Tandy Computer Whiz Kids: The Computer Trap
August 10, 2015
Radio Shack will save us all from terrorism.
Linkara: (sitting on his Futon) Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Almost seven years of this show, and we're still talking about the Tandy Computer Whiz Kids!
(A montage of shots of past installments of the series are shown)
Linkara (v/o): If you're just joining us, the Tandy Computer Whiz Kids are some kind of robots designed to mimic human children, possibly by aliens as prelude to invasion. However, their knowledge of humanity is limited to educational PSAs and Radio Shack commercials, meaning that they don't understand how children think, but also think that people will promote Tandy electronics at any given opportunity. Their programming is also faulty, in that they'll keep telling the same story about their summer, but with minor detail changes, despite them clearly still being in the same grade year each time we see them. And the American education system being what it is, nobody notices that they're still talking about their summer vacations, as if they just got back from them, despite it being April.
(Cut to a shot of the cover for "Superman and Wonder Woman: Tandy Computer Whiz Kids")
Linkara (v/o): Besides from the one we're looking at today, we have at least three more of these things to go through, possibly a fourth one; I have to double-check.
(Cut to a second crossover comic with Superman: "TRS-80 Whiz Kids: The Computers that Saved Metropolis!")
Linkara (v/o): Frankly, each time we look at these things, I get so drunk that I erase my memory of which ones people have sent me, so I kinda lose track. I originally thought that today's was the very first one, but according to the publication dates, this is actually the second one, made two years after the first. The fact that they kept making this after the first one never ceases to hurt my brain.
Linkara: So let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "The Tandy Computer Whiz Kids: The Computer Trap", and see what new spore of madness awaits us.
(Title sequence plays, followed by title card for this episode, with a Tandy commercial playing in the background)
Announcer: Now, give your family the world with Tandy Sensation from Radio Shack, the amazing multimedia computer that gives you a CD-ROM library, 16 million colors...
(Cut to a shot of the cover of "Tandy Computer Whiz Kids: The Computer Trap")
Linkara (v/o): I tell a fib: this is actually "The TRS-80 Computer Whiz Kids", the name they briefly went by when they crossed over with Superman and Wonder Woman. I don't get it, this is the only one of the actual line that had that name. Hell, the very first comic actually has them called "Tandy Computer Whiz Kids"! Why did they change that?!
Linkara: Why name it after a single computer or operating system at all? It'd be like have "The iMac Computer Whiz Kids" or "The Windows NT Computer Whiz Kids"! You instantly become dated!
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, our cover features a bunch of goons tying up a boat on a waterfront. I'm sure we're supposed to infer that illicit dealings are going down, but without more concrete evidence, all I can see is a bunch of pissed-off guys upset that they had to get up at 3:00 in the morning, because of this asshole in the middle. Also, a seagull apparently decided now would be a good time to try to nab something to eat. Maybe that's why they're all angry; the seagulls are getting all the fish before they can. We open on... the cover??
Linkara: (incredulously, as he opens and closes the first page repeatedly) My God! The time loop of the series has compressed so it's just the same image repeated over and over again!
Thug #1: Hey, boss, do ya think that electric motor's strong enough for a fast getaway?
Thug #2: Yeah! There's gonna be five of us in this boat!
Boss: Use your brains! That engine runs quiet... No noise, get it?
Linkara: I'm not sure I support Radio Shack selling equipment to criminals, but (shrugs) that's business.
Boss: It'll get us to our 40-footer across the river... where we'll be waiting for them to drop the water-tight money bag tied to a yellow buoy with a flashing light!
Linkara: It's getting harder every year to get in touch with Comcast customer service.
Thug #3: How're we gonna get the bag outta the water?
Linkara: You... (makes a reaching and grabbing motion) reach in and grab it? How big a bag are we talking about here?
Linkara (v/o): Actually, they'll use a pole and hook, but their plan also involves a hostage, whom they'll release as soon as they've got the money and make a run down the coast. I wouldn't trust their leader for navigation, though. He seems to be having trouble with a lazy eye there. In the meantime, we cut over to the Metro City Elementary School, where we meet with the Children of the Damned and their cult ringleader, Ms. Wilson.
Ms. Wilson: All right, class! Let's take our seats now... we've got a busy day ahead of us!
Linkara: I bet, they've got to work extra hard today not doing any actual schoolwork.
Ms. Wilson: In fact, I've got two terrific surprises in store for you!
Linkara: (as student) Are we finally getting the school lunch program back? (as Ms. Wilson) No, silly. How would we ever be able to afford this really important disk drive if we did that?
Linkara (v/o): Speaking of, the school budget has gotten so bad, it looks like the kids no longer have desks. Everyone's all huddled together in a bunch, and I actually skimmed through the rest of the comic. There is only one shot where the kids seem to have desks. And it's a panel that they've actually reused before already!
Linkara: It's a rarity for comic books to have stock footage, but (shrugs) here we are.
Alec: Wow! The only thing I like better than a surprise is two surprises, Ms. Wilson!
Linkara: Surprise, Alec! You have a painful infection! (holds up two fingers) Two of them, in fact!
Linkara (v/o): Gotta love the lack of discipline in Ms. Wilson's class, too. Everybody can just shout out whenever they want. Nobody's raising their hands. Anyway, since their class has been selected to publish the school newspaper–
Linkara: That'll go well with that drug hotline they ran; council people on drug use, and then write about it in the paper!
Linkara (v/o): A reporter named Judy Baker, whom we saw last time being held hostage by incompetent drug runners, is coming in to give them some pointers on their paper.
Linkara: Given that this is an elementary school, I'm sure she'll be able to give very good advice on how to write a concise editorial on "The Very Hungry Caterpillar".
Linkara (v/o): Shanna, being the dork that she is, exclaims that they'll be able to use the...
Shanna: ...model 12 with Scripsit...
Linkara (v/o): ...although I think they should be more worried about these computers that have spontaneously teleported into their classroom in this panel! Usually, they're in the back of the room! My God, they're hooked up to SkyNet! Alec is confused about what Scripsit is. And by the by, the last one of these we looked, Alec was still confused about Scripsit, meaning my joke about his brainwashing wearing off was entirely accurate, or he just doesn't retain any short-term memory, which would actually go a long way to explain why he keeps talking about his summer vacation. The class is just humoring him. Anywho, Shanna explains how it's a word processing program, which sure goes to show why she was just oh-so-excited about it.
Linkara: I know how she feels. I recall how giddy I felt when I first discovered Microsoft Paint.
Ms. Wilson: Shanna, you know so much – show us how Scripsit word processing works in our school's office.
Linkara (v/o): You know what I just realized? I joke about Ms. Wilson never talking about any legitimate school subjects, but I just figured out that she never actually educates the kids, period! She does this in other Whiz Kids comics, too, where it's always either guest speakers or has the students do the job for her! And now, enjoy detailed instructions on how to load the program and use it.
Shanna: Next, the computer prompts you to enter the time using the 24-hour system, giving hours, minutes and seconds.
Linkara: It's a new feature added in this generation. Some programs can only be captured at certain times a day. The downside is that it drains the internal battery faster. If only there was some way to (he reaches out to pull on something, looking rather smug as he does so) preserve these programs, and someone made a handy-dandy guide to it...
(As he says this, he pulls up a title for "The Trade-Up – Or How to Trade Pokemon from Gen 1/2 into Gen 3 and up!" He smiles smugly)
Linkara (v/o): This is seriously two pages of a friggin' instruction manual! I know I shouldn't be surprised, since the entire damn point of these comics is to promote Tandy computers, but it's just so utterly boring!
Ms. Wilson: Shanna, tell us how to start typing a new document!
(Cut to a clip of Dr. Cox on Scrubs)
Dr. Cox: Look, I know the only thing you've ever been responsible for was picking which Duran Duran cover band would play at your sorority formal, but you're supposed to be teaching these kids!
(Cut back to the comic)
Shanna: Just press the F1 key, then the password prompt appears on the screen. A password can't have more than 8 letters.
Linkara: Yeah, you wouldn't want people breaking in and stealing your math homework off of this thing. I kid, of course; these kids never do any math homework.
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, let's actually cut to something actually halfway interesting. Across town, at the waterfront, the criminals and their plan are underway.
Boss: This way! We haven't much time if we're to stick to the schedule!
Thug: But, boss, how're we gonna do the job without a car?
Boss: Don't you think I've thought of that? A car with a CB radio is hidden in there. So we can talk with our agent on the boat!
Linkara: Little do they know that the real hero of the story is listening in on their transmissions: (points to camera) US-1!
Linkara (v/o): Back over to the school, Judy Baker has arrived.
Ms. Wilson: Children, if you can bear to tear yourselves away from the computers for a moment--
Linkara: (as Ms. Wilson) I mean, it's just so exciting to type letters into a word processor. I wouldn't want you kids getting an aneurysm from this stuff.
Judy: Good morning, everyone! Well, I see you've already got one of a reporter's most important tools on hand!
Linkara: (as Judy) A connection to Superman!
Alec: Huh?! You mean a pencil and paper, Ms. Baker?
Judy: Ha ha! Maybe that would have been the answer a few years back!
Linkara: Actually, reporters even today still use pencils and paper, because sometimes, it's honestly faster to scribble it out than to have your autocorrect keep changing "Obama" to "Brahma".
Linkara (v/o): But no, she of course has her little portable TRS-80 model 100 computer and acoustic couplers for connecting to a phone line and transmitting the information to her editors.
Judy: Why, with this model 100, I can record my notes, gain access to research materials, keep my appointment book...
Linkara: (as student) Say, doesn't IBM have something like this? (as Judy, gasps) Who told you about them?!
Linkara (v/o): However, Judy Baker is interrupted by a buzzing sound from her purse.
Judy: Sorry, kids, that's my Tandy Pocket Pager.
Linkara: (pretending to hold up and shake a pager and imitating a buzzing sound) BUY IT! BUY IT!
Linkara (v/o): I also just noticed that when she came in, she was clearly wearing a skirt, but on the next page, she's now in pants. This, my friends, is a classic example of what Mystery Science Theater 3000 referred to as...
(Cut to a clip of the MST3K gang watching Attack of the Eye Creatures)
Tom Servo: They just didn't care.
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, after calling her paper up, Judy Baker is on her way out on some big story.
Alec: Boy, she's off on a great story... but what're we supposed to do for exciting news for our first issue--?
Linkara: A recent poll of the student body saw an overwhelming majority called for recess to be extended by six hours. The principal refused to comment at this time.
Linkara (v/o): Oh, but of course, it's time for that second surprise. After lunch, they get to go on a lawsuit trip– er, I mean, field trip, to the Museum of Science and Technology. At this point, it's just par for the course. I'm starting to think they need to get the kids out of the classroom every few weeks just to replace the mind-control gas. And it's time to go back over to the criminals, which the caption now identifies as terrorists.
Terrorist Thug: Ain't we kinda early, boss?!
Terrorist Boss: Out of necessity! We need to be among the first people in so we can* have time to case the joint!
- NOTE: The terrorist boss does not say "so we can have"; he says "so we have".
Linkara: (as terrorist thug) Shouldn't we have done that already, boss? I mean, it's not good for our evil plan if it's being done on the fly.
Linkara (v/o): Judy Baker, meanwhile, is given more specifics, that an anonymous tip-off was made about a kidnapping and bomb threat – somewhere in the city. And with the lack of details that frankly sounds more like a crank, but what do I know? And even at the police station, they're mobilizing in case the threat is real. Then again, I'm sure Larry here was just itching to break out his sawed-off shotgun. Back over to the Whiz Kids, who arriving at the museum with their class...
Alec: I hear they've got just about everything on display in the new museum!
Linkara (v/o): Oh, boy! I can't wait to see all the obsolete technology! Unlike our TRS-80s. Those will never go out of style.
Linkara (v/o): They spot Judy Baker arriving at the museum, who's covering the opening of the place until she can get a break on the bomb threat.
Linkara: Ah, truly Miss Baker is one of the great investigative reporters who does absolutely no investigation on their stories and expects something to just happen.
Narrator: Together, Ms. Wilson's class enters the shining museum-- to be greeted by a sight that is more wonderful than any of them could imagine...
Linkara: (as a student) Wow, it's actually a better school than ours!
Linkara (v/o): They meet Mr. Donald Anderson, the president of the United Industrial Electric Company, who has nothing better to do that day but be a tour guide to a bunch of sixth-graders.
Alec: Hot dog! I've heard of Mr. Anderson, Shanna! His company is one of the best in the country!
Linkara: (as Alec) He embezzles way less than other companies!
Shanna: This should be exciting!
(Cut to a shot of the MST3K gang watching Are You Ready For Marriage?)
Mike Nelson: No, it isn't.
Mr. Anderson: Ms. Wilson tells me you are already familiar with computers... but how many of you realize just how common computer use has become in this day and age?
Linkara: (as Mr. Anderson) Every day, people are discovering new and exciting forms of porn on their computers!
Mr. Anderson: Without knowing it, we use computers every day!
Linkara: (looking down and texting on his cell phone) Eh, I'm sure you're just exaggerating.
Linkara (v/o): For this comic, it was apparently decided to include all that computer history that we would normally shove into the back of the comic into the story itself. And frankly, with my experience there, it's best if we just skipped it. Blah, blah, integrated circuits, yadda yadda, giant Tandy computer– There– Wait, what? Yeah, apparently, in this museum, they made sure to build a giant TRS-80 model 4 that people can step on.
Mr. Anderson: That's to help show how it works.
Linkara: (as Mr. Anderson) People in this city have really bad eyesight.
Linkara (v/o): Geez, you got to imagine that keyboard is filthy with everyone stepping on it. And really, why would you let people just step on it like one of those giant toy pianos? Isn't this just asking kids to start writing dirty words on the screen for everyone to see? Or is it not going to work unless they have a giant word processor disk, too? On the upside, I would love to play Galactic Conquest on a giant Commodore 64. Anyway, after some more edumacation on computaters, the criminals put on some masks and come out in front of the tour with guns. They grab Mr. Anderson and tell everyone else to leave.
Linkara: I'm not sure I ever wanted a remake of Die Hard starring the Tandy Computer Whiz Kids.
Linkara (v/o): Speaking of, the Whiz Kids wisely decide to haul ass, dragging Judy Baker along, despite her wanting to cover the story closer. The police have already arrived, thanks to another anonymous tip that it was going to come down here. The terrorists have already put forth a five-million-dollar ransom as Detective Shaw arrives to take charge.
Policeman: Okay, Detective Shaw! My men have got the museum sealed off! The only way out is through the front doors...
Linkara: (as policeman) The identities of the terrorists are still unknown, but we suspect Vigo the Carpathian. The museum thing is kind of his M.O.
Linkara (v/o): This is actually pretty tense, exciting stuff. So, naturally, here are the Whiz Kids to whiz all over it. Alec and Shanna are hanging around Judy Baker instead of, you know, being brought back to the school or having their parents called TO GET THEM FROM AWAY FROM THE PLACE WITH ALL THE GUNS!! But yeah, they want to see how a real reporter handles stuff, but when Det. Shaw asks for any witnesses to the initial attack of the gunmen, Alec steps forward, providing a clue that he noticed about how the lead terrorist had a snake tattoo that he spotted briefly.
Shaw: Great, son! That's just what I was looking for! Come with me, and I'll show you how we're going to use your clue!
Linkara: (as Shaw) I figured educating you is more important than trying to get as many salient details as possible or ask for any more witnesses who may have seen something you didn't.
Linkara (v/o): But no, since this is about computers, of course, he shows Alec their mobile communications post, which will allow them to access their criminal databases, and see if they can identify the lead terrorist. And sure enough, their Google foo serves them well as they identify him as Max Fuzzi.
Linkara: That's not a terrorist name, that's a teddy bear version of a Miami Vice character.
Mobile communicator: --currently employed by a foreign government to create havoc in the world's democracies!
Linkara: (as communicator) He's so infamous that we're not even going to say what foreign government he works for, or explain how a hostage situation involving a single industrial will wreak havoc with democracy!
Linkara (v/o): I mean, wow, comic! You reached a new low of stupid with that. Why the hell couldn't he just be a notorious domestic terrorist? You had to make it about the Commies without even having the balls to say "Russia" or something? But whatever. Since Fuzzi-Wuzzi is an expert in high explosives, they think they've got their man, confirmed when they patch a line through to the guy, and he demands the five-million-dollar ransom by 9PM, about six hours from then.
Fuzzi: (over phone) In that case, our hostage will be shot and we will detonate a powerful bomb hidden in the museum and destroy it!
Linkara: (as Shaw, pretending to hold up a phone) I'm sorry, but could you repeat that? You keep cutting in and out! (pulls "phone" away and shakes it in frustration) Damn cheap, stupid Tandy crap!
Linkara (v/o): Nearby, Judy Baker overhears and decides to be insanely stupid. She has the full story here, but instead of wiring this information back to her editor, she decides to sneak into the museum! I mean, we never learn why the hell she does this. She has the story. What the hell good is sneaking into the place gonna do now? But yeah, Shanna spots her sneaking back inside through the side– Wait, didn't the cops earlier say the only way in or out was through the front of the building?
(Cut to a shot of the MST3K gang)
Joel and the Bots: (in unison) They just didn't care!
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara: Det. Shaw walks out of sight of the kids, so they can't warn him about what she's doing, and they decide to pursue. Inside, she manages to sneak past the guard and overhears the terrorists loudly explaining that there is no bomb. They plan to escape through the sewers once they have the ransom money. At least in their case, I assume that being internationally-renowned terrorists, they probably made an escape route for themselves in the sewer, and the cops didn't just forget YET ANOTHER OBVIOUS ESCAPE ROUTE! Alec and Shanna meet up with her, and she decides it's too risky to try for all three of them to sneak past the guard again.
Linkara: Why? It can't be that hard if all three of you did it already.
Linkara (v/o): They head inside an office to use their handy-dandy Tandy products to save the day. She types out the information and then hooks it up to the phone.
Alec: Man! I never knew being a reporter could be so exciting!
Judy: Oh, it's exciting all right, Alec-- not to mention downright dangerous!
Linkara: Yeah, things tend to be exciting and dangerous when you're an idiot.
Linkara (v/o): Fuzzi Bear notices the phone line is in use, and they begin searching the area, quickly locating Miss Baker. The Whiz Kids duck behind the desk to avoid detection. Baker was fortunately able to get the message off before she's taken away. Back at the news station, they get the transmission and quickly get to telling the cops about it. Det. Shaw, in turn, is an idiot and calls up Fuzzi Fazoli to get him to surrender, that they know about the bluff and their escape route. Of course, as our terrorists point out, they still have the hostages! However, Mr. Anderson decides now would be a good time to have a heart attack and collapses on the ground.
Shaw: If the man dies, Fuzzi, you've lost your bargaining power! Please... let me send in the medics!
Linkara: Yeah, it'd be a real shame if he didn't have another hostage on hand... OH, WAIT...
Linkara (v/o): But no, Fozzi agrees, Shaw quickly coming up with a plan. He disguises himself as one of the two paramedics and enters. While they're treating Mr. Anderson, the real paramedic apparently decides that this is a perfectly good opportunity to try to sell the Model 100 Tandy computer to the terrorists, since they use it to transmit patient conditions to the hospital and whatnot.
Linkara: Oh, yeah, I remember when I had a heart attack and the EMT was trying to sell me his MacBook. Wouldn't resuscitate me until I agreed.
Linkara (v/o): To make a long story short, divers come in from the sewers and cut the power, allowing Shaw to pull his own gun. And apparently, terrorists are afraid of the dark, since the other two terrorists surrender immediately, while Hot Fuzzi makes a run for it. Fortunately, Alec and Shanna are nearby and tackle the guy to the floor.
Shanna: Wow! We did it, Alec! We captured the bad guy!
Linkara (v/o): And judging by that "KRAK!" sound effect, you gave him a concussion, too. The cops storm the museum, dealing with the guard as Shaw emerges with the other two captured terrorists. He congratulates the Whiz Kids.
Shanna: We wanted to help fight terrorism, Detective Shaw!
(In response, Linkara rolls his eyes and leans his head back on the couch in frustration, blinking his eyes)
Linkara: That was a thing just said by the Tandy Computer Whiz Kids (leans head back up) in a comic promoting Radio Shack!
Linkara (v/o): As paramedics take Mr. Anderson to the hospital, Alec and Shanna realize something.
Shanna: Do you know what this means, Alec?
Alec: Yeah! It means we'll get a medal!
Linkara: (as Alec) I'm gonna need a new rack for all the ones I've collected so far.
Linkara (v/o): Oh, no, what's really important is that they've got the perfect headline for their first paper. (laughs) Enjoy therapy, kids! Anyway, the next day, the principal comes down to class to congratulate the two– Er, wait, Ms. Wilson says they just finished a mathematics lesson.
Linkara: (looking up in thought) That could mean they were learning things, but I suspect that Ms. Wilson spotted the principal coming down the hall and was just pretending that she was talking about that and not about dusting off the interior circuit boards of their computers.
Linkara (v/o): But yeah, the principal is here to congratulate them on a job well done.
Shanna: Gosh, Mr. Green, we were only doing what anyone would-- fighting terrorism-- the enemy of free people worldwide!
Linkara: I would like to remind you all that this was printed in 1984 and not post-9/11. Just thought I'd mention that.
Linkara (v/o): He also shows off the first page of the school paper, which states "Whiz Kids Tackle Terrorism". And they look utterly amazed by it, despite the fact that they were the ones who obviously wrote it! Geez, they did it overnight. Then again, I'm not certain these kids ever sleep. And so, our comic ends with the kids doing their favorite activity: playing with their Network 3 Controllers! And as I said, artwork we've seen before, possibly the first iteration of it, too.
Linkara: (holding up comic) This comic sucks!
Linkara (v/o): Admittedly, it actually has a tense scenario behind it with the hostage situation, but it also has so much boring descriptions of computer activity and history. The thing is supposed to promote computers for kids in classrooms, but it makes them look dull and uninteresting. Let's not forget the characters are all morons. I mean, sure, our star reporter's little excursion back into the building ended up with positive intel, but why she went back inside is anyone's guess. I'll give it credit that it doesn't repeat a lot of the same plot points we've seen before, but it further illustrates how insane these poor children have been driven.
Linkara: Next time, we exchange small children for horny adults/teenagers for the second issue of "Trouble"! I expect debates about which characters are more annoying to follow. (gets up from his chair and leaves)
(Credits roll, to footage of a Tandy computer commercial)
Announcer: Now, give your family the world with Tandy Sensation from Radio Shack, the amazing multimedia computer that gives you a CD-ROM library, 16 million colors, and digital stereo sound. With a multimedia encyclopedia, wide horizons will open before your eyes. And there's voicemail, with text-to-speech technology. Even beginners can access the future with Tandy Sensation. Anything else is just a PC. From Radio Shack, your Christmas electronics store.
(Another Tandy commercial is shown, this one with a man and a woman)
Announcer: Merry Christmas.
Man: (showing off a Tandy commercial with a bow on it) Honey, this is just like the PC I have at the office.
Woman: (removing bow) Oh!
Announcer: The PC compatible Tandy 1000, just $999, with a Christmas bonus color monitor. Save $300.
Woman: Soon as I finish our budget, sweetheart.
Announcer: It comes with its own software.
Man's daughter: My report's due tomorrow, Dad.
Announcer: (as man is at Tandy at home in dark) And have plenty of home uses.
Woman: Don't stay too late at the office, dear.
Announcer: The Tandy 1000, with color monitor Christmas bonus. Only at Radio Shack.
So who was the one who gave the tip to the police and the paper?
The Computer Trap: AKA no real trap was made, but it sounds good.