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May 10th, 2003

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10:12 pm - History Today
(Puzzle folks: join our Intercoastal Altercations online puzzle hunt team. Play online from wherever you live. Tomorrow night, 7-10pm Eastern, 4-7pm Pacific, midnight-3am British. Contact me ASAP.) Oh, bugger. It helps if you get the evening right. The event takes place tonight, not tomorrow night, and we have not got our act together. Whoops. We call ourselves puzzle fans, too... *facepalms*

I've just enjoyed a bit of research for a post to the rec.games.board newsgroup. There's a cute story behind it.

The thread is about trying to adapt board games for unusual numbers of players. One person suggested a chess variant for 32, "Committee Chess", and David Brain followed up with
The BBC once held a chess game between Jon Speelman and the television audience, who rang in to suggest the next move for White after each move by Black (Speelman). The most popular move was accepted, regardless of how good it actually was. IIRC Speelman did manage to win the game, but it was fairly close.

Probably one of the earliest examples of telephone voting too (mid-1980s I think.)
This brought back a distinct and happy memory for me. My goal was to try to date the event.

I've kept a handwritten diary before this LiveJournal, starting on Christmas Day 1989 and carrying on until last July. I kept entries extremely regularly for the first six years; a thousand entries before Christmas Day 1992, a second thousand before Christmas Day 1995 and a considerably more sporadic 737 since then. (All numbered, of course. Oh yes. After all, once you start a tradition as a 14-year-old and keep it going for a few years, it's hard to break.) In the LJ era I have only made factual entries like Christmas card lists, but I might make further in the future. Besides, my LJ is at least as (not particularly) worthy of record as anything I ever wrote at the time; I must sort out some sort of hard record lest the LiveJournal empire ever collapse horribly. (Does the ljdownload script come recommended?)

Now I do recall a mention of this in my diary at the time, so I dived through my own archives for further information. My "top TV show" charts (inevitable, really!) of 10th December 1990 included the show, but my charts of September 1990 didn't; accordingly, interpolating between the two, we discover this entry:

Fri 7th/Sat 8th Dec (8) E322 X-17
Fun, happy days! maybe not. Had improper tie at
School on Friday but got away with it. Talked Crime!
Saw stormy, "wind chil -12" weather- & kept indoors.
It didn't even snow. But it did knacker TV reception             chess.
0120 - 2000ish - just after move 34 of YOUR MOVE - well skill inter^active.
So this dates the show as December 1990, and suggests that it may have been "well skill", which from context is a good thing; three days later, I would declare it to have been the fifth best TV show ever.

With regards to the style, I submit in my defence that I would only have been 15 at the time and I was most definitely not writing for subsequent publication. (It's the old "journal as performance art" thing. I dread to think what I might have produced for the world had LiveJournal been available at the time.) Please temper your judgement accordingly. Game historians might also appreciate the passing reference to then-popular play-by-mail game "It's A Crime!", also strongly indicative of the early '90s.

Now the really cool thing we can do now that we have a date is cross-reference it to the USENET archives at groups.google.com, né DejaNews, in order to get some contemperaneous comment on the event. From rec.games.chess at the time, we have a summary of the entire event, some reasonably full commentary on the game move by move (written by the guy who still does the best UK National Lottery site) and a rumour from behind the scenes. I doubt there is much more information about this little footnote in both chess and interactive TV on the 'net that I haven't covered.

This is where the rec.games.board post ends. (In fact, the rec.games.board post has less explanation than this.) However, because your reading this indicates you are at least nominally interested in me, I can be a little more self-indulgent here.

Only about thirty of you will understand half the references, but I can't leave it hanging like this; here is my list of my favourite 40 TV shows ever seen between October 23rd, 1975 and December 10th, 1990. Bracketed positions date from my top thirty on September 6th that year. Bear in mind that I am 15 years old at this point and cue the Yellow Pearl:
  • 40. (29) Four Square. Obscure, short-lived, gimmicky quiz show. Round 2 had the best think music ever.

  • 39. (30) Naked Video. Comedian Alexei Sayle. Not very naked, really. Has faded into near-obscurity.

  • 38. (N) Beat The Teacher. Clever puzzle-based tic-tac-toe quiz, hammers Tic Tac Dough and * Squares into the ground.

  • 37. (N) Run The Gauntlet. Short-lived race-based action game show. Lots of explosions.

  • 36. (N) Take Nobody's Word For It. Weekend morning popular science, wasn't it? Could do with a revival.

  • 35. (N) Think Of A Number. Kids mathematics show. 1990 Chris Dickson would be thrilled to know that 1996 Chris Dickson meets Johnny Ball. Twice.

  • 34. (25) University Challenge. UK College Bowl. The Bamber Gascoigne era only.

  • 33. (26) You Bet! Saturday prime time big-budget betting-on-results-of-stunts show. Good-spirited, had excellent incidental music and a good run.

  • 32. (N) Grandstand. Unchanging BBC Saturday afternoon sport magazine.

  • 31. (27) Network Seven. Trendy teen magazine, which I liked for the presentation.

  • 30. (N) Monty Python's Flying Circus. Classic anarchic comedy.

  • 29. (N) Spitting Image. Classic political puppet comedy.

  • 28. (23) A Question Of Sport. Long-running celebrity sport quiz. Wasn't going through a strong patch.

  • 27. (10) The Adventure Game. Short-lived freeform puzzle-based game, years ahead of its time and never since properly duplicated. Recent repeats on Challenge ? are a minor Holy Grail.

  • 26. (N) Canned Carrott. Comedian Jasper Carrott. Still at it, but lower-profile now than then.

  • 25. (24) Superchamps. Kids' version of #37 above, only with better music, better graphics, fewer explosions and Gary "Cracker" Crowley.

  • 24. (N) Have I Got News For You? Satirical quiz; has been running since then and still stands up in court.

  • 23. (17) Treasure Hunt. Puzzle-solving race against time. 1990 Chris would be amused with what 2003 Chris knows about it.

  • 22. (19) The Krypton Factor. Brains'n'fitness game. Ran for another five years. The show was near its peak.

  • 21. (15) Saint & Greavesie. Ah, this one is embarrassing. Old footballers gaffling at each other at Saturday lunchtime.

  • 20. (11) The Lenny Henry Show. Comedian Lenny Henry self-inserts as Delbert Wilkins in sitcom. His finest hour, which isn't saying much.

  • 19. (7) Everybody's Equal. Short-lived pre-WWTBAM? elimination multiple-choice quiz. Groovy music.

  • 18. (N) Challenge Anneka. Anneka Rice goes around organising the community to do remarkable feats of charity work in 72-96 hours.

  • 17. (20) Whose Line Is It Anyway? Improvisational comedy game at its peak.

  • 16. (18) Bruce Forsyth's Generation Game. I was fifteen and it had just come back after a long gap following the Larry Grayson version. That's all I'm saying.

  • 15. (22) Coronation Street. Soap opera which I've followed on and off over the years.

  • 14. (13) Gambit. Quiz with blackjack-like card game driver. About the first quiz show I can remember enjoying.

  • 13. (16) Combat. Sundry armed force regiments compete against each other in martial contests, hosted by Anneka Rice and Emlyn Hughes.

  • 12. (12) USA Wrestling. Some branded WCW, some branded NWA. Apparently there was even some WWF briefly on at Saturday lunchtime for a while. I think we got it about 12 months late, too; almost all one-sided squashes with one or two competitive matches in a good episode.

  • 11. (8) The Crystal Maze. Based on the first series only, to be fair. Later series had rather more interesting games.

  • 10. (N) Sumo. We had coverage of this for a while. It was about that cool.

  • 9. (9) The $64,000 Question. Had a then-revolutionary jackpot of £6,400.

  • 8. (14) Neighbours. Soap opera. Above Coronation Street? I was fifteen, remember. Oh dear...

  • 7. (4) It's A Knockout! / Jeux Sans Frontières. Classic obstacle races and laughter-filled commentary.

  • 6. (6) That's Life! Esther Rantzen and team present consumer affairs and human interest stories. An institution, but outdated.

  • 5. (N) Your Move. As discussed above. One-off televised interactive chess. "Well skill".

  • 4. (5) The Stocks And Shares Show. What it says. Does seem errant that a #4 placement can be given simply because one contestant once caused the graphics to go a bit funny.

  • 3. (3) Cluedo. Wrong!

  • 2. (2) Knightmare. Context: end of series four. This deserves its own thousand words some day, but start here.

  • 1. (1) Interceptor. Still number one for the fourteenth year running. Deserves two thousand words or, failing that, this site.

There. Glad that eventually came in useful somehow. Other shows I note that I enjoyed at the time included Lost In Space, Tomorrow's World, The Magic Roundabout, The Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, Number 73, Countdown and The Two Ronnies.

And now, as a special attraction, my actual printed diary entry from thirteen years ago. Work-safe but large images within.

Click to enlarge

Crikey. I think that fourteen-year-old Chris has just lost me all my privileges for complaint about teenage language, txtspk and the like. You probably believe my comments about Your Move rather more easily now, though. All the same, some things need particular explanation:

  1. Another obsessive-compulsive tradition throughout my paper diary was marking each day out of ten. Says it all, really.
  2. The number of days until my basic-level GCSE French exams, which I was taking early, my Duke of Edinburgh's Award expedition and a physics test. Not unreasonable.
  3. Celebrating your cuddly toys' birthdays is cute when you are fourteen. Celebrating cuddly toys' quarter-birthdays when they might not even be your own is probably taking things too far.
  4. Refers to an almost interminable series of football management games which myself and a friend programmed in BASIC. This one was produced on a ZX Spectrum 48K computer.
  5. French teacher at school. Almost certainly wasn't a scandal, not least because there was never any other mention thereof.
  6. Ooh, mathematical notation!
  7. Good word. I like the concept of a tick being raised to the third power for emphasis, and the gag of abbreviations being raised to an infinite power. Wouldn't that be a microdot?
  8. Little graphs, even!
  9. The expected number of entries which I would make in the diary based on the evidence to date, obviously. (Actual answer: 324.) Keep reminding yourself I was 14.
  10. I was being ironic. I hope.

So that was then: schoolwork, cuddly toys, BASIC games and organisation beyond all reasonable boundaries. What will we all be like in another thirteen years' time, I wonder?
Current Mood: nostalgicnostalgic
Current Music: Recordings of "The Mary Whitehouse Experience" from 1990 R1

(17 comments | Leave a comment)


Date:May 10th, 2003 04:02 pm (UTC)

That rocks in more ways than I can list right now.

The first series that Gen Game returned, I recall that it really was excellent - lots of clever ideas for games, Bruce on top form and so on. I wonder if it would be practical for some shows only to have a series in alternate years, or even less frequently than that, just so they don't go stale.

Slightly disappointed that 1990!Chris couldn't find a place for ESC in the top 40. Would it have been anywhere close in those days, do you suppose?
[User Picture]
Date:May 10th, 2003 04:13 pm (UTC)

Erick, my man, I knew could rely on you. I salute you, sir. Old-school Brizzitish gizzeeks in the hizzouse, or something. Come and do puzzles with us tomorrow night.

ESC: Yes. If I had thought of it, it would probably have been top twenty. I guess it just didn't count because I didn't think of it as a series - it would be like listing "The Boat Race" or "The Queen's Speech", or, perhaps more to the point, "The General Election Results Show" which is a once-every-four-years highlight. (A top ten highlight, probably a top three highlight.) Now admittedly this didn't stop me listing "Your Move" which was a complete one-off, but I guess I was hoping it would turn into a series. Alas no and the state of the art is chess.fm. Mmm... chess.fm.

The question of eligibility is an interesting one. In 1994 I decided that got bored of Interceptor coming top every single time and decided to retire shows from the list on the grounds of history. However, I managed to produce exactly one top forty in 1994. (Fantasy Football League replaced Interceptor at the top.) You're making me consider doing my first top forty in almost ten years. Hmm. Hmm'm'm'm'm'm'm.

Aside: do Britfolk want to start thinking about an Election 2005-ish party? There are many nice folk on the page whose company for the election results I would very much enjoy. The bash chez zorac in 1997 was a highlight of the year.
Date:May 10th, 2003 04:20 pm (UTC)
It's tonight, isn't it?

See the point on the annual events are not series thing. It stretches a point a bit.

More pertinently though, it's tonight, isn't it?
[User Picture]
Date:May 10th, 2003 04:34 pm (UTC)

Oh bugger. I think Michael Colao thought it was tomorrow night. I have just sent him mail to check.

Are you up for trying to solve this now?
Date:May 10th, 2003 04:39 pm (UTC)
Probably more up now than I would have been tomorrow. I don't have to go to work tomorrow morning :-)
[User Picture]
Date:May 10th, 2003 04:40 pm (UTC)
OK, please get on AIM. My AIM SN is lurkwarbler .

Date:May 10th, 2003 04:43 pm (UTC)
Haven't got AIM. Find me on Y!IM as nickdelleruk, if you don't mind revealing your secret identity :-)
Date:May 11th, 2003 11:40 am (UTC)
Aside: do Britfolk want to start thinking about an Election 2005-ish party?

Provisionally count me in: two years and more is an awfully long time, but I see no huge reason for missing the socio-political event of the year.

By my reckoning, there's a 70% chance that Labour will "go to the country" on June 9 or 16, 2005.

There's a 5% chance that they'll have to tough it out until spring 2006.

Which leaves about a 25% chance that the next GE will be on or around October 27, 2005. And if that isn't an excuse for a bloody good party, I don't know what is.
[User Picture]
Date:May 11th, 2003 01:10 pm (UTC)
I might be being spectacularly thick, but I can't see much significance behind October 27, 2005. Is it your birthday? Presumably not, from the userinfo, but fairly close. (I do know it's four days after my thirtieth birthday.) Anything else?

Curious to know why you're so convinced it'll be June rather than May or July. The timing of elections has a fair bit of science behind it, I perceive, though I haven't got a clue what the thinking here is.

Who knows, maybe they'll have actually got round to the weekend voting trials by that point...
Date:May 12th, 2003 11:08 am (UTC)
I might be being spectacularly thick, but I can't see much significance behind October 27, 2005. [..] I do know it's four days after my thirtieth birthday.

That was the Very Large Excuse for a weekend of merriment, debauchery, and general laughing at Mr van der Sneij.

Curious to know why you're so convinced it'll be June rather than May or July. The timing of elections has a fair bit of science behind it, I perceive, though I haven't got a clue what the thinking here is.

Last election was 7 June 2001. There's no way anyone will call an election without completing four years, so May 2005 is out of the question.

In living memory, election dates have been:
Early June: 2001, 1987, 1983, 1970
Start of May: 1997, 1979
Late March / Early April: 1992, 1966
(February and October: 1974, I don't think these provide any guide to current form)


We have to go back to 1959 for a GE in October before the full term, and 1945 for an election in July. There are strong historical precedents for a June poll, and October if that's missed for any reason.

Who knows, maybe they'll have actually got round to the weekend voting trials by that point...

Possibly, though my gut feeling is that they'll try those at a tranche of local elections first - perhaps the London boroughs in 2006, possibly the National Local Elections the following year. In turn, that brings up the spectres of the May Day public holiday and the Cup Final taking out two weekends in May.
[User Picture]
Date:May 15th, 2003 11:45 am (UTC)

Another thing to point out is that the 2012 Olympic Games venue will be announced on July 6th, 2005. If it's looking likely that the British bid is the overwhelming favourite for some reason - which I'd have thought would be remarkably improbable - then The Party might name the date after July 6th, but I'd have thought it would be more likely that they would try to slip a quickie in during June. Having overseen a British Olympic Games bid to failure is the sort of thing that would not endear the public to re-elect Labour.

Go back to your constituencies and move zig for great justice.
[User Picture]
Date:May 10th, 2003 06:18 pm (UTC)
gah, your handwriting from then is as bad as mine was at that age!
[User Picture]
Date:May 10th, 2003 08:25 pm (UTC)
If I had done such a list at age 15, I would never have the guts to broadcast it to the world... even though I reckon most kids probably had similar tastes in the US (well, I'm not sure how many of my classmates watched Starcade as religiously as I. )

Wish I'd kept a log of my food. I could've relived that magical day when I first ate two Big Macs in one sitting and started well on my way to 220lbs. (OK, maybe it's best that I didn't.)

The Cuddly Toy!!!
[User Picture]
Date:May 10th, 2003 08:31 pm (UTC)
The Cuddly Toy!!!

*cheers like it's just turned midnight on 1/1/00*

*falls over into bed, exhausted*
[User Picture]
Date:May 10th, 2003 08:34 pm (UTC)
Didn't he do well?
Date:May 10th, 2003 10:13 pm (UTC)
I think the historical!me would relate best to the multidirectional PANIC on 11 May.

*Finds thought of possible journal memories happily endearing for fourteen-year-old!20 somethings*
[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2003 02:01 pm (UTC)
Bloody hell, that's a lot of diary entries. I'm pretty sure that this past year using LJ (yes, it's already been a year!) is the longest time that I've kept a journal with a high degree of consistency. Eighth grade was probably the last time I journalled in a dedicated manner.

The diary entries are hilarious. Heh, I still write things like -->PANIC!<-- in my planner. Also, much with the exclamation marks of d00m.

Now I want to dig through my closet at home and flip through my old journals!

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