Ar-Gosh (The Inflationally Adjusted 1985 and 1986 Argos Catalogues)

  • 12/15/2010 09:10:00 pm
  • By Mark Gibbings-Jones
  • 0 Comments

We could think of a pun for the title this time. Not a good one, though.

So, slightly surprisingly for us, yesterday’s update on the 1976 Argos catalogue seems to have been really quite popular. We know this because there are several hits on our Feedjit page linked to something on Facebook, though thanks to the way Facebook handles outgoing links, we don’t know which particular bit of Facebook everyone is coming in from. Anyway, that means we’d probably better make good on our promise to look at some items from the 1980s, and what they’d cost in nowmoney.

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In case you haven’t seen yesterday’s update yet, we’d said this:

“Thanks to the utterly magnificent work of someone calling themselves Trippyglitters, Flickr now plays host to not one, not two, not four, but THREE complete Argos catalogues from the past. One from 1976, one from 1985 and one from 1986. This, as any reasonably rational person will understand, is absolutely fantastic news.”

Indeed, this is still fantastic news, especially as we can actually remember items in the catalogues we’ll look at today, which are from 1985 and 1986.

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With technology having marched on quite a bit in the nine years since catalogue we looked at yesterday, the prices of digital watches have since plummeted, with a kind of arms race between watch manufacturers to cram in as many widgets as possible in order to satisfy the burgeoning teenage spod market. Case in point, this…

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Or should we have said… ‘Casio’ in point? No. No, we shouldn’t, that would have been rubbish. Anyway, it’s the Casio Gent’s LCD Calculator Chrono/Alarm Watch. After all, who wouldn’t want the option of working out 5% of something when you’re out and about? Or even killing a bit of time by playing “how close can you stop the stopwatch to exactly five-and-no-hundredths-of-a-second” on the stopwa… er, ‘chronograph’? As the little icons next to the photo tell us, this watch boasts ‘Quartz’ (which all watches here do anyway, even the really rubbish ones), a stopwatch, an alarm, and a lap timer. True, there was no need to employ the ‘backlight’ or ‘musical alarm’ icons for this little number, but that doesn’t stop it being the ideal thing to find hanging off your wrist while struggling to get to grips with GOSUB commands in the school computer room.

HOW MUCH?

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Just £18.95 in saved paper round money/pocket money/coke deal money. Or (according to the Bank of England’s inflation calculator), a nowmoney price of £42.80. Which, all things considered, isn’t too bad. We’re not really going to be able to surprise anyone with comparatively expensive electronic tat in this update, we suspect. We’d compare that price with whatever calculator watches cost nowadays, but we suspect the fact they’d now only appeal to achingly cool hipster types means the price would be in at least three figures.

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So, kettles. Yes, kettles, and a reminder of just how badly designed products could be in the 1980s. Nowadays, it’s all ‘sexy chrome’ this, and ‘send an automatic update to your Twitter account when boiled’ that, but back then merely the fact a kettle had a “won’t keep boiling away until all the water evaporates and it eventually explodes if you forget about it” feature was enough to keep you interested. Design? Well, that clearly came somewhere below “which font size should we use for the warranty coupon” in the Philips R&D department monthly meeting agenda.

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It’s the Philips HD 4355 Super Automatic Kettle. It’s a confusing beast – not only does the title suggest it’s actually an LCD television from the following century, but that lid makes it look like a toaster. Sadly, popping a couple of slices of bread is only really likely to result in some very soggy bread and possibly a bad smell, but this kettle does boast “Lid or spout filling”, it “boils as little as one cup of water”, and most importantly switches off when boiled. There’s fancy, eh?

HOW MUCH?

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At £17.45, it’s one of the more expensive kettles on offer, which is a bit surprising, as it’s so bloody horrible to look at. We’d like to know which 1980s design guru actually decided that beige and brown are a winning combination. The only way those two words should really be together like that is in the Sunday night LWT cop show we’ve just imagined using our brains. “I’m Inspector Beige, you slaaag! I’ll see you doing a score in the slammer for this! Come on, Constable Brown, we’ve got evidence to tamper with.” “Yus, Inspector.”

Oh, in nowmoney, that price comes to £39.41. That much, for a lump of ugly plastic that promises not to set your kitchen on fire if you forget to keep an eye on it.

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This is more like it. It’s the Brother EP-44 Dot Matrix Type-writer/Terminal. Fancy owning one of those new fangled “word processing centres”, but are scared of it somehow getting a computer virus and making your cat pregnant, like the Daily Star claimed that time? Well, who needs an entire portable-TV-sized screen of text to read – using a display that size of a calculator should surely suffice. After all, it promises:

  • Near letter quality print
  • Memory allowing storage of up to THREE PAGES of text
  • A whole 15 CHARACTER LCD display

And beyond all that, in use with a suitable modem, the EP-44 operates as a telecommunications terminal, compatible with electronic mailing systems e.g. Telecom Gold. Because who needs to ever see more than fifteen characters of an email at once?

HOW MUCH?

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Note the marvellous way the listing includes a sample of the lettering that the typewriter is capable of. It’s not especially professional looking, is it? So, this would set you back a notable £239.00, or in nowmoney, a total of £539.86. No matter how stupidly expensive printer ink cartridges are for your £39.99 photo printer nowadays, just think how expensive things like that used to be.

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Music! With the 1980s being the age of the Walkman, we just have to include a glance at the pinnacle of out-and-about audio coolness. And no prizes for guessing that the flagship personal stereo on sale in the 1985 Argos catalogue is the…

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…oh. The Philips D6638 “Skyliner” Mk 2 Personal Stereo Radio/Cassette. That doesn’t seem right, but for some reason we can’t see the product that came to define Sony in there anywhere. Still, this unit does offer a “Metal tape capability” (insert joke about Def Leppard or something here), fast-forward AND rewind, auto-stop at tape end (as opposed to just snapping the tape in twain, or something), but most notably, a VHF radio. We thought ‘VHF’ had been rebranded as ‘FM’ by that point. Hmm.

HOW MUCH?

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A penny under 45 quid. Or, in nowmoney… £101.62. Pretty much the same as an iPod Nano, in fact. Or indeed, the 1st gen iPod Touch we sold a few weeks ago.

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“See how I am wearing a suit! This means that it’s okay for middle-class people to shop at Argos too.”

Not everyone wanted to keep their 1985 musical choices to themselves, of course. Far better was the option of annoying your neighbours, or even going out and about with your all-Anthrax mixtape (providing you didn’t mind about a fiver’s worth of batteries lasting for less than one side of a C90). If that’s your aim, you’d have needed a product that couldn’t sound more 80s if you surrounded it with neon and poured a bottle of Taboo into it: a ghetto blaster.

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Step forward, the Philips D8644 Hi-Tech Stereo Component System. The radio offers long, medium, VHF and the rarely-spotted short waveband coveage. It has two detachable speakers. A five band graphic equaliser (remember when you had an annoying friend who claimed that he, and he alone, knew how to adjust graphic equalisers so that music sounded better? Just us? Oh), Dolby B noise reduction with LED indication, and “servo-assisted direct-select tape keys”. Oh, and if you want to listen to it outside, you’ll need TEN R20S batteries, at 47p each.

HOW MUCH?

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£199.99. Batteries, cocktails, party streamers and Barbara Dickson cassette not included. That’s a nowmoney price of just £451.74. Oh, and if you want the batteries too, an extra £10.61.

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What you really want is some interactive fun, though. It’s the tail-end of videogaming’s first golden age, and surely Argos must offer something here. Well, you need to wait for the 1986 catalogue to get your first glimpse of that, but when you get there, you get there in style with…

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The Nintendo Game and Watch version of Donkey Kong. Seem kind of familiar? It’s pretty much the inspiration for the much later Nintendo DS, of course, and garish colour scheme aside, not too much changed between the two designs. Well, except that the Nintendo DS let you play more than one game. (Actually, we think when the Game Boy was launched in 1989, much of the type was along the lines of “it’s like having loads of Game & Watches all in one unit”).

HOW MUCH?

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£17.95, which converts to a nowmoney price (don’t worry, we’ll never, ever use the horrible term ‘nowmoney’ ever again, promise) of £39.21. Effectively the same as any top Xbox 360, PS3 or Wii game today. Or about the price of two Nintendo DS games, or, and this is kind of the reason hardly anyone buys Nintendo DS games any more, about 66 iPod Touch games.

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And that’s about it really. As we’d said, you can see the actual catalogues in full from Trippyglitters Flickr page.

[WITTY SIGN OFF ABOUT THE 1980S BEING RUBBISH COMPARED TO NOW TO GO HERE. MAYBE USING THE WORD ‘MULLET’, OR CHANGING THE TARGET OF A JOKE STOLEN FROM FAMILY GUY TO A MORE BRITISH EQUIVILENT.]

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