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‘The Dark Side’ – One Man’s Story Of A Broken Toaster

Blackpool 1975, taken with an instant Polaroid camera by an unknown person at our guest house, which if I remember correctly was run by a very strict lady who placed us on the top floor in the attic and had to share a bathroom with all the other occupants, still, Blackpool in the 70’s was the only place in the UK to visit Ripleys Believe It Or Not and sneak into the anatomical exhibition at the waxworks. Today’s blog is not about Blackpool or even about the seaside, it’s actually about something completely different but related…

1977, the Summer of Star Wars promised a lot to a ten year old. Hover cars, light sabres, black leather suits with restrictive breathing equipment and of course holograms of distressed princesses. So imagine my delight when at the end of 1978 I attended a special University Christmas lecture whilst I was studying the thermal dynamics of space time continuum technology during the Viking period, actually that’s not quite true, it was the Roman period.

During the lecture the professor said he had a surprise for us and mentioned Star Wars sending the juvenile audience into mock lightsabre fights and wookie calls. What would it be? A blaster? Maybe he was going to ask us all to take shots at him whilst he deflected them with a real lightsabre, or even better he was going to give us all free R2D2’s to take home. Expectations were high I can tell you.

When he left the theatre to fetch his Star Wars prop the lights dimmed, they even played a bit of the music to build it up, not that we needed it. 200 expectant eleven year olds plunged in darkness to the music of Star Wars was probably a bit of a mistake in hindsight as all 200 decided under the cover of darkness to try and occupy just the front row of seats.

A single spot light came on and the professor returned with something hidden under a cloth, as the music ended he pulled the cloth away and we were all left speechless looking at a box with an apple in it. I really don’t know how he didn’t get beaten to a pulp within seconds but he obviously expected this so did something rather unexpected, he told a member of the audience to take the apple.

Of course they couldn’t even though it was before their very eyes, it was after all a hologram. Holograms had been around a while but this was the first ever experience for most people outside of a lab. Of course you now see them everywhere, on credit cards, toys etc but to a eleven year old in 1978 it was futuristic technology. After being wowed with the hologram we were then treated to a laser display and an old theatre trick of creating a ghost on stage using an angled piece of glass and a mirror. Fascinating stuff to me once I had got over the disappointment of not being able to have a personal light sabre and to hack off limbs at a whim.

Holograms stuck with me, the ability using lasers to capture an image in 3D on a 2D material was mindblowing, so imagine my surprise when in 1984 I found myself again, and god knows why, in Blackpool stood outside a new attraction, a hologram exhibition. Well, I was amazed, hundreds of holograms to look and be astounded by, even better though you could buy your own. So, this was my first, a very small hologram of a dartboard and two darts, stunningly realistic if you don’t see colours like a dog otherwise slightly entertaining, but I wanted more so my next purchase was more exciting.

A coloured hologram, the detail on this is quite incredible, you can even see the air bubbles in the plastic and moving it around you get a real sense of space. And that’s where it stops, in todays world of entertainment at your fingertips, movies on demand, 3D television, microwave meals and spray on cheese, holograms have become rather forgotten and mainstream but they offered at the time a hope that one day you would own your own light sabre and be allowed to hack limbs off willy-nilly. I patiently wait.

I even have a list.

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