Friday, November 10, 2023

When Slot Cars Were A Thing. But are they Back?


I was crazy about cars when I was in Junior High School early 1970s.  Hot rods, drag cars, plastic 1/24 models and HO Slot cars were all connected in my way of thinking then.  This was way before I discovered electronics and audio.

The American model car magazines Model Car and Model Car Science covered it all,  and I had tracked down a few imported issues at Sydney newsagents. Magazines like ROAD & TRACK and AUTOSPORT and others covered the remaining cool stuff.  Most of it didn't exist like that in Australia though. American styled Hot Rods and Choppers, where tires where not completely covered by fenders, for example,  were not road legal in Australia. The only home slot cars back then were the UK Scalextric, which were really dull in comparison. They didn't even have fat tires back then.

The American stuff just seemed very exciting.  And then something really amazing happened. AURORA AFX slot cars came to Australia!  I could buy my own set. Similar to the way Hot Wheels had come to Australia end of the 1960s. 

I saved like crazy and eventually bought a set.  I remember ALAN MOFFAT, a top touring car driver for Ford being at the Chatswood Grace Brothers store in Sydney promoting the AFX slot cars, and that may have been the day I bought my set. I do remember most of the kids there being about 5 years old, so image their fathers were there to see Alan, rather than the slot cars.

I have kept 2 of the cars from back then, the  101 UOP SHADOW CAN-AM car and the PORSCHE 917 Coupe, pictured at the top of the page.  These are from the time before magnets were added to attract to the power rails, to increase the speed they could go around corners.  I remember reading the slot car section of Model Car when someone started doing this to their cars in a slot car club, the rules didn't disallow it, and there was much discussion as to if it should be banned or not. 

Road racing like CAN-AM and Le-Mans 24Hr was a major interest back then.  I eventually made a larger layout and had it setup on a large board with scenery in the workshop under my parents house. I played with it mostly by myself, and the friends that did visit had little interest in it.  

TYCO was the other American HO scale brand, but it never come to Australia in my time. 

Recently Youtube started to show me slot car related videos. Maybe me looking at Archives of old model car magazines I used to have but threw away in the early 1980s triggered that.  The chassis of the current slotcars looked familiar, but the brands didn't. They all have those added traction magnets now. Only today found out AURORA went out of business in 1983 (and all IP then bought by TAKARA TOMY ) and TYCO was bought by MATTEL late 1990s.

The Youtube videos covered race sets and cars from Autoworld ( has AURORA styled pancake motor cars and tracks ) and other smaller brands that make equivalent TYCO styled stuff. 

Quite a few of the videos have seen have been HO scale Drag Racing using an Autoworld set that has an electronic Christmas tree and finishing gate.  Looks pretty cool, but just know it would get boring after 5 minutes. Drag racing is partly about driver reaction time, but mostly about car performance, and having just 2 cars wouldn't have the variation in competitors to make that fun. 

Road racing is all about going as fast as possible each lap without coming off at the turns and that takes practice and the use of lots of different speeds.  Far more play value in that than purely reaction time. 

These days can see why Computer Games like ‎Forza Horizon , (even though I have never played it) makes old toys like slot cars obsolete. 

There was a big commercial slot car track, the oldest in Australia, with 2 large 8 lane 1/24 scale set ups not far from Waitara Station  that I had visited more than a few time in 1972 ~ 1974 or so. I even made a 1/24 race car with a lexan body. At the least it taught me  how to solder.

Sure I spent more time making and remaking the chassis than actually racing it on a track. Would have visited the racetrack more, except getting from my parents place in St.Ives to Waitara on the weekend was very difficult using public transport back then, with the train line closed for maintenance and almost no bus service to the local Pymble Train Station!  This was back when all shops were closed on Sundays and only open till midday Saturdays!  Had to walk over an hour home from Pymble station on a few occasions.  

Read that it shut down and closed in June 2021. "the oldest, continuously running raceway in Australia, being "Hornsby Slot Cars," originally "Waitara Raceway," in the northern suburbs of Sydney in New South Wales, will close its doors and cease operation at the end of June."

Interestingly, Applied Technology, appeared very close to that old slot car place a few years later, and became a major mecca for all things microcomputer and me in 1978~ 1983 or so, and I could drive there then!

In my Semi-Retirement I sometimes think about what I used to find fun, and why it isn't now, or why that thing vanished.  Slot cars was one of those things.

When downsizing and preparing to move back to Japan in 2019, I just took all the slotcar tracks and other stuff I still had, and the old toys our kids had to the dump and threw them away. Many car loads. It had proven impossible to sell, or even give away, anything where we lived, and time was running out to move. Just didn't have the space for that stuff any more. A shame, but it was all I could do.  A year or so later our oldest son discovered via a Netflix documentary all the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys I had bought for him on my trips to America had become quite valuable, but he hadn't looked at them in 20years and didn't have the space to take them before I had to throw them away. 

That is just the way things go.

Update 20203/11/22  Seen a few YouTube videos saying Slot Car Racing IS Back! I don't know about that, and if it means the 1/32 scale Carrera and Scalextric digital sets. Also 2 of the HO scale Drag Racing channels have gotten rid of their HO tracks. I am not shocked at this, as there isn't much entertainment value in a Drag STrip with 1 or 2 guys and cars. Part of the problem for circuit racing seems to be autoworld HO track isn't wide enough for many modern cars. Also QC issues.  Using 1/43 or 1/32 scale Carrera track with HO cars a better approach. The HO car guide pin needs to be enlarged with a plastic sleeve, and possibly gluing on some braid to the front of the pickups is all that is needed. 

I find it hard to believe to would really be back though...

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Monday, October 30, 2023

Free Art & Music Webpages & Google Unsearch

For the longest time our Art And Technology website was for the serious business of showcasing our illustration work, and it did okay at that, with the understanding of Google search changes and failings over the years.  I do that freelance work, for hire.   

We later put up our car related comics page  which related to our freelance work, but wasn't itself selling anything.

In the last couple of years after "semi-retiring", we put up the  Our Original Comic Books page and this year, the In The Asteroid Belt: Our Rock Opera and the Megacurve - Adrian Bruce Music  pages.  

These aren't about me selling anything at all, and in fact are more about the stuff I give away.

They are also visited far less than the samples of previous paid work I have done.  Most people visit our website as they are after some business logo or design , or need to repair a turntable, or do something with midi merging, as I have articles on a few technical subjects I give away info on too.

Our website pages that get the visits have generally been around a long time, and I have made sure the indexed url for them never changes.   I saw moving back to Australia in 2001 how unfindable a new website was.  Getting establish, and having credible links and be in the indexes took years.

I have found recently added pages are almost unfindable, the way the google search algorithm works now.  But, they can be found in Bing and DuckDuckgo! Web search engines and forum posts are the indexes to a website now. The majority don't go to a website and just look around after they found what they originally went there for. They come from somewhere else looking for something in particular.  The SEO gaming by millions of crap website probably doesn't help the Google situation, but in reality, they care far more about advertising and top search results are no mostly sponsored pages. 

I get so much SPAM email about site re-writing and SEO optimization. I am not hard to find!

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

The Future Of Bandcamp?

The big, not war, news the last few days has been Bandcamp has been sold again to a company that charges artists and labels for its services, and 50% of staff were sacked in the process.

There is no information on the real future of Bandcamp, and what features it has that will change, if any, but I would guess to use the service in the near future, you would need to sign up to an Artist Plan with the new owners Songtradr 

Have to say I have no interest in that, and if it comes to pass will just delete my Bandcamp account and rely on my SoundCloud artist page, and my own self hosted Megacurve - Adrian Bruce Music page on our Art And Technology website, which looks like this today:

But I did like the features of Bandcamp better then the free SoundCloud account I have used for many years. Mostly being able to replace a track with a newer version after the track has been released. But the reality is, I never got the plays on Bandcamp that I had with SoundCloud.  Just played by a few friends.  I don't have or collect "fans" on social media, never even tried getting a following!  For the longest time I just used my music as the soundtrack to my 3 minute YouTube Illustration showcase videos, pretty much slideshows with a soundtrack. My illustrations are what people have been interested in.

To give some perspective on both sites, these are the play stats for my tracks on both platforms. They  have to be read with the understanding that I stopped putting new tracks on SoundCloud near the end of 2017, and then put them exclusively on Bandcamp instead. 

I have never really promoted my music on any of these platforms. I make it for myself.  I have links on my website and a link to a track if I used the music in one of my YouTube Videos. I promote my illustration work, a more serious endeavor for me, and what all my YouTube videos were for.

Bandcamp for me never got anywhere near the plays of SoundCloud. Strangely so.  Bandcamp had an Editorial Team that all lost their jobs in the sale of the site. These people were the Gatekeepers there, and from my point of view, should have never been there at all Like the bad old days when a couple of DJs and AR men decided what you learnt about and heard on the radio. Can't say I engaged with what they promoted at all.  Expect the previous owners felt that way too. 

I was professionally involved in developing musical instruments and music production systems, but my own music has always been a hobby. Nice if someone gets to hear it though.  I have all my Bandcamp tracks set to "pay what you want, including 0", so I have never sold a track on Bandcamp. 

So I don't know the future of Bandcamp, but with the news of staff cuts, I put a few new tracks on my SoundCloud account, and refreshed it a bit. 

If Bandcamp becomes a payed service it will probably impact a lot of people, but not me. I can always give them away from my own website, (or maybe Gumroad or Soundclick ), maybe have a Donate If you like via a PayPal button.  If Songtradr doesn't change anything, we will keep things as they are, but probably focus back onto SoundCloud again, for as I showed above, Bandcamp really hasn't helped get stuff played.

But in recent years, the most plays of my music has been heard is as the soundtrack of YouTube shorts, the most popular of those being me doing a time lapse drawing of a silly monster. 

Have read often that Hip-Hop is the king of the genres in recent years, and that isn't what I do, so not being popular doing old guy music makes sense. Here is some of what we do:

Megacurve#1 6 Track Snippets and Artwork in 59 seconds 

Megacurve#2 Another 6 Track Snippets and Artwork in 59 seconds 

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Being a Professional, Amateur & Hobbyist

When I was a kid, drawing and making things, mostly out of paper or balsa wood, was what I did for fun. When I got to High School I fell in love with recorded album music. Then audio electronics became a passion and a very serious hobby. 

Turned that into a career. I was an engineer, a Professional. Earnt my living doing it. I developed products, managed projects at times, and solved problems.  

But it started from wanting to play my records on a HiFi sound system as an unpaid hobby. 

Listening to music is still a hobby.  (Strange, no one has tried to monetize ... oh, yes, they do by writing record reviews...)

I don't "do" electronics any more.  Not as a hobby. Only if I need to, like changing the battery in a Kindle.

I do vector illustrations freelance.  Paid part time Professional work. It evolved from my first hobby though, well the drawing part.  

I make music, cartoons, comics and music videos as a hobby now.  2020~2022 during the pandemic was probably the most active with hobbies I have ever been. I treat these hobbies as  I do making plastic or resin model kits. 

Or sculpted something or painted a watercolor. Doing something for the fun of it.  The reality is more that if I aren't creating something every so often, I get depressed and down about wasting my time (i.e. my life time left) and not doing something constructive.

It is nice if someone listens to, reads or watches something I make though, so I always publish it to the Internet and retain the copyright. I don't need payment. Even if I am serious about my hobby works.

I have released my music on Bandcamp under the Megacurve banner.   Like this track:

But I haven't registered and gotten ISRC codes , joined PPL, MCPS or PRS, or set myself up as a record publishing company so that my track plays can be tracked and I could collect royalties, like a "professional"  would. Same for me then not paying DistroKid $22.99 a year to put my music on Spotify and Apple music

All that stuff costs money. Of course it has cost money to buy my music gear and make the music I do, but that is okay, as it is a Hobby. I only ever bought music gear with the money I made from my Illustration Freelancing, never from my Engineering work. It was a principal for me. The studio is a wonderful toy. I think of myself these days as a musical cartoonist/prosumer, and don't identify as a musician or guitarist. I don't collect guitars or want to play live on stage. Musically you could say my stuff is unsophisticated.

For the millions of music makers that do pay those fees to release their songs on the streaming platforms, 95%+ don't make enough in royalties to cover the fees anyway. And with Spotify now deciding that "small artists" now aren't going to get any payout for any streams that get anyway, they will not get anything, unless they can sell CDs or tracks on Bandcamp or whatever.  A new type of Vanity Publishing, or Pay To Be Played? But I guess it means they are Professional musicians.  It helps self esteem. 

I have all my Bandcamp releases set to $0, "pay what you want, including nothing", to download them.   

My comics are also free to download from our website.  Nice if someone looks at them, but it was the creating them that was my need. I print them out 2 pages to an A4 sheet and put them in these cool 40 page A5 files.  I revisit them every so often.  

You can do something to a "professional" standard as a "hobby". Don't they call that an "amateur "? 

It all depends on how you see yourself, and what you need to fill your life with "what makes you happy or content."

For me, that doesn't include trying to make money off my music or comics.  They are akin to diary entries for me about things I felt at the time I made them. 

So this blog was vaguely about being a Professional, Amateur & Hobbyist. All at the same time around different fields. 

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Sunday, October 8, 2023

When Radio controlled the buying of Music


Growing up, the AM radio was the only way to hear music and know what to buy, if you were into that. In Sydney 2SM was the only station for that, and the above is a TOP40 chart from 1971.

I realize now, much of what became hits was only because of PAYOLA from record companies to have something continuously played. There were DJs that also played what they liked though...

FM Stereo didn't start in Sydney Australia till 1975, my second last year of Senior High School, the same year color TV was introduced. I had a part time job collecting shopping trolleys Friday afternoons and had joined a mail order record club.

In Australia, Countdown started in 1974, and the first time there was a country wide gatekeeper declaring what was hot to the 14 year old girls in their demographic. It did help Australian music. Must say Australian Pub Rock also got a little support. Even ROSE TATTOO got promotion. 

I remember clearly listening to the massive hit MISEX track SPACE INVADERS, and the DJ getting sick of it and taking it off midway with a scratching sound.  He had probably played it every 5th track in his shift and couldn't take it anymore in 1979. 

About that time is when music videos became a massive music marketing thing too. It was still all the hits, with a few hits from Album Bands.

Music was important to me and the way you dressed and the length of your hair showed your allegiances. 

The record companies pretty much controlled what you heard and knew about.  Meant a band could be huge, as the population interested in music was force feed it.

In 2023 now, it has completely changed. There isn't that controlling force and the Internet has completely fragmented things.  Still gatekeepers, but there are many of them, with smaller audiences. 

It is also now so easy to hear any music anytime you want with Spotify or YouTube. It isn't all as special as it once was. 
When I had to buy an expensive album, I played the album side completely through, and played the album many times. I studied it and the album artwork.  

It was a different world then.