Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"Astron Belt" and pizza

It was 1983-84 that I took my first real job.  I had been a paperboy for awhile, before this 'real' job, but I never considered throwing rolled up newpapers onto peoples porches, from my bicycle, much of a job. It was basically 'cigarette money' (explanation coming). So I got this 'real' job. I had taken the job during the summer of 1983, and worked there through the summer and fall, and into the winter of 1984. So I was 13 when I started. I worked between school hours, of course. It was at a Rosati's Pizza in a strip mall.

At that time, my older brother, who is four years older than I, was a pizza delivery driver for them. I used to go along with him, like a side-kick, on his pizza deliveries. I think he was driving a gold or green 1970's Gran Torino. Deliveries with my brother also included hanging out at the Rosati's waiting for deliveries, and over time, and probably mentioning that I wanted a job, the manager (whose brother owned the place) offered me a dish washing job. At 13, I was under age, so he said he'd just pay me 'under the counter'. I'd go in for maybe four hours a day (which probably felt like a long day to me, at that age), and would wash their 'dishes'... pots, pans, utensils, the big mixer, racks, steam table trays, etc..

It was an okay job for 13/14 years old. Between washing dishes we (the other workers there, and I) would hang out by the back door and smoke cigarettes, eat pizza, and crank music. Yeah, I was thirteen, but in 1983 no one was carding for cigarettes yet. I could walk into a White Hen Pantry and buy a pack of smokes, and they'd just give you a look but sell them to you anyway... no problem. I think in about 1986 the 'note' thing started. And nowadays a store won't even give them to you without being of age, or they face legal punishment. But I was a punk... and stupid (I no longer smoke, btw).

So there I was, an under age worker, in my tomato-stained apron, washing pizza kitchen dishes, blaring The Scorpions and Roth-era Van Halen from a boom-box out back, smoking Marlboro Reds, drinking soda, bullshitting, and sometimes even hanging out at the Bally's Arcade, two doors down, in the strip mall, playing video games. Good gig, this job... with cash bills in my pocket at the end of the night. And my parents didn't care... they've always had a strong work ethic and were thinking "Good... make him work... make him earn some money for himself". So they were cool with me working there at that age, for under the counter pay. I bought my first boom-box, and my first denim jean jacket with this dish washing job.  Eventually, by '85 (15 y.o.), I was cooking in the kitchen, helping make pizzas and other dishes, etc.. Ownership changed, shortly thereafter though, and I ended up leaving Rosati's. But that was my first real job.

To get on with my story -- back to the Bally's Arcade. We had a Bally's Arcade two doors down from Rosati's, in the strip mall, and I'd hang out in there when things were slow, or wanted a break, whatever. The arcade was awesome... the sounds, the lights, excitement. There were always a lot of people in there. They had all your typical games of the day -- Pac Man, Galaga, Donkey Kong, Joust, Asteroids, Space Invaders, Tempest, Defender, etc. etc.. One game that stands out in my memory from that arcade, because I had never seen anything like it in it's time, was a game called "Astron Belt".

Now, I had to look this up (it's name). I remembered the game, but could not remember the name of the game for the life of me. But I found out it was called "Astron Belt", it was created by Sega, and it may have been one of the first, if not THE first, live-action video games. Bally's had "Dragon's Lair" too, as well as "Space Ace", and those were neat. They were cartoons, and it was cool how seamlessly the characters moved and such, with the animation technology they incorporated into the game... that was 'new' also, at that time. But "Astron Belt" was something very different. It was a laser-disc game, when laser-disc technology was still fairly new.

In the game, you piloted a space craft and would fly through different live-action environments, like canyons and tunnels, . You'd fire on enemy craft, through explosions and fire, and enemy craft firing back at you! The Star Wars movies were big at this time too, "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" still being pretty fresh. Also, shows like Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica, were on television. So Sci-Fi was very much "in" at that time. It's probably not an impressive game today, but in 1984, at 14 years old, this was the coolest thing in video games I had seen yet.

I think I read somewhere that they used scenes from Battlestar Galactica and a Star Trek movie. If you don't remember, or have never seen "Astron Belt", check it out below. It was innovative for it's time.



  1. Those graphics are really great! I have no memory of this game but I used to play a game called M.A.C.H 3 where you fly an F-15 into enemy territory and bomb cities (real video of cities) and fight off enemy fighters. The combination of real video and video graphics remind me of the game you shared.

  2. I remember M.A.C.H 3. That was a great game. That's very similar. I think that came out a little after, or if not at the same time as "Astron Belt". I'm no expert though. I'm sure that info can be found somewhere. I'm now wondering if "Dragon's Lair" and "Space Ace" were laser-disc games. I remember those being really impressive when I first saw them.

  3. Dragon's Lair and Space Ace were both laser disc games. There was another LD Cartoon game based on Lupin III anime, I think the game was called Cliffhangers.

    BTW I delivered the Chicago Tribune from '86-'89 or so mainly for money to buy comics. Pay was terrible though.

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