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decle

Keyboard Component Conversational French full playthrough

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Hi all,

 

This is a big one, in some ways it's the culmination of several years of work by @Knarfian, @Lathe26, @intvnut, @Ron The Cat and myself.  We have finally completed the restoration of Conversational French, probably the most technically advanced of all the Intellivision Keyboard Component software.  To share it with you we have put together 21!? videos showing the full hour and three quarters of Mimi Schroeder's language course.

 

Let's start with a highlights reel for those who just want to see the best bits and don't want to get bogged down in the details...

 

 

Why is Conversational French the most advanced Keyboard Component tape?  Whilst many of the PowerPoint style slides it contains, such as the Mona Lisa, are quite cool for the time, for me the most impressive content is the lip sync'd animation of Mimi.  I would have been blown away if I'd seen it running on a home machine in 1980. I know this is the case because I did see Dancing Demon at my local Radio Shack at around that time (it was written in 1979), and I thought that was really cool.  It should be noted that our videos probably don't do this animation justice.  There is quite a bit of wow and flutter on the recordings we're working from, which means the lip-sync wanders a bit.  Then there's the use of audio, both pre-recorded and home recorded.  Only Conversational French and Spelling Challenge make use of the K/C microphone and clearly it's totally integral to Mimi's course.  Finally, there's something that's not obvious.  French Tape A manages to squeeze an hour of content onto a 30 minute cassette.  It does this by having lessons recorded on both the Read Only and Read/Write tracks.  The program and audio content are carefully aligned so that when you record your responses to the lessons on the Read Only track, it doesn't obliterate Mimi's audio for the lesson recorded on the Read/Write track.  Very cunning, although it complicates our digital K/C tape replacement.

 

Whilst investigating bugs in our initial digitization of Tape A, we came across some hidden credits.  At 1.5K decles in size, it's probably the largest Easter Egg in the original Intellivision software library...

 

 

...Many thanks to Mark Stroberg for putting these credits in, and to everyone he listed, for their hard work on this piece of software.  To trigger the credits, you hold down 1 & 9 on the left controller and 0 & 8 on the right controller as Mimi starts her introduction.  This is acknowledged by a bing before she talks.  The credits are then triggered by choosing 6 to save any progress and quit.

 

So, how did we archive Conversational French and get it running again?  Well, here's an over long and yet strangely unsatisfactory explanation...

 

 

Finally we have the full contents of the course.  In all, there are five lessons split across two tapes.  Each lesson is further broken into between two and five parts.  We've put together an individual video for each part lesson, linked below...

 

Tape A

 

 

Tape B

 

 

So there you have it, Conversational French in all its glory.  Unfortunately, for copyright reasons we can't share software with you, and even if we were to there is no way to use it at the moment without a Keyboard Component and Kitty Faker.  However, we hope you enjoyed seeing what you missed out on at your local Frederick & Nelson all those years ago...

 

image.thumb.png.33034038bb271514af5e2ea0db2bc9e4.png


We are well on the way to preserving the other Keyboard Component tapes and hope to have more videos showcasing this rare software soon.

 

Special thanks to @Ron The Cat, @Knarfian, @Lathe26, @intvnut, @David Rolfe, Bill & Mimi Schroeder, Mark Stroberg, Tom Boellstorff and Braxton Soderman for their help in preserving Conversational French and their memories of putting it together in the first place.

 

 

Cheers

 

decle

 

 

Edited by decle
Can't count to 5 it seems
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Very cool as always! No I don't have to risk wrecking mine just to see/hear it in all its glory. 

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45 minutes ago, cmart604 said:

Very cool as always! No I don't have to risk wrecking mine just to see/hear it in all its glory. 

To do that you would have to take it out of the shrinkwrap first

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Outstanding preservation work! Someone give these guys a medal.

 

I'm sure I would have been very impressed by this product back in the day.

Looks like a quality product.

The audio sync seems to work really well. And the illustrations are really well done.

 

... and I guess this means I will have no more excuses for not speaking French! 🤣

Edited by cmadruga
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Really fascinating to see the work, the process, and finally the software running the way it was intended. I can only begin to imagine the tedious work that's involved, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the other titles come to life when you work your magic. Congrats to everyone who's involved in this effort.

 

With all that went into bringing us Mimi, I thought George deserved some love, too, so I tried cleaning up the ad you posted.

 

 

Plimpton-KC-ad.jpg

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2 hours ago, Steve Jones said:

To do that you would have to take it out of the shrinkwrap first

This is true

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13 hours ago, decle said:

So there you have it, Conversational French in all its glory.  Unfortunately, for copyright reasons we can't share software with you, and even if we were to there is no way to use it at the moment without a Keyboard Component and Kitty Faker.  However, we hope you enjoyed seeing what you missed out on at your local Frederick & Nelson all those years ago...

Awesome work, thank to all of you!

 

Decle, having a Keyboard Component I'm quite curious about Kitty Faker. Is the hardware explained in your video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dv0YWFch48Q&list=PLwC21ZQfQU_ezt7Ey5k_VKIVIIJH4gF6C&t=799s  ? Is there any way to be able to get/built it? 

 

Thanks

 

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This is phenomenal work, @decle and Co.  It is quite impressive.  Also, I'm very much impressed by the quality of the material and the clever technology employed, especially considering contemporaneous consumer offerings from the late 70s and early 80s

 

The Conversational French software package is quite good, and I'm sure it would have been very effective.  I've just gone through the first lesson and managed to pick up the basics of the language, pronunciation, and grammar.  Very nice!

 

I do not speak a word of French, so that's quite an accomplishment for me, although to be honest, I do speak another Romance Language (Spanish) and noticed quite the similarities in the spelling of words (if not the pronunciation), so that helped me with retention and association.

 

Of all the gimmicky "interactive" software applications explored during the early days of personal computing (astrology, biorhythm, recipe catalogues, stock management, fitness tracking, etc.), I think that conversational language training would have been one of the most successful and lasting one.

 

Especially this high quality package, with minimal keyboard data entry and a simple interface.  Plus, Mimi is indeed a great teacher, and the course is fun, interesting, and exciting.

 

I think I might stick with it.

 

Thank you all for doing this, and for documenting so thoroughly and painstakingly the preservation effort.

 

    dZ.

 

Edited by DZ-Jay
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Neat!  It really is a shame that the keyboard component was never widely released, it really was ahead of its time.  Although one has to wonder about the durability and how many headaches that would have caused for Mattel.

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Wow! I'm floored! Never expected to see that again! I never knew the details of the digital encoding; never had to worry about it myself, it just worked. I think Dean Inada designed the encoding format. Ha ha, as I've said, I'm particularly curious about whether you'll be able to revive any of the synthesized music that plays with each of Jack LaLanne's exercises. The lost music of Bob Randles!

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Outstanding!

 

I agree with Dave on both counts (waving at the shifty-eyed dealer): never expected to see & hear the French tape again, and eagerly await the music from Jack LaLanne's exercises. For a time that music was an earworm for me (as was the Snafu music), hearing it over and over as work was ongoing. As I recall Bob Randles made a substantial effort to invent a tonal structure that would work cleanly within the limits of the sound capabilities of the Intellivision. The result was unique sounding music.

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I am happy to see Conversational French running after so many years!

 

This is a picture from about 20 years ago of myself (Left), Frank Palazzolo (Center) and Carl Mueller Jr. (Right) posing with my Keyboard Component in Frank's living room just outside of Detroit, MI.

 

Frank dumped the ROMS of my Keyboard Component and replaced a faulty chip to make it stable and started the long, long journey to reverse engineer the Keyboard Component. He had it for a few years until I was forced to pass it on. Nevertheless, Frank did a lot of the leg work that made this possible, along with capturing the data from the Keyboard programs. 

 

Amazing work!

DCP00449.jpg

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There was like a dozen or more people at APh working on this program, and that's not including the "grunge" work.   It's good to have a couple of guys from APh commenting here.  I wonder what they thought of the computer at the time, if it had a chance in the market.

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The software of the Keyboard Component has always fascinated me, and it's a pretty incredible piece of software! Thank you for all the work you have put into this!

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Amazing work @decle  & co  , the Intellivision world's equivalent to landing a man on the moon. 

We can all finally learn french with Mimi along with some wine.

Glad you came over to visit my sick keyboard component in 2017 and that I could come along for the ride.

 

Below is a 1980 newspaper advert featuring the keyboard component and Conversation French

 

new ad.jpg

Edited by Ron The Cat

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13 hours ago, Ron The Cat said:

Amazing work @decle  & co  , the Intellivision world's equivalent to landing a man on the moon. 

We can all finally learn french with Mimi along with some wine.

Glad you came over to visit my sick keyboard component in 2017 and that I could come along for the ride.

 

Below is a 1980 newspaper advert featuring the keyboard component and Conversation French

 

new ad.jpg

 

13 hours ago, Ron The Cat said:

bonjour ron.jpg

French Ron The Cat ...slimmer and much more sophisticated than normal Ron 

Hi, @Ron The Cat.  It seems that the images did not make it across. :(

 

... or is it just me that gets a broken link?

 

    -dZ.

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3 hours ago, DZ-Jay said:

 

Hi, @Ron The Cat.  It seems that the images did not make it across. :(

 

... or is it just me that gets a broken link?

 

    -dZ.

That's weird  @DZ-Jay , the pictures render when I use my web browser that I used to post but when looking at the post on my phone I  just get  a blue link showing the name of the JPG I uploaded, if I then click on the name I see the pictures. Always worked before just attaching JPG files to a post.  Forum technical issue  ?

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On 11/13/2021 at 12:08 PM, decle said:

image.thumb.png.33034038bb271514af5e2ea0db2bc9e4.png

 

 

Just noticed that this advertisement lists the stores at the bottom.  Previously, I anecdotally heard the statement that "Seattle was a test market for the Keyboard Component" but this is the first documented proof that the Keyboard Component was sold in Washington state that I recall seeing.

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I anectodally heard that in the early 1980s, a keyboard component was in a store in Vancouver.

 

Even with the Intellivision "test market" in 1979, Intellivisions were in Gottschalk stores all around California.  Regarding the Keyboard Component, internal Mattel documents describe Seattle and New Orleans in 1981 as "first markets".  I think they were reluctantly trying to show the FTC that distribution had started but had no intention of scaling up.

Edited by mr_me
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5 hours ago, Ron The Cat said:

Give it another go.. saved  each as new jpeg files and dragged files to attach...

Keyboard Component French Ad.jpg

bonjour ron the cat.jpg

It works now.  The weird thing is that the image of "Ron le Chatte" (hehehehe) works now in all the previous posts!  The advertisement is still broken in the older posts but shows up in your latest one.

 

Very strange.

 

In any case, thank you for posting these, and thank you for your work on the Keyboard Component Preservation Effort.

 

     dZ.

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20 hours ago, Ron The Cat said:

Give it another go.. saved  each as new jpeg files and dragged files to attach...

Keyboard Component French Ad.jpg

bonjour ron the cat.jpg

 

It's really awesome to also see how things were priced back then:

  • Master Component $269.95
  • Keyboard Component $700.00
  • Computer Program $50.00 - $70.00
  • Game Cartridges $30.00

Note that that 1981 -> 2021 inflation means the KC alone would cost the equivalent of $2130 today.  Oy!

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