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Sunday, June 15, 2021

Yesterday, local TV station WPIX Channel 11 celebrated its 60th birthday with a lazy Saturday afternoon of ancient sitcoms, closed with a one-hour retrospective program. (The cynic in me says that, with the CW Network in danger of getting killed, this “celebration” served as a trial balloon for how WPIX would fare as an unaffiliated independent station in NYC, providing its own archived programming. Call me crazy.)

Among the cultural artifacts that were dredged up during this look back — and which I cannot believe I completely forgot about — was the TV Pixxx weekday-afternoon phone-in videogame:

TV-PIXX worked like this:

1. You (cartoon/video game addicted kid), would send a post card to Channel 11.
2. If you were chosen, Channel 11 would call you up and you would take your phone to your television… where you would, of course, already have Channel 11 on (what, were you doing homework?)
3. Channel 11 would then broadcast an Intellivision video game over the air, that you, the contest winner, would “play” by yelling “PIX” into the phone to fire. The more you “kills” you racked up, the more prizes you won.

Yup, as primitive as it got, looking back now from this 21st-Century vantage point. Not only did you have to snail-mail a postcard to the station — email? in the early 1980s?? — but you had to scream into a phone to “play” the game.

And sometimes, even that wasn’t possible:

You could always tell which kids playing didn’t have the phone near the TV, as they’d just blurt “PIX-PIX-PIXPIX-PIX-PIX-PIXPIXPIX-PIX!!!” I remember my pal Jeff telling me he saw the Pix contest one day and he heard an irate mother in the background yell “Jimmy, get the hell off the phone!”

Again, a little context: This was circa 1982, so not only were mobile phones not around, even cordless phones had yet to appear in households. Sometimes, the kitchen telephone’s cord simply wouldn’t stretch all the way to the TV room…

It’s worth noting that TV Pixxx was an adaption of TV Powww!, which was rigged up for kid-TV programmers around the nation during the 70s and 80s. Notice that Channel 11 ingeniously worked a marketing angle into their version by replacing the “pow!” keyword with their call-letter “pix”. And they upgraded from the prehistoric Fairchild Channel F videogame system to Intellivision — which was still crappy, although I admit that that flying-saucers-in-the-crosshairs game looked cool as hell.

WPIX didn’t spend more than a minute reminiscing about TV Pixxx. But within that minute, it did drop a little tidbit that solves a long-standing mystery about this proto-videogame:

In her voiceover, Kaity Tong revealed that the TV games were not, in fact, rigged to some special voice-activated contraption that triggered the fire/action button. As I had suspected even back then, all it was was some jerk in the control room, holding the Intellipad controller, and hitting the fire button manually when he heard the kid yell “pix!”, thus creating the televised spectacle. No precision strategy at all. I guess those rapid-fire “pix-pix-pix-pix!” kids had the right idea all along.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/15/2008 04:05pm
Category: History, New Yorkin', TV, Videogames
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5 Feedbacks
  1. I was a PIX player. I still remembered how the guy introduced me. He said it’s the young and beautiful Lisa from Manhattan. So my 11 year old self thought ‘how does he know I’m young and beautiful? He’s never seen me.’ Anyway, I changed my strategy at the last minute and to this day, I am filled with regret. My original plan was to yell pixpixpixpixpix nonstop from beginning to end. But no, when I got on to play the space game, I said pix only when I saw the spaceship pass the target. There was a 2 second delay before the laser struck, and of course missing the ship. So instead of winning a roller skating party where I could invite 10 of my closest friends, I got a free pair of Gold Digger jeans. They were actually quite nice.

    Comment by Lisa Chang — 09/10/2021 @ 9:58 PM

  2. Wow, Goldigger Jeans! Hard to get more retro than that:

    Online Videos by Veoh.com

    Comment by CT — 09/10/2021 @ 10:49 PM

  3. [...] his smarmy yet boyish best, and  Bill, Tom, and Renee as ‘Betsy Sue’. Any NYC fans of WPIX will recognize the ‘pix, pix, pix’ shout out - the way kids shot for the TV-PIXX game. [...]

    Pingback by Peyote Man and Bob Dann the Jungle Combat Man « Boffoyuxdudes’s Weblog — 11/09/2021 @ 10:54 PM

  4. New Punchline Discovered For Jokes About Your Ex Boyfriend’s Stamina…

    “The team bombarded atoms of neon gas with near-infrared laser light in 10-15 second pulses and ultraviolet pulses of far shorter durations of just 180 attoseconds (remember, an attosecond is one…

    Trackback by The Awl — 07/28/2010 @ 1:12 PM

  5. @Knownhuman OK, watched it all the way through. Kept yelling “PIX!” at the screen but the performers didn’t vaporize. http://bit.ly/aHjUuJ

    Trackback by Robert Sterling — 09/10/2021 @ 10:31 AM

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