Chaos and Kanji is the blog where I write about my adventures through Japan!

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Even More Failed Digital-Age Concepts

How do card companies compete with video games, in-your-face TV advertising and Disney programming, and instant-update websites? This is a question for which there is no real answer.

There have been many attempts at making cards more interactive. Topps was part of a product towards the end of the 1980s which played clips with a special device. Post inserted baseball CD-ROMs into its cereal boxes one year. Upper Deck tried baseball card-sized interactive CD-ROM sets called PowerDeck. Pacific created a website which tied directly into the Pacific Online release. Card game inserts have been added to products to drive collectors to company websites, where entering codes can unlock online features, collections, points, and games; most recently Topps' Million Card Giveaway and Diamond Anniversary unlocked actual cards that could be mailed to your house. There have been all sorts of devices that play sounds. One of those is the ProTalk audio card.
 Two "sets" were released between 1998 and 2000, with one (seen above) devoted solely to Ken Griffey Jr. The Griffey set contains only four cards, each accompanied by a stand-up figure. All four stand-ups can see on the back panel advertising. Pushing the speaker button on the card should provide 45 seconds of audio from the event specific to the stand-up. For instance, this stand-up has audio from his 50th home run (of the season, I assume). The packaging on this card makes it impossible to sample the audio - if you compare this to the scan below, you'll see the Griffey card is contained in a hard plastic case, while McGwire is not. Since the package is still intact, even if not mint, I have no way of knowing if the audio works.
The second set issued over the time period was the red-backed regular set. The McGwire carries a 2000 copyright date on the back, but the upper-right corner of the front seems to identify this as still being part of series 1. There are fifteen cards total, with one or two issues per player. Players with two cards have different highlights. Unlike the small Griffey set, this card's audio button can be pressed. I made the mistake of testing it out, and was subjected to about 40 seconds of a high pitched soft whine, much like the sound effect heard when Wile E Coyote would fall long distances. Then, when all hope was lost, I heard a small bit of the original clip, the radio broadcast from McGwire's 500th home run.

It could be worse. You could have a device that does this:
Let's be glad there's a stop button on that video.

It's a fun product if it works, but products like this have a hard time finding a home, torn between digital gamers and internet users who want more than a simple audio product, kids who don't have much allowance to spend on products like this, and collectors who don't connect with these "gimmicky" hybrid products.

But at only 19 cards, a master set might be a nice oddball to acquire.


  1. I have one of those "Fanatics - StarCard" cards of a Jeff Gordon NASCAR race. I picked it up in a box I bought off Craigslist. You are correct about the sound it makes -- 15-20 seconds of a shrill whine followed by 2 seconds of audio...

    It might just be the battery being dead after all these years. I want to take the whole thing apart and hook-in another one, but sadly that would ruin my "collectible."

  2. Three things:

    #1 - Great post. I love reading about oddball sets... especially ones I've never seen before.

    #2 - That video is cult like... I couldn't stop watching it. In fact, I'm tempted to watch it again (and again and again)

    #3 - Who's Shelley Duvall?

  3. I wonder where this comes from. I say that without bothering to do any research on who Shelley Duvall really is or what works he's done.

    Josh D: I've thought about that too, but then I ask myself if it's really worth the work and cost.

    Fuji: Thanks! And I love finding strange videos like that. I end up downloading them and watching them occasionally. When I taught, I'd toss one into my notes occasionally as a break, pop culture reference, or lesson talking point. And ... since you ask I had to look! She is probably most known for The Shining and Popeye, at least as far as I'm concerned.

    And since I looked it up, I think the clip came from one or both of the following: Faerie Tale Theatre, a show she hosted in the early to mid '80s, and Shelley Duvall's Bedtime Stories, a different show from the early '90s.

  4. Good call on the Popeye & The Shining... now I totally know who she is.

    Shelley Duvall's Bedtime Stories? Holy crap, that'd freak me out if I was a kid.