’t heard of that one before. I have an old Atari, Intellivision, and even a couple of PONG systems that take like 6 C batteries. Did this system ever make it into the USA?

    p.s. Don’t you just love the old 2-bit audio music from these games!

  4. eBay has some Vectrex consoles from US sellers, so I’m guessing it was released there, too, although possibly not by MB (Milton Bradley). It’s a one-of-a-kind console, the only one to ever use vector graphics – true vectors, no pixels whatsoever. Check out this YouTube video for a good look at the console in action.

    The sound chip was actually a 3-channel one, pretty decent for its time. Same one used on the Atari ST, I believe.

  5. Ah, this brings back memories of my Intellivision and its controller overlays.

    I remember being disappointed when I first unwrapped the Intellivsion. I’d dropped plenty of hints about an Atari 2600, so I was a bit unnerved to find something entirely different under the Christmas tree. My disappointment soon melted away when I started to play the games. Lock N Chase, Space Battle, Sea Battle, Auto Racing, Armour Battle, Night Stalker, etc. Great stuff which quickly proved to be far superior to the Atari 2600’s fair.

  6. The Intellivision was another object of fascination for me as a kid. I remember those controllers that you could slide the overlays into to transform the number pad. Lately, I’ve considered picking up the modern console-in-a-joypad version that came out.

    I was a woodgrain Atari boy, although the games were so expensive that I only ever owned Combat (which was included free), Pac-man, the infamous E.T., and Joust. The one saving grace was the fact that a local video store had loads of games for rental.

  7. Darryl,

    Good to see you have kept the hunger for retro gaming. I have to admit to popping in here from time to time just to see how things are with old friends. If you want all the Vectrex roms and emulators you know where to go.


    Keep saving for that DeLorean. 🙂

    Hot Trout aka Paz

  8. Great to hear from you again, Paul! Glad to see your site is still going strong.

    I’m dying to get playing this console. Jason Morrison was the only person I knew who ever owned one, back when we were at the tech. I can’t help wondering if it’s maybe lying in his parents’ attic these days. Maybe I could get my hands on a spare. 🙂

  9. A friend had a Vextrex his uncle gave him about 20 years ago. I think he got bored of it and let his little sister break it. This sort of technology was far too good to be wasted on kids.

    I had the wood effect Atari myself. Sadly I think my brother broke it. Siblings are a curse sometimes.

  10. Absolutely. I got lucky with the one I bought. It’s in great shape.

    You think your brother’s bad? I washed my Atari. 🙂 Well, the whole story goes like this: A wasp landed on my Atari, so I swatted it with a rolled up newspaper, then I proceeded to clean the wasp-guts off the console with an overly damp cloth. I didn’t notice that the ribbed plastic top featured concealed air vents until it was too late. Drip-drip-drip. Too young to know that if I had only waited until the water dried out it would have been fine, I switched the Atari on, eager to see if I had ruined it. And I had … at that very moment. Pesky wasp! What rotten luck!

  11. I saw one at a school/church fete or something years ago. Was about £5 and probably worked. I’ve since seen them go for £80+ on eBay. I’m always kicking myself about these sort of lost opportunities. The ZX81 I saw in a local charity shop for about £20 was another one. Thought about it, thought about it, thought about it… then it was gone.

    I should let my inner geek shop if it wants to. It’s not like I really need food that often.

  12. naomihamilton

    I was totally about to say overlays for your vetrex. But I guess there’s no point in me saying this because recent commenters got theere before me. By the way, I’ve uupdated a lot on my blog if you want to have a browse. 🙂

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