Monday, 26 September 2022

knight industries two thousand (10. 169)

Premiering on the NBC television network on this day in 1982 and running for four seasons, Knight Rider, created by Glen A Larson (Alias Smith & Jones, Battlestar Galactica, The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo), covers protagonist Michael Knight, a lieutenant detective with the LAPD who was cosmetically robocopped after being betrayed by an informant and industrial espionage expert. Disfigured and officially declared dead, Knight is given reconstructive surgery (appearing as David Hasselhoff—see also) and teamed up with a nearly indestructible, sentient car, KITT (previously) to fight crime in the name of public justice, under the pilot organization of philanthropist billionaire Wilton Knight (no relation) called FLAG (Foundation for Law and Government).

Thursday, 22 September 2022

king under the mountain (10. 159)

Courtesy of Things Magazine, we are invited to reminisce about the pioneering illustrated text adventure computer game (see previously here and here) The Hobbit—released forty years ago this month for the ZX Spectrum developed by Veronika Megler and Philip Mitchell. It was quite noteworthy and much intimated for its advanced and intuitive syntactic analysis that allowed players to enter complex commands—the language parser called Inglish, a parred down but serviceable vocabulary—and engage with the game in ways that were previously restricted to the imagination. True to the source material (see also) and like the later snowclone ‘All your base are belong to us,’ the refrain from play about dwarf-king ‘Thorin sits downs and starts singing about gold’ carries some pop culture weight as well as the narrative, ‘You wait—time passes’ as one hides in a wine barrel until the opportune moment for escape. Here is an emulator where one can again experience the adventure.

Wednesday, 17 August 2022

i let the music speak (10. 067)

Released as a record album at the end of November 1981 and the groups last studio album for four decades until their 2021 reunion, ABBA’s The Visitors was among the first to be digitally mixed and recorded and on this day in 1982 became among the first to be pressed and issued in CD format (Polygram Records also put out a disk of Chopin waltzes and Phillips would be releasing a tranche of some fifty artists including Billy Joel available in stores in the autumn). Despite personal conflicts that strained their professional relationship and musical partnership, this final collaboration was a success, cathartic and critically well received. Still getting accustomed to the new technology, the sound engineers thought the recording to be too clean and missed notes and beats would be harder to overlook.

Sunday, 7 August 2022

sounded sad upon the radio, moved a million hearts in mono (10. 044)

Released as the lead single from the group’s second studio album—Too-Rye-Ay (which includes the eponymous refrain)—Dexys Midnight Runners’ (with credit to Emerald Express) “Come on Eileen” climbed to the top of UK charts on this day in 1982, holding number one for weeks, best-seller of the year and later ranked as one of the defining songs of the decade. The character “Eileen” on the single cover as well as in the music video is played by Mรกrie Fahey, sister of Siobhan Fahey of the group Bananarama. The introductory fiddle solo is a riff on the melodic setting of Irish poet Thomas Moore’s “Believe Me, I All Those Endearing Young Charms”—already quite well established in popular culture as the so called “xylophone gag,” wherein a cartoon villain rigs up an instrument to detonate when the C bar is struck and presents the would-be victim sheet music (usually of the above title) who inevitably plays a discordant note at the crucial time, prompting the bad guy to show the other who it is supposed to be played, thus dispatching himself.

Saturday, 9 July 2022

codified likeness utility

Having premiered in US theatres on this day in 1982, we enjoyed this appreciation of the energy and insight surrounding the making of TRON (see previously here and here) in this interview with creator Steven Lisberger conducted just ahead of the fortieth anniversary on the 80 nightclub cyber aesthetic that the much vaunted Metaverse ought to aspire to, a mainframe saving democracy rather than destroying it. Praised for its pioneering visual effects but criticised for its incoherent plotline. Before our hero Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is able to gather evidence that the company vice-president’s success owes to him plagiarising Flynn’s own video games, the Master Control Programme digitises him and hopes to “derez” the nuisance in a gladiatorial match along with other ill-appropriated coding.

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

dear mister andropov

For what would have been her fiftieth birthday had not her life been tragically cut short by a plane crash at the age of thirteen, Deutsche Welle has a retrospective appreciation on the ten-year old Cold War peace ambassador and avid letter-writer Samantha Reed Smith of Holton, Maine who at a very tense point in Soviet-US relations—the nuclear superpowers having abandoned their recent policy of dรฉtente, a race on to militarise space, widespread peace protests, the Afghan conflict and The Day After all had people whipped into a frenzy—reached out to the new Russian leader late in 1982, the successor to the post of Leonid Brezhnev characterised in the press as the architect of the suppression of the Prague Spring and for suppression of dissidents, congratulating him and expressing her fears about nuclear escalation and asked him to write in return. Failing to get a timely reply (despite its publication in Pravda), Smith also reached out to the embassy in Washington, DC before in April of 1983 the General Secretary responded himself, with a personal invitation to visit the Soviet Union. More on Smith’s tour and brief but impactful legacy at the link up top.

Saturday, 11 June 2022

e.t. phone home

Premiering in US theatres on this day in 1982—following its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in May—the Steven Spielberg and Melissa Mathison collaboration featuring the acting talents of Henry Thomas, Peter Coyote, Dee Wallace and Drew Barrymore is a retelling of Peter Pan framed by the director and producer’s own suburban childhood and experiences of his parents’ divorce. An extra terrestrial botanist accidentally left behind on Earth befriends a human boy and his siblings and tries to find a way to reconnect with his scouting mission whilst thwarting attempts of government scientists trying to capture and study him. The iconic, arresting scene of E.T. and Elliot’s flight to the forest is an homage to the magical realism of the 1951 Miacolo a Milano by Vittorio De Sica of a poverty-stricken community in post-war Milan who are cheated out of a potential windfall, reprimanded by angels for harnessing supernatural powers but nonetheless are free and eventually escape on broomsticks.

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

ash heap of history

In town for the Queen’s thirtieth jubilee celebrations (plus on a grand tour of the continent) and having already expressed his characterisation of the Soviet Union as an “evil empire,” Ronald Reagan delivered his Westminster Speech before the House of Commons on this day in 1982, declaiming that, “I believe we are now at a turning point…the march of freedom and democracy will leave Marxism and Leninism on the ash heap of history.” Though coined at the end of the nineteenth century by essayist and politician Augustine Birell, the last notable evocation of the phrase before Reagan’s was by Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky, referring to the Menshevik faction that staged a walk-out in protest of the All-Russian Congress of the Soviets in 1917. A full transcript of the speech can be found at the link.

Saturday, 4 June 2022

they’re here

Released on this day in 1982 from an adaptation of a story by Steven Spielberg and featuring the talents of JoBeth Williams, Zelda Rubinstein, Heather O’Rouke, Craig T Nelson and Dominique Dunne, the parapsychological thriller follows a suburban California family whose home is haunted by malevolent ghosts who abduct their younger daughter, Carol Anne, having inexplicably carrying on with a television set airing post-broadcast static. While the rest of the family is sent away for safety and having determined that the nature of the intrusion is a poltergeist, the ghost-hunting team summon spiritual medium Tangina Barrons who locates Carol Anne on the other side and guides her mother through the gateway to retrieve her, Barrons triumphantly proclaiming, “This house is clean!”

Monday, 2 May 2022

the sinking of the general belgrano

Originally built as a Brooklyn-class cruiser for the US Navy and surviving Pearl Habour and sold to the regime of Juan Perรณn in 1951 and named after Argentine naval instructor and founding figure and with a loss of life totalling almost a third of the casualties of the entire campaign, a UK submarine torpedoed and sunk the warship, with a three-hundred and twenty-three members of its full compliment of eleven hundred perishing at sea, on this day in 1982. Following the April invasion of the Falkland Islands in response to occupation by the Junta, the UK declared a Maritime Exclusion Zone around the Malvinas and any armed vessel entering those waters would be subject to attack. Though outside the zone of exclusion, signals interception and a change in bearing suggested that the Belgrano was a threat and a legitimate target, though the fateful decision in this senseless war is still debated and whether the act was a war crime or the target was a lawful one is a matter of controversy, although most in the Argentinian navy concede the ship had taken an offensive tack. Whilst most media outlets maintained a neutral stance, the British tabloid The Sun reported on the story with the incredibly tasteless headline “Gotcha!” in early editions, arguably toning it down a bit with the front-page re-titled to “Did 1 200 Argies drown?” Tensions escalated and two days afterwards, the HMS Sheffield was sunk by a missile strike with a truce called after seventy-four days of fighting.

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

da da da ich lieb dich nicht du liebst mich nicht aha aha aha

Released as a single on this day in 1982 from the band’s eponymous debut studio album, Trio’s hit song (I Don’t Love You—You Don’t Love Me) was a worldwide sensation, topping the charts in over thirty countries. With repetitive lyrics by Stephan Remmler and set to minimalist music by Gert Krawinkel, it is categorised as a product of the Neue Deutsche Well—New Wave—though the group would rather it be classified, despite the subject, as Neue Deutche Frรถhlichkeit—that is cheerfulness.

Sunday, 6 February 2022

dass modell / computerliebe

The first West German act to chart in the UK in the latter half of the twentieth century, the double single (A-side and B-side) from Kraftwerk (see previously here, here, here and here) first rose to number one on this day in 1982 and held its place for twenty-one weeks.  This success led to the group’s first concert tour.  From their eighth, bi-lingual studio album Computerwelt, the thematic tracks dealt with the effects of technology and computers on society, the songs debuted in May of the previous year with the likes of “Pocket Calculator,” “It’s More Fun to Compute” and “Heimcomputer.”

Saturday, 5 February 2022

skytrain

Offering regular long-haul service from London-Gatwick to JFK International in New York, West Berlin’s Tegel, and Hong Kong with routes to the Caribbean, Gran Canaria, Polynesia and so on, Laker Airways—founded in 1966 as a private charter company by Sir Freddie Laker—was one of the world’s first low-cost carrier, a casualty of the economic recession of the early 1980s had its last flight and declared bankruptcy on this day in 1982 with debts in excess of £270 million making it the largest corporate failure in Britain at the time. Second only to the shorter-lived though equally pioneering Loftleiรฐir of Iceland, the story of this entrepeneurial venture is at one and the same time both inspirational and cautionary, ahead of its time and informing later no-frills airlines and last-minute bookings plus democratising exotic travel, while also helping to draw out the worse aspects of the industry with over-capacity, ghost-flights, territorial hubs and the attendant negative impacts on the environment.

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

worldwide pants incorporated

On this day in 1982, shortly following the cancellation of his mid-morning variety talk show and keeping a similar format with the same supporting cast, NBC debuted Late Night with David Letterman. Prior to the host’s entrance on stage accompanied by dancing girls and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto № 1, Larry “Bud” Melman recited the prologue of Boris Karloff’s character in Frankenstein. The evening’s guests were Bill Murray (Letterman’s final guest thirty-three years later) and Don Herbert—TV’s Mister Wizard—and included man-on-the-street interviews and another reading from an obscure Bela Lugosi film, the 1949 Bowery at Midnight. Initial reception was mixed but the premiere critically drew a significant audience-share from Tom Snyder’s The Tomorrow Show.

Sunday, 30 January 2022

elk cloner

Among the first computer viruses released in the wild—that is, not restricted to a single laboratory or network, and contagious in the general population, fifteen year old student Rich Skrenta created on this day in 1982, developed the year prior, self-propagating code as a prank, doing no harm to the host computers, the Apple II models, nor their vector, shared floppy disks with computer games and other software passed around by members of a local computing club, eventually becoming an irksome bug revealing itself after a set number of iterations of running the programmes—having already taken up residence in the host and infecting subsequent disks inserted with the user witlessly spreading it. Cheeky and harmless as it was, this experiment boded of vulnerabilities ahead.

Friday, 28 January 2022

boss level

Airing for four seasons from 1982 to 1984 on the Turner Broadcasting System and then in syndication, the competitive arcade game show was moderated first by Mark Richards and Geoff Edwards, but for this unaired pilot screened for a test audience, it was hosted by the accomplished Alex Trebek.

Saturday, 8 January 2022

baby bells

Though not coming into force until the first of the year in 1984, the consent decree mandating the breakup and divestiture of the Bell System’s monopoly, vertical integration of telephone services in the US and Canada was finalised on this day in 1982. American Telephone & Telegraph could still provide long-distance services but was subject to competition and could no longer require subscribers—locally use telephonic equipment produced by its subsidiaries. The regional companies were independent and control of the Yellow Pages—the telephone directory—and the research and development branch, Bell Labs, were decentralised and given to the successor holding companies.

Monday, 27 December 2021

machine of the year

The franchise quite the subject of speculation and a holiday dinner topic of discussion not reserved just for those in business of superlative journalism, annuals or even necessarily consumer electronics, TIME magazine—breaking with a tradition stretching back to 1927, for the first time on this day announced that to a computer would go the distinction on this day in 1982, ahead of the publication of its 5 January 1983 edition. Introducing the special issue’s theme, the publishers wrote that “several human candidates might have represented the year,” with reportedly Steve Jobs quite upset he didn’t receive the honour, but the panel decided that the hardware would be best viewed by history as limning the times and marking the beginning of an era and way of life once the exclusive domain of hobbyist into something more accessible (see also) and mainstream. Though perhaps not as pervasive nor fully articulated, the kernel of most things we do with computers—the Cloud called mainframes back then and algorithms less opaque. Articles for the magazine that uniquely covered the only human-made object to be awarded the honour were composed on typewriters and layout done by hand, though in that coming year, the departments would begin to use word-processors.

Saturday, 2 October 2021

how does it feel when you got no food?

Released mid-September as a single from their debut studio album, The Youth of Today, the song from the British-Jamaican reggae band topped the UK charts this week in 1982 with their bowdlerised cover of The Mighty Diamonds’ 1981 tune “Pass the Kutchie,” a slang term for a cannabis pipe from the patois for Dutch oven, which excised and substituted all drug references for poverty, launching the song’s popularity outside of the Caribbean community. The original line “How does it feel when you got no herb?” became the above but with dutchie itself becoming synonymous with a marijuana joint. Give me the music—make me jump and prance.

Sunday, 29 August 2021

eka-iridium

First synthesised on this day in 1982 at the Darmstadt Institute for Heavy Ion Research (GIS, Gesellschaft fรผr Schwerionforschung) the synthetic meitnerium (Mt) was given the above provisional designation following Grigory Mendeleev’s nomenclature for undiscovered atomic elements—the convention becoming a placeholder shortly before its discovery with the controversy over the honours and naming-system being overhauled.
The research-team wanted to recognise the previously overlooked contributions of physicist Lise Meitner for her pioneering work in nuclear fission and her co-discovery of the element protactinium with Otto Hahn. Curium being named for both Pierre and Marie Curie, meitnerium is the only element named for a non-mythological woman. Because of its half-life of mere seconds even in the most stable isotope, few of its chemical properties are known though study continues, and its periodic neighbours, hassium and darmstadtium, are both named for the above laboratory.