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Consumer Reports From Ages Past 85

Lust sent us a link to a really sweet little subdirectory on the Consumer Reports Website. It contains assorted pictures of long gone products. Check out the Agent Zero M Sonic Blaster 5530 from Mattel. Apparently childrens toys shouldn't be allowed to produce a 157dB sound wave. Waste some time in there- you'll be glad you did.
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Consumer Reports From Ages Past

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Re the Airgun, SRL, etc.

    SRL's device is actually called the V1 - it is one of only a few surviving V1's (not a V2 - that was a rocket - the V1 was a ramjet) in existence - and I believe the only running one in the world (ok, so it is mounted like a cannon). The thing is huge - I went to the SRL get-together in Phoenix a couple of years ago, and man - it does shake your bones! I mean, the whole damn show was loud - but the V1 - it was DAMN LOUD (and they made you wear earplugs! But I still heard distortion in my ears - and they rang for a day!). The thing shot out pulses of FIRE - 6-8 feet in diameter and 20 feet long! Sounded like the ultimate backfire! After the show, the tube that made up the V1 (the actual engine) was glowing near _white_hot_! It was around January, so it was a welcome relief to warm the hands to after the show!

    It should be possible to build one of those things - not sure what it would take, but I imagine it seems to be something like an air cannon (and not a fire breathing/spitting dragon the V1 is - hell, maybe that would be more fun!)... Ahh, yet another project for my list...

    On the subject of the Mr. Wizard Bio experiments - that seems like a neat kit. But not near so neat as one I saw at a Fry's Electronics - this small science kit had all the stuff to extract the DNA from an onion! They went into good detail on it, possibly enough to extract your own (or someone else's) DNA from blood or saliva!

    Just goes to show that the weird shit hasn't died - merely evolved...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    My playmate down the street got one for Christmas. We spent the morning walking the sidewalks, rattling picture windows and bouncing the decorations. Then we started aiming it the upstairs bedroom windows - great fun!

    Later on in the week, when we went looking for it, we couldn't find it. His parents just had no idea. Then a paper route became available, my parents signed me up, and I had much less free time on my hands. Sigh.
  • My favorite has to be the under dash record player [] for 45 RPMs. The article complained about the lack of a changer--the more things change, the more they stay the same.

  • Take a closer look [] at that picture...


  • According to netcraft [], it's running Netscape-Enterprise/3.5.1G on Solaris.

    Blaming Microsoft for everything that goes wrong just makes us look paranoid and delusional.
  • Permanents []

    fashion victim.
  • IIRC, one of The Who's shows back in '67 or so was measured at 160 dB.

    Makes you wonder what kind of speaker, not to mention power supply, that thing had in it.

    Don Negro
  • Actually, the page says the sound tops out at "157 dB ABOVE a level that can do permanent damage to the hearing of an adult". That is DAMN loud.

  • Sorry if I didn't quote the page exactly...

    I wasn't worried as much about spelling as I was the meaning. Rob stated it as the sound being 157 dB. The page says that their measurements topped out at 157 dB higher than a level that can do permanent damage to the ear (meaning it is higher than 157 dB). Okay, now that I have spelled that out for those of you who need visual aid, we can get on with our lives...
  • oOoOps! Yep, you are correct. Didn't see the hyphen. Sorry :)

  • yup, you are right... i didn't see the hyphen...

  • Amazing how their focus has gone from psychofreak levels of detail like the consistancy of toothpaste to more big ticket items like car safety today. Makes you wonder how much people 50 years from now are going to care about what license the source code for their camcorder is under.
  • Geez, /. vs Consumer Reports, and Consumer Reports goes down!

    Guess I'll have to try again after the fervor dies down.

    On the bright side, I wonder if this means that Consumer Reports will do a feature on web servers any time soon.
  • From the Crib testing:

    "...have a technician raise and lower the sides 4,000 times..."

  • I like the Ecology Kit []:

    Ecology kits, 1973

    This Mr. Wizard kit, as its name implies, consists entirely of culturing molds and bacteria. That should be done only under professional supervision--even if you don't follow the kit's suggestion that you culture matter from dirty garbage cans. We rate it Not Acceptable.

  • Not to be pedantic but the V-1 motor was a pulsejet not a ramjet. A ramjet burns continuously and needs a very highspeed airflow to work. A pulsejet works at much slower speeds (it can be driven with a fan) and sounds like the world's largest machine gun.

    Basically it works by spraying fuel into the body of the motor and igniting it with a spark plug. The air inlet at the front consists of reeds arranged like louvres which close when the air/fuel mixture detonates. As the presure wave subsides, they open again admitting more air from the forward air flow (or the fan if you're running this statically on the deck). Think of it as a internal combustion cylinder with an open end instead of a piston and a capacity of several thousand litres.


  • by byoung ( 2340 )
    My understanding is this:

    95 dB can cause hearing damage if over a long enough period (IIRC, 4 hours or somesuch)

    There is some sort of curve (db over time) approaching 120 dB which will cause instant hearing damage. (and pain)

    157 dB (which would mean sticking your ear directly on the end of the toy, I expect) would probably drop you to the ground writhing in pain.

    I was really laughing at the 157dB *OVER* the level that would cause hearing damage.

    That would make the noise roughly 32 times as loud as a saturn rocket. You could probably explode large cement structures with it. And if it could do that, I'd already have 10 of them.
  • In freshman Bio in High School. It took a 1.5 hour block, no more.

    You put the onion in the blender (yes, a kitchen blender) in a solution that breaks down the cell walls. Then you do some other stuff. Then you filter it, and you get white stringy stuff (_extremely_ fine threads) floating in solution at the bottom of a vial. I might have my vial sitting around at home somewhere.

    It wasn't nearly as cool as the time Scherer & I failed miserably to clone African violets under a clean hood, and ended up growing a petri dish full of bacteria. Turned out we had moved our hands over the empty dish, and stuff falling off our hands (thoroughly scrubbed already BTW) contaminated the experiment.

  • I think it said "157dB- above a level blah blah blah..."

    I think you missed the dash, which implies the following meaning:

    "157dB which is above a level blah blah..."

    ok. So this was an anal thing to comment on. Shoot me. At least I didn't AC it. =>
  • How many of you have written a program that draws the pattern on the paper dress?
  • I seem to recall hearing (pun intended) that sound starts to damage your ears at around 80 dB...

    That's just one of the [way to many] stats floating around in my head with little or no support other than "as I recall".

    Anyone have a value with a more substantial basis?
  • Ohhhh, I remember them, yes indeed!!!! I think it was Mainway Toys, with Dan Ackroyd as Mr. Mainway. Toys like "Bag O'Glass" a large bag of broken glass. And a "spaceman" costume taht was just a plastic bag. hahahahahahahahaha

  • Looks like your standard compressor driven automotive paint sprayer.

  • Repetitive Stress Injury Anyone?
  • Now I am sure the people will try to sell anything, no matter how inconvent, unlikely, or plain dangerous.


  • Does Consumer Reports ever cover the dangers of carrying out tests for Consumer Reports?
  • Instant glue, 1973 []

    Problem is, I've done it to myself before.

  • Oh, for crying out loud! How is this any worse than chemistry sets? Culturing a dangeous pathogen with a simple set like that is about as likely as a kid creating nerve gas with a chemistry set.
  • Thats part of the reason I drive a Turbocharged sports car!

    '94 Twin Turbo Supra :-)
  • by craw ( 6958 ) on Wednesday April 07, 1999 @06:35PM (#1944715) Homepage
    The U.S. Military has increased their R&D efforts in non-lethal weapons. One reason for this increase is because of the new role of peacekeeper/policeman that the military has been forced to undertake by the politicans. I'll skip any further political discussion about the actions of the UN, NATO, or the US.

    As a M-16 does not have a stun setting, the military requires effective non-lethal weapons as killing all the local inhabitants is generally regarded as poor PR. The debacle in Somalia clearly illustrates what happens when troops are deployed without the proper equipment. So weapons such as sticky foam, super lubricants, high intensity lasers, bean bag bullets, directed radio frequency, and acoustic pulses have/are being developed.

    A M-16 is designed to kill. These weapons are supposed to be designed to be a little more gentle. Maybe someone will come up with a 1st person shoot-em-up using only non-lethal weapons.
  • Wow! That's something like $45 in today's dollars.

    Pen Testing Machine []
  • Yep. Paper clothing is also widely available, used in such places as hospitals, critical/urgent care facilities, loony bins, maternity wards and nurseries,and so on.

    Air-powered boats (using much larger fans) are about the only way to get around in the Florida swamps.

    And, of course, almost everyone has a portable hair dryer these days.

  • There were stray cats at an apartment complex where I used to live. They were always running around on top of my car- the hood, the roof, the rear glass- everywhere.

    That is, until I started setting off the car alarm remotely when I caught them doing it. :-)
  • Yes, Virginia, there really *is* a Bass-O-Matic!

    I used to work at a nuclear power plant. Part of the work that goes on there is constant radiation checking- there were vegetable gardens in the vicinity, and the cooling reservoir (also a popular fishing spot) were harvested regularly. The samples from the cooling reservoir came in the form of fish, which were Bass-O-Maticized before they were put into the sample counter.

    Everybody, of course, actually called it the Bass-O-Matic.
  • Especially since the average 45 only contained one song per side, no wonder they never caught on.

    It amazes me how shock resistant that thing was, since the technology in those days tended to be rather big and clunky
  • Yehee - had one also, esp. cool that it was 'not acceptable', nobody got hurt, but sure made a nice low 'poof'. Bet one would bring a pretty penny on eBay [] auctions.

  • Check out 197801.htm []. I wonder how much pressure that exerts?
    "Man könnte froh sein, wenn die Luft so rein wäre wie das Bier"
  • I don't understand why they gave it a "not acceptable" rating. A little acetone (nail polish remover) will dissolve the glue. The stuff is also handy for patching wounds.

  • With the intense look on the technicians face, and the stark lighting one could just as easily make a new caption....

    First Contact! Mankind learns just what he is from glowing alien sphere!

  • by jerodd ( 13818 ) on Wednesday April 07, 1999 @03:33PM (#1944725) Homepage
    Why a webserver must come down after getting 1.000 hits in the space of a minute. Jeez--my wimpy IBM PC on a half T1 link could handle that. (Not that I'm asking anyone to test that for me...)

    Joshua `I wanted to see the review of the Grid portable computer' Rodd

  • There used to be the text of the Happy Fun Ball parody somewhere on the Web. Hey, wait, here it is: Happy Fun Ball []
    The guy liked it so much, he named his domain after it.

    The Adobe car was a hoot, too-it was made of clay, and it did not run Photoshop :o)

  • Woow! This thing really makes my toes wiggle.

    Why, oh why don't they make stuff this fun any more? Collecting stuff like this is how I got my name... :)

    Other fun ones...

    Proof [] that Consumer Reports is responsible for the Ozone hole.
    A primitive wind tunnel [].
    The disposable dress [] that is so ugly that it should be disposed before use.
    Houdini's magic death trap [] (a.k.a. portable sauna)
    Cat-litter flavored ice cream [].

    Yummm... Tasty.

  • I want one!!! Anyone have any idea where/how someone could acquire one of these? I'd assume, being a toy from the 1960's that the price would be outrageous, but still.....

    (Devious Mind working overtime..... *)@#$ cats meowing outside my window make nice targets for large sound wave.)

    (Ed: The writer of this comment would not really shoot a large harmful sound wave at stray cats, as much pleasure as he would get from it.)

  • A easier link for navigating is http://www.consumerrepor [] and it allows much freer and easier browsing. And now, back to laziness.
  • Is it just me, or were the 30s-60s just really weird?

    The Edsel's transmission [].

    The Car Record Player [].

    The Paper Dress [].

    The Dust-Spittin' Vacuum [].

    And of course, the Sonic Blaster [].

    I am a child of the '80s-'90s. I cannot imagine what Mattel was thinking. One of the engineers must have pulled a fast one on the suits. I want one, but I wouldn't wanna deal with modern-day lawsuits.


  • Anyone remember Quarry(tm), the cereal with all your daily minerals? IMO, that is the funniest SNL skit ever. Jane Curtin and her family eating rocks with milk with some cheesy folksy music in the background. Pure genius.


  • This one was repeated on Comedy Central today. Based on the "Crystal Pepsi" marketing, hilarious.
  • Boy, if that doesn't look like a young Bill Gates...
  • Geez, CU really are a bunch of wimps, aren't they. First they get upset over a mere 157 dB, and now this.

    I was culturing bacteria in my basement lab when I was in high school. Bought prepared, disposable petri dishes from a hospital supply dealer, the Mr. Wizard stuff not being on the market yet.

    Anyway, the really nasty germs need something like blood agar or an anaeroboic environment...

    (Now, who has a schematic for the sonic cannon? :)
  • If the thing is mounted and not flying, it's unlikely a V1 (more specifically, a pulse-jet engine) unless they've got some way of feeding pressurized air into it.

    The original V1s were launched from a catapult-like launcher (may have used solid rocket jatos) to get up to operating speed. The movement through the air forces air into the forward end of the engine, fuel is sprayed in, lighted, BOOM! - shutters (flutter valves) at the front end close and the hot gases push out the back, internal pressure drops, ram air forces open the shutters and enters the engine. Repeat until fuel == 0.
  • Hm...How are your guys' hearing nowadays?

    But seriously, they really don't make them like they used to. God, If I had one today...the Hijinks and Shenanagans you could raise ^_^

  • Cause it's not running Apache!

    Guess Consumer Reports hasn't scoped the Open Source Scene quite yet...Poor bastards are prolly using NT/IIS...Oh well

  • Ya know, now that I think about it...I could imagin Akyroyd defending that Paper Dress...or that Amazing Melting Iron.

    "Ah, ya...You see in this dress right 'ere, the buttons could snap off and a cute li'l tyke could come on over, think the button was a candy, and choke and die on it. This Paper dress has no buttons. No buttons, no choking toddlers, right? Am I right?"

    Heh...Back when SNL was GOOD. God...what's the $#!T they're trying to pass off as comedy nowadays. I just wanna choke those goddamn cheerleaders. Cheri Oteri can eat $#!T and Die.

    But I digress...
  • and just in time for me to start my Mother's Day shopping for the Mrs...
  • Remember those early Saturday Night Live sketches where Dan Aykroyd would play the sleezy CEO of a shady toy company defending it's horrendously dangerous toys?

    I don't think SNL came up with anything funnier than that sonic blaster in any of these sketches.

    This was just TOO MUCH! What a hoot!
  • There is an organization called "Survival Research Laboratories", based in San Francisco. They create mechanical terror art. Sort of. Big (usually dangerous) machines under (some level of) remote control, acting out a performance of sorts.

    At one of the performances I attended, they had a MUCH larger version of that old Mattel device. It actually blew a little house apart at one point. Then, of course, they turned it on the audience. It is loud. No, I mean LOUD. Shakes your organs. Makes you feel like you were punched in the stomach.

    According to Mark Pauline, SRL mad scientist, the original Mattel sonic blast device actually burst eardrums and as part of the settlement, all examples of the toy had to be removed from the market and destroyed.
  • Actually, you sould read (if you understand the previous comment) that this is *not* 157 higher than the level that can do damage, but 157 db at MAX. This is ABOVE the level that can cause you some trouble hearing...

    Yes, sometimes syntax is important! ;-)
  • Actually, the page says the sound tops out at "157 dB ABOVE a level that can do permanent damage to the hearing of an adult".

    Actually, it says, "Our measurements top out at 157 dB-above a level that can do permanent damage..."

    Note the hyphen..
  • I think this may have been one of the examples of non-lethal weaponry under consideration by our (U.S) armed forces a few years back, as listed by Popular Mechanics. That and something that would put out nauseating sound tones.

    "Sure, you're sick and deaf, but hey, at least you're still alive" just doesn't do it for me.
  • For a while when I was a kid I wanted to grow up to be a tester for Consumer Reports. It just seemed like such a cool job -- playing with stuff in weird ways and trying to figure out ways to break it. Now I look at the technician picking food off of frozen pizzas and realize that at least some aspects of the job might have been pretty darned tedious.

    It's an awful lot like software testing, though, isn't it?

    Some of these products were interesting ideas, if flawed. Those paper dresses -- how flammable were they? And the car record player (by Norelco!) -- what a neat idea! If 45s were longer the players might have caught on, but changing the disc every 2.5 minutes (remember, hit records were shorter then) had to be annoying.

    That Pocket Totalizer was a blast from the past. I remember seeing my mom use a similar product when I was a kid in the early '70s, pre-pocket calculators. It's also kind of like the things baseball umpires use to keep track of the count.

    Another thing that strikes me are some of the Rube Goldbergesque contraptions that CR built to test products -- like the soap tester which sprayed soap bars with streams of water while rubbing them with identical pressure.

    Wouldn't you just love to be allowed to dig through their archives for a while?
  • The decibel scale is a logarithmic measurement of sound pressure. I don't recall exactly where sound becomes dangerously loud for exposure under 5 seconds, but let's assume it's 130dB, which is roughly the level of an airplane taking off. 140dB is 10 times louder than 130, 150db is 100 times louder than 130, etc. By the time we're talking about 287, the sound level is likely capable of crushing the human skull. Now THAT would be a fun toy!
  • ...should require a background check. :)

    LOL. Thanks.
  • Of course you can, and you don't even need the fan once it's "lit off." You're forgetting that the exhaust gasses are not massless - they actually have quite a bit of inertia. After the first boom, the column of exhaust gasses (led by an intial shock wave) will travel back through the tailpipe (which is quite substantial on a V-1, or other pulsejet) until the pressure inside the combustion chamber is lower than ambient, at which point the reed valves/louvers open and fresh air is admitted to the chamber.

    Gosh, aren't there any hot-rodders or motorheads on /.? Understanding this concept is the whole key to exceeding 100% volumetric efficiency in a normally aspirated (non turbo/super charged) motor!

    BTW: What is software work for if not to pay for Ferraris? Works for me.
  • The Sonic Blaster rocked! I had one of these as
    a kid. (In fact, I could just about have passed
    for the kid in the picture.)

    They don't make 'em like that anymore...
  • If you mean the Sonic Blaster, it had no speaker.
    It had a compressed air chamber that you pumped
    up using a lever on top of the gun. When you
    pulled the trigger, boom! In the original TV
    commercials, they would fill the barrel with
    smoke, and you could *see* the shock wave that
    came out of the thing... very cool!
  • Believe it or not, I had one of those Sonic Blasters when I was a kid. It was, indeed, incredibly loud. The best use I remember is to pump it up (way past the recommended 10 pumps) and then shoot it from close range at a tent containing a sleeping camper.
  • My cousin had one... What a hoot! They generally died the death of too many pumps breaking the seals, I think. I'd love to find one of these old things, and see if I could refurbish it to make it work again. (Just did a search on, no luck.)

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.