There’s something utterly magical about the festive season, is there not? For some it’s the opportunity to take a break, spend some time with loved ones and family. Others look forward to the winter scenes and snowy landscapes, if we’re lucky. For others, it’s presents. It’s all about the god damn presents.
For me as a child, it was about the god damn presents, the shinys, the materials, the goods… mainly the electronics to be fair. I used to start writing my Christmas lists in September, on an ever more intricate scale as I got older (it’s still getter more intricate). Argos, Index, Toys ‘R’ Us and Great Universal catalogues were pawed over most evening’s after school until the perfect list was compiled. Sometimes I just got lost in the pictures of these fantastical consumables. Other times I had to argue with myself about whether I wanted a Game boy or a Master System more…. ahhhhh, Christmas, what a magical time.
Anyway, with all that planning, you’d hope that I got some damn good presents from Saint. Nick. And thankfully, I did.
Now this is exclusively a Christmas list, so birthday presents such as my Commodore 64, Amiga 600 and Crash Dummies crash test centre, will have to be omitted here (you’ll have to wait until April for that video). So bearing that in mind, here is my Top 8 childhood Christmas presents;
10. Mr. Chimney Pot
Back in 1986, one of the favourite presents I ever did got, was my Bluebird Mr. Chimney Pot. The successor to the Big yellow tea pot, but apparently a not so popular successor, as it’s production run was far shorter. Consisting of a red plastic opening chimney inhabited by the “Soot” family, it was a toy I loved from about the age of 3 onwards.
9. Train Set
Every child needs this. I must have been about 6 when I received my train set, and although it was lacking in scenery and detail unlike my Dad’s current project here (I believe we layed it out on a sheet). I had great fun spinning that train back and forth along the track.
8. Tyco Racing Hoppers
What’s better than a Scalextric set in 1989? I would definitely say a Tyco Racing (or Tomy AFX) set. This massive desert style set, complete with hills, water and dips, could only just fit into my bedroom, where it took up the floor space for the best part of a year. But there was something mesmerising about whipping tiny cars around a track as fast as you possibly could. It wasn’t the one I had been pawing over in the catalogues, but it was damn good.
7. Lego Castle
I must have been 5 when I received this Lego extravaganza. They’d only recently launched their Castle range, and this thing seemed absolutely massive. It included good knights, bad knights, horses, weapons and a FRICKIN’ draw bridge. I received a more modern day one a few years back with recaptured all that early nostalgia.
6. Space Crusade
The world of Warhammer captured the imagination of my tiny child mind. I spent months staring at this box art in catalogues. So it’s a good job I got it for Christmas 1990 and subjected my family to various rounds of epic questing.
5. Atari 520 STFM
What’s better than your average Commodore 64, but not quite up to Amiga standards? It’s my friend Michael’s old Atari ST. I’d spent many a year playing this and the associated POWER PACK before Christmas 1994, but as Micky upgraded to a PC that year, my parents bought me his old machine in the interim. Strangely Cheryl Crow’s “If it Makes You Happy” reminds me massively of this Christmas and this machine.
4. Cyrix 5×86 Processor and 4MB Memory Upgrade
Christmas 1996 involved me popping my trusty PC off to some “bloke” a mate knew, in some dodgy suburb. His house was so smoke engulfed and full of 90s PC hardware it looked like an illegal hacking den… it probably was in all fairness. But he upgraded my PC from a 486 DX2/50 to a spanking Cyrix 5×86 100 CPU, with an additional 4MB of RAM to boot. Good times, especially with Quake.
3. Sega Mega Drive
Christmas 1993 involved a Sega Megadrive in all it’s glory. My first foray into 16 bits. I could finally watch Bad Influence and Games Master and have a chance of owning the games they played, well, for another year, at least. I opened it at 6am in the morning and got straight to work with Sonic the Hedgehog and Another World. Tremendous.
2. Sega Master System
As we get close to number 1, we land at christmas 1991. The time I received my first games console. I’d had a ZX Spectrum for many a year before this, but this was the system which introduced me to the wonderful world of Sega and I spent all day playing rock, paper, scissors with Alex kid in his crazy Miracle world.
1. Advent 4250 Desktop PC
The number one spot simply HAS to be given to my first ever PC. I remember going to PC World with my Dad to pick it up (in preparation for Christmas day) in December 1995. This PC World own brand cost a whopping £450, which was by far the most money I’d ever had spent on a Christmas gift… but it’s educational… right? It had a 486 DX2/50 processor, 4MB of RAM, a Trident video card and it packed DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.11 for Workgroups. From this point on, I was rarely seen out of my bedroom, let alone my house….. which I probably why I make videos about it now. Glorious.
My mind cells are weary, so I’m sure I’ll probably think of something INCREDIBLE I’ve missed right after posting this video, but favourable mentions have to go out to Stretch Arm Strong, my rubberised pullable character with a well defined jaw, received at the age of 11. My first mobile phone the Sagem RC-715 received when I was 15 and the various PC games I used to buy myself and wrap up…. from cash I’d received off relatives.. ahem, yeah I know… I don’t do that so much now.
Now, this is all very materialistic, and indeed, I was extremely lucky. Here we are stuffing our sacks with presents when some people in the world can barely scrape together a meal. So without bogging you lot down or sounding too cliche, remember, Christmas is a time for helping those with less than you. Think about them this year. Think about loved ones you haven’t made contact with in, and think about your family. Because regardless of what I said to start with, the main reason I have fond memories and nostalgia towards Christmas is because of the great times I spend with my family. The presents were fantastic of course, but those are things you can buy, sell and replace. Your family is not. So make sure you have a good one this year, and if you’re good, Santa just might bring you a…
FRICKIN’ SINCLAIR ZX SPECTRUM WITH WH SMITH TAPE DRIVE! WIOOOOOOO.