The Avon Computer Goth Challenge

The Taylor and Amy Show

Hot off the heels of their musical debut 6502 song the good folk at the Taylor and Amy Show are at it again. This time instead of assaulting our auditory senses, they play with our perception of color all while keeping the spirit of retro computing alive.

To back up a bit, I had the pleasure of witnessing the discovery of the Avon Beauty Vision Computer while at the Vintage Computer Festival Mid-West (VCFMW) this past September. We had visited the home of our friend [Jim W] from VCFMW who nonchalantly pulled down from the shelf the reddest computer I have ever seen.

A crowd quickly gathered at this newfound treat, designed and built before the invention of the Blue LED, was fallen upon and the process of prying out its secrets began. I was not privy to the negotiations, but I did notice a brightly colored red suitcase being exfiltrated by highly trained operatives later that night.

The next day several of the outdoor tables at said VCF Midwest event were relegated to the effort to breathe life into the aging T1000 Cyberdyne Toshiba system that ultimately powered the Avon Beauty Vision Computer (ABVC). The ABVC was created to provide personalized makeup suggestions to users based on their skin tone as measured by some sort of large optical gun. “Combining facial analysis with Avon’s beauty database, it offered tailored recommendations” …in theory. More about the Avon computer can be seen in LGR’s video.

It was a long day of repair ups and downs; success, followed by failure, followed by success, with almost no mistakes made. People stopped by to offer opinions and prayer throughout the day until finally [Taylor] proclaimed “It’s ALIVE”. She was wrong but it was still an impressive moment. Later it really did work, but we weren’t falling for that again.

As seen on their video [Taylor and Amy] found the existing software and its results to be… wanting. A bright Disco Green was in their future as recommendations for both women consisted of a subtle palette of mostly refined taste… for the 1980s. 

Cleary the outdated software needed to be updated. A Brownian Motion Generator was consulted and it was decided that the color palettes should be Gothified. Look it up, it means “to make Gothy”.

What’s amazing is the effort that went into Gothifying the firmware, as I am told that [Jeri Ellsworth and Amy] from @TiltFive, but mostly [Amy], stayed up late editing raw hex code so that the printout was real. This was a great touch as I would imagine they had to come up with words that fit the sizes of the existing words such as “Violent Violet”. As a hardware engineer I would have just preprinted the paper rather than do the actual work, but not this crowd.

What was needed was field testing which resulted in the Goth Makeup Palette Challenge where some of us would submit to the mostly painless process of having our palates determined. I was in the blast zone when the challenge was decreed and gladly accepted the opportunity to dawn long locks of hair in a futile attempt to recapture my Bad Boy period of the 1980s. 

Bil Herd
Bil Herd in the Avon Goth Palate Challenge

The blast zone of those affected included old friends such as [Ken] from @CanadianRetroThings, [Robin] from @8_Bit, and [Evie] from @EviesRevue, as well as new friends [Veronica] from @VeronicaExplains who also shows us her trip to the VCF MW. I had looked forward to meeting [AJ] and [Tim] from @mydrunksibling but apparently and unfortunately, [Tim] did not survive the filming of the insert.

As you might be able to tell, attending a Vintage Computer Festival is not just about cool electronics, but also about the people that you meet and the friends that you make.

9 thoughts on “The Avon Computer Goth Challenge

  1. I remember being subjected to the indignity of one of those machines.

    It wanted me to wear blues and golds. For the first and only time I was ever thankful for having allergies, I was able to honestly cry off of buying a pile of Avon cosmetics on the grounds that their colour choices wouldn’t go with red and puffy.

    Great to see such a niche device being resurrected, though.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.