A blog dedicated to things that sucked (and didn't suck) about the 1980's

  • Welcome to thefabulous80's - A blog dedicated to the things that sucked and didn't suck about the 1980's.

    I'm Peter, the primary editor of this blog. The point of this blog is to post light-hearted articles about the high and low points of the 1980's from multiple authors.

    Hopefully this blog doesn't suck.

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Archive for the ‘Sucked’ Category

Sucked: Having to Record Songs from the Radio a.k.a. 1980’s Napster

Posted by PJC on August 3, 2011


My keyboard has been silent since March. Perhaps the world is better off but, regardless, welcome back for another installment of “thefabulous80s.”

Today’s article features an old trick that we had to rely upon when we really liked a song but couldn’t afford to drop $1.50 on the cassette single, which was likely for sale at “The Wherehouse” (remember those?) or Sam Goody.

The Wherehouse Logo

"The Wherehouse" - Where People Got Their Music in the 80's

For us music piracy felons in the 1980’s, we didn’t have the internet, Napster, a computer, CD’s that burned a full album in 5 minutes or anything else that delivered stolen music to us quickly. Instead we had the following:


Maxell Compact Cassette Tape - Classic 80's Icon

1980's Boombox

Boombox with Recording Capability

Radio Tower

Analog Radio

And if you were SUPER rad, you had a boom box with dual cassette decks so that you could record from cassette to cassette. (of course, if you lacked a boom box with dual cassette, there was always the technique which you thought you were so clever for thinking of: “Hey, lets just put two boomboxes next to each with the speakers facing. I’ll play the tape on one, and hit record on the other and record it through the mic. Ya….you can’t tell the difference, almost the same quality!”)

However, what about that one song you wanted, but none of your friends had the cassette? You raided your parents cassettes, but all they had was Bruce Hornsby & The Range and Neil Diamond’s Greatest Hits, Vol. II (the awful one with “Coming to America” on it) seen here:

Neil Diamond v. 2


1980’s Napster:

So that really left one option: record the song from the radio. Listen to your favorite radio station on the boombox until your song happens to come on.. and then hit the record button… and hopefully you have the cassette loaded… and hopefully its already in the spot where you want to start recording. And so then it starts recording. You’re about a minute into the song, everything seems to be going great and you’re feeling pretty smart (despite the fact that the first 5-10 seconds of the song probably aren’t captured on the recording) and you start losing reception RIGHT AT YOUR FAVORITE PART! So you hurriedly move the antenna on the boom box back and forth, which may require moving it off the shelf because the damn antenna is 3 feet long and you need a full extension to get rid of the static, but you can’t because the shelf above the boom box is in the way.

So after all that, the song is now approaching its end….but well before the fade-out, the DAMN D.J. starts talking and you hurriedly hit stop. Stupid D.J… totally ruined my tape.

The Result? 

A copy of your song which was captured by the boombox microphone recording the sound coming out of the speakers and missing about 25-30 seconds of it over all (including the time it took you to finally get to the boombox and hit record when it came on and the time you had to cut off the end once the DJ came on), placed randomly in the middle of your cassette tape that you likely have recorded over at least 20 times before, reducing the quality even further.

HORRIBLE quality.

EVEN WORSE if you did the boombox-to-boombox recording.

But hey, you saved $1.50. And, you got a 12-pack of TDK 90 minute tapes for dirt cheap at Price Club (this is what Costco was called in the 1980’s – refer to it as such to the free samples lady next time you’re there and I guarantee you you’ll get a free extra sample of the ravioli they’re pitching that day), so you’re golden.


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Sucked: The Sony Watchman

Posted by PJC on March 6, 2011

By: PJC.

In 1982, the year this author was born, Sony unveiled its “Watchman” in North America. So here’s a really cool idea – a portable television set! You can watch your favorite TV shows anywhere, right? In your car…late night at the office…in the bleachers if you need to tune out your daughter’s field hockey game…

1982 Sony Watchman with accessories

But in hindsight, this thing sucked. It had a 1.5 inch CRT black and white screen that displayed a really unclear picture with lots of fuzz. The following is not an exaggeration: you could stand on top of a TV antenna tower on a clear day and still not get a clear picture on this thing. Plus, the thing had a ridiculously long antenna that I swear to God was at least 4-feet in length once fully extended. (Don’t let the picture above fool you, that antenna is maybe extended only a quarter of its overall length.)

Close up of a mid-80's Watchman. Shocker, its getting crappy reception.

Your math is correct – I was only in second grade when the 1980’s concluded. However my two big brothers had the privilege of experiencing this decade in their teen and high school years. [Perhaps you’re wondering why there’s an approximate 10-year age gap between my brothers and I? Well, for most of my life I suspected I was one of those “oops” babies. Turns out that’s not the case. One night at Christmas dinner a few years ago, when I was a few beers in and my father had a couple Manhattans in him, I finally asked what the deal is with the age gap. He explained to me quite bluntly that I absolutely was not an accident, I was simply ten years of negotiations with my mother and he lost. Dear Mom: Thanks for fighting the good fight.]

Ok, back to the Watchman:

I recall my older brothers got one of these for Christmas one year. I’m sure this was the mid-1980’s equivalent of the iPhone from a “bitchin’ technology” standpoint and thus everyone had to have one. But, I think once they realized how much it sucked, it got passed down to me (along with their old Iron Maiden shirts and a random LA Raiders tee-shirt which my oldest brother later re-claimed for himself…). So, for whatever reason, I thought this device was the coolest thing since sliced bread. For a period of time I dragged this thing everywhere with me, including sitting in the back of our family cruiser, (this was the days before SUV’s) our triple-silver 1988 Lincoln Town Car, trying to watch this thing on long car rides.

1988 Lincoln Town Car very similar to our family cruiser back in the day. File this car under "Didn't Suck."

I wish I could get back the combined time I wasted moving the tuning wheel ever-so-slightly to get the…on a good day….two stations that kind of came in visibly. The other 5 stations this device “received” amounted to nothing more than a tease because you could hear the audio but couldn’t see the damn picture!!!

But it had a built-in AM/FM radio that actually worked, so I suppose that was a redeeming quality. Also, I wonder if these things even work anymore since the mandatory HD upgrades that happened to Television a couple years ago which rendered old-school rabbit ears useless. Probably not. And I sincerely doubt they bothered with developing a converter for these pieces of junk.

Posted in "Bitchin' Technology" from the 1980's, Sucked | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »