Archive for the Sophistication Category

A Fallen Hero: The Playstation 1.

Posted in 1990's, Crash Bandicoot, Nerdy Monday, Playstation, Retro, Sony, Sophistication, Video Game on November 22, 2010 by Divide By Zero

How many of you out there had a Playstation 1?  Well, back then it was just called “The Playstation”.  I had one for a little while.  I had gotten one as a back-up Christmas present.  My father had gotten me a Dreamcast, brand new, when they were all the rage.  The only problem was, the box had a small tear in it, and some jackass had stolen the AV cable out of it, so I had no way of playing it.  I had to wait until the stores got more in, a few days after Christmas to go exchange the Dreamcast.  A few days, of not being able to play a new game system?  For a 13 year old, that was Hell.

My mom, seeing the box had a rip in it, came up with a back up plan.  She bought a Playstation from a neighbor kid for $50 or something like that.  It had 3 or 4 controllers, about 30 games, and all kinds of extras.  She figured if there was nothing wrong with the Dreamcast, she’d give the Playstation to me AND my brother to share.  Instead, I got it to keep me satisfied until the stores had more of what I wanted.

It was no Dreamcast, but I consider that a good thing… now.  A lot of people, myself included, like going back and playing on systems they liked growing up.  The most popular right now are the SNES, N64, and the Genesis.  Sometimes people get a Dreamcast because you can download and burn games for free, and it’s legal.  It’s legal because no one, not even Sega is making money off of the Dreamcast anymore.  I do it all the time.

But what about the playstation?  What was special about it?

I remember the very first time I picked up a Playstation controller.  I was used to having A, B, start, select, and maybe a C button.  Where did these shapes come from?  I mean, I know the SNES had A, B, X, Y, and R/L buttons.  THAT was too many in my mind.  TO confuse me even more this controller’s right hand button selections were *circle*, *square*, *triangle*, and an ‘X’.  Then it had, not one, but TWO ‘R’ buttons, AND TWO ‘L’ buttons!  I was in a store in Potomac Mills Mall.  I was probably 12?  I’m not sure, but I remember being in an electronics store (this was before game stop and other video game specialty stores had boomed) trying to figure that controller out.  I vividly remember thinking “This will never catch on, or last”.

That was about half my lifetime ago, and now I believe the Playstation 1 is the most underrated retro system out there right now.  No one wants it, you can buy them for like five dollars.  No lie.  I bought 30 of them for $40.  That’s a dollar and 33 cents each.  Games usually run between $1 and $5.  At prices like that, why wouldn’t you have a few of them lying around?

The design…

Arguably the PS3, especially the “Slim” version is the sexiest console out right now.  The original XBox, not that good looking.  It was built more to showcase what Microsoft could do. It was built for utility, and for function.  Going back a little further, the PS2 was pretty cool, I liked the vertical stand that was blue against the black ninja-esque look it had, it was sleek.  The Playstation 1 was simple.  Two controller ports on the front, the other hook ups in the back, an ‘Open’ button, a ‘Reset’ button, and a ‘Power’ button.  Why do you think the Ps1 is different looking than the PS2 & PS3?  If the same company made all 3 systems they’d have to be similar, right?

That’s absolutely right, if the PS 1, 2, and 3 were all made by Sony, they would all be kind of similar looking.  Too bad Nintendo and Phillips were commissioned by Sony to come up with a video game console exclusively for Sony.  That’s right, Nintendo, a rival video game company, and Phillips, a pioneer in CD/DVD player technology teamed up to come up with a CD based console for Sony.  Gosh, I miss the 90’s.  The 90’s was when crap like this would fly:

None of that stuff would make sense today!  But in the 90’s, nothing else made any sense.

Was it the first top loading system?  No.  The Atari 2600 I guess could be classified as a top-loader, and it was released in 1977.

The Crazy Old Uncle of the video game family. You know of him, but don't spend too much time with him.

Shortly after that, in “Modern Times” I guess you could say, Nintendo had the first top-loading system when they released the Nintendo Entertainment System Model 2.  You probably haven’t seen this one around too much either…

Officially: "NES-101 Model", Unofficially: "The Top Loader"

No one really had this one, and some consider it a flop, because it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing.  I think it’s cool.  I couldn’t find a specific release date, but I’m pretty sure this one had at least 3 to 4 years on the Playstation 1.

Was it the first CD based system?  Of course not, the Sega CD was!  Remember that pile of puke?

Pictured: The Genesis' deformed, conjoined brother.

To be fair though, the Sega CD, along with the 32x were designed to prolong the lifespan of the Genesis, so the Sega CD was not a stand-alone system.

So the Playstation 1 was the first stand-alone CD based, top loading system, right?

GTFO, the Sega Saturn claims that title.  I can’t even believe I’m bringing this up, this was a horrible system, and the 2nd mistake (out of the 3 big ones) that turned Sega into a main competitor in the video game industry, into Nintendo’s little errand boy/lap dog.

The cartridge slot isn't for games, it's for expansion cartridges that allow you to play Japanese games.

Where is this system now?  Collectors don’t even really want it.  The only reason I have one is because I stumbled across it on eBay for 99 cents with a minute left, AND it had free shipping.  That’s right, I got a Sega Saturn, a game, a controller, and hook ups, for less than a dollar, and it was shipped to my front door.  This system defines the word “flop”.

The only thing we can say with absolute certainty is that the Playstation 1 is the first successful, top-loading, CD based, stand-alone system.  It’s a mouthful, but it is what it is.  Whether you love it, hate it, or have just fooled around with it a few times and never called it again, I’m sure you have fond memories.  I will always know it as The Playstation, there will only be one in my mind.

Simple, and badass in its own right.

Another thing to mention about the development of the Playstation 1 is that Phillips actually ended up creating its own CD based gaming console to try and get in the game with the big dogs.  It was called the Phillips CD-i, and it was a god-awful abomination to video gaming.  I know you’ve never even heard about it.  You can find out more about that in The AVGN’s 3 part episode:

James Rolfe is the man, and is able to explain it way better than I can.

All of this brings me to the question: Just how underrated is the Playstation 1?

Pretty underrated.  There are so many good games on this system.  007 Racing has got to be in my top 10 favorite games of all time.  The Need for Speed franchise was born on the Playstation 1 for crying out loud.  Hot Pursuit, High Stakes, Carbon, Underground/Underground 2?  They wouldn’t be around and rocking your face off today without the Playstation 1.  And I don’t think you can talk about the Playstation 1 without talking about Crash Bandicoot.  I did a whole write up about him, that’s how much those games rocked.  As I said in that articel, Crash Bandicoot was designed by Sony to become the face of the Playstation.  Much like Mario was and is for Nintendo, and Sonic was for Sega.  And I can’t think of the original Playstation without thinking about Crash Bandicoot.

Sony did much of its own work after it got the console and rights from Nintendo and Phillips.  It was innovative, it was on the edge, and it helped shape the video game market.  Remember the multi-tap?  It made 4 players on one console possible.  Only a few games supported it sure, but it was a step in the right direction.. soon after the Playstation, the Dreamcast was released with 4 player capability right on the console.  Microsoft followed in those footsteps with the first XBox.  Four controller ports?!  Now, if I only had 3 friends who were willing to come over and play something with me 😦 .  Microsoft then took it a step further when people started becoming addicted to the internet, and cornered the market with XBox live.  Playing your favorite game with millions of people across the globe?  In my mind, the Playstation made it possible.

Also, the Playstation 1 was the first console to come out with Dual Analog controllers.  Remember back in the day when they didn’t have them?

Old School.

Yeah!  Most people, and definitely most of the kids younger than 20 wouldn’t recognize this controller.  When the Playstation was in its hay day, they introduced something new in controller design.

Gives "Back to the Sticks" a whole different meaning.

So simple.  So comfortable.  So easy, why did no one else think of this?  Nintendo didn’t come out with something close to this until 2 years after the Playstation came out, with the N64.  And even then, it was just a joystick, not an analog stick.  And the 64 only had one, not TWO!!!  Question!  When the Game Cube came out, guess which design they adopted for their controller?

Answer: Dual Analog Style.

This was so badass, when it was brand new.  A whole different way to control your video game characters with sleek precision.  It took a little getting used to, but the payoff was well worth the effort.  Who else had that at the time?  Nobody.  Who else made them popular?  Let’s check out my little evolution of the Dual Analog Controllers…

I have a controller timeline. Your point is invalid.

XBox 360, original XBox, Game Cube, PS2 (obviously) and the PS1… the originator… all with Dual Analog.  Everyone who likes playing call of duty, or the halo fans out there like myself who got used to the 2-stick controls, better give a big Thank You to Sony for making it so easy and comfortable to play.  If the XBox controllers were anymore blatantly copied from the Playstation controllers, we’d have ourselves…

Only it would say "Microsoft".

The only thing I didn’t get about the Playstation is that the games had black data sides.  What was that all about?  Looking back on it now, the 1990’s birthed the popularity of the internet, when all information became easier to obtain.  Piracy was a big problem, remember Napster?  I’m sure people were trying to burn Platstation 1 games, so Sony said “Screw it, make the CD’s next to impossible to find!”

FYI ... We still found them.

Everything else being equal, greater than, or less than/equal to, the Playstation still has a place in my heart for being one of the best consoles of the 1990’s.  I don’t get around to playing it too often, because I don’t have a library of games that makes me want to play it.  Not that any of the games are hard to find.  I bought 3 Playstation 1 games from a church yard sale for a quarter.  All 3.  For a quarter.

So if you’re a retro gamer like me, you need to have a Playstation in your collection.  It was the father of many other concepts that we have come to expect when we buy games brand new.  It was on the frontier of gaming.  I think the reason people take it for granted, or it takes a back seat to other consoles, or whatever you want to say, is that it came a little too early for all that it had to offer.  Pick one up, test it out, and enjoy.

Happy Gaming,

The Jester.

*All images are the property of their respective owners and may be under copy write protection.  Most images obtained through Google Image Search*



Posted in Downtown Bristol, Sophistication on October 1, 2010 by Divide By Zero

I know what you’re thinking.  The title is referring to this lolcat picture.  Actually, no.  I finally got the interview I have wanted since Rhythm & Roots weekend.  That weekend, as my girlfriend and I were wandering in and out of all of the stores open for business, contributing to the glow, and overall R&RR weekend experience, we came across one I hadn’t ever been in before.  Shoozies.  It’s a pretty classy place compared to some of the stores that have been around a while, but I think it’s a breath of fresh air.  I was lucky enough to speak with the owner of Shoozies during the hustle and bustle of Rhythm & Roots.  She had opened up the first night of the R&RR weekend, so it’s fair to say that this location of her business is in its infancy.  I immediately wanted to include a write-up on her and her store here on my blog, for your guys to read.  And after weeks of waiting, and having scheduling conflicts, I was able to sit down with the owner this morning.  She had a lot to say, and I enjoyed every minute of the interview.  Plus I am very proud of the fact that I was the first person to interview the owner of this store.  I feel a little honored!

Del Dotson:  Okay so, first off can you tell me your name and your title with the business?

Peggy Wilson:  My name is Peggy Wilson, and I’m the owner.

DD:  Okay.  What made you choose to open a business on State Street, over any other location you could have chosen?

PW:  Well, I decided about 5 years ago, this building was available, and I decided to buy the building.  Because in Kingsport, I’ve always leased all of my.. I’ve always had a lease.  I’ve never really owned my own building.  So I decided I would just buy this building and rent out a retail space to someone and build a loft.  And maybe, just a slim chance of maybe that I would put my own business in there later.  Then I had trouble leasing the building.  It was not in great shape and so after a couple of people leased it a year and moved out, I decided to remodel and get it looking really good.  And see what was actually here.

DD:  So this isn’t your first business?

PW:  No.  I have a business in Kingsport, it’s called Shoozies, also.  It’s the same business.

DD:  And where is that located?

PW:  It’s in the Fort Henry Mall.  Well, “Fort Henry Mall” is now “Kingsport Town Center”, they’ve renamed it.  But it’s been Fort Henry Mall forever.  And I moved in there in ’94.  1994, and.. no, ’84.  1984!

DD: Wow.  That’s a long time.

PW:  Yes, it is.  And I’ve gone through a lot of landlords.

DD: Right.

PW:  ..and a lot of ups and downs.  So, right now the mall is in kind of a “down-mode”, they’re trying to get some of the major stores leased and it’s just not happening.  I decided that, since my lease is up soon, and they’ve told me I can lease month-to-month, or whatever I want to do.  And I think that’s what I’m going to do down there.  But I decided that I might try Shoozies up here and see how it goes.

DD:  Yeah.  And just to kind of have a place to call your own?

PW:  Yes.  And, you know, have a place in case I don’t renew my lease, or don’t want to stay any longer.  Or can’t stay any longer.

DD:  Well that’s wonderful, a really good idea.

PW: Yeah.

DD:  I remember when we talked before, that you said you really busted butt to get [the store] open by Rhythm & Roots.

PW:  Yeah, we did!  It just seems like it’s taken forever. Everything takes longer than you expect, but..

DD:  I know that [all too well!].

PW:  And so we had different target dates to be open, I missed them.  So I decided that I’m going to be open by Rhythm & Roots, some way, some how. And we worked, and my husband has a job in Bristol and he works hard.  We worked down here [at the store] until midnight all week, and my computer guy was going on vacation.  He came down, and got my computer going at 6:45 on Friday night and we opened the doors at 7:00.

DD:  Right, hahaha.

PW:  It really was worth it, because I haven’t done any advertising yet and just about every one, maybe about 75% of the people who come through my door said they saw me and knew about me from Rhythm & Roots.  It’s made a big difference.

DD:  Yes, it’s a really good way to spread word-of-mouth.

PW:  Yes.

DD:  Okay, my next question is what do you think Shoozies brings to Downtown Bristol that wasn’t already here?  You’ve already kind of touched on it a little bit.

PW:  I think it’s a.. I think it’s wonderful for Downtown Bristol.  I hope that I am successful for many reasons but one is that if I’m successful that it will draw more stores similar to this to Downtown.  I don’t want another shoe store, but clothing stores, or specialty stores.  Our mall has not kept up with the time..

DD:  No, not at all.

PW:  You know!  And if you don’t keep up, if you’re not progressive, you’re going to get left behind.  It just takes Downtown a while to get going.  We’ve had, since I’ve owned the building 5 years ago, we’ve had a step forward, two steps back.  You know, two steps forward, one step back.  But we are doing better.  So I know my store will attract other stores if I’m successful.

DD:  Alright.  Well that’s wonderful, I really like that idea (mentality).  How do you think Shoozies fits in with, like, State Streets’ personality?  With the whole, kind of, face it has down here?

PW:  Well, you know I think State Street is many faces.  During Rhythm & Roots, wearing boots that I didn’t even know owned a pair of boots!  So it kind of turned into being a different State Street during Rhythm & Roots.  It’s just got a lot of everything and I think every store down here is kind of unique in their own way.  And they could have gone to the Mall.  Like some of these stores that have been here forever, when the Mall was really going well, they could have said: “Downtown’s dead, I’m moving to the Mall.”  But they want Downtown to succeed, they like Downtown.  It’s a great place!  I love it here!  It’s pleasant, and it’s really different from the Mall.

DD:  Yeah it is.

PW:  ..and it’s nice.  I think the character of State Street is a mixture of personalities that have businesses down here.  Everybody that’s down here has taken a risk.

DD:  Absolutely.  And last week, I did an article on Inari Wines.  I asked them the same question.  And Aulikki said that State Street is really moving towards, you know it’s getting all these specialty shops.  And she mentioned you [Shoozies], she said you know, there’s that shoe store and it has really nice items in there, and we have wine here, and an art shop, err.. gallery right next door [to Shoozies].  So you know, it’s moving towards being really elegant.  In a way.

PW:  Yeah, it is.  But nothing against the stores that aren’t.  Because they’ve stayed here, and they’ve endured.

DD:  Yeah.

PW:  Do you know what I mean?

DD:  Yeah, and they bring a little bit of the charm too.

PW:  Yes they do!  Yeah you’re right, charm, that’s a good word!  But I think to make it profitable Downtown, you’ve got to have stores like mine.  We’ll see what happens, I’m just hoping I can stay.  I want to.  But if I can’t pay my bills, I can’t hire employees, I can’t sell enough to do that, then I can’t stay.  But I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think I could make it.

DD:  Right.  Is there anything we can look forward to from the store in the near future?

PW:  I’m going to get my Birkenstocks any day.  they’re supposed to have been shipped.  I’m hoping today.  Birkenstocks and Uggs, those are my 2 biggest sellers in Kingsport.  I’m getting both of those, I finally got my approval on the Uggs, it took me forever.  It took me months to get approval.  But I finally got approved!  And Uggs are so picky that’s why they’re in such high demand.

DD:  One more question!  Is there anything else you’d like to share, that I didn’t really already ask about?

PW:  Hmmm.  I don’t think so.. I’m still, even though I’ve been in business for 25 years, I’m still open to any suggestions.  So I am getting.. it’s a different business in Bristol, I already know that.  I’m looking for ideas of things to carry that the customers want, that I can sell.  I don’t know of anything, except that I am..

DD:  Open to suggestions.

PW:  Yes I am.

DD:  That’s cool.  Okay, that’s all I have.

PW:  Well thank you so much.  Thank you for bearing with me and coming back so many times.

DD:  You’re welcome, and thank you for your time.

She’s right.  I like the mentality behind her opening a classy joint on State Street.  I see the way things are moving down there, and with more stores like Mrs. Wilson’s Shoozies, there is more room for success of the whole area.  I believe that her success will really be a success for everyone living in/near Downtown Bristol.  With more businesses like hers, there will be more things to do Downtown.  There will be less abandoned buildings, more foot traffic, which would lead to more public events.  All of which to me, is one huge cycle that would pull our little neck of the woods out of the recession real quick.  Right now her store is different than what we are used to on State Street.  But different doesn’t mean bad.  Change is usually a good thing, and I hope her business is successful.  I think Shoozies is doing pretty well for having no advertising whatsoever.  I think that if Mrs. Wilson markets it right to her target audience, the sky will be the limit!

Overall, the store is not my style.  I am, however a male.  I know plenty of women, though, that love shopping for shoes and bags and accessories and I think Shoozies would be the perfect place to shop for your wife or girlfriend.  I secretly hope they start selling gift cards soon.  That being said, I think the way it’s set up, it wouldn’t be uncomfortable for men to go in and look around, like most other women’s stores are.  That’s a hard thing to do.  Guys know what I am talking about; how often are you left standing up against a wall holding bags and feeling awkward, waiting on your girlfriend?  Shoozies is classy, but comfortable, (and guys, Peggy was gracious enough to put a lot of comfy places to sit around the store).  And Mrs. Wilson is one of the nicest people you will meet.  Every time I have gone in, she (and her staff) have been nothing but polite and kind.  I haven’t had a bad experience with her or her store at all.  I definitely think it’s worth checking out if you’re local, or just stopping by Bristol for the weekend.

Good Luck, Mrs. Wilson!


527 State Street, Bristol VA, 24201

(276) 644-3275

A Grape Place to Be

Posted in Downtown Bristol, Gourmet, Inari Wines, Sophistication on September 24, 2010 by Divide By Zero

This week, I ventured into a little spot near State Street called Inari Wines.  If you haven’t been here yet, I recommend you get there soon.  It’s right across the street from the Bristol Public Library.  It’s sort of easy to miss if you’re not looking for it.  But once you see it, you can’t un-see it.  My girlfriend and I have had a chance to take part in one of their wine tastings, and we both had a very pleasant experience.  We learned some things about wine that we didn’t know before, and enjoyed the company of everyone in the store.

That wine tasting was the first time I remember having some free time to look around their store, and it really is a different place you can find some interesting things.  Like Whimsical Gems & Treasures, there are a lot of nifty little gifts that you wouldn’t find in mainstream stores.  The items Mr. and Mrs. Brandt (the owners) have at Inari Wines make perfect gifts for people who are hard to buy for, or already have everything.  If you take the time to browse a little bit, I’m sure you could find a perfect gift for everyone you know.

I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Mrs. Aulikki Brandt for a few minutes, when she had some time.  She was very welcoming to me, and seemed to enjoy the questions I had to ask.  She gave very informative answers and was very friendly.. as has been my experience with her store overall.  I have taken the time to transcribe my mini-interview for you all.

Del Dotson: Okay, so you’re the owner?

Aulikki Brandt: I’m one of the owners.  Me and my husband.

DD: And what’s your name?

AB: My name is Aulikki.  Aulikki Brandt, here’s my card.

DD: That’s a pretty name.  Okay, my first question is What made you choose to open a business, like, in downtown Bristol, right near State Street?

AB: When.. We used to live in Houston, and our dream was to leave Houston and come to a small town and open our own business.  And we didn’t really know what it was going to be.  We thought maybe a computer business, or a coffee shop.  Then when it finally came the time where we were in Bristol, and we kind of evaluated what we did not have here, this is what we came up with.

DD: Yeah, okay.

AB: We wanted to do gourmet food, wine, cheese, beer, gifts.  Things like that.

DD: Yeah, because you have a lovely store.  And I’ve noticed there’s not too many places like this.. you know..

AB: mm-mm (as she shook her head ‘no’)

DD: In or around Bristol.  Or the Tri-Cities, really.

AB: Right

DD: Um, is this the first business you’ve opened up?

AB: Yes.

DD: So you’re a first-time business owner, that’s cool. And um, I think you’ve already answered this, but what do you think Inari Wines brings to downtown Bristol that wasn’t already here?

AB: I would think that we have a really unique.. niche that is very different than anything else, anybody has downtown.  So I think that for the whole area, I think that we have definitely changed a lot about of the appreciation of good wine.

DD: Definitely, yeah.  I’ve come to your wine tastings a few times on Saturdays and I really enjoyed that.  Um, my next question is this.  How do you think Inari Wines fits in with the whole personality of downtown Bristol?

AB: I think it really fits into the specialty shops.  And I think that, I think we have lots of great antique shops but it’s really neat to see, now that we’re getting more specialty shops.  There’s a shoe shop, there’s ladies purses and all that kind of stuff.  There’s art shops, so I think it really fits into that kind of a..

DD: That kind of atmosphere.

AB: Yes!

DD: It kind of “goes with the flow”?

AB: Mm-hmmm.

DD: Is there anything we can look forward to?  Any, um.  Besides the wine tastings.  We always look forward to the wine tastings!

AB: Well, we are hoping to expand our store to have a whole special wine tasting area.  It seems to be getting so busy right now but we are planning to remove one of the walls up here and build a special tasting area.  That’s something we are slowly starting to work on.

DD: Very nice.  And the last question is, is there anything else you’d like to tell me, or share that I haven’t already asked about?

AB: We’re still kind of the best kept secret down here, that people just.. Still, people walk in every day.  They say: “Oh I never knew that you were here!”  And I say “Well, we’ve been in business 7 and a half years, so..”

DD: And you guys used to (looks out the window and points across the street)…

AB: We started across the street and we were there for 2 years.  We ran out of space so we moved to State Street across from Paramount for 2 years.  Now there’s a fabric shop in that space.  And then we moved here, and what really works for us in this location is that we have the whole front for parking, the back for parking.  Parking for us is a big issue, especially when you start to move the cases of wine.

DD: Oh yeah, I’ll bet.  Hahaha.

AB: We really lucked out to get this spot.

DD: Alright, well thank you very much for your time.

AB: Thank you!

That concluded my interview with Mrs. Brandt.  I wish we both had more time for her to answer more questions.  I also wish I hadn’t just spent my money in the antique shops.  There was a big can of Wasabi Peas with my name on it in there!

Seriously though, I recommend this establishment to everyone.  There’s really no way I can write down the passion and information the staff (especially the owners) of Inari Wines freely gives out to its customers.  You can visit their website here.  It has a more extensive list of the inventory they have to offer, and a detailed schedule of events they have planned.  Whether you’re a wine connoisseur, just have a general interest in wine, or are (like myself) a complete novice of everything wine and just want to learn a little bit about it.. this is the place to go.

I also highly recommend attending one of their wine tastings, I am certain that they will offer a wine that you will have to take home with you.  They really know their stuff.

Thank you Mrs. Brandt for the opportunity to talk with you.  And thank you both for being a big part of the downtown Bristol community, all the best in the future!

Inari Wines Gourmet Market

39 Piedmont Avenue, Bristol VA, 24201

(276) 821-WINE (9643)