The nostalgic packaging of Can Club

Selection box insert 🦜 ‘94

Instagram, for all its many faults, is a great place for nostalgia. I’ve featured a few of those accounts on this site and I’m here to add a new one: @itscanclub.

The account features mostly food packaging from the 80s and 90s and the odd carrier bag, old phonecard, and map. Anyone who grew up in the UK will get hit in the feels looking through this retro treasure trove and, given how the present and future are looking, it might offer some comfort to reminisce about the good times (if they were available back then). My personal favourites are the chocolate wrappers.

Retro packaging related: Carry A Bag Man’s carrier bag designs

Adverts for defunct brands and discontinued products

90's UK TV Adverts - Defunct Brands/Discontinued items.
90's UK TV Adverts - Defunct Brands/Discontinued Items (Part 2)

As a way to feed my nostalgia habit (and an act of self-care because the world is always on fire in some way), I watch old adverts from the 90s. It reminds me of my childhood and I can revisit adverts or products I’ve not heard of for decades. They also act as mini time capsules for brands and products that are no longer with us.

The above videos show some of those defunct brands and products from the UK, ranging from one2one (originally Mercury One2One, then becoming one2one, then rebranding as T-Mobile UK, then merging with Orange as Everything Everywhere, and finally becoming EE. Phew!) to Dollond & Aitchison (the opticians), the Goldfish credit card (later bought by Barclaycard), and Tandy.

Artsy explored the objects that defined 80s youth culture

I was born in November 1989 so I missed all but a month of the 80s and everything about its culture so this was cool to read from Artsy:

At the moment, our pop culture finds itself at peak ’80s nostalgia, as news outlets rush to publish their own guides to the decade’s easter eggs hidden in the third season of Stranger Things (2016–present). Those who came of age in the 1980s are now in their mid-forties, so perhaps it just makes sense that the kids who grew up are now showrunners, casting viewers in the nostalgic glow of their own youth.

One could also argue that ’80s nostalgia is on the rise due to some meritocracy of the decades—the eighties were just a cooler, quirkier, and kitschier time to be alive. My own recollections of the time are a murky haze of fleeting passions, both joyous and totally embarrassing. There are, for instance, the Garbage Pail Kids cards, which hit young male culture hard in 1985—pimply teens sneakily trading Boozin’ Bruce for Adam Bomb or Smelly Sally. I’ll never fully wash off the trauma of the humanoid animals residing in Zoobilee Zoo (1986–87). I’ll never live down listening to the Christian hair-metal albums by Stryper that my mom gently forced on me as an antidote to the more “satanic” alternatives. I’ll never forget the uncomfortable prominence of David Bowie’s codpiece in Labyrinth (1986).

More on the 80’s: Catch some retro 80s and 90s vibes with Retrogeist, Fumi Ishino’s ‘Index of Fillers’ chronicling Japanese culture in the 80s and 90s, and what if Game of Thrones was aired in the 80s?

VHS Poster Collection by Xavier Esclusa Trias

Xavier Esclusa Trias is the founder and creative director of Twopots and one of their latest projects is this VHS-inspired poster collection.

I grew up in the 90s and used VHS tapes predominately until the late 00s (although I still have a VCR which I watch tapes on when I can be bothered to plug it in). As a fan of Swiss Style posters as well, this is a combined nostalgic delight. Look at the vibrant colours!

VHS related: The Toronto bar turning itself into a VHS rental store, 5 retro videos from The VHS Vault, and the history of Walt Disney home video.

(via abdz.)

Burger King rebrand is simple, nostalgic, and effective

You may have heard about Burger King’s recent rebrand, their first in over 20 years. Older customers may also think the “new” logo looks the same as the logo used between 1994–1999.

It’s fundamentally similar but there are noticeable differences and I’m sure a designer could explain why they’re significant. But a rebrand is more than a different logo.

But my favourite part? This ingenious monogram.

It’s a B and a K and it looks like a condensed version of the fuller logo, in the style of a burger (or as Jason Kottke called it, “The Slider”).

The Flame brand font family was designed by Colophon Foundry in bold, regular and sans, reminiscent of Cooper Black and Raphael Abreu, global head of design for Burger King’s parent company, told It’s Nice That he “wanted a font that make people want to take a bite out of it.”

“We are also very playful and bold in how we use the new font. There is a variable version where we stretch and compress it and create expressive and impactful illustrations with it.”

Unfortunately, I swore off ever eating from Burger King 20 years ago this year after a bad experience and, well, I’m not going to change that. But I still love The Slider.

Farside: the Toronto bar turning into a VHS rental store

Farside in East Chinatown, Toronto, is known for its love of VHS and now the Toronto bar is taking it to the next level—by offering VHS rentals.

“We’ve managed to accrue 5,000-plus tapes from donations and thrifting. We’re always playing something on the bar’s projector, and used to have movie screenings on Monday nights. Essentially, we had more than enough stock to start renting tapes, so it felt natural.”

Co-owner Mike Reynolds talking to blogTO

Besides films you’d find on Netflix, you can also grab Wrestlemania box sets, rare Star Wars videos, and cult classics like Troll II and Encino Man.

According to photographs from Farside, the pricing is as follows (in Canadian dollars):

  • Membership: $10
  • One tape, one night: $5
  • One tape, two nights: $8
  • Three tapes + VCR for two nights: $40
  • One tapes + VCR for one night: $20

If you had to read those last two offers twice, I don’t blame you. Farside does offer a VCR (HDMI-compatible) and free popcorn.

Head to Farside and grab a piece of nostalgia with a pint or two (if it’s safe to do so). And if you like VHS, check out the last video rental shop in the world although I’m not sure if it can retain that name now.

Contact details

20th Century Flicks: the last video rental shop

Nestled in an alleyway in Bristol is 20th Century Flicks, the world’s last video rental shop. Arthur Cauty directed a short documentary film about the shop, which has been open since 1982, featuring the owners and its employees talking about what it means to them and the community.

It’s an ode to the video shop experience and a bygone way of watching movies. With studios like Disney launching their own streaming services and joining industry kingpins such as Netflix and Hulu, we have an almost endless flow of entertainment available at the click of a button. It’s amazing to me that a little independent video store can survive the Netflix cull and even outlive Blockbuster. Drop into the shop next time you’re in Bristol for a dose of movie nostalgia, have a chat about film and go home with a VHS rarity and a bag of popcorn.

And if you’re wondering how 20th Century Flicks is doing during the pandemic, the shop isn’t open but a reduced service is underway:

We are currently on lockdown to keep the shop, staff and stock healthy. We are still able to post movies out to you (3 at a time for £12) including a clean prepaid envelope to return them. We’d like them back a couple of weeks after you’ve received them. For details and instructions, click here!

Imagine getting a late fee in 2020 from the oldest video rental shop in the world. I’d be so embarrassed.

Stream the documentary below and for more VHS nostalgia, check out the guy who made a fake video store in his basement.

The Last Video Store | a documentary on the World's oldest VHS & DVD rental store

(via Kottke.org)

5 retro videos from The VHS Vault

xena: warrior princess

VHS might be old hat now but that doesn’t stop people from collecting them or keeping them around. Check your attic, I bet you’ll find boxes of tapes. My love of VHS is more overt as I have two VCRs in my house (although one is broken so that’ll need replacing) and a humble collection of tapes, some recorded, some official.

I could digitise them but that costs money on equipment and I don’t care enough to do it. Fortunately, some people did and uploaded their works to The Internet Archive’s VHS Vault. It’s a treasure trove of nostalgia with over 25,000 uploaded videos covering all kinds of genres.

I’ve picked 5 to look through:

1. Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout

(Content warning: contains nudity from the offset)

If the horror part is watching a naked woman not wash her legs in the shower, consider this a scarefest. In fact, why did it even start with a sultry shower scene when it’s not a porno? Here’s the synopsis from IMDB:

After a nice shower, Linnea does some warm-up stretches and then goes for a run. She encounters some flabby zombies who follow her back to the house, where she leads them in some poolside aerobic routines. Later she unwinds by inviting some girlfriends over for a slumber party and some exercise. When something goes bump in the house, her friends begin experiencing an attrition problem.

What’s the point in weight loss for the undead? Fatphobia is truly boundless.

2. Microsoft Windows 95 Video Guide

This is still pretty famous now and back in 1995, it was a masterstroke having two famous actors demonstrate how to use Windows 95, if a little peculiar.

The video guide was split into three sections:

Our guide is separated into three sections.

  • Section one presented the world’s first “Cyber-Sitcom”, starring Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry set in the Bill Gates’s office.
  • Section two gives a step-by-step review of all the Windows 95 components demonstrated in section one.
  • Section three answers the 20 most asked questions about Windows 95.

I’m sure this wonderfully hilarious 25 years ago but it just seems very cheesy and outdated.

3. Power Rangers In Space Psycho Ranger Saga

AJ Brown is a Power Rangers fan so I’m sure he’d appreciate this and correct me if I’ve got anything wrong in this description.

This video appears to be an episode from the “Psycho Ranger” story arc where the evil Astronema creates a team of Psycho Rangers to gain more power. I only ever watched Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers but I did notice Zordon and Bulk & Skull in the credits so that was pleasant to see.

4. VHS 1987 – 1998 – ThunderCats, DuckTales, Pooh, Donald Duck, ScoobyDoo, Ghostbusters, Flintstones

That’s right—it’s a collection of 5 videos featuring episodes of:

  • ThunderCats
  • Duck Tales
  • Winnie the Pooh
  • Donald Duck
  • Scooby Doo
  • Ghostbusters
  • The Flintstones

It’s a childhood dream for any millennial. There are some tracking issues (when the picture gets distorted and those lines wipe down the screen) but that adds to the charm.

5. The Ultimate Xena Warrior Princess Video Tape

To complete the 90’s fest, here’s “The Ultimate Xena Warrior Princess Video Tape” starring an intro with Lucy Lawless, loads of bloopers, and interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.

For any Xena fans, this will be a dream come true.

That time BBC2 appeared in a Pizza Hut advert

BBC2 in a Pizza Hut advert

When I want to feel warm and cosy, I watch YouTube videos of old 90s TV adverts. They give me a kick of nostalgia and remind me of simpler times when you could hug people without fear of dying. Last night, I watched a video with adverts from 1994 and I spotted something strange. The adverts were from ITV but the intro was one of BBC2’s old idents (the one with the green paint). I thought the video had changed. You never saw BBC on ITV unless it was on the news.

And then it turned into a Pizza Hut advert.

Pizza Hut - BBC Two - Advert (1994)

So how did this all come about? Peter York picked up on the story for The Independent back in 1994:

Advertising is in the ‘borrowed interest’ business: famous or beautiful people and spectacular locations are regularly borrowed to add interest to somewhat basic product offers.

Now Pizza Hut has gone one better: it’s borrowed a television channel. More precisely, it has ‘appropriated’ – as a certain type of intellectual likes to say – the BBC2 logo, in its large, plain, anodised-aluminium form. If you’ve had the feeling that you’re in the wrong place recently when watching ITV or C4, it’s because the BBC2 logo has appeared. It sits in its wind tunnel and is swept with green paint, as usual – but then a yob appears and splashes the camera lens with paint, too. It’s a very disconcerting, memorable media-age joke.

But it turns out “spoof” idents have been around for decades and there’s even a website archiving them. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who felt a little off by the giant metallic 2 on the “wrong” channel.

The rise and demise of Betamax

betamax-video-cassettes

I was born after the Betamax came and went. In fact, I heard more about it in terms of its demise than any kind of praise for the technology. VHS was my life right up until 2006 (although I still use it to this day). If I’d been born a few years earlier, I might have seen the shift.

But for many, Betamax was a cult classic and Sony only stopped production and sales of Betamax products in March 2016. So let’s look at the rise, fall, and legacy of this iconic piece of video culture.

What is Betamax?

Sony’s Betamax (also known as Beta) was a video cassette format introduced in Japan on 10th May 1975. It was released as way for consumers to record everything from weddings to their favourite soap operas. The cassettes used a similar format to the U-matic, a Sony prototype cassette from the late 60s. but with a thinner design (0.5 inches vs. the U-matic’s 0.75inch width).

Betamax for professional recording

Betamax had a major influence on news broadcasting and music production for different reasons. Sony released the Betacam in 1982, the professional version of the Betamax, and it quickly became the most-used video format in electronic news-gathering (or ENG for short).

While the Betamax and Betacam formats were very similar, the difference between them was significant for professional recording. Betamax recorded in a lower-quality resolution and audio, using only two recording heads, while Betacam used four recording heads, producing a higher video resolution and audio quality.

In music recording, Sony created a digital recording system known as PCM that connected to Betamax recorders. The Sony PCM-F1 adaptor came with a Betamax VCR SL-2000 as a “portable digital audio recording system” and it became a mainstay for audio engineers when they made their masters.

Betamax for home movies

While Betamax enjoyed a good life in the professional market, it didn’t fare as well at the consumer level. Sony released its first Beta device in the US in November 1975 – the LV-1901 that came with a 19-inch colour monitor. There was also the Sony SL-6200, which came as part of the Sony LV-1901 with its teakwood cabinet, a 24-hour timer and camera input. The set also allowed you to record one channel and watch another which was an incredible feat back then.

But stiff competition in the West from JVC’s VHS format lead to its downfall outside of Japan. Their market share in the US rose to 60% by 1980 and left Sony in the dust. It was also cheaper to make VHS tapes in Europe, which pushed the format even further. That led to a gradual decline in Betamax tapes in the 80s, down to a market share of just 7.5% in 1986.

Higher quality in Japan

Even though Betamax wasn’t as successful in the West, Sony managed to localise its power in the videotape format war and build on it. The company released the SuperBetamax (1985) and Extended Definition Betamax (1988) formats, both offering better resolutions.

SuperBeta, as it was known, offered a horizontal resolution almost identical to live television at the time. However, the chroma resolution remained subpar in comparison.

In 1988, Sony released its ED Beta, or “Extended Definition” Betamax line, with 500 lines of horizontal resolution, matching DVD quality (which wouldn’t come out for another 7 years). Improvements were made to format to reduce the transport to reduce picture abnormalities and produce a better quality picture.

Tape length wars

Besides the general “videotape format war”, there was a subsidiary tape length war instigated by the RCA (Radio Corporation of America). The corporation tried to collaborate with Sony in making a format but wanted a 4-hour tape. Sony didn’t feel the Betamax was up to recording 4-hours of tape and maintaining a high-quality picture.

RCA went to JVC with the same proposal but received the same response although parent company Matsushita eventually gave in. This forced Sony’s hand and it managed to eek out 5 hours of Betamax footage with its Beta-III speed on an ultra-thin L-830 cassette. JVC more than doubled it with 10.5 hours on a T-210 cassette.

Other Beta variants and spin-offs

Here are some non-Sony branded Beta players and related Beta products (thanks to Betamax Collectors and Mr Betamax for the info).

Betamovie

Sony’s range of consumer camcorders for the Betamax format, it was notorious for not including a playback function and it was later abandoned in favour of the Video8.

Beta Hi-Fi

In June 1983, Sony added hi-fi audio to videotape as a way to edge JVC’s VHS format out of the market. However, JVC created its own VHS hi-fi system, about a year after the SL-5200 player was released.

Pioneer VX90

Pioneer’s VX90 was basically a SL-HF900 without the Sony logo on it. It produced high-quality SuperBeta pictures and that Beta Hi-Fi stereo sound.

Marantz Stereo VR 200

Sanyo’s Beta player was the first consumer recorder to offer a quality stereo VCR (thanks to enhanced Dolby signal processing).

Toshiba BetaMax V-M40

Toshiba’s model was priced was $379 upon release in 1984. The V-M40 included a 7-day timer, 12 channel selector, a clock, and a moisture detector which shut the system down if moisture was found.

Zenith VR 8510

Produced by Sony for Zenith, the 8510 featured a SpeedSearch picture scan function and SuperScan, allowing users to switch into “fast speed mode” to view where they were in the fast-foward/rewinding process.

Sanyo Betacord VCR 4590

As you might have guessed, it was called Betacord due to its corded remote control.

Failure to adapt – the true demise of Betamax

Despite the sharp decline in sales of Betamax recorders in the late 1980s and subsequent halt in production of new recorders by Sony in 2002, Beta, SuperBeta and EDBeta are still being used by a small number of people. Even though Sony stopped making new cassettes in 2016, new old stocks of Betamax cassettes are still available for purchase at online shops and used recorders (as well as cassettes) are often found at flea markets, thrift stores or on Internet auction sites.

Betacam cassettes are still available in professional circles but generally, Beta is nothing more than a novelty collector’s item. The simple reason why Betamax lost to VHS was Sony’s inability to cater to the general public. They wanted a medium that could record for longer, even if it meant compromising quality. Its legacy now lies in nostalgia and comedic devices.

A curious oddity is that Sony continued to make Beta recorders right up to 2002. But there have been some influential uses of Betamax, as we covered in an article about Marion Stokes.

First Betamax - Salesman Training Video 1977

Betamax related: Introducing the Sony SL-C7 Betamax recorder

Catch some retro 80s and 90s vibes with Retrogeist

Retrogeist logo

I’m not heavily into vaporwave but certain parts of the aesthetic appeals to me. That’s why Retrogeist intrigued me when I found it on Instagram.

It’s an 80s/90s account with the coolest images from two bygone eras. As we inch closer to a new decade, we move further away from the old ones. But the Internet preserves those memories in the form of accounts like Retrogeist.

Here are some photos from the account to take you back in time.

Miami Vice

Good ol’ Crockett and Tubbs. Between the iconic fashion to that theme tune, Miami Vice defined the 80s.

Ferrari Testarossa

The Ferrari Testarossa premiered at the 1984 Paris Auto Show and the two-door sports coupé encapsulated what the 80s was all about. It was all about indulgence, image, and excess and the Testarossa had a 4.9L tank to hold them all in.

RoboCop

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5VtQPgFx-0/

Paul Verhoeven’s cyberpunk classic depicted a crime-ridden Detroit being saved by a cyborg cop with some of the wildest special effects of the 80s. It’s hyper-violent, entertaining, and full of iconic one-liners. And it’s 80s as hell.

The Nintendo Game Boy

The Game Boy came out in 1989 but it was very much a 90s console. The Game Boy line sold 118.69m units and lasted all the way to 2003. It got everyone hooked on Tetris before they got hooked on Pokémon. The green screen with its lack of a backlight managed to overcome the threat of Sega’s Game Gear thanks to a better battery life and illustrious games catalogue. And it came in some many colours and sizes.

Pulp Fiction

I know everyone talks up Reservoir Dogs but I didn’t like it much. Pulp Fiction was my favourite. Before Tarantino used his films as a cover for amplifying the N-word, he made a film starring a washed-up John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson in a Jheri curl straight out of a Soul Glo commercial (which is funny because he had a cameo in Coming To America where that commercial was from), and Uma Thurman in that bob wig that seemed to do the rounds in 90s movies.

Marion Stokes: the Black woman who preserved over 30 years of TV history

A still from Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project

This is a remarkable story. Atlas Obscura wrote about a woman who had recorded over 30 years of television on roughly 71,000 VHS and Betamax cassettes in Philadelphia. Her name was Marion Stokes.

Marion began her recordings in the 70s all the way until her death in 2012 and passed them around different apartments, family, and storage units, likely due to their quantity. Now, The Internet Archive is aiming to digitize every single tape. Problem is, they aren’t in any kind of order:

They got a little jumbled as they were transferred […] Although no one knew it at the time, the recordings Stokes made from 1975 until her death in 2012 are the only comprehensive collection preserving this period in television media history.

I love VHS tapes. I have two VCRs in my house – one bought for my birthday a few years ago and one inherited from my mum when she moved abroad. My collection is ~0.14% of Marion Stokes’s but they each tape is a gateway to my past. The fact that she recorded 71,000 of them over 4.5 decades is almost unfathomable. Even more so because it’s the best preservation of television history in this period. I follow a lot of YouTube accounts that upload old UK adverts and TV idents from the 80s and 90s for nostalgic purposes. I find those fascinating. This archive is something else.

An award-winning documentary called Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project, has been screened at numerous film festivals this year. It chronicles her life and her historical media project. You can follow filmmaker Matt Wolf’s Instagram for news on future screenings.

Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher are The VHS Guys

Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher

I’m a nostalgia freak. There was a lot in the 90s I only saw but never fully experienced and that decade was the happiest of my life. VHS tapes played a major part of that and I love hearing about collectors, especially ones this quirky.

Friends Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher are known as the VHS Guys and they’ve been collecting VHS tapes for over 25 years. But not just any VHS tape. Their collection falls under the “special interests” category or “not meant to be shown in public,” as Prueher put it in an interview with Atlas Obscura. Anything from exercise videos to how-to video guides is up for consideration. The pair take their collective on tour with their Found Footage Festival events in front of live audiences.

One of the creepiest videos in the VHS Guys collection has to be Rent-A-Friend, where the man in the video will be your “friend” in exchange for nothing (well, however much you initially paid for the VHS but that’s all). It’s an example of an “interactive” video; all the rage in the 80s and 90s. They ask you a question and leave pause for you to “answer”. I remember playing a 90s board game called Atmosfear using this “technology” (sorry for all the quotations but they’re necessary). At 4, it felt like magic because it really WAS talking back to me.

Stream the 5-minute interview below.