Teesside Snog Monster (jiggery_pokery) wrote,
Teesside Snog Monster

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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?

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  • John Evan Dickson, 6th October 1937 - 28th April 2021

    My father has passed away. No contact for now, please; I choose to assume your best wishes and condolences. (Edited: the date in the original title…

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    Here is a simple, free-to-enter game to celebrate the recent turn of the decade. As I type at 2000 local UK time on 13th January 02020, the…

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