Tag Archive | 1970’s

When PONG was King

The original video game

November 29, 2022

Back in the 1970’s life was much simpler. There were no personal computers; no cell phones; no video games. To entertain ourselves, we would tune in to the local radio station and listen to the hits of the day; we might go for a drive – if our parents let us use the car; we’d call our friends on the phone and, perhaps, meet at the local pizza parlor; or we might hang out at the local arcade and drop quarters in a pinball machine.

THIS is what the excitement was all about…

It was on November 29, 1972, when the first hint of the coming electronic age poked its head up out of the ether with the introduction of the earliest of all electronic games: PONG by Atari.

I could attempt to explain to anyone born after 1970 what Pong was, but will let the Infallible Wikipedia do the heavy lifting for me:

“Pong is a two-dimensional sports game that simulates table tennis. The player controls an in-game paddle by moving it vertically across the left or right side of the screen. They can compete against another player controlling a second paddle on the opposing side. Players use the paddles to hit a ball back and forth. The goal is for each player to reach eleven points before the opponent; points are earned when one fails to return the ball to the other.”

Okay, I know, I know. All you Gen-Xers, Millennials, and Gen-Z types are saying: “Really? That’s what you thought was fun back in the 1970’s, Boomer?”

Yes. Yes we did.

The Infallible Wikipedia continues: “The Pong arcade games manufactured by Atari were a great success. The prototype was well received by Andy Capp’s Tavern patrons; people came to the bar solely to play the game. Following its release, Pong consistently earned four times more revenue than other coin-operated machines. (Nolan) Bushnell estimated that the game earned US$35–40 per day (i.e. 140–160 plays daily per console at $0.25 per play), which he described as nothing he’d ever seen before in the coin-operated entertainment industry at the time. The game’s earning power resulted in an increase in the number of orders Atari received. This provided Atari with a steady source of income; the company sold the machines at three times the cost of production. By 1973, the company had filled 2,500 orders, and, at the end of 1974, sold more than 8,000 units.”

1972 Pong Arcade game from pongmuseum.com

I cannot say for sure when Pong first entered my consciousness. My arcade hopping days were a few years later and I can assure you that my mother would not have let me near one anyway. But I did have something which exposed me to the early games: older brothers.

It was likely my eldest brother – nine years my senior – was all agog over Pong. From the earliest days of electronics, he was in to it. Really in to it. No doubt he went to arcades and played Pong, looking to extend a win streak or earn a high score, responsible for giving Nolan Bushnell a bunch of quarters.

When, probably at Christmas 1975, the first home Pong gaming console was released, my brother brought it to the house where we grew up and everyone got a chance to try their hand at the game. All that Christmas there were whoops of joy and cries of dismay as games were won and lost. While I no doubt played Pong, I was never that in to it. I really didn’t get the attraction of moving a little line up and down one side of a screen trying to ‘hit’ a little blinking thing.

By the early 1980’s, the arcade version of Pong became a relic of the past as newer, more involved electronic games like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong took their place. (I wrote about them here: https://barbaradevore.com/2017/10/10/pac-man-fever/)

Similarly, the dedicated ‘at home’ gaming consoles eventually were able to feature multiple games in the form of interchangeable cartridges.

Atari stayed at the top of the heap for a few more years with the introduction of a dedicated gaming console. The Infallible Wikipedia shares:

“The Atari 2600, initially branded as the Atari Video Computer System (Atari VCS) from its release until November 1982, is a home video game console developed and produced by Atari, Inc. Released in September 1977, it popularized microprocessor-based hardware and games stored on swappable ROM cartridges, a format first used with the Fairchild Channel F in 1976. The VCS was bundled with two joystick controllers, a conjoined pair of paddle controllers, and a game cartridge—initially Combat and later Pac-Man.

(snip) The Atari VCS launched in 1977 with nine simple, low-resolution games in 2 KB cartridges. The system’s first killer app was the home conversion of Taito’s arcade game Space Invaders in 1980.”

A ‘gotta have it’ Christmas gift of the 1970’s

My brother, however, did not go with the Atari but invested in the Commodore VIC 20 which was an early home computer system which had a whole bunch of compatible games for it. I have a distinct memory of being at my brother’s  home in Ballard in the early 1980’s and we are all huddled around the TV in their small sitting area, watching as my brother and the hubby battle it out over some game.

I imagine it’s difficult to imagine the thrill of those early games when compared to the sophistication of today’s technology. Yet, it had the power to make us all sit up and notice and be in awe of things we’d never seen before.

As is my custom, I do try to ferret out how I might have been involved with whatever my Tuesday Newsday topic might be. Which led me to my small collection of diary’s from the early to mid-1970’s.  I was rewarded with this gem from December 31, 1973:

The “Upper Valley (DeMolay) New Year’s Eve dance was tonight. It was slow at first. I danced some. Once with Alan, and twice with his friend. Then towards the end Sally and Julie and myself were dancing with Tony, Cory A., and some other guy. It was a fun dance. We went to Pizza Pete’s afterwards but I didn’t eat anything. I played electronic Ping-Pong with Lee L., Kev, Mike K., and beat them. I played Tony and lost.”

Oh, us crazy Boomers. Such wild things! Did we know how to have fun or what!?

Of course, the links:




Casey Kasem

“Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”

April 27, 2021

For anyone who was a teenager in the 1970’s, these words were said by the one person who – each week – united millions of baby boomers.

That person was Kasey Kasem, born April 27, 1932.

Casey Kasem in the early days of American Top 40

For those who are younger than about 40, you can be forgiven for not knowing WHO Kasey Kasem was. But for the rest of us he was the voice of American Top 40, a weekly radio countdown show which began in the summer of 1970.

Kasem began his career in radio, but branched out to pursue acting. He only found limited success in television and movie roles. It was his distinctive voice, however, which catapulted him to fame.

From the ever Infallible Wikipedia:

“Kasem acted in a number of low-budget movies and radio drama. While hosting “dance hops” on local television, he attracted the attention of Dick Clark, who hired him as co-host of a daily teenage music show called Shebang, starting in 1964. Kasem’s roles on network TV series included Hawaii Five-O and Ironside In 1967, he appeared on The Dating Game, and played the role of “Mouth” in the motorcycle gang film The Glory Stompers. In 1969, he played the role of Knife in the film Wild Wheels, and had a small role in another biker movie, The Cycle Savages, starring Bruce Dern and Melody Patterson, and The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant (also with Dern).

Kasem’s voice was the key to his career. In 1964 during the Beatlemania craze, Kasem had a minor hit single called “Letter from Elaina”, a spoken-word recording that told the story of a girl who met George Harrison after a San Francisco Beatles concert. At the end of the 1960s, he began working as a voice actor. In 1969, he started one of his most famous roles, the voice of Shaggy on Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! He also voiced the drummer Groove from The Cattanooga Cats that year.”

The creation of American Top 40 – which he devised in collaboration with three other individuals – is what made him a household name. He was the on-air voice of the program for the next 18 years.

For many Baby Boomers, Kasem was like a friend we’d never met or an older brother. None of us probably realized he was of our parents’ generation. He seemed to ‘get’ us and our music.

When he left AT40 in 1988 it was due to a contract dispute. He then created a competing countdown known as Kasey’s Top 40.

He later regained an ownership interest in AT40, once again doing the countdown for several years. Additionally, he continued his voice acting work well into his late 70’s.

Ad for AT40 in a trade publication

By the fall of 2013, it became known that Kasem was suffering from either Parkinson’s disease or Lewy Body Dementia (it’s unclear which it was). From then until his death in June 2014, a fight over his care erupted between his second wife and his children from his first marriage; the travails of that fight spilled into the pages of the tabloid press for the next six months.

It would have been exactly the sort of story he would have shared on AT40; one filled with conflict and intrigue, definitely tabloid worthy.

I think, perhaps, it was his storytelling ability which was most compelling. He ferreted out interesting facts about the musical artists, the songs, and songwriters and you could tell he was truly interested in what he was sharing. This, to me, is much like writing Tuesday Newsday each week as great part of the enjoyment of writing is in researching and learning new things.

Despite the rather messy situation at the end of his life, I think Kasem filled his years doing what he loved. There is no better way, in my opinion, to live one’s life except to find and pursue the thing which brings you joy and fulfillment. Certainly he faced challenges – just like all of us – but on whole it would seem that his chosen path led him to the top of the charts . We should all be so lucky to live such a life.

The link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casey_Kasem

Answer to the Facebook question is for the other three besides the ATF photo, are all voice characters of Casey Kasem: Shaggy, Robin, Cliffjumper

Alan Alda

January 28, 2020

Made His Mark On M.A.S.H.

This actor has been nominated for Emmy Awards 34 times and won 6, the majority for his role as the irreverent realist Hawkeye Pierce in the TV Series M.A.S.H. January 28 marks his 84rd birthday.


A few of M*A*S*H’s original cast members: Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, and Loretta Swit

Alphonso Joseph D’Abruzzo, aka Alan Alda ,was, for the 11 years M.A.S.H. was on CBS, one of the most popular and recognizable actors of the 1970’s and early 1980’s. Although the series was based on a 1970 movie of the same name which starred Donald Sutherland in the Hawkeye role, Alda embraced the persona and made it his own during the TV shows run. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Between long sessions of treating wounded patients, he (Hawkeye) is found making wisecracks, drinking heavily, carousing, womanizing, and pulling pranks on the people around him, especially Frank Burns and “Hot Lips” Houlihan. Although just one of an ensemble of characters in author Richard Hooker’s MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, in the television series Hawkeye became the center of the M*A*S*H unit’s medical activity. In the television series, he becomes the Chief Surgeon of the unit early in the first season.”

Unlike the notorious skirt chaser Hawkeye Pierce, Alda was married in 1957 to Arlene Weiss. Their nearly 63 year marriage produced three daughters and eight grandchildren. In the TV series, Hawkeye never marries but has an unending string of relationships with nurses and enticing female visitors to the 4077th.

One interesting tidbit I learned about Alda – and one which may have contributed to his being able to play his M.A.S.H. role convincingly – is that he spent six months in Korea as part of the US Army Reserve in 1957. The Korean hostilities were long since over, but his experiences in the ROTC followed by a year in the army likely provided him a true understanding as to the ways of military life.

During the M.A.S.H. years, in addition to his role as Hawkeye, Alda gradually became one of the show’s writers, producers, and creative consultants. In all, he either wrote/co-wrote and/or directed 36 of  M.A.S.H.’s episodes. He is also the only actor from the series to appear in all 256 episodes.

Alda, according to firsthand accounts, was not easy to work with. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“For the first three seasons, Alda and his co-stars Wayne Rogers and McLean Stevenson worked well together, but later, tensions increased, particularly as Alda’s role grew in popularity. Rogers and Stevenson both left the show at the end of the third season. At the beginning of the fourth season, Alda and the producers decided to find a replacement actor to play the surrogate parent role formerly taken by Colonel Blake. They eventually found veteran actor and fan of the series, Harry Morgan, who starred as Colonel Sherman T. Potter, becoming another of the show’s protagonists. Mike Farrell was also introduced as Hawkeye’s new roommate BJ Hunnicutt.

In his 1981 autobiography, Jackie Cooper (who directed several early episodes) wrote that Alda concealed a lot of hostility beneath the surface, and that the two of them barely spoke to each other by the time Cooper’s directing of M*A*S*H ended.”

After M.A.S.H., Alda went on to act in a variety of projects which included the TV series West Wing, a number of Broadway plays, and several movies. Despite being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, Alda continues to work and told ExtraTV recently, “”Eighty-three was very nice; I’m trying for 84 now. When I wake up and say, ‘I’m done,’ that will be when I’m already dead.”

M.A.S.H. was, for my family in the 1970’s, one of a handful of ‘must watch TV’ shows. It started as a Sunday night show then moved to Saturday and then Tuesday for its second and third years. Eventually, after back and forth time slots on Friday’s and Tuesday’s, it eventually found its permanent night on Monday.

But none of that mattered to my mother. She loved the show and found it on whatever night it aired.

This 4 minute video is interesting to watch… Alan Alda in his own words reflects on his life and career.

I never really thought much about Alan Alda’s age when M.A.S.H. was popular. In reality he was a contemporary of most of my classmate’s parents, having been born in 1936. Even though my own parents were over a decade older, Alda did such a great job in the role that he became ageless. Part of the reason to tune in each week was to hear his wry and pithy observations on the inconsistencies of human behavior.

It was easy to relate to the character of Hawkeye and see the delicious irony of life – even in a war zone – through his skeptical eyes.

So be sure to raise a toast to Alan Alda and cheer his positive attitude  which, in spite of life’s hurdles, continues to inspire.

A couple of links:



Afternoon Delight

July 17, 2018

Starland Vocal Band

There was, perhaps, no other song from the 1970’s which could sum up the true shlockiness of that era of music than the record which was number one on the Billboard 100 for two weeks in mid-July 1976. That song: Afternoon Delight.

bubble gum popBy the middle of the decade, the Beatles were in the rear-view mirror and the hard rock of the late sixties and early seventies had given way to bubblegum and pop.  And could there be any better symbols than two sugary treats to describe this song by a group called The Starland Vocal Band?

For those unfamiliar with the tune, here are a part of the lyrics:

Gonna find my baby, gonna hold her tight
Gonna grab some Afternoon Delight
My motto’s always been “When it’s right, it’s right.”
Why wait until the middle of a cold, dark night?

When everything’s a little clearer in the light of day?
And we know the night is always gonna be here anyway?

 Thinkin ’bout you’s working up my appetite
Lookin’ forward to a little Afternoon Delight
Rubbin’ sticks and stones together makes the sparks ignite
And the thought of rubbin’ you is getting so exciting

Skyrockets in flight!
Afternoon Delight!
Afternoon Delight!
Afternoon Delight!

Actually, I’ll stop there. Truly, how many clichés can be stuffed into one song?

starland-vocal-band-afternoon-delight-rca-victor-4.jpgIn the world of music, Afternoon Delight is what’s known as a ‘One Hit Wonder.’ Although the musicians who made up the group had some success before and after their big song, it was Afternoon Delight which catapulted them to a brief moment of fame.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The group began as Fat City, a husband/wife duo of Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert.

Danoff and Nivert co-wrote the song ‘I Guess He’d Rather Be in Colorado’ and then, with John Denver, ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads‘ which became a hit single in 1971. The duo recorded two albums as Fat City, and two more as Bill & Taffy, all released from 1969-1974. In the mid 1970s, Starland Vocal Band was formed and subsequently signed to Denver’s label Windsong Records.

Starland Vocal Band was also composed of Jon Carroll (keyboards, guitar, vocals) and Margot Chapman (vocals). Carroll and Chapman married after meeting as members of the group, but later divorced. Their son Ben Carroll is also a musician.

The group’s debut album was the self-titled Starland Vocal Band and included ‘Afternoon Delight’. The song was a US #1 hit and the album also charted. They were nominated for four Grammy Awards and won two: Best Arrangement for Voices and Best New Artist. The song also reached #18 in the UK. The follow-up album, Rear View Mirror, did not fare as well, with 13 weeks on the Billboard 200 and a peak of #104.

The band hosted a variety show, The Starland Vocal Band Show, that ran on CBS for six weeks in the summer of 1977. David Letterman was a writer and regular on the show, which also featured Mark Russell, Jeff Altman, and Proctor and Bergman. April Kelly was a writer for the series.

The band broke up in 1981, unable to match their previous success. Danoff and Nivert divorced shortly afterward. Each of the band members went on to a solo career.

In 1998 the Starland Vocal Band reunited for a few concerts, often featuring the children of the four original members as vocalists. In 2007, they appeared on a 1970s special on the New Jersey Network (NJN), singing ‘Afternoon Delight’.

In 2010 Billboard named ‘Afternoon Delight’ the 20th sexiest song of all time.”

Ice cream afternoon delightAt the time, the lyrics were a little bit shocking, especially to the parents of younger Baby Boomers who had pretty much lost control of their children by then. We, thinking we were hip and edgy, embraced the song with a wink and knowing nod because, well, our generation invented it, after all. What could our parents possibly know?

Recently a high school friend of mine posted something about singing the song Muskrat Love at a Karoake bar. This prompted a brief Facebook discussion as to which song from the 1970’s was the worst. As you all know (and if you don’t, go back and read my post about the Cap’n and Tennile. ) I’ve already called out a couple of schlocky songs from the 1970’s.

This song is on my list of the worst of worst. Be sure to nominate yours but only after listening to Afternoon Delight for a few moments of sugary guilt. Insulin may be needed when you are done.