My First…

Pocket Calculator
After grappling with the bizarre and cumbersome slide rule, the pocket calculator was a joy to behold. The originals had big clunky keypads, and even the most basic models had functions that might as well have been a Martian code. Those who had them, would always ask those who hadn´t, to give them some figures to add or subtract before quickly stunning them with the correct answer. The obvious flaw in this operation was, the person without the calculator couldn´t check the accuracy, they just had to applaud the amazing speed and clear bold figures that appeared in the display screen
Meant as a helpful tool for school pupils, shoppers, and aspiring mad scientists, it soon found other uses. There were a few books produced to show how to play maths games which sometimes involved a pack of cards. Of course the neat trick to win friends and influence people was entering numbers and showing the calculator upside down as it miraculously displayed words like “hello” “shell oil” or the outrageous “boobs”.

What kind of witchcraft was this box? Just flip the front compartment open and slide your cassette within the guiding raised lines, snap it shut, and press the play button to instantly depress all within a 300 mile radius with an annoying tinny rattling as you sang an out of tune version of a pop song.
They had notoriously difficult volume adjustment slides with no half way between silent and ear wax blasting ferocity. Battery life got consumed at an alarming rate, especially if you used fast forward or rewind. Never mind you could be well prepared if you had a bag the size of Santa´s sack to take extra batteries, and a choice of other cassettes. Oh don´t forget that cassette cases didn´t click closed, they slipped open very easily, providing you with hours of amusement fishing around for the correct case for each free roaming cassette.
At least they looked cool,well sort of. The earphone halo would never push together with ease, they either slipped down your face or squeezed your brain into submission. When someone motioned to you to remove the headphones, they soon got all tangled, another chore to delay you inside your front door before you could stride down the street.

Compilation LP
Maybe the mildly erotic young lady on the LP cover could tempt you to buy the Top Of The Pops compilation. The downside was the cover versions of recent hits that sounded like the performances in the musical romp at the end of Crackerjack.
20 Fantastic Hits heralded a new age. What a great band “Original Artists” were, they sounded just like the real singers. Someone always jumps on the band wagon, soon 20 Dynamic Hits muscled in, and even Ronco joined the compilation club. We were further amazed that this company could also solve domestic problems with gadgets like a combined onion chopper and belly button fluff remover. I always had an image of the 20 bands and singers on each LP meeting up in a car park to share out the proceeds from giant bags of loose change. The advent of these collections tolled the bell on many budding music producers who had spent Sunday afternoons illegally recording the Top 40 radio run down whilst shouting shush at anyone in a 5 mile radius.

Cow horns, monkey hangers, or short, sharp, trendy steering controls, how I longed for them. My elderly aunt bought me my first bike and it was sensible, safe, and a dull bottle green colour. As my mates stood up and swagger peddled to get up the steep hill to school, I was rooted to my wide saddle, red in the face as I tried to force the pedals to move with a gear choice of stiff or steadfast refusal.
I didn´t know what a wheel looked like, the long mud guards covered the black, chunky tyres. Sometimes roque tufts of grass would jam in the metal and David Attenborough yearned to investigate the insect life forms wedged between the grip of my sturdy forks. Not for me the cheeky shrill ping of a bicycle bell, I had a horn with a deep baritone that sounded like a demented seal. Schoolboy swag like football cards and marbles didn´t frequent my saddlebag, the tyre repair kit took pride of place, complete with a small spanner and an instruction leaflet.
Despite all this, I loved my bike, after a couple of years it gained its own grudging admiration as a retro model. It didn´t get coveted by thieves like my friends steeds, and it wasn´t squeamish about powering through a small stream, or over chunky stones.

Mobile Phone
I gave her my heart, she gave me my first mobile. The size of a half pound slab of Cadburys finest, it wouldn´t fit any of my pockets, and cost a fortune to run. Popping in the pub on the way home, I always stood at the far end of the bar where there was no signal, to save an ear bashing. It was a bad omen about the relationship.
Jumping forward several years and a couple of oceans, I bought a chunky but smaller mobile that had a habit of working when it felt like it, at least it kept me linked to Blighty. Problems started when it wouldn´t charge when resting in its cradle. The salesman kept insisting I must have got it wet, my assurance that it always wore its cover and lived in my pocket made him tighten his get out clause. Any moisture would upset it he insisted as we sat in the shop just across from a large beach with sea spray filling the air.
I have never recovered from those setbacks, phones tolerate me at best. Funny, Captain Kirk and his mates never had signal problems with that powder compact they spoke into, and they never got constant PPI pitches or viagra offers. Beam me up Busby!

Take a bow the Kodak 110 Pocket Instamatic. What a piece of kit that was, it made me feel like Russian spy Ilyia Kuriakin, well he was the blonde one in UNCLE. Very angular, with no obvious lens, you could almost play it as a mouth organ. The dinky clip in double spool film cartridge had to be liberated from a box and a tight fitting sachet. In later years condom packets made me think of loading that first camera – except this time I was hoping that nothing would develop.
The four flash cube was a very odd thing, it ruined the whole look of the camera and almost exploded when it went off. The standard film had 12 shots, so three of the cubes in my pocket ruined the smooth look of my brushed denim Oxford bags. Future cameras paled in comparison, those awful flat disc cameras had no style and didn´t even have the nice plastic storage box of my instamatic friend.