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10 Kind-of-Violent Board Games from the 1960s

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We didn’t have video games like Mortal Kombat or Grand Theft Auto back in the 1960s, but that doesn’t mean that we didn’t get our whacks in during play time. We just used board games and our friends and family members as real-life targets for our beat-downs. I think the moral of the story is that no matter what the era and how limited the technology, kids just plain love to smash and blow up things. How many of these games do you remember?

1. Swack

The object here was to remove a piece of plastic cheese without the spring-loaded mousetrap snapping shut on your fingers. The winner was the player with the most cheese and all his fingers intact.

2. Booby Trap

This was another remove-a-piece-without-triggering-the-thingy game. Usually your fingers didn’t get caught when the Booby Trap snapped, but those little pieces ejected with some impressive velocity. It was all good clean fun until someone caught one in the eye.

3. Bash

Players took turns slicing away at the column of round and square plastic disks that separated the head from the feet. The objective was to knock the pieces out one at a time to eventually make the head and feet meet. If you knocked the whole stack over, you were out. But no one really cared about the official rules—it was more fun just to see how far you make all the pieces fly at once. Once you got bored with picking up and re-stacking the disks, you could always just use that plastic hammer to play “one lump or two?” with your unsuspecting younger siblings…

4. Kaboom

Board Game Geek

This game by Ideal involved placing a balloon on the inflator gizmo and slowly inflating it, one pump at a time. Again, very few kids I knew actually played this game according to the official rules; it always became a contest of just experimenting with the pump to see how loud of a “pop!” you could make with the balloon.

5. Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots

Back in the day when Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots were all the rage, if you complained to a parent that your thumbs or wrists hurt after playing a game for hours on end, you’d get a shrug and an “it’s your own darned fault” chastisement. In more recent years, concerned moms have consulted the pediatrician about their children’s finger pains so frequently that “Texting Tendontitis” and “Blackberry Thumb” eventually became bona fide medical diagnoses.

6. Fang Bang

Balloon HQ

This odd little game came with scary face masks for each player to wear, presumably for the dual purpose of intimidating your opponents while also protecting you from losing an eye while everyone flailed about with these plastic snake-headed balloons. Allow me to clarify—each player inflated an elongated balloon, affixed the serpent head on the end, and that became his “weapon.” The snake’s tongue was abrasive enough to pop a balloon if it struck just so. Sort of like a lightsaber fight with the added bonus of bursting balloons.

7. Slap Trap

Talk about a broken finger waiting to happen: The object of this game was to successfully retrieve a specific “beetle bug” from the platter before the big ol’ bully in charge of the domed cover slammed it down in an attempt to hoard all the bugs in order to earn points.

8. Dynamite Shack

Apparently even in the 1960s the word “dynamite” in the title of a kids’ game prompted a safety disclaimer on the box to reassure parents that no actual explosives were included with the game tokens. This game was an exercise in manual dexterity—you had to don oversized plastic thumbs and use them to pick up tiny plastic bundles of dynamite and deposit them in the tiny chimney. The object was to drop in all of your dynamite before the roof of the shack blew off.

9. Cold Feet

I know my Dad would laugh in a good-natured “Aw, you got me!” fashion if he got squirted in the face with water during a friendly board game—NOT!  And I know my Mom would’ve made us play this outside so we didn’t get water all over the ... (fill in the blank). So, anyway, that’s why my parents never bought us kids a board game that featured a water gun as its centerpiece.

10. Bang Box

Anyone else beginning to wonder if some executive in the balloon industry held a lot of stock in Ideal and Milton-Bradley? Bang Box is yet another balloon-based game, in which small, inflated balloons are stuffed inside a plastic container perforated with random holes, much like a magician’s box. Players must hammer a prescribed number of plastic nails into the holes of their choice in the hope that they don’t burst any of the enclosed balloons. One “pop!” and you’re out.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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