Amazing Archive BBC Clip Shows 1981's Hottest Coin-Op Coverage

By Rich Stanton on at

Today the BBC shared an archive clip from 1981 that focuses on Aberdeen's coin-op industry, and it's really something. The clip was originally broadcast as part of a series called Something Else, which was aimed at a young audience and ran from 1978 to 1982. As you'll soon see, it has a louche presenter and a pretty open-minded, if odd, approach to the subject: beginning with 'transfer news' about the movement of local cabinets, and moving onto speculation about the industry's future more broadly.

The dashing presenter doesn't mention his own name, unfortunately, but deserves a small place in video game history for the quite incredible opening line of the 'fixtures and transfer news':

"The Galaxian at the Castle Inn, West Ham, will be transferred to Bell's Hotel, Balmoral Lounge, next week, because of the general lack of interest in this particular game around the West Ham area. It is hoped that performances will attract a much larger clientele at Balmoral Lounge, and the Galaxian should stay there for the rest of this season."

The clip also features a chap called Gordon Burnett-Smith who's apparently pretty good at arcade games, and is certainly extremely accomplished at growing a disco 'tache, as well as a man called Charles whose surname sounds like 'Sonibend' but I can't quite make it out.

It's worth bearing in mind that Something Else was relatively ahead of its time and so, while elements of this clip certainly look strange nearly four decades down the line, it's also a serious attempt by the national broadcaster to get a handle on games and the industry (which was still heavily arcade-based at this point). And it hits the mark more than a few times, with Charles vaguely predicting the rise of eSports to name one.

This is a strange and awesome time capsule, from Gordon's assertion that the appeal of coin-op score-chasing has "that sorta hidden aggression behind it" to the bizarre digression into someone playing a tabletop game on the toilet. Give this five minutes, and it will show you the purer world we once lived in.