Tag Archives: 1990’s

Kodak PCD-250 Photo CD Player (October 1992)

You know, as of late I’ve been neglecting the whole “old electronics” portion of this blog quite a bit. This was brought into a particularly sharp focus recently by a spate of comments on my older posts regarding the subject. The answer was clear: People like reading about this stuff, but even before that I had noticed that those posts tend to get decent viewership.

So, I knew I needed to write about something electronic-related again. The timing of this realization turned out to be fortuitous, because look what I brought home from the State Road Goodwill just last night: From October 1992, it’s a Kodak Photo CD player! A Photo CD player! Just look at it up there! It’s the PCD-250, and as an artifact of 1990s technology, it’s tough to beat…

…Which is good, because beyond longingly gazing at it, I can’t find much other practical use for the beast.

(As such, this isn’t going to be a super long post.)

You can click on any of these pics for a larger view, which will hopefully alleviate the symptoms of my inability to find a decent viewing angle to snap these shots. (Hey, I did the best I could.) Above is a closer, full-on view of the control panel. Nothing too out of the ordinary; you’ve got your starts, stops, opens, closes, shuffles, and so on. Without closer inspection, one may very well think it’s an ordinary CD or even DVD player. Indeed, Goodwill had this notated as just a CD player on their price tag. That was technically correct, especially in this day and age, but back when it first released, there was a bit more to it than that.

Just what is a Photo CD system, and why am I so enamored by it? Wikipedia has a wonderfully detailed write-up on the line, but the short of it is that in the time before digital cameras and DVDs and what have you, the Kodak Photo CD system allowed you to view your photos, your very own homemade photographs, on television. Think of it as an evolution and/or offshoot of the vacation slides people used to bore their friends and family with.

A DVD-era mindset would say that you could burn a CD loaded with pictures for play on one of these things, but that mindset would be dead wrong. Remember, this is early-1990s technology; burning a CD on your computer wasn’t exactly as matter-of-fact then as it is now. (Or was, what with CDs seemingly being on their way out – much to my chagrin.)

So how did you get your sad snapshots from the camera to disc to player? Kodak had Photo CD centers, and much like you dropping off film to be developed (remember when you had to do that? I do!), you’d take your precious cargo to one to be transferred to CD, and from there, you could view digital slides of all the stupid things you thought were worth archiving digitally – including those embarrassing early-1990s fashions that would soon come back to haunt you somethin’ fierce.

It’s the kind of technology that’s so commonplace nowadays, I wouldn’t think twice about burning a bunch of my idiotic photos to disc and watching them on my DVD player (if I had that much time to waste on my hands, and luckily I’m not quite there…yet). But for 1992, this was a neat piece of tech. Unfortunately, the transitory nature of electronics, and the introduction of affordable digital cameras and PC photo formats, and so on and so forth, it all eventually doomed the line, and while it limped along for several years, it was never quite a rousing success.

Kodak Photo CD players used their own compact disc format, and while I initially figured maybe burning some JPEGs or something to CD and throwing it in would be enough to properly test the machine, a quick online search told me I was severely mistaken. Apparently there are ways to mimic the format and burn to CD, but a cursory glance at such prospects left my head swimming just enough to where I abandoned the idea. (Besides, I don’t know if that’s technically legal or not.) So, for all intents and purposes, the Photo CD aspect of this unit, the main reason it was put into production, is barred to me.

Still, the thing powered up, and aside from the CD-drawer not quite closing all the way without a little help from the user, it appeared to be fully-functional. I have no reason to doubt the Photo CD portion still runs correctly, but near as I can tell, I have no way of proving it. And to make matters worse, upon plugging in and powering on, nothing shows up on-screen, so no neato screencaps for y’all, either.

About the only thing I can do with the machine is play audio CDs. Luckily, I had a spare copy of Bruce Springsteen’s Human Touch lying around, and what better way to test a 1992 piece of technology than with a 1992 album? So in it went!

Above: You can see the player gives a readout of the total CD running length, as you’d expect, and it does run audio pretty well. Human Touch sounded really nice while playing here; there was an odd, I don’t know, kinda ‘thumping’ sound on what seemed to me to be higher notes, but for all I know that was just a result of the chords I was using. I could have listened to the whole album this way and not been bothered, so obviously it was a pretty minor issue. Maybe the lens just needs a cleaning, I don’t know. I suppose it doesn’t really matter though, does it?

(On a side note: Human Touch isn’t one of Springsteen’s more well-regarded albums, especially when compared to Lucky Town which released on the exact same day. But personally, I’ve never found it that bad. There are some weak moments for sure, and the sound belies the labored late-1980s/early-1990s production time, but I maintain that had he merely pruned it of two, three, or maybe even four of the lesser tracks, there would be a more positive lasting image of the album. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s The River Part II or anything, but nevertheless, methinks there’s enough good stuff on Human Touch to merit a purchase. I’ve always liked it as a whole, and as an artifact of 1992, well, to me it’s wildly appropriate to play on a Kodak Photo CD system, okay?)

Around the back of the machine, you’ve got some standard inputs and outputs. RF out, antenna in, your red-white-yellow jacks, a channels 3 or 4 selector, and the part I found most interesting, an S-Video jack.

S-Video was around, obviously, but I don’t think it had quite become an industry standard yet, so to see it implemented by Kodak was a nice touch. Hey Photo CD system, you’re on the same page as Super Nintendo! Well done!

Next: Hooray for poorly-lighted and too-blurry photos! This isn’t the kind of thing I’d want playing on my Photo CD system!

Still, there’s your proof: October 1992. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t.

Geez man, October 1992; I was all of six-years-old! I didn’t even have my Super Nintendo yet! (That would come at Christmas ’92.) Maybe one of the coolest things about picking up old technology like this nowadays isn’t so much what it can or can’t do, but rather it’s the ability to look back and realize this was what was cutting-edge then! Sure, it’s been hugely, hugely supplanted in the years since, but like I said before, that’s just the transitory nature of the beast.

So there you have it, the newest addition to my big giant stack of electronics: A Kodak Photo CD system from October 1992. I can’t really do much with it, except play audio CDs (and I’ve got plenty of other devices that can handle that), but as a piece of early-90s tech, I still like having it. I can’t promise I’ll ever do much more with it, and I’m a little disappointed I can’t (easily) play photos on it, even if for no other reason than to be as arbitrary as possible, but for only $5 I say it was still worth adding to my pile of junk electronics collection.

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VHS Review: Godzilla (1998 Widescreen Version)

You know, I originally had a whole different post planned for a late-July update. It didn’t happen, with the result being that now I’m scrambling to get something up before the end of the month, lest the blog become, uh, update-less. Or something like that.

This actually works out perfectly though, because recently I’ve been mega-nostalgic for the late-1990s of my youth, and since we are now in the thick of summer, things from these months in particular. In that arena, I’ve got something that strikes more than a few chords.

Behold: To your left, it’s the 1998 US remake of Godzilla, that product of Hollywood that, for a few months at least, dominated the American entertainment front. (And yes, I know the movie actually released in May, but I still think of it as a late-90s summer blockbuster, and thus, that’s where I’m coming from with this article. May counts, right?) I had already fallen in love with the original Godzilla movies by the time this came out, so to be around for a brand new theatrical adaptation? Too cool! (Nostalgic Bullet Point #1 = CHECK!)

‘Course, this isn’t just the ’98 Godzilla, it’s the ’98 on Godzilla on good ol’ VHS, and therefore you should be having visions of Blockbuster Video right…about…now. (Nostalgic Bullet Point #2 = CHECK!)

‘Course, this isn’t just the the ’98 Godzilla on VHS, either; it’s the widescreen version. Cool winnins! Now, while I’ll never claim this particular release to be rare, anyone that regularly hits thrifts stores and whatnot up like I do knows there’s at least a 90% chance you’ll find the regular full-screen edition on any given visit. No joke, it’s uber-common. The widescreen edition, however, is not as commonly found.

This tape strikes particular chords with yours truly not only because it’s ‘Zilla and it’s VHS, but also because of my dad. No, he didn’t take me to see this in theaters; I didn’t see any of the film until it hit home video. (Not for any particular reason, I just never went to the movies all that often; still don’t, truth be told.) Rather, it was the “home theater” TV set-up dad put together. Hi-Fi 4-Head VHS VCR, surround sound, the whole deal. Even though we generally (always?) went the full-screen route with the VHS tapes we bought, it was a darn impressive home theater, especially sound-wise. I could be in the other room or downstairs, and as soon as I heard that booming rumbling, I knew someone was watching a movie! (Nostalgic Bullet Point #3 = CHECK!)

So yes, this tape, even though we didn’t have this particular version then, it absolutely takes me back. I’m not sure how much nowadays, but back in the 1990s, getting the theatrical “experience” at home was a pretty big deal. And that’s where these widescreen releases came in. Judging by their relative scarcity, I’m assuming they were more of a niche market, but for those that wanted the whole picture (as in aspect ratio) with their movies, they were a must.

Like I said, anyone that regularly scours the VHS sections of thrift stores undoubtedly comes across the normal full-screen Godzilla on a regular basis, and as such, should be familiar with that textured (embossed) dark green sleeve peering out at them, probably sandwiched between 19 copies of Titanic and that one sports bloopers tape you can’t believe anyone ever wanted. Whatever your thoughts on the movie itself may be, you can’t deny Columbia Tristar gave it wildly attractive packaging. Well, you can deny it, but I won’t believe you. Either way, it’s a perfect artifact of late-1990s home video. (Nostalgic Bullet Point #4 = CHECK!)

This widescreen edition, however, changes things up a bit. Many widescreen releases of the time had the same general layout of the full-screen editions, often with only a banner along the top or similar, relatively minor, notation regarding the aspect ratio. Not so here; there could be no mistaking what you were getting with this one, with declarations not once but twice on the front cover alone. And, if you somehow missed the “Widescreen Presentation” at the top, the gigantic “WIDESCREEN” running down the right side of the cover had to have slammed you like the foot of ‘Zilla himself.

This comes at the expense of the full-screen edition’s textured cover however, and that hurts me deep. Instead, the artwork is, as you can see, squeezed into a box, and without said texturing. The black-and-green color scheme is attractive, and the overall presentation feels like something special, but to me it’s not as visually stunning as the more-common full-screen edition.

(The back of the box, except for the expected alterations to the aspect ratio information, is identical to the regular release, so if you live in some weird world where you immediately identify video tapes by the back cover first, that ain’t gonna fly here man.)

Oh, by the way, you can actually play the video! Go figure! Dig this…

Any kid growing up in the VHS era has to remember the strings of trailers and whatnot that often preceded the movie on major studio releases like this one. I mean, for people my age, there was Batman rushing out for a Diet Coke, that kid playing baseball before Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Hulk Hogan’s smash hit Suburban Commando trailer lurking before Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II. This stuff is indelibly burnt into my mind and, I’m sure, the minds of countless others my age. Sure, we could have fast-forwarded through them, but the fact so many of us grew up knowing Suburban Commando was a thing means we usually didn’t. Or at least, I usually didn’t. To me nowadays, these additional bits stand out to me as much as the movies they were preceding. And yes, I totally have “Right Field” stuck in my head now…

Anyway, Godzilla was no exception to this. Before the movie, you’ve got some previews! There was some trailer for The Mask of Zorro, but the main areas of interest for our purposes today are the two Godzilla-related bits.

First, an ad for Godzilla: The Series, an animated continuation of this very movie that aired on Fox Kids back in the late-90s. No, not this series, this series. I was a little too old to watch Fox Kids by the time this debuted, though from I understand it it had a more mature artistic style, and was probably aimed towards somewhat older audiences, but the fact remains I only caught fleeting moments of it. (Still, according to Wikipedia, it was a direct follow-up to the film, which I think is cool.)

After that, an ad for Godzilla: The Album, the official soundtrack to the movie that was about to start. I won’t say this soundtrack is as ubiquitous as the full-screen VHS Godzilla, but it’s up there. Wikipedia sez it was heavily focused on alternative-rock, and one look at that line-up of artists to the right seems to bear that out.

I never owned the soundtrack, though my cousin did. All I know is that the cover of “Heroes” was inescapable around that time, and naturally it shows up in this ad, which means it has now replaced “Right Field” in my head. Since I’m not a fan of even the original version of that song (“Heroes,” that is, not “Right Field”), I’m not especially enamored by this, though even I will admit that hearing it instantly places me in 1998, so far-reaching was the song back then.

So, Godzilla, the movie itself. That’s the title screen to the left, yo. As I said, I didn’t see it in theaters during release, though I was certainly excited for it. The Taco Bell tie-in promotion was sampled, and toys were collected. Even better, the wave of promotion brought forth reissues of many of the original Godzilla movies on VHS, some of which had become pretty hard to find prior. I think only Godzilla Raids Again and Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster remained MIA, though Destroy all Monsters got a first-ever US video release around that time, as did many of the heretofore unavailable (domestically) installments from the 1990s. It was great, and I fondly recall going to Blockbuster one night, seeing 1991’s Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah on the shelves along with a slew of other new-to-me entries, and just being blown away. This was completely unfamiliar territory to me!

(Of course, we saw the same wave of merchandising here in the DVD era when 2014’s Godzilla came out, and in the same wheelhouse, 2005’s King Kong remake, as well. I love these releases that show up whenever Hollywood puts out a new, mega-hyped remake! Indeed, they’re some of my favorite things about these updates!)

Anyway, Godzilla 1998. It featured a totally-new, iguana-like Godzilla, with extensive CGI animation to match, and since it was by the same guys who did Independence Day, the flick was a special effects extravaganza. In short, the kind of movie that instantly comes to mind when you (well, I) think of the American summer movie season.

All that in addition to a plot in which ‘Zilla stomps all over New York City, chases Ferris Bueller and the voice of Moe Szyslak around, and has a ton of baby Godzillas cause he’s now capable of asexual reproduction, well, it didn’t take long for negative word-of-mouth to strike the film. The longtime G fans naturally hated it, and because it was a loud, special-effects laden Hollywood product, the critics weren’t especially kind to it, either. Of course, the reactions from casual moviegoers, who were probably just looking for some entertainment and didn’t necessarily care whether the flick was faithful to the source material or not, varied as you’d expect.

Truth be told, in previous years I’ve been more on the negative side of the fence in regards to the film, though as of late I’ve taken a more positive stance on it. I don’t really see it as a legit “Godzilla movie,” but I think that’s just the trick needed. Taken on its own merits, yes it’s big, yes it’s loud, and no, it’s not exactly an exercise in intellectual stimulation, but for what it is, a product of late-90s Hollywood, it’s perfectly serviceable entertainment. Your mileage may vary of course, and I can certainly see someone being unable to forgive it for the Godzilla mythos it ignores and/or destroys, but me personally? Aw, it’s not so bad. I look at it the same way I do 2006’s theatrical Miami Vice; as an adaption of the original material, it’s not so successful, but as a standalone film taken on its own merits, it works.

You know, I spend so much time looking at ancient budget VHS tapes, it’s easy for me to forget that the format can look and sound really, really nice. Relatively speaking, of course; it’s still not digital quality, but as a product of a major studio, this widescreen version of Godzilla could (and probably did) show off entertainment centers equipped only with VHS pretty adequately. Also, an SP recording never hurts.

Here, you can see ‘Zilla busting out of what remains of Madison Square Garden. (His discovery that the lil’ baby Godzillas are now dead really irks him, by the way.) Maybe my screenshot isn’t the greatest in the world, but if nothing else, it gives you an idea of how this appears in action, not only due to the letterbox format, but also the quality in general. Trust me, it looks nice, though not without the expected VHS ‘grain’ (which only adds to the old school vibes of the tape, in my opinion – it’s a good thing).

Also, the sound; it has that booming quality I mentioned earlier! But then, why wouldn’t it? It’s a Hi-Fi stereo tape, played in a Hi-Fi stereo VCR. And bear in mind, I played this on my crappy beater VCR; had I run this through a high-end, or at least higher-end, deck, this would have all came off even better! Still, as it stands, it’s pretty impressive to me eyes (and ears).

Look, it’s 2017. Obviously my widescreen Godzilla VHS is now wildly, wildly obsolete. Not only format-wise, but also because there’s a new, mega-deluxe 4K Blu-ray release of the film. Have at it over on Amazon! That said, for the time this tape came out, unless you were a Laserdisc loyalist or an early adopter of DVD (I assume this released on DVD right away, anyway), this was the best version of the film for the common man-about-town, on a format basically anyone and everyone owned by that point. Laserdisc was still niche, DVD hadn’t taken off into the stratosphere yet, and VHS was king; that’s 1998 home video in a nutshell.

So, the next time you’re out thrifting, and you’re looking for a Hollywood special effects extravaganza by way of VHS, Godzilla, widescreen or otherwise, isn’t a bad choice, despite the infamy it has garnered over the years. You can sit back, let the sound and CGI envelope you, and turn off your mind for 2+ hours. Pretend it’s 1998 again; you’ll be happier that way. I know I am. (Though, you may have to contend with the hopes that the VCR doesn’t eat the tape; hey, I’ll never say 1998 was perfect!)

Beefin’ Up My Sega Genesis!

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“WELCOME TO THE NEXT LEVEL.”

So said the ads of the 1990s, and here, now, some 22 years or so after I should have gotten all that I could out of the system, I feel I have finally, finally reached that mythical “next level.” Bear with me for the duration of this post gang, because I’m about to incoherently babble about the quest and ultimate fulfillment of getting all that I possibly could out of my trusty Sega.

Now, you have no idea how much I love the Sega Genesis (known as the Sega Megadrive everywhere but in the US; it’ll always be a Genesis to me, deal with it bucky). Indeed, in the realm of my personal favorite video game consoles, the Genny is second only to the Nintendo Entertainment System; no two other systems hold quite such an esteemed place in this heart of mine, dubious honor that may be. In fact, the Genesis has the distinction of being the first console I ever purchased new with my own money, at the long-gone and much-missed Sun Electronics store that once resided a short distance from me. Ah, the 1990s!

Even though the Genesis alone is more than enough to rank among my top favorite systems, the fact that it can be expanded, and expanded mightily, only adds to the personal appeal. So then, just how do you go about beefin’ the console to maximum capacity? What more could possibly be added to what is generally considered one of the greatest video game systems of all-time? Well, by doing what so many gamers back in the 1990s did (or so Sega hoped), and what so many gamers continue to do (or so I hope): I’ve attached the Sega CD and Sega 32x add-ons to my console, that’s what I did! Look up above if you don’t believe me!

“y u doin this bro?”

It’s a question classic gamers probably wouldn’t ask, even though the CD and 32x add-ons, or more specifically their libraries, are often considered, well, kinda negligible. The gaming world at large, I’m not sure they’d get it, but since I give 0 about the current generation of consoles, and never stopped loving the systems I grew up with besides, this just feels right. Plus, this fits in to the current wave of 1990s nostalgia I’ve been riding as of late; even though I didn’t own these add-ons new back in the day, I still fully expect to continuously check my watch to make sure Boy Meets World hasn’t started yet whilst playing this big hulking mound of plastic.

“Wuts a cd 32x bro?”

As you may surmise, the Sega CD was an attachment that allowed for bigger, more powerful games and CD-quality soundtracks via, say it with me, compact discs. The 32x was a cartridge-based attachment that, as you also may surmise, gave the Genesis 32-bit capabilities and thus even bigger, more powerful games. Theoretically, anyway; general consensus is that neither attachment lived up to their potential on a regular basis, and I’m not sure I’d have been happy with them had I paid full price back in the day. Now though? There’s enough good stuff to make me feel I got my money’s worth – especially since I got ’em on the cheap years ago.

I had only limited experience with the add-ons prior; my cousin had both, and I recall once playing Sewer Shark on the CD and Star Wars Arcade on the 32x at his house, way back in 1995 or so. For all intents and purposes however, getting these attached to my Genesis was my first real experience with them, and therein lies my tale. So read on! (And please ignore some of the dust I neglected to clean before snapping photos; frankly, you’re lucky I even gave a cursory soft-cloth wipe-down before taking pictures.)

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Anyone reading almost undoubtedly has to know what a Sega Genesis looks like. For the .01% of you that don’t, up above is a model 1 Sega Genesis – bare, naked, unbeefed. This isn’t the Sega that I regularly use, and thus isn’t quite the subject of this post. Rather, this is just a spare I’ve wound up with. What, you thought I was gonna unplug all of the attachments just to get a photo of my “playing” Sega without the, as you would say, accoutrements? Think again, chief.

Actually, the system above was the console that the CD and 32x attachments originally came with. I picked the whole set up cheap at a thrift store in late-2010 – and then proceeded to do nothing with any of it. Despite the included mess of cords, I still didn’t think I had all of the necessary attachments, and it promptly became part of the messy mosaic of boxes that made (make) up my increasingly cluttered basement. I never regretted the purchase, because hey, most of the stuff was there, and the price was definitely right (especially compared to the climbing 16-bit prices nowadays), but it wasn’t until recent months that I decided to do something with the lot.

Y’see, the Genesis that I normally use, another model 1 which I picked up years ago at a rummage sale (to the best of my recollection), I’ve kept hooked up as my “playing” unit for quite some time. The room where I have it includes a big, beautiful, vintage Sony Trinitron CRT TV, with built-in speakers on its sides and a stand that also serves as another speaker. It’s my “go-to” classic gaming TV, and for awhile, I had a myriad of consoles daisy chained to it. Eventually I decided to declutter, and instituted a personal “only one system at a time!” rule for the TV, with the beater Genesis getting the nod. That’s the place it has held ever since, and luckily, my pretentious little rule doesn’t preclude add-ons, since it’s still technically only one console. This is important stuff, so pay attention.

I went with the Genesis as my console of normative choice simply because I have stacks and stacks of games (a library that includes more than a few all-time favorites), I’ve got plenty of spare consoles should this one die (yeah, like these things won’t outlive us), and there’s a lot of bases covered by it; legit 16-bit gaming, of course, but also 8-bit via the Sega Master System converter (the SMS is a system I absolutely adore and thus this aspect was a huge factor in my decision), plus, needless to say, now CD and 32x games are in the mix, too. Sega was the king of add-ons in the 1990s, and while that ultimately had a large part in crippling their future (more on that momentarily), for me right now, I love the options at my disposal.

So, as I steadily decided to expand my “playing” Genesis, I simply removed from that thrift store buy what I wanted to use on my ‘good’ console. I initially didn’t intend on using all of it, which I’ll explain in a bit.

When I bought my first Genesis new way back when, it was a model 2; a smaller, sleeker, more streamlined beast. I loved it, and still have it of course, but even then I liked the look of the first model more. There are certain positives and negatives regarding both variations, though the model 1 is easily my preferred choice – especially since the the SMS converter won’t fit on a model 2!

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Though not really the subject of this post, I mentioned that whole model 1/model 2 thing just now because the Master System adapter, the Power Base Converter, really did play a part when I was thinkin’ ’bout beefin.’

Via this converter, my SMS library has probably gotten just as much playtime as my Genesis games have. Now, I have an actual SMS, but again, that would require two consoles being out, which would start me on the slippery slope towards cluttering up mah space again. The Power Base Converter does pretty much everything a ‘real’ SMS can do (no built-in game, though), and aside from a few (but just a few) games not liking a Genesis controller (gotta use a legit SMS pad for Bomber Raid, dawg), I have no issues with it. Indeed, I love the lil’ feller, and it fills me with a burning rage that it kinda flies under the radar when the subject of Genesis add-ons are brought up at sophisticated dinner parties and whatnot.

So what was my concern regarding the converter? From how I understand it, the adapter basically acts as a pass-through, and all of the stuff to make an SMS game ‘go’ is already in the Genesis. However, when you attach a 32x, which allows you to play regular Genesis games through it (lest you have to un-hook & re-hook the thing every time the 16-bit fancy strikes you), I guess it somehow disables the whatever that allows the Power Base Converter to function. This hurts me deep, even if plugging the converter into the 32x would make the set-up the ugliest monstrosity in console history. The Genny ain’t exactly winning any awards in that area when all beefed up like this, anyway.

Simply put, taking the Power Base Converter out of the equation was not an option. This was non-negotiable. Luckily, I worked out a solution that, while still requiring some unplugging and whatnot, at least keeps my SMS-capabilities on the table; I will not bar myself from readily-accessible Rambo: First Blood Part II! (The SMS game I mean, not the movie – though I won’t bar myself from the flick, either.)

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What got this whole “Ah wanna upgrade mah Sega” thing started was actually the CD. Not Sega’s CD attachment, mind you, but rather the Turbografx-16’s. Or rather, the later TurboDuo combo console. I had been reflecting on my good fortune in obtaining the Duo several years back (it was still pretty expensive, but not “hold your head in your hands and weep bitterly” expensive like it is now), when I realized, hey, I play my Genesis much more than anything right now, so why not take the Sega CD plunge and expand a bit?

My first thought was to pick up a model 1 Sega CD, which was a big hulking unit with a motorized disc tray, and which sat directly beneath the Genesis. I had a chance to pick one of those up (with yet another Genesis) several years back too, at a decent-compared-to-now price, but unlike my TurboDuo, I failed to use my bean and decided against it. Mistake.

In all honestly, at first I didn’t even think of using the model 2 Sega CD that I already had and was currently languishing somewhere in my basement. Eventually, the gears started turning in my noodle, I dug the thing out, and I went to figure out how I could make it “go.” Initially, I only intended it as a placeholder until I could find a halfway-reasonable model 1 CD, and while I won’t say that option is completely off the table, I’d have to come across an original unit in-person and for a great price to make me drop some of my increasingly limited dough on it.

The model 1 Sega CD was first released in the US in 1992, and a year or so later, the redesigned model 2 CD came. Primarily intended for use with the Genesis model 2, the second iteration of the Sega CD used a pop-up disc tray lid and sat next to the Genesis. Luckily for me, this revised Sega CD works just fine with the model 1 Genesis. (Which makes sense, since it came with one when I first brought it home!)

As I said before, when I originally bought my Genesis/CD/32x set-up from the thrift store, I didn’t think I had all the right cables and whatnot. Just looking at the back of this Sega CD, the numerous ports had me confused. Sure, the power supply is self-explanatory (and luckily mine came with one; same as a model 1 Genesis power supply), but the rest? Separate AV jacks? “Mixing?” What have I gotten into?! No wonder I threw all this stuff in a box and let it sit for almost 7 years!

Fortunately, a quick look online revealed that I did indeed have the bare minimum to get this thing running. All I had to do? Connect it to the Genesis’ expansion port, plug the power supply in, and bingo! The Genesis handled the rest! Cool winnins! (There are some metal RF shielding plates that came with the CD, which you screw in the bottom of the Genesis to both better prevent RF interference and to attach it more securely to the CD. I had these and did indeed attach them, but they’re not absolutely necessary.)

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The Sega CD had garnered a decently-sized library before being discontinued in 1996, though oddly enough, as soon as I got mine hooked up, I was sort of at a loss as to what I was really going to go after (barring one exception). The fact my player had been sitting around my basement for nearly 7 years had me wondering if the thing even still worked. A quick trip to a nearby thrift shop yielded me a cheap copy of Bill Walsh College Football, purchased solely for testing purposes (I’m not a college football fan, and frankly, I’m not huge on 16-bit football games in general). Maybe not the best demonstration of the CD’s power, but it told me that my Sega CD was indeed operational.

My first real Sega CD game, as far as one I wanted goes, was Sol-Feace, a terrific horizontal shooter that was actually a pack-in with the original release of the Sega CD. While maybe not a stellar showcase of the CD’s abilities (except for the soundtrack, which I dig), it’s still a blast, and saves me the trouble of tracking down the Genesis cartridge port (titled Sol-Deace; Phil Moore always had fun saying that title on Nick Arcade).

After that was the CD port of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Unlike many Sega CD games, which were just enhanced versions of Genesis games, Dracula is actually a totally different game from the ‘regular’ edition. Featuring actual clips from the movie, digitized characters, and backgrounds that rotate as you pass through them (think Fleischer Popeye), it’s an impressive title for 1993, and unlike the last two games, a real showcase of what the Sega CD can do. Okay, technically it’s a mediocre, single-plane Beat-‘Em-Up, but it looks so neat that I wound up being fond of it nevertheless.

But actually, it was Final Fight CD, which you’re looking at live and in action above (in a shot crummily taken of it playing on my TV because I don’t emulate; it looks better in real life, trust me!), that was the main driving force behind getting me to hook up the CD. Y’see, I’m a Beat’ Em Up junkie; it’s quite possibly my favorite genre of video games. Heck, I pretty much bought the TurboDuo just so I could play the Japan-exclusive port of Double Dragon II. So yeah, Final Fight CD might as well be considered my personal “killer app” here. My conclusion? It’s a very good port, infinitely superior to the SNES version, and with a great, kickin’ soundtrack. My only real issue with the game is the same issue I take with all Beat-‘Em-Ups of its ilk: It tends to be cheap. The difficulty doesn’t so much ramp as it sucker punches you. I’m always up for a challenge, but I find that aspect of the game severely irritating. As far as the Genesis goes, I find both Streets of Rage and Streets of Rage 2 to be superior fighters.

Still, despite some warts, Final Fight CD is my favorite title thus far on the Sega CD. Yes, it was worth hooking the add-on up for!

Currently on the want list: Even though I’ve never been huge on the normal Genesis edition (I’m firmly in the Super Nintendo camp when it comes to games based on the movie), I do intend on picking up the expanded version of Batman Returns. Also in the same vein, and because I’m, as previously stated, a Beat ‘Em Up junkie, the expanded Sega CD port of Cliffhanger is one I’d like to add to the library. Star Wars: Rebel Assault, the PC version of which I grew up with, is a title I’d really like to get, even though intellectually I know it was never a very good game, even back then. Also, Afterburner III, because I do loves me some Afterburner. The Sega CD library is littered with full-motion video titles (a real relic of the ’90s!), and while the thought of most of them make my eyes glaze over, obtaining one or both Mad Dog McCree titles is appealing, simply because, like Rebel Assault, I grew up with with Mad Dog II on the PC. (Unlike Rebel Assault though, I always found Mad Dog II pretty fun.) And of course, I needs me some Sonic CD, too!

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Finally, and for purely cosmetic reasons, I bought the extender piece that attaches to the far-left bottom of the Genesis and slides into the CD base. It doesn’t do anything but make the whole set-up look better; otherwise, the edge of the model 1 Genesis hangs off the side of the model 2 CD. Still plays fine, but looks ugly. Hence, extender piece. I wugs u extendo peece.

The more I think about it, the more I think that a particularly appealing thing about the Sega CD is that it’s such an early-1990s throwback, and not just in release date, either. Back then, CD was this new, wondrous format; just hearing “CD-ROM” today reminds me of getting the latest Sierra adventure games for the PC on CD – 3.5 floppies seemed so outdated after that! To get that same experience on a console, it had to be pretty cool for cutting-edge gamers of the time, and it’s still fun to revel in now, even if the revolutionary aspects have, of course, dimmed in the years since.

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Ah, and that brings us to the the Sega 32x. The infamous Sega 32x. An attachment conceived to give the Genesis 32-bit capabilities, extend the life of the console, and bridge the gap between the Genesis and looming Sega Saturn, the 32x could very well be (and has been) considered the opening salvo in Sega’s demise as a console-maker. The add-on was a notorious flop, with only about 40 games released for it, and it was only on the market for 2 years or so. Even worse, it destroyed much confidence in Sega as a company, and coupled with some unwise decisions and relative commercial failure of the Sega Saturn (commercial failure, mind you, because it certainly has a huge cult following), Sega could never quite get back on track, even when they should have with the terrific Sega Dreamcast.

‘Course, in my case, I got the 32x so many years after all that, that there were only two real factors in deciding whether I should extricate it from its resting place and hook it up to my ‘real’ Genesis: 1) Were there enough games to even make it worth the effort? And, 2) what about my Power Case Converter? As I said before, that thing apparently won’t run whilst plugged in to the 32x (however, and also as I said before, you can run regular Genesis cartridges through it no problem, except for Virtua Racing, which the 32x has its own port of anyway). Like I mentioned earlier, rendering the Power Base Converter useless was non-negotiable in my eyes. I eventually found a not-perfect-but-livable solution, which I’ll explain in a bit.

(Like the Sega CD, the 32x has metal plates you’re supposed to install inside the Genesis cartridge slot, and while I have them, you don’t absolutely need them – also just like the Sega CD. This is a good thing, because they would hamper my just-mentioned SMS-solution, and besides, I don’t know where I put the things anyway.)

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You know, even though there are far fewer games in the 32x library than there is the CD, there were a handful titles that I wanted to play more than any other, save Final Fight CD. Namely, Star Wars Arcade, Doom, and Virtua Fighter.

Star Wars Arcade was a launch title for the 32x in 1994. Based on the 1993 arcade game (as opposed to the 1983 vector Atari arcade game), it’s a very good space-shooter, and an excellent demonstration of the 32x’s polygon abilities. Plus, it was the one 32x game I played back in the day. Still, I haven’t spent a ton of time with this one yet.

Doom, on the other hand, has gotten far more playtime than I expected. I heard conflicting stories about this port, from it being good to it being, uh, not. And you know, even though the music is weak, the framerate sometimes stutters, there are levels missing, and some save states are desperately needed, for a time I could not get enough of this game! *I* think it’s a good port, even if, technically it’s not a great one. Plus, while it may be anathema to admit this, I’ve always preferred Wolfenstein 3D to Doom; since there was no port of the former on the 32x, the latter wins by default.

But as far as 32x favorites go, I think I have to give the edge to Virtua Fighter (above, again in a sad, off-the-TV shot), a terrific port of the revolutionary 1993 arcade game. Using polygonal models, it may not look like much now, but it’s a fantastic demonstration of just what the 32x could do when harnessed properly. It even compares quite well to the later Sega Saturn port! There was a time when I was big into the 3D one-on-one fighters, so this version of Virtua Fighter really does take me right back. Plus, I always wished that Sega had made a big beefed up Genesis port using the same technology they did for Virtua Racing; it never happened (though an okay, albeit 2D, port of Virtua Fighter 2 did show up late in the Genesis lifecycle), so this cart satisfies that ‘hunger’ somewhat.

Currently on the want list: Mortal Kombat II received a 32x port that’s seemingly pretty good, which is fortunate, since I love the regular Genesis version. Furthermore, there are well-regarded ports of Afterburner and Space Harrier that I definitely want. Knuckles Chaotix seems like an interesting Sonic spin-off, and the masochist in me wants to try Motocross Championship, even though it’s supposedly one of the worst things ever – and Youtube vids seem to bear that out. Also, I wouldn’t say no to Spider-Man: Web of Fire, should I find it cheap at a yard sale (yeah, right). Yes, there are fewer personal “wanted” games for the 32x than there are for the CD, but truth be told, the ones I want for the 32x I want more. Go figure!

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As you may well imagine, running all of this results in a real mess of wires, not to mention three separate power adapters. Look up above if y’all don’t believe me! And, the 32x was a real pain to get hooked up satisfactorily. You can’t just “plug it in” like the Sega CD. I didn’t think I had all the necessary cables here either, though it turns out I was only missing one – the most important one (figures). Online searches on what exactly I needed wound up making my head swim, especially when they got into what was needed to get true stereo sound out of a 32x plugged into a model 1 Genesis (which only outputs mono sound). I’m usually pretty good at figuring these things out myself, but here, after numerous tries, I kept finding myself hopelessly confused.

So, here’s what you need for the 32x:

1 – A power adapter, of course. The 32x uses the same style as the Genesis model 2. Mine came with one, and even if it hadn’t, they’re easily found.

2 – Genesis 2-style AV or RF cables. Mine came with an RF box, which was fine with me until I realized I was gonna need AVs not only for better picture (remember, I wasn’t using the shielding plates, which did result in some irritating static), but also for a very specific reason I’m coming to. A quick trip to eBay yielded me some (cheap) AVs, though I soon learned the hard way that normal Genesis 2 stereo AV cables don’t work; you get picture but no sound with them plugged into the TVs AV ports. Nope, here you gotta have mono Genesis 2 AVs in this situation. Evidently they came with the 32x originally. So there went a bit more money for the cause, but they worked. Of course, you’ll only get mono sound in this scenario, but stereo isn’t that important to me here, and besides, figuring that aspect out takes me back to head-swimmin’ territory. Enough of that noise.

3 – Here’s what I didn’t originally have, and also what resulted in the most confusion on my part: The 32x AV mix cable. You see, you have to route from the Genesis AV port to the 32x with this cable in order to see everything correctly, via the “AV out” port on the Genesis and the “AV in” port on the 32x. Not so hard to understand, except the Genesis 1 and the Genesis 2 use different AV ports, and the model 2 port is the same one as found on the 32x. So, the 32x originally came with an adapter that fit the cable into the Genesis 1. It sounds so simple now, but figuring out what people were talking about, again, had my head swimming. I actually had to go to a video game forum and ask where I was at with what I had. Since the original adapters for this cable are pricey nowadays, I opted for a third party cable that’s specifically built to connect the Genesis 1 to the 32x, and I’ve had no complaints.

So, what about my beloved Power Base Converter? Just how was I gonna play SMS games without doing some serious un-hooking? Well, it’s not an ideal situation, but since I now have AV cables for the 32x, and thus normally run all of my Genesis-needs through those, I simply plugged and left my model 1 RF switchbox into the TV, and whenever I feel the need for some SMS, I’ll take out the 32x, unhook the AV cables from the Genesis, plug the RF cable back in, and have at it. No, it’s not as quick and easy as I’d like, but the effort is fairly minimal, and besides, I can still keep all of my stuff in one location, on top of my big honkin’ TV.

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And so, there it be: A model 1 Sega Genesis, loaded, cocked and ready to rock, with a Sega CD and Sega 32x attached, and though not pictured, a Power Base Converter at the ready. Yes, it looks like a big plastic lump sitting on top of my TV. No, I don’t care; in one sitting I can play Rambo III, Virtua Fighter, Final Fight CD and Vigilante if I want, and that’s a thing of beauty.

You know, I was there for the tail-end of the 8-bit era, but basically grew up during the 16-bit generation, not to mention the 32/64-bit years. After that, my interests progressively waned generation-by-generation. But 8-bit and 16-bit, that’s where my gaming heart always truly stayed; I upgraded over the years, sure, but I never stopped loving the consoles and/or eras I grew up with. Since most of those formative-gaming-years took place in the 1990s, man, this beefy monstrosity of a console really does take me back, even if I didn’t actually own most of it when it was new.

And on the subject of the 1990s, I’ve come to consider the Sega Genesis the definitive 1990s console. Let me explain: I’m not necessarily saying it’s the best console of the 1990s; that’s of course subjective, and I absolutely adore the Super Nintendo, which was my first system ever (Christmas of 1992, baby!). Plus, the 1990s also held the 32/64-bitters, and it’s safe to say the Sony Playstation dominated the second-half of the decade handily. (Though for sheer late-1990s-ness, the Nintendo 64 seems to fit to me, too.)

But when I think 1990s gaming, the Genesis defines so much of what comes to mind. Here’s a system that hit the US in 1989, and stuck around until 1998 or so. (Wikipedia says 1999!) The sleek, black console itself, sure, it looks like a product of the decade (even if it technically wasn’t when regarding my preferred model 1), but also the many different trends and styles of gaming it demonstrated. From the 8-bit sensibilities (with 16-bit graphics) of the early titles, to Sonic, to the innovative, technically-impressive stuff being produced in the later years.

And beyond the games themselves, there was the ‘aura’ of the console; the loud, in-your-face marketing (“Blast Processing,” “SEGA!”) and general aimed-at-adults attitude. It all seems so overtly 1990s now. And of course, it’s also the additional features (some might say gimmicks) such as the Sega Channel, and, naturally, Sega CD and 32x add-ons, that all make up the “1990s-ness” of the Genesis. Sega ultimately wound up shooting themselves in the foot by doing “too much” with the system, but as an artifact of the mid-1990s, man, this beefed-up console just screams “1995!!” to me. I love it!

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Looking for a succinct picture to sum up my super-charged Sega Genesis? This one right here seems to fit the bill. The classic 16-bit Sega Genesis, being upgraded to the aforementioned “NEXT LEVEL.” In one system I can take part in genuine 16-bit greatness, venture into the then-fairly-new world of CD-ROM, take a peak into the future with 32-bit gaming, or take a look back at the past with 8-bit gaming; how cool is that?! Do I need any more reasons to keep all this on top of my Trinitron for the foreseeable future? I posit that I do not.

SEGA = BEEFED, and I couldn’t be happier with the results!

Toshiba SD-2006 DVD Player (April 1997)

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Hey, remember when I used to occasionally look at old electronics here at the blog? No?! I don’t blame you; it’s been approximately 97 years since we last saw a post like this.

Mostly, it’s been because I just haven’t found any really worth writing about. That’s not to say I haven’t picked up some neat old VCRs and whatnot while out and about, there have been a few decent purchases, but nothing that would get me sufficiently fired up enough to babble about them for the duration of a post. Simply put, my thrift visits as of late have included the customary electronic searches, but they’ve almost all be fruitless affairs.

But then, this happened, and it made all the wasted efforts totally worth it. A recent visit to the Village Discount Outlet thrift on Waterloo Road found your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter, from a cool winnins-standpoint, more or less striking out yet again, until I finally decided to take a closer look at the DVD player that had been continuously staring at me from the electronics shelf. This proved to be one of the wiser decisions I’ve made, as the ensuing revelation of just what this was not only turned my electronics-fortunes around in one fell swoop, but also caused me to babble like a veritable maniac.

“Yo, what’s the big deal about a DVD player bro?” It’s not just a DVD player, fictitious example of a tool. Okay, maybe on the surface it is, but that’s not really the point. No no, this is a Toshiba SD-2006, and the historical aspects of it outweigh any of the things it actually, uh, does. Why’s that? Besides the stamping of April 1997 on the back, which is way early for a DVD player anyway, this site tells me that this was one of two models Toshiba released at the same time on March 19, 1997. Oh, and those also happened to be the first two DVD players ever released in the US.

THAT’S why this is cool winnins.

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And it still powers up! When I realized just how special this machine was at the thrift store (due in part to a quick online search via my cellphone; thanks technology!), there was already a better-than-good chance it was coming home with me. But, I still had to go through the usual mental checkpoints before I could plop it down at the check-out counter, even if said mental checkpoints were mostly a formality this time around.

1) Was it in good condition? Definitely, exponentially so. Even had the remote with it!

2) Did it function? I plugged it in and did as much testing as I reasonably could, and the prognosis was positive. Just lookit that cute lil’ disc-tray in action up there!

3) Was the price right? At $15, which is about $10 more than *I* like to pay for any old electronic found at a thrift store, not really. But you know what? Screw it. You only go around once, and this was such a cool piece of 1990s technology, I just couldn’t resist. It didn’t hurt that I had been wanting an early DVD model for my collection, and frankly, it doesn’t get much earlier than this.

I actually made several sweeps over the electronics section before I decided to take a closer look at this SD-2006. Even though I had been on the lookout for an earlier model, many DVD players tend to have a same-y look to them, which causes me to (usually) pay substantially less attention to them. Seriously, go to your local thrift store and check out their DVD players selection, and just see if your eyes don’t glaze over after about 10 seconds of player-gazing. (That sounded weirder than I intended it to.)

I think that’s why I eventually made a real examination of this SD-2006; it just didn’t doesn’t look like the common, garden-variety DVD device we’ve become accustomed to over the years. There’s a sleek, streamlined, late-1990s sensibility to the casing; it actually reminds me of some VHS VCRs from around that period. I’m not sure it’s a look that could have lasted in the mainstream much longer than it did, but for the home entertainment centers of 1997, it’s perfect.

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According to that previously-linked site, the two models Toshiba released that day were this SD-2006, and the SD-3006. From how I understand it (and a quick online image search bears this out), they were both identical except the SD-3006 had more outputs and whatnot along the back. There was apparently a $100 price-difference between the two because of this.

Which means that my SD-2006, with only A/V, AC-3 and S-Video outputs (and an audio selector), was the lower-end model of the two. Just look at it above if you don’t believe me. Please don’t take that to mean this was a cheap electronic, though; it still retailed for a whopping $599. No kidding, this was the end-all, be-all of home entertainment at the time. (Well, nearly so; $699 got you the model with more outputs, so I guess that was actually the end-all, be-all.)

Considering I can go to the grocery store and get a new DVD player for like $20 nowadays (albeit probably not a good DVD player), to look back at when this was the innovation in home video, and a pricey one at that, it’s astounding. DVD players are everywhere today, but, nearly two decades ago, this was the living end, man. Can you dig it?

Has it really been almost 20 years since DVD hit the US? I refuse to believe it’s been almost 20 years since DVD hit the US.

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See, April 1997. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t.

Before I busted out the cellphone and discovered the true historical aspects of this model, all I knew was that April 1997 was pretty early in the DVD-era. I had the vague notion in my head that DVD was around in the US in 1996, though obviously I was incorrect there. Nevertheless, when I investigated the fine print on the back and saw the date it was manufactured, my eyes popped figuratively (literally?) out of my head.

Prior to finding this, I really had been on the hunt for an earlier DVD player. There was no practical reason for this beyond a fondness for vintage (can 1997 now be considered “vintage?”) electronics. In the months preceding the find, I did buy a cool five-disc RCA player, dated 2000. It worked fine, and it looked classy, but it didn’t quite satisfy the hunger, and I was doing nothing with it, so I eventually donated it to Time Traveler Records.

My fascination with the relatively primordial era of DVD is due to a few factors. First of all, from how I understand it (and correct me if I’m wrong here), while the format was around prior (duh!), it didn’t really take off until Sony’s Playstation 2 was released in 2000. An affordable gaming system that’s also a DVD player? No wonder PS2 was one of the biggest selling things ever! Apparently this opened up the market and introduced the format to a whole new segment of consumers, which in turn helped make DVD the de facto video format, a position it tenuously maintains to this day. (Though I have no idea where Blu-ray or all this streaming crap falls into the equation right now.)

But more importantly, this model symbolizes the almost-mythical aura higher-end video formats such as this held for me at the time (and it’s important to emphasize that this was strictly my personal viewpoint). Keep in mind, I was only about 11 years old when this player was manufactured. I was already an avid tape collector, which made sense, because VHS was basically it. Oh sure, there were Laserdiscs, but in my eyes they were just some vague high-end format Leonard Maltin mentioned in his guides and that filled the first few rows of Best Buy’s movie section; no one I knew had a Laserdisc player. And that early in the game, no one I knew had DVD, either. Certainly not that I can recall, anyway. In fact, until it really took off, DVD was just something that was “in the background” to me; something that was advertised, something for sale at the store, but not something anyone I knew actually had.

Honestly, it was the same feeling with Turbografx-16 and (at a certain point) Sega Genesis earlier in the decade, too. Being a Nintendo kid, I’d see the magazine advertisements for those systems and their games, but they were simply some mystical thing for sale somewhere; they really weren’t on my radar otherwise. Eventually, Sega was on my radar when it took off big time, and it became the first console I ever bought new with my own money, but the TG-16 remained an advertised-but-not-seen curio. (I mean no knock on the Turbo though; it took awhile to get one, but I wound up loving that console, too.)

Am I making any sense here?

My admittedly-garbled point is, or was, that VHS was so predominant and the format everyone had, that everything else was kind of ‘obscure’ in my eyes, for lack of a better descriptive term. It wasn’t until the early-2000s when DVD began dethroning VHS that I really started paying attention to it. So, to find a DVD player manufactured when VHS was still king and would continue to be for a few more years, I find that wildly interesting.

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Unlike the vast majority of the old electronics that enter my collection, the SD-2006 came with the original remote! And bonus, it wasn’t so grimy that I’d have to wear a hazmat suit just to look at it! Nice surprisins! For the life of me I can’t figure out where the batteries go, but there’s apparently some still in there, because the player responds whenever I bash on the remote with my meaty paws.

Also, dig the cool “Toshiba” branding stamped on the top of the casing. Sign o’ quality, man.

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So, the thing was in good cosmetic shape, and powered up, but that doesn’t mean much if it won’t actually play a disc. Because this was more of a collector piece than anything for me, if it didn’t play correctly, I wasn’t gonna be too irked. I’ve got approximately 6000 devices that will run a DVD if need be; I’m pretty sure my toaster will even load one if I ask it nicely enough.

Still, it’s obviously preferable that my SD-2006, you know, works. Someday, when I have far too much money (and even more time) on my hands, I imagine I’ll put together a “1990s entertainment center,” which will spotlight electronics from the decade. An appropriate TV, VCR, Laserdisc player, and even a Betamax (I do have the last US model from 1993, baby!), and perhaps even a video game console or two will round out the set-up. This, of course, would serve no other purpose than for me to be as arbitrarily pretentious as humanly possible, but it’s a thought that amuses me nonetheless. I envision similar set-ups for 1970s and 1980s electronics, as well.

Damn I’m pathetic.

Anyway, when I brought the player down here to take pictures and do further testing, mere feet away loomed my spare copy of the M*A*S*H Season Six DVD set. I have DVDs more from the “era” this model was manufactured, but I wanted to test with something that might pose more of a ‘challenge’ to the player; conventional DVD wisdom is (or was) that some older models had problems with newer discs, specifically dual-layered discs, which this M*A*S*H set is. Season Six was released on DVD initially in 2004, and this was the repackaged version from 2008. So, all kinds of new (newer) DVD to put the player through the paces. Plus, M*A*S*H was within arm’s reach.

Also, doesn’t Season Six, Disc One look cute residing in the tray up there? Maybe I wanted to write this article merely as an excuse to use that pic, you don’t know.

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Well, it certainly appears to be reading something!

(He said as if he didn’t already know the results and wasn’t merely posting this picture to keep the flow of the article going. Still, you get a nice look at the actual display of the model. Exciting, isn’t it?)

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There are no real graphics to be seen upon firing up the player and loading a disc; you get a blue screen and declarations of no disc, loading, and so on and so on. What, you need fireworks? The promise of crystal clear digital video isn’t enough for you? DVD came to improve your viewing experience, and you return the favor by spitting in its face. Real nice, you analog barbarian.

I’m not sure if it’s because this thing has been well-used, or simply because it’s such an early example of the format, but it seemed to me that it took a bit longer to load the the disc than what would be acceptable nowadays. Or maybe my perception is just skewed and the load time was perfectly reasonable. I tested this through the video capture card on my PC, and there is a slight delay between what I input and what appears on-screen, so I don’t know.

Not that I really care; it’s not like I’m pressed for time when sitting down to watch a DVD anyway, and I’d totally expect an older device to take a bit longer loading a disc. I’m not criticizing here, merely observing.

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It lives! And it looks really, really nice. I’m not sure what I was expecting, honestly, but the picture was nice, stable and sharp. ‘Course, this isn’t a VHS VCR, so perhaps a dull surprise there. Still, unless you were expecting Blu-ray quality, for a device that’s nearly 20 years old, picture-wise it’s still quite passable.

I didn’t play a ton of M*A*S*H, but for what I did see, there wasn’t any skipping or freezing. That’s not to say there wouldn’t have been some later on, had I kept going, or that a cheaper disc would play flawlessly too. But as of now, no problems to report.

Above, you can see not only the picture-quality, but also the incredible subtitles-feature in action, as well as the info display. Update your diaries accordingly. I’m furious multi-angle isn’t present.

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I doubt the SD-2006 is a particularly rare or sought-after model. I’d guess when newer, more feature-packed players began coming out shortly thereafter, the prices for these steadily decreased. Today, it’s probably not worth much more than the $15 Village Discount had on it, if even that.

Still, it’s such a cool historical piece, and the date of April 1997 on the back only enhances that. This represents the dawn of the digital video age in the US as we now know it. Is it wildly outdated now? Well, sure; that’s just the nature of technology. That doesn’t bother me in the least, though. I mean, this entire blog is about obsolete TV and TV-related things, after all. Now that I think about it, this may be the most advanced electronic we’ve seen here.

It takes a lot to get me excited over an old DVD player; they’re a dime-a-dozen, and I come across so many of them while out thrifting that I barely notice them anymore. Needless to say, I’m glad I noticed this one.

Plus, would there be a more-1997 way to watch Batman & Robin? That just seems like the kind of flick I should have playing on this thing continuously in the background. Maybe when I put together that 1990s entertainment center…

ProScan VHS VCR Model No. PSVR81

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It’s all about the contours with this one. I’ve got so many VCRs at this point that anything outside of the mid-1980’s ‘sweet spot’ almost has to be all about the contours (in other words: it’s gotta look cool, or have enough features to make up for not looking cool, which in and of itself is cool. Dig?). And boy, this unit has “style” to burn; the sleek black casing and overall elegant design practically scream “classy product, yo!” Which is why I pretty much flipped when I happened upon this deck at a thrift shop recently. It actually took me a moment to realize it was a VCR; at first glance the design, as well as the fact that the flap-door blends right in with said design, fooled me into thinking this was a stereo receiver or something. The second I realized it was instead a slick-lookin’ VCR, it became mine (well, I held on to it for dear life; it didn’t *technically* become mine until the appropriate amount of cash was thrown down at the register, but you know what I meant).

I have only limited experience with ProScan products, but according to this Wikipedia article, they seem to be on the higher-end of things. The sole ProScan product I had prior is the best Laserdisc player I’ve ever owned: a really terrific unit with auto-flip (i.e., no getting up to flip the disc) and some other snazzy features. This is the player I always have hooked up (yeah, I still watch Laserdiscs from time to time; love ’em) and it has always performed like a champ. So yeah, what experience I have with ProScan has been 100% positive.

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I don’t know what year this hails from, but my gut told me around 1995, and this page more-or-less confirms that feeling with a “1994-1995.” It looks like a product of the 1990s, but in a good way. I’ve mentioned time and time again my ambivalent feelings towards the electronics of the era, but there are exceptions, and this unit more than any other qualifies.

(The deck I talked about in this post exemplifies the “cheap 1990s” look I usually avoid; strangely, that post and the VCR it’s about I had both completely forgotten about until it showed up on my WordPress dashboard as having been viewed by someone recently. It took me a moment to even remember where I stored the thing; that’s how forgettable some 90s electronics were/are!)

Eagle eyes will notice that this deck uses the VCR Plus+ get up. I never had any first-hand experience with VCR Plus+, but basically you could input the number codes found next to listings in TV Guide and whatnot into the VCR and it would automatically record the program. I don’t think I ever had a deck that used VCR Plus+ (back in my ‘real’ taping days, I mean), I always manually set the VCR timer, which wound up being a good thing, because I got complete versions of programs that would have been cut-off by running over their timeslot otherwise (VCR Plus+ didn’t adjust for that sorta thing, from how I understand it).

Oddly enough, despite the fact it means fairly little in regards to a VCRs functionality, at least nowadays, I’ve seen units with the VCR Plus+ moniker marked higher than other VCRs at thrift shops and the like. Maybe that’s just skewed perception on my part, but it sure seems like that’s what folks are doing, and if so, it fills me with a burning rage you can’t begin to fathom.

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The thing actually says “Hello” when you turn it on. That’s adorable. It’s a small touch, but it adds an even more classy quality to a machine that already looks pretty darn spiffy. Sure, it’s just a small gimmick that doesn’t really mean anything, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

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Remember that time I gushed about the audio level readout in this post? Of course you don’t. Anyway, I always get a kick out of it, particularly on newer (relatively speaking) units such as this one. I could be dead wrong on this, but it seems like this was a feature that was by and large phased out on VCRs as the 1990s progressed. Again, I could be dead wrong on that, but I know that I’ve found far fewer 1990s decks that sport audio levels when compared to 1980s VCRs.

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In addition to the usual fast forward/rewind/play/stop buttons, the PSVR81 also features this stylin’ jog wheel, though I still call these “swing shuttles,” which was Sony’s (and others?) name for the feature. It lets you access pause, slow-motion, etc. Admittedly, I never really use the jog wheels, but I also admit that they look really cool to me. Anytime I come across a deck with a jog wheel, it’s almost assuredly a must-purchase (unless preliminary testing proves that the deck doesn’t work correctly).

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The not-immediately-noticed panel along the bottom of the front features a number of other options, including a button that awards the ability to record in all three speeds (SP, LP, SLP), blank search, input select, and a set of AV input jacks. Unfortunately, I’m not seeing tracking control anywhere on the unit, which means it was almost certainly a feature accessed via the remote, which was MIA with this particular VCR.

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On the back: AV inputs and outputs and antenna in-and-out jacks. See, PSVR81. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t.

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As with any thousand-year-old VCR, the million dollar question is “how does it work?” This PSVR81 runs incredibly well. Maybe it was serviced at some point in the past, but I have a feeling it was just well-maintained on top of being high quality in the first place. All of the functions perform like new, and the picture is terrific. Me being me, of course I used an old Magnum, P.I. tape for screencap purposes, because no VCR would dare chew up Magnum (but just in case, I tested tapes I didn’t care as much about beforehand).

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This really is a fantastic machine, and it must have looked swanky as all get-out in mid-1990s entertainment centers. While the design isn’t identical, it actually would compliment my aforementioned ProScan Laserdisc player nicely, if I didn’t already have too many things hooked up in that particular center. I don’t know if I’d take take this deck over some feature-packed models from the mid-to-late-1980s, but this is certainly up there as one of the best 1990s VCRs I’ve ever found while out and about. Personally, it’s probably a tie between this and that Goldstar as my favorite *as far as thrift/second-hand store finds go* (a high-end Sony Hi-Fi VHS VCR from 1990 that I bought online is my best and favorite of the decade, period).

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Just for fun, there’s my three latest thrift store VCR acquisitions. The Goldstar I talked out before is on the bottom, this ProScan on top (duh!), and in the middle a fairly decent Toshiba I nevertheless couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to write about. It’s a nice machine, but the real reason for my purchasing it? Jog wheel man, jog wheel.

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Adorable.

GoldStar GHV-8500M Hi-Fi VHS VCR

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I found this absolutely terrific VCR at the State Road Goodwill two days ago. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a really good VCR/electronics find, at least one worth writing about, but boy, I fell in love with this one the instant I laid eyes on it. There was some random guy in the general vicinity of it when I first spotted the beast, and your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter was indeed prepared to do some violent shovin’ if it came to it. It didn’t, though. It never does.

It’s a GoldStar GHV-8500M Hi-Fi VHS VCR, complete with cool flip-front door to protect the precious insides. There doesn’t seem to be a lot about this particular model online. A Northeast Ohio Video Hunter exclusive?! Bonus cool winnins?!?! I’m not pathetic enough to believe THAT, but still, it doesn’t appear that this is an especially well-remembered model.

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The sad fact of the matter is I just don’t have many GoldStar products. As far as VCRs go, most of the GoldStars I come across are newer, cheaper-looking models, and thus are quickly passed up in lieu of other things more befitting my increasingly limited funds. This one though, it just looks classy. I can’t find a date on it anywhere, and online searches turned up only a kinda vague 1990-1991, but the style of it looks early-1990’s to me. I want to guess 1993, because the flip-front door (which is really what attracted this thing to me in the first place) reminds me of the last Betamax ever released in the U.S., the SL-HF2000. Not exact, of course, and nowhere near as cool, but reminiscent nevertheless.

Anyway, my 1993 guesstimate isn’t that far off from 1990-1991. It’s from somewhere around there, at least.

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Boy this thing is slick. It absolutely seems like a higher-end model to me. It’s Hi-Fi, it’s got the cool flippy door, and it’s got extra RCA jacks in the front. SIGNS O’ QUALITY, MAN. The number of options found inside the flip-door isn’t the most extensive ever seen on a VCR, but the few found here is still more than many other units from the same time period (in which you’ll have the standard power-play-rewind-fast forward-pause-eject buttons, the channel select buttons, and not a whole lot else.)

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There’s the back of the unit. More RCA jacks. Helpful power cord. So now you know. See, GHV-8500M. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t.

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The side of the unit, featuring some slick an’ stylish contours. So now you know. The molding on the side ultimately doesn’t mean anything, of course, but it does give the underlying impression that this model is “somethin’ special,” I s’pose.

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I absolutely love the fact it has a digital read-out of the audio levels. More evidence it may have been a higher-end unit. The cheapo models I’ve come across don’t have anything even close to that sort of thing. Usually, when I come across VCRs with this feature, the audio levels are found in the form of LEDs. I think I prefer them in the classic green and red LED form, but that’s no knock on the digital version found here.

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Luck o’ the Irish, it works! When I tried the unit out in Goodwill, sans any kind of picture obviously, it seemed that it worked fine except that it acted a little wonky when rewinding. At only $5, I gladly took the chance, because as previously stated, I really like this thing. But now that I’ve had the sucker hooked up, I can see that it was just reacting to the old-school memory counter hitting 0000. I really, really don’t like this type of counter; my feelings towards this style falls somewhere between annoyance and outright rage. I didn’t think anyone was even still using that system by the early-90’s, but hey, there it is. It’s probably the only thing about this VCR I don’t like, but since it’s not like I’ll be using this thing 24/7, it’s not too big of a deal.

Speaking of the counter, I can’t get any kind of related-display to show up on the VCR itself. I’m thinking this was a feature only accessed via the original remote. Since the original remote did not come with this unit, it’s a feature seemingly forever barred to me.

One more thing: when you insert a tape, the VCR practically vacuums it in. This isn’t a fault with the unit, it’s clearly how it was designed to handle tapes, and just like the superfluous molding on the side, it makes you feel like you’re going first-class.

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From start to finish, this is a slick unit; it must have displayed terrifically in the home entertainment centers of the early-1990’s. It has just enough late-80’s/early-90’s style to look, erm, stylish, but still fairly simple overall without going the full route to straight-up cheap lookin’ (that is to say, it doesn’t look as low-quality and generally unappealing as many of the VCRs manufactured in the 1990’s tend to, despite the plasticy gray appearance.)

Works good, looks good, this one’s definitely a keeper.

Zenith VRL2110 VHS VCR.

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In the past, I’ve mentioned by general dislike for ‘newer’ VCRs; that is, anything mid-1990’s on-up. Of late, however, I’ve had a softening of heart regarding these obsolete beasts. True, I still prefer decks from the mid-to-late-1980’s, but I guess I can live with the newer, cheaper models. That said, I haven’t had a good, ‘old’ VCR find in the wild for some time now, so maybe my resolve is just weak. I’m an enigma that way.

…Wait, did I seriously just say that my resolve is weak in regards to VCRs, and that somehow makes me an enigma? That’s dangerously close to the stupidest thing I’ve ever written on this blog, and that’s really saying something!

I found this sucker at Goodwill last night for the low, low price of $6, which truthfully was a dollar more than I would have preferred paying, but it really has been quite awhile since I’ve bought a VCR, any VCR, from the joint, so screw it. The deck is, as the title so aptly states, a Zenith VRL2110 VHS VCR. I have no idea what year it’s from; there’s no date to be found anywhere on it. I’m gonna say “circa-1995.” Could be from a few years earlier, could be from a few years later, or I could be dead wrong from the get-go. There’s just no way to be sure.

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What I am sure of is that, regardless of when it came out, this certainly isn’t even close to a high-end VCR. If anything, this model sort of exemplifies everything that makes up my (usual) reluctance to purchase decks from this era of VCR: cheap plastic casing, no special features whatsoever, and the sixth-sense-like feeling that just looking at this thing cross-eyed during playback will cause it to eat my tape with so much reckless abandon. Also, the facts it’s clearly marked as having only 2-heads and it is not a stereo VCR are also red flags. they didn’t stop me from buying it though, so what am I even complaining about? Plus, it’s not like there weren’t cheaper VCRs in 1980’s.

‘Course, it’s a Zenith, a brand I’ve had good luck with in the past in regards to vintage electronics, so that’s a good thing. A low-end Zenith VCR is still a Zenith VCR, after all. I can live with 2-heads, but I do really wish it was Hi-Fi.

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It may be made of plastic, but it does have a cool rounded look to the front of the unit that I find appealing. Also, I’m mildly surprised it records in all three modes: SP, LP and EP. For a deck clearly intended for the decidedly more frugal purchaser, I would have expected only SP and EP. The front brags about on-screen programming, but since no remote was included, those features are evidently forever barred from my usage. Oh the pain…oh the torture…

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See, Zenith, VRL2110. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t. If you didn’t believe me, you could have looked at the front of the unit, but I guess that would have been too easy. Nothing I do is ever good enough, is it? I thought I had a picture of the A/V jacks on the back, but apparently I don’t, and I refuse to drag the VCR out for another picture taking session. Simply put, it only uses the yellow and white jacks, no reds. Trust me on this.

I can whine about how cheap the thing looks all night and/or day, but that would be ignoring the figurative elephant in the figurative room: does the sucker work? I have no shortage of tapes to use as test subjects, but a title I purchased along with this VCR last night will serve that purpose nicely…

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An ancient, 1984 copy of It’s A Wonderful life, from back when that title was public domain (it’s not anymore, is it?) There’s something about Video Film Classics and their big giant clamshell boxes that always make me snap them up with lightnin’ quick speed, despite their artwork being of only the most generic quality. Plus, I really, really like It’s A Wonderful Life, and the sheer number of old budget copies I have of it is, quite honestly, semi-embarassing. I mean, it’s not like I have a hundred or anything, but there’s probably enough to last me a lifetime.

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The moment of truth. Will I soon be delighted with classic Christmas images and the everlasting adorableness of Donna Reed, or will I be crushed beyond belief when the damn VCR chews the tape beyond the point of no return (he asked as if he didn’t already know the answer prior to this post)? Also, isn’t the lil’ red light on the power button cute?

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It lives, it lives! And aside from fast-forwarding and rewinding, which, thanks to there only being 2-heads, is pretty tough viewin’, it works pretty good. It’s a nice surprise, considering it really can be difficult to find VCRs of this particular vintage in working condition. ‘Course, as previously stated, it ain’t exactly a high-end model; this is not a machine you’d use to make the best possible DVD conversions of VHS tapes, but it’ll do in a pinch.

As for It’s A Wonderful Life, there are worse prints out there, or at least were out there. I wasn’t expecting much from it, but it looks nicer than I’d have guessed it would. Maybe it looks even better when played on a higher-end VCR. Or maybe the screencap above is an accurate representation of the tape’s quality. I now see the folly in my choice of testing (i.e., I should have used a flick that’s a bit newer and high-res.)

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There it be, my Zenith VCR from 19–. Is it the best VCR in my collection? Hardly. Is it the most notable VCR in my collection? Not even close. Will I ever use it again? Who knows. And yet, for some odd reason, I really don’t mind plunking a cool $6 for it. It means no harm, it’s just out there doin’ it’s thing, despite the numerous odds stacked against it. Maybe there’s a life lesson for all of us, buried deep in there somewhere.

Or maybe I just had no idea how to end this post.