I was 13, and the year was 1982. At that time, my biggest hobby was programming on the TRS-80 color computer that my brother and I had received the previous Christmas. Computers were a little less advanced back then. This one had no hard drive, no floppy drive (it used a cassette player to record programs), no lowercase letters, nine colors, and the largest pixels ever seen. One interesting feature it did have was that instead of coming with a monitor, it was plugged into a regular TV, just like an ATARI.
This gave me an idea. Since the computer was capable of outputting to a TV, perhaps I could somehow make a video production on my computer, I had heard of these newfangled devices that could actually record television programs onto videotape for later viewing. These, of course, were VCRs, but at the time I had never even seen one and was under the impression that they were called "betamaxes". I spoke to the man in charge of the audiovisual department at my school. He quickly grasped what I wanted to do and said that he would prefer it if I brought in the computer, as he didn't want to loan out the VCR, which, at the time, probably cost more than the computer. So now that I knew it was possible and I had access to the equipment and someone to help me use it, I could begin.
Since I needed voices, I enlisted the help of my brother and a friend of his, both of whom had participated in previous media fairs and were working together on a project that year. They also contributed with ideas for some of the scenes. Once the program was finalized, and the voicepeople had worked out exactly what they were going to say and how they would deliver their lines, we recorded a soundtrack. Then I took the computer in to my school, fed the visuals from the computer and the audio from a tape deck into a VCR, and got the final product -- a videotape.
At the Media Fair, I was up against only one other entry in the video category. (Not much competition, since camcorders were so expensive.) I don't remember it very well. Some high schoolers had done a simple production in which an interviewer stopped contestants in a gymnasium on their way to a variety show and asked them questions about their outfits and what they would be doing. It was all unscripted and fairly dull and mediocre (not that I am in a position to be very objective). I was surprised when I ended up getting second (last) place, although it was clear that the judges had been having difficulty figuring out how to judge my work. I overheard one judge asking the head judge if he should just withhold points altogether in certain categories that seemed to be inapplicable to my video.
So the judges decided to go with the other more traditional entry, even though it had required almost no preparation and really wasn't very good. Back then I was disappointed, but I also thought that they may have had a point. After all, my production certainly sidestepped many of the standard issues normally associated with video production. I hadn't demonstrated a grasp of proper lighting, subject placement, or even focus. My video didn't even properly belong in that category and had only been entered there due to the fact that my computer had the idiosyncrasy of having a TV out connection.
Now, more than twenty years later, I'm not nearly so charitable in my views on this. I absolutely should have won first place. Nowadays computers are commonly (perhaps even necessarily) used for video production. But in 1982 I was well ahead of the times. The very idea was new back then, and I (a thirteen-year-old kid) had conceived of it on my own and carried it through to production. Unlike today, there was no special WYSIWYG software for creating such things. Sure anyone using Macromedia Flash MX could easily do a much better job in a few minutes, but I did all the coding myself on a computer with only 4K of ram. Perhaps I should appeal the judges' decision, especially in light of the fact that according to this 2003 Media Fair brochure, they have now added such categories as video-animated and original computer program. This is yet more evidence that everything I do now that is perceived as strange or unusual will, in twenty years time, come to be regarded as pure genius.
Click here to see the video. It is about 50 megabytes, so please be patient. I will leave it up until I need the space, so if you are reading this from the Tvindy archives sometime in the distant future, you are probably out of luck.
[September 11, 2004: It is now the distant future. To free up space, I am removing the file from my account; however, you can still watch the video here, where it has been archived for posterity.]
If you are curious about the computer I used, go to this page. There you can see pictures of the computer and the user interface as well as download an excellent emulator of it. (For fun, see if you can replicate the program I made.) Note that the TRS-80 I used had not yet been upgraded to extended color basic, hence the huge pixels.