Thursday, March 9, 2017

I Bought an Altair 8800 Computer

 I've known about the existence of the Altair for decades. I learned about it back in the early 1990s when I had initially become interested in anything with a monitor and a keyboard. That being said, the Altair didn't have much appeal to me. Switches and LEDs? I'll pass. Gimme a keyboard, some games, and the BASIC programming language! A floppy disk drive was always nice too.

So now here I am as an adult. I'd never owned, let alone seen an Altair (or even it's cousin the IMSAI 8080). The most logical reason for this is most of these computers were sold as kits in the United States in small hobbyist stores or out of the back of magazines. I live in Canada. If anyone in Canada wanted a computer back in the mid-70s, they would either have to make a trip to the United States to buy one or order one through a magazine (and it was the IMSAI 8080 that was able to reliably deliver product).

Only about 10,000 Altair computers (the majority being the 8800 model) were sold. The IMSAI sold twice as many, which still isn't a lot. Nobody knows how many Altairs ended up in the garbage or the scrap heap. Because of it's rarity and it's historical significance, these computers fetch a nice tidy amount on Ebay.

That being said, I shit the fuck out of my pants when an Altair 8800 showed up for sale locally for a good price. I phoned the guy who was selling it, and he told me he had a lot of interest in the computer. I asked if I could come down in an hour to see it, and he agreed. I excitingly and erratically drove over to the bank machine to get the money to buy this rare and beautiful oddity. What the hell was I doing? I NEVER wanted a computer with lights and switches!

When I got to the guy's house and feasted my eyes on this beauty, I trembled and dropped another load of shit in my pants. The guy let me pop open the cover so I could look inside. He told me it wasn't working and I could see why.... There was a broken wire inside, and the capacitors looked like the jizzfest on the opposing side of the enormous shit stain in the back of my pants. My girlfriend looked and exclaimed, "THERE'S NOTHING INSIDE OF IT!" Of course there isn't! There's only a CPU board and a RAM expansion. Nevertheless, it's probably the most valuable empty air I had ever breathed into my lungs.

I happily handed him the money, and loaded it into the back of my Jeep.

The basic story behind this computer was... the guy was selling it for his uncle who was the original owner. He had purchased it in the USA and put it together himself. He kept the original manual and the build instructions that came with it (which of course came with my purchase).

So now I'm a proud owner of an original Altair 8800. It is the only vintage computer I own that is older than me. Unfortunately, I won't be repairing it until the fall because I've got a million other projects planned for the next few months. When I do repair it, I'll be putting the entire adventure up on Youtube. For now, you'll have to suffice with some glorious pictures...

And yet again, my Coleco Adam series has been stalled, mainly from me getting more stuff that I never have time to blog about, and dealing with family services because someone reported my ex-wife to them. This year has been riddled with so many personal issues, it's unreal. Hopefully this part of crapfest 2017 is over so I can finally get back to doing the things I love.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Don't Get Dancing Fever... It'll Make You Puke

Happy new year to all my devoted and tortured readers! I'm a bit late to the party this year, but perhaps this may be useful for next year.

First of all, allow me to explain why it took two months to get around to this post. At the beginning of January (when I was initially working on this entry and was nearly done), my dad went into the hospital. I visited almost daily until his passing on February 19th. After that, I had to deal with all the things that go along with a passing family member. So that's where my time has been spent as of late.

In the spare time that I had, I've been trying to get the second episode of Tech of the Century edited. I didn't realize that I had recorded hours upon hours of footage of me refurbishing my Coleco Adam computer, and the initially planned 30 minute episode has turned into 10 or so videos, each about 15 minutes in length. The entire series should be up within then next few weeks, but I really needed to put something up on the blog in the meantime.

So now that I have your forgiveness, I shall make you hate me all over again....

We're going to take a look at these beautiful CD compilations released by Madacy. Madacy is a shitty budget Canadian record label who probably released other crap that I don't care about. I recently reviewed their awful Muppets release I owned when I was a kid.

Today, we're going to dance our asses off with volumes one and two of "Dancing Fever". I think it's funny that they use a phrase from the disco era on these compilations which cover songs from the 80s and 90s. The first volume has been sitting in my queue pile for about a year. I found the second volume about a week before I started writing this entry back in January. I honestly had no clue that a second volume existed!

Both of the album covers are almost exactly the same. The album cover boasts in a dark-purple-on-black-background text, "Dance to the Hits". There's no exclamation mark in that statement, so don't get too excited about cutting the shit out of your rug. I like how these albums brag about using digital mastering, but digital mastering doesn't make a turd more beautiful and pleasant-smelling. Perhaps a more accurate phrase would be "Digital Bastardizing".

Volume one is riddled with terrible covers of rap songs from the late 1980s and early 1990s. Here's some of the "highlights"...

Pump Up The Jam
This one requires an apology. It awful. I don't know what accent that's supposed to be, but it sounds like someone with a speech impediment trying to sound like they're from the south. The music is full of magnificent Casio goodness.

Wild Thing
Funky Cold Medina
Tone Loc's less talented wanna-be cousin makes two appearances here. All the samples that were used in the originals songs (Van Halen's Jamie's Crying and Kiss' Christine Sixteen) have been replaced by a real guitar and a Casio's attempt at making drum noises. I think the cowbell might be real too.

Buffalo Stance
This Neneh Cherry cover is actually not too awful except the intro is nowhere close to the original.

Me, Myself and I
This De La Soul cover cries because this version needs to be taken out back and beaten to death with a shot gun.

For Volume two, you are treated to a plague of lesser known hits from the 1980s. As a person who knows a LOT of music, I have to be honest and tell you that I don't know most of these songs. However, I will post the ones I'm familiar with.

La Ilsa Bonita
Madonna starts off the album by leaving the recording studio, and all we're left with is that same fucking Casio keyboard and someone who aspires to look and sound as sexy as Madonna. It's probably the same chick from "Pump Up the Jam". This song also appears on another Madacy album called "Today's Power Hits" which I briefly touched on in my dreadful Whitney Houston tribute. Incidentally, that version of "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" is on here as well.

Let's Go
I'll be honest and tell you that the version of Wang Chung's "Let's Go" included on here is the first one I ever heard. Back when I was a stupid kid, I purchased a two tape set called "40 Super Hits of 87" (also in my Whitney Houston tribute) and this version was the first track on it. It's difficult for me to comment on this version due to hearing it for the last 28 years. From what I can tell, it's a decent cover, but I'll let you be the judge of that one.

Two Of Hearts
This Stacey Q cover is a nice attempt at duplicating the original, but trips over the Casio keyboard and the whole thing falls on it's face, making an extremely glorious racket.

And those are the only ones I know on here!

I really need to dig out that "40 Super Hits of 87" tape set and review it. It's loaded with bastardized Bon Jovi, fucked up Fleetwood Mac, phooey poopy Huey Lewis and the News, shitty scummy Eddie Money, and many other horrible attempts at scamming you out of your money.

So yeah, I'm back in business. I know you all missed this kind of shit. In other exciting news, I'm planning an extreme two day Junq Tour across Manitoba where I visit some of my favourite thrift stores of old. That should be happening in August, and I'll hopefully be putting my adventures up on Youtube.

Until then, keep watching for new entries and a whole shitpile of Tech of the Century episodes!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

In Celebration of 10 Years...

This year, Classical Gas Emissions will be celebrating 10 years of torturing it's readers. I've never had a personal project that has lasted for this long, so it's very worthy of celebration.

I knew I wanted to do something for my 10 year anniversary, but I was a bit stumped as to what. Initially, I had decided that I wanted to release a DVD which consisted of me going out, shopping for stuff for the blog, and possibly interviewing a few of the local people who influenced some of the things I've posted. I honestly didn't have the time last year to pursue this, because life gets in the way.

Recently, I have changed my focus. For the longest time, I've been wanting to do something more video-based, but I wasn't sure what. I kinda wanted my own channel on Roku. I would love even more to have my own local TV station, but that's never going to fucking happen. Instead, I've decided to actually have a dedicated show on my Youtube channel. What a great idea! It's about fucking time! Took long enough!

The way I see it, I'm always doing something around the house that's somehow related to technology, so why not set up the camera and record me working on it? It doesn't take much time out of my life to set up a camera and a microphone. Of course, I will be featuring some of the atrocious audio and video I've been posting here just to make the videos more "interesting". I already have some footage kicking around that I can edit down into an episode or three, so I've got a bit of a head start.

I'll still be posting here on the blog. The Youtube show called "Tech of the Century" will just be an extension of the blog rather than a replacement for it. Like I said, this is stuff I'm usually doing anyway, so I shouldn't have to take much time away from this place, if any.

So, in honour of 10 years of Classical Gas Emissions, I wrote and recorded a new song, put together a bunch of video clips, extracted a cover of the song "Classical Gas" from a CD I found at a thrift store by a relatively unknown musician, and made a preview of things to come!

Enjoy, and stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Scruff Connors Archive

"I have never been to Florida, nor do I have any proof that Miami, Florida actually exists" - Scruff Connors

On December 18th, radio personality Scruff Connors passed away (real name Jeffrey Newfield). He did the morning show on 97.5 FM in Winnipeg back in the mid-90s. I've posted clips from his show on here before.

Back when I was 16 years old, I decided to switch my radio station of choice from the poppy Q-94 FM to Classic Rock 97.5 FM. At this point in my life, I was going through a lot of difficulties. I had a lot of depression due to my restrictive home life, frustration from my (both personal and situational) inability to date girls, and my mind was beginning to go down the path of suicide. I was extremely unhappy with life as a whole.

Mere weeks after I started listening to 97.5 FM, they switched morning show personalities from some guy named Jake to this new guy named Scruff Connors. He was doing a very lively show by himself until they brought in Larry Updike who eventually ended up being the butt of all his jokes. One of their first interactions together was a discussion about Larry's dead dog. In my opinion, this was the defining moment for the show and the stage was set for the next year or so.

I realised that I was missing a lot of fun and great content while I was going to school, so I started recording the morning show using a reel to reel machine and a 4 hour tape. (Back in the 1990s, there was absolutely no other way to record such a lengthy amount of audio at once with the exception of video cassettes.) When I returned home from school, I would listen to the tape and pick highlights from the morning show to transfer onto cassette.

Scruff's morning show was a tremendous bright spot in my teenage life, and it gave me a purpose for getting up in the morning and reason to come home in the evening. It kept me from wanting to call it quits on life. Scruff's morning show gave me reasons to smile and laugh through the turmoil I was experiencing. Listening to those shows still bring a smile to my face and give me a good laugh.

One morning I woke up just like any other day, turned on the radio, and Scruff was suddenly gone. No warning, no word on what happened, nothing. He was replaced by two buffoons named BJ and Hal who were using some of the recordings Scruff had left behind to liven up their shitty and un-funny morning show. The bright spot that got me through one of the most difficult periods of my life was now gone.

Years later, I used Google to find out what had happened to Scruff. He was apparently going through some very difficult personal things himself, and took a leave of absence from radio due to immense stress. He moved back to Ontario (where he came from) and eventually returned to the airwaves there.

At some point in the early 2000s, Scruff had started his own website and was selling an album he put together called "Crazy Calls". Due to the financial difficulty I was experiencing at that point in my life, I was unable to buy his album. It quickly disappeared off the internet along with Scruff's website, and I was kicking myself for not purchasing the album when I had the opportunity.

Earlier this year, I decided to take on the project of transferring the remaining recordings I had of Scruff's morning show from my old reel to reel tape and convert it into MP3 format. The plan was to create the Scruff archive that you are currently reading (although a busy summer prevented me from getting it up sooner). Shortly after transferring the recordings onto my PC, I found a sealed copy of Scruff's album "Crazy Calls" for sale on Ebay. I quickly purchased it and after it arrived, had myself a good sit and a good laugh. It was a joy to have some new listening material from him!

The Shows

These almost-full shows were transferred from one reel to reel tape. Each show was recorded in mono to one track. Four tracks equals four shows. One is a bit messed up, and I have no clue how the heck I did that. I didn't do any editing on these recordings. You get the banter, the songs, and the commercials until the tape runs out.

Scruff Show 1: Jan-20-95
Scruff Show 2: Feb-13-95
Scruff Show 3: Feb-16-95
Scruff Show 4: Feb-16-95 & Feb-1-95

The Clips

This is the entire collection of my favourite clips that I kept from the shows I recorded. A lot of the comedy commercials are in here such as Cooking with Chef Perry, Middle Finger Man, and others he used to play a lot. I kept the funniest or most interesting banter. The only things not included here are recordings of my appearances when I phoned in to win a prize or something.

Scruff had a segment where you would listen to a song played backwards and you had to guess what it was. I used my reel to reel machine sometimes to play the songs backwards so I could win a prize. One song that I got correct was his partner Larry singing and playing "Another One Bites The Dust" on his ukelele.

Listen to a clip of Larry Updike's First Appearance
Download the entire collection

Crazy Calls Vol. 1

This is Scruff's entire out-of-print album. Despite the title, I don't believe there's a second volume, but I'm guessing he was intending on releasing more.

Listen to Traffic Tickets
Download The Entire Album

The Miami Superbowl Joke

You can find the newspaper clippings I kept and the relevant audio files here.

Youtube Videos

There are a few Youtube videos floating around of Scruff singing karaoke songs. Here are the links:

How's Your Whole Family
Ruby Don't Take Your Love To Town
You Are So Beautiful
Blow Me

My Final Words

Rest in peace, Scruff. You brought a lot of joy to this human soul and I'm sure many others as well.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Very Bunny Christmas

Here we are in the heart of Christmas! I hope you're drunk because Christmas isn't Christmas without being drunk at least 80% of the time. That's the only way to forget about all the money you blew on crap for family members you don't really like. Speaking of family, let's take a look at our first batch of Christmas albums...

Mickey and Bunny Sing Traditional Ukrainian Carols

You're going to be all set for Ukrainian Christmas this year!

My memories of Mickey and Bunny date back to the times when I was listening to their records in my grandmother's little apartment. There wasn't much else to do while my parents visited. She didn't speak a single word of English, except for the word "EAT!"

Here we see Mickey and Bunny with their son Daffy-Donald (haha, get it?). He just got a shiny new guitar for Christmas so he can jam out Christmas Carols with his dad. Too bad there isn't a single guitar to be found on this album. It's all depressing church organ music.

I must apologise to Mickey and Bunny's son for driving a screw through his right shoulder. He sadly lost the ability to play his guitar because I wanted to fix this 8-track. By listening to these audio files, you are all now guilty of amputation by association.

And if that wasn't bad enough, this poor kid ended up suffering even more when his parents divorced. His dad abandoned him to pursue a solo career. Then he died. Mickey's ex-wife Bunny is still touring Manitoba, singing "This Land Is Your Land" for all the old Ukrainians in the province.

Let's see what songs are on here...

Well, that's no fucking good. Somebody at V-Records had a little too much Whiskey while they were setting up the printing press to make the labels for this 8-track. I'm not very proficient at the names of regular Christmas Carols, let alone Ukrainian ones. As a result, I wasn't able to put the song titles on the files. You'll just have to guess what they're called.

Listen to ????!
Download the entire album!

Mickey and Bunny Sing English Xmas Carols in Ukrainian

When Mickey and Bunny were trying to figure out what their Christmas album covers were going to be, they looked no further than their family photo album. Since both of these pictures were take at the same time, I can't for the life of me tell you which album is which based on the covers alone. THEY ALMOST LOOK THE SAME.

The good news is the printing press guy was sober this time so I'm able to give you the song titles. On this album, we are again greeted by our good friend, the Hammond organ. Everybody rejoices!

By the way, did I mention I want to do a Mickey and Bunny discography? I've been actively buying their albums as of late.

Anyway, allow me to shut up so you can listen to a song and/or download the album.

Listen to Up On the House Top!
Download the entire album!

Christmas with Bugs Bunny

It's a damn good thing Mel Blanc did most of the Looney Tunes voices, or else Peter Pan Records would have gone bankrupt in a heartbeat making this record! They recruited some common asshole to voice Elmer Fudd, and he does a really dreadful job of it. But the rest of the voices are top notch since it was recorded before Mel Blanc's elderly, worn out chain-smoked voice went downhill.

The downside to this album is that Looney Tunes' strong point was the antics in the cartoons. Because this is a record album, they focused on content and plot which makes for an extremely dull record. Thankfully, there's some pictures on the back to help jumpstart your imagination.

There's a few songs throughout the album, and they're awful. Unless you're a die-hard Looney Tunes fan, you might want to skip this one.

Listen to Twas a Sight Before Christmas!
Download the entire album!

Eaton's - Christmas Through The Eyes of a Child

This one doesn't have any bunny reference, but it's the most interesting one of the bunch. This record was apparently given out to the staff at Eaton's department store. For those who don't know, Eaton's went belly up back in the 1990s due to Timothy Eaton's family fucking up the business they inherited.

This record is actually a red, transparent sound sheet. For those who don't know what a sound sheet is, it's basically an overhead projector sheet with grooves on it. For those who don't know what an overhead projector is, it's the ancestor to a computer screen projector. God I feel old.

This recording is nothing more than a twelve minute advertisement for Eaton's "Style of the 80s" campaign. The basis of the recording is Little Jack Horner telling awful jokes and interviewing a bunch of other fairy tale characters who can't stop bragging about how fucking awesome Eaton's is. It's quite a strange record to give out to your employees.

Listen to Christmas Through The Eyes of a Child!

And that wraps up the Christmas goodies for this year! I've got a big announcement (hopefully) coming in January. If you were hoping that the blog would go away, I'm sorry to inform you that it's not happening. I'm still going to be torturing you with awful recordings, but I'm going to add a new element to the blog. Stay tuned!