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On the Sliding Scale Of Idealism Vs. Cynicism, I like to think of myself as being idyllically cynical. (Patreon page.)

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Transform with the times · 4:11pm May 22nd

Because everything old is new again, there are very few original ideas in the world, and nostalgia comes with profit -- the first generation of Transformers is slowly being re-released into the world. The ones from the 1980s, when all you needed to sell toys was a sixty-five episode commitment, one frequently reused sound effect, the occasional suggestion that two consecutive frames were meant to show moment, and Peter Cullen's voice. (The voice has only improved with age.) The kids who watched that generation are well into adulthood now, and they want their toys back.

So... the originals, only with tiny differences in packaging and maybe a mark somewhere on the toy to keep collectors from being scammed. (There's also a Masterpiece series, which basically represents 'What Hasbro would have made with a real budget.' The robot forms are animation-accurate while still transforming into their vehicles. Beautiful design work.) A few weeks ago, while making the virus-risk run to a local Walmart, I spotted the return of the cassettes.

And because tech becomes obsolete, I have to explain what cassettes were.

They were physical mediums for recording and playing sound, which used something called 'magnetic tape'. You could put them into a cassette player, which was roughly the size of an adult's hand: typically worn strapped to the waist, with attached headphones. Or in a boom box, which was a sixty-pound behemoth version that was 90% speakers, which you mostly carried around on your shoulder to both serve as a barely-walking noise pollution hazard while showing that you could carry one for more than five feet. But for the Transformers' purposes, the idea was that you could record sound. So each side had living, transforming cassettes, and someone who could change into an appropriate device. Just place them anywhere and there's your espionage infiltration. In that age, no one would ever suspect a stray cassette lying around, or a player on someone's desk.

For example, here's Generation 1 Ravage.

Stealth! (With some size-changing when he went back to robot mode. He was meant to bite off your head, not your thumb.)

And the thing is... with the Transformers of that time, the creators imagined based on the technology they had. Wi-Fi streaming? What's that? You could have sapient robots, but good luck having their eyesight work in high definition. So it was cassettes to capture sound and their players to let someone else hear it, because those existed as the most popular portable medium of enjoying music. Pretty much the only one.

So now G1 is back. And I saw the double-cassette pack on the peg, and thought about how strange it had to look to the current generation. A cassette innocuously left on a desk? Must have been there for thirty years. Their players? What, you're not streaming music from your phone? The old information collectors stand out so much as to be instantly suspicious, and so... they're obsolete.

I kept thinking about that. How we'll keep seeing the franchise return over and over, because nostalgia is powerful and Michael Bay is stupid. But the cassettes don't work. They haven't worked for a long time. If we're assuming sapient robots couldn't just remotely tap into the network around your desk, if they needed to sneak something in which could gather information, something you would never really notice...

I was curious as to whether anyone else had thought about that.
So I looked at eBay.

That was a few weeks ago.

This -- which arrived in the mail today -- is my new USB drive.

I probably won't use it much. At most, I might need to carry a few files to the library's printer, once we all have access to things like library printers again. What I really want to do is find someone of the right generation. Not necessarily a huge fan. Just someone who goes through life with an Autobot insignia sticker on their car, in memory of the good times.

Sneak it onto their desk. In full view, and yet almost invisible.

And wait.

Report Estee · 734 views ·
Comments ( 38 )

I like this plan. This is a good plan.

I would pay good money to see their reaction.

It's so EVIL. Do it.

Estee #4 · May 22nd · · ·

Just to mention: this is an 8GB model running on USB 2.0, so I'll mostly use it to transfer data between desktops. The total cost was $10.48: $6.49 for the stick plus $3.99 shipping. (I really did need a new drive at the time.)

If you're interested in getting your own, I purchased from this eBay seller. But you may want to shop around a little. I'm not completely sure what other models might be available for USB generation, capacity, and the Transformer being mimicked.

ETA: here's a 64GB model.. However, the photography is horrible and I'm somewhat offended by 'cool dog'.

Ravage is a panther.

No no, you have to load something onto the USB first for them to see. "You're computer now belongs the Deceptions" or something.

A computer mouse is sort of beetle-shaped so it would make a pretty good insecticon.

Cool. Thanks for the heads up. Ordered one. Nice to see them changing with the times. Would be a neat trick for April 1st. I see there also exists a Blaster themed transforming USB hub. Pity, I don't see a Shockwave. Oddly, it looks like Takara Tomy also made a Megatron that turns into a mini Sega Genesis.

...that USB stick is the coolest fuckin' thing ever oh my GAWD!!!

I remember the classic Transformers toys. I was an 80s kid. For a while, I had one of the original Aerialbots and one of the original Terrorcons. (Lost them to a move when we could no longer pay for the storage shed...) I remember, one time, my store back in my old hometown in Ohio had an ORIGINAL Optimus Prime.

God, that was a great store. Run by an old Jewish guy named Mr. Heiser... They even had the USS Flagg from the classic G.I.Joe line, although my parents didn't want me to have a toy that dang huge...


I feel old.

For optimal results—no pun intended—be sure to include a file named "Definitely not Starscream's betrayal plans.txt" on the drive.

Wait, no, that would imply he actually planned them.

Yeah, there's a LOT of stuff that came & went in my lifetime (dial telephones, for instance)

I told one of my nieces that every hardware store & department store used to have a tube tester, she thought I meant "fallopian tubes", she'd never heard of vacuum tubes.

I'm old :applecry:

there are very few original ideas in the world

My own version of this line: "There is nothing new under the sun" is itself old enough to be quoted in the Bible.

(I'm not religious, but the people who are had millennia to come up with lines like that one)


Buy the stick (or a similar model from another seller). As midlife crisis therapy goes, it's cheaper than a Tracks Corvette and it'll let you know you're still young where it counts the most. But if you must spend (slightly) more, this one is 64GB. I just think the look is worse and... (shudder) ..."cool dog." Yeesh. Shop around.

And if you must look up the Masterpiece series to see what G1could have been -- I can't stress this enough -- use eBay and get it sent from China or Japan. Because if all you care about is having your Wheeljack again, there's a huge difference between $30 for their release and $100+ for ours.


...I'm starting to feel like I may have sold a few Ravages today.

Blaster hub, huh?


...because of course there is. But that's way out of my price range, plus I don't have anywhere near enough USB devices to justify owning any kind of hub. Regardless, it's nice to see him get an update.

Sadly, no one did the same for Soundwave yet -- but his Masterpiece is out.


That's what the Masterpiece line can do. Animation-accurate figures, often with improved jointing: the original edition never could have held that pose. And as said above, if all you want is the look, you're really better off ordering from China. Because getting it from an American seller is... well, see for yourself.

I don't remember what the machine or its purpose was, but when I worked commercial painting the asphalt/concrete guys we worked with on remodels had a Decepticon insignia on one of their machines. Either the asphalt laying machine or the machine that chews up the existing parking lot.
There was also an A-10 Warthog transformer that I'm very surprised didn't appear in any of the Bayverse films.

(For those that aren't in the know, the A-10 Warthog / Thunderbolt II is a gun with a plane built around it. Its main cannon is twice the length of a VW Beetle and loads shells roughly the size of your forearm. It was designed to kill tanks.)

If you check out Ravage’s latest toy at the bottom of his Wiki page 2019 Siege Ravage his alt mode is described as a “shield.” Apparently some bot thought one of the best uses for an elite operative that is lightly built for stealth and reconnaissance is a slab to be repeatedly shot at.

Shameless plug: if you loved Transformers as a kid and want some idea what’s happened to the franchise in the last 30 years Chris McFeely’s video series Transformers: The Basics is an excellent easy to understand resource.

I'd buy the hell out of that, and I never watched Transformers.

<Rick Sanchez voice> Yeah, welcome to the club

Comment posted by Krack-Fic Kai deleted May 22nd

Friend of mine's kid collected *every* Transformer he could get his hands on. Tiny little bedroom, packed to the walls with robots.

To be fair, anything small enough for a human to carry is probably sufficient for the purpose of hiding from things that are usually the size of cars. What's more, it was apparently referred to in-lore as some kind of "armor" so the idea is probably to act as an accessory that boosts stealth. ("Accessory" in the RPG sense, for the record)

My younger brother got a Transformer toy one Christmas. I was insanely jealous.

I did have a knock-off Walkman at the time. Keeping the thing fed with AA batteries was a pain. And those headphones sounded awful. The things we did for portable music...

Sweet. You should fill it with the rickroll video.

Never had Transformers as a kid, I was big into GI Joe though. Still have a few in my parents' basement somewhere.

These days I mostly sate my desire to assemble plastic things with Gundams, which feel appropriately space-age if you're buying the more expensive grades. All those little parts, but the result works so well.

Author Interviewer

The Ravage USB drive is a great find. :D

As a kid, which of the Transformer toys were your favorite? I remember being utterly awed by the design for the triple changers. I was somewhat disappointed by the Grimlock toy; the dinosaur mode was good but the robot mode just seemed off.

That's the thing about G1 Starscream, he was always scheming. That was his default mode. When he did stuff other than scheming, that was him being spontaneous.

Transformers were my jam, man. One of my favorite Christmas gifts ever was the entire Stunticon set. No collecting each of those little buggers separately, waiting to get them all for the combiner.


Are you talking about Powerglide? I got him, too. He didn't come nearly as well-armed as the A-10, though.


It was designed to kill tanks

And does so very, very well.

My favorite airplane.

Also, I so want one of those usb drives.

There was another one, like a Japan-only release or some shit


And as said above, if all you want is the look, you're really better off ordering from China.

Yyyyeah... let me tell you about my experiences of getting toys, or pretty much anything else, off of eBay from sellers in China.

(1) The item will not come in the original packaging -- or indeed, any packaging at all; it will simply be wrapped with as little bubble-wrap as they can get away with and then stuffed into a padded envelope, or maybe a box that's obviously been re-used more than once and whose structural integrity is dubious at best.

(2) The lack of original packaging will be touted by the seller as being for your benefit, to save on shipping costs. If you insist on wanting the original box and packaging, suddenly the "shipping" balloons to $100+, as "proof" that omitting the original packaging is saving on shipping costs. What this really means is that "we don't have the original packaging because what we're selling is an unauthorized ripoff, and if you insist on wanting the original package that means now we have to go out and buy one of the real ones (but we'll probably still put the cheap knockoff in the box and keep the original one for ourselves)".

(3) While it will be promptly marked as having shipped within a day or two of payment, the tracking number will either be invalid, "not yet in our system", or will simply show the item not actually moving from its last check-in point for weeks at a time. That's assuming they even bother to provide a tracking number, of course.

(4) The quoted delivery date will somehow, no doubt by sheer coincidence, happen to be just slightly past the eBay deadline for filing disputes for transactions.

(5) When the item fails to arrive, and you attempt to contact the seller, more often than not you will find that a seller which previously had nothing but positive feedback and 100+ active item listings going, suddenly has zero active listings and has acquired several dozen negative feedbacks just within the last week or two, and is no longer responding to any messages. (But at least the negative feedback means you can take comfort in knowing you weren't the only one who got suckered.)

At this point, if you're fortunate and file your complaint with eBay promptly enough, they may intervene and refund your money anyway, though they won't tell you what actions (if any) are being taken against the fraudulent seller. Meanwhile, there's another Chinese vendor selling a suspiciously similar-looking range of items, whose item listings seem to have been cut-and-pasted from the same boilerplate as the other guy...

Now, if that sounds like your idea of fun...

Reese #31 · May 23rd · · ·

"And because tech becomes obsolete, I have to explain what cassettes were."
Welp, I feel old.

Glad it sounds like you like your new acquisition, though. :)

Ravage... eject! Operation: Infiltrate office and sit on a desk until someone notices you.

Thank you! I'll be getting one of these too (I also picked both of the cassette two-packs I found at Walmart as I slowly fill the gaps in my collection with reissues). :pinkiehappy:

The best part of this form for Ravage?

At least 20% of employees who spot a dropped USB stick will - the day after training on cyber security - still plug it into their computer.

The things IT puts up with.

Though as a note, there was a version that replaced the cassettes with CDs at one point.

I have a vague memory of one of Estee’s Tryptich stories that was, somewhat, or just plain was, the Story of Celestia, Luna, and the very first Elements, and the story of the Discord times. I remember it telling the tale of what life was like, and how Discord was defeated, changing the world into the way it is now. A world where Celestia and Luna ended up being the sole survivors, and they had to watch,and even guide, somewhat, proto-Pony to evolve into modern pony. Was this even a story from Estee? Or a section from an Estee story? Or am I just remembering a story from someone else? If this isn’t an actual Estee story, it would be wonderful to get that full story of “The chaos years”.

Yes. All this yes.
I was the target audience for G1 and god they were my favorite toys. I still have some of the ones I got later on. Nostalgia is economic jet fuel. Once my new SO gets a job, I could spend some money on Transformers. Plus, even though she wasn't into them, at least she would recognize them.

Estee ran an informal prequel/sequel poll about the next big story. The prequel description there may be what you're thinking of.

Soundwave and Rumble --


not that one -- didn't used to have to make sense. Or at least, they didn't in this one activity/storybook I had of them.

So Bumblebee and human-whose-name-I-don't-remember are driving along at the bottom of the sea when they spot a cassette player and cassette, and decide they would be a great gift for other-human-who-didn't-come-along.

Now. I could absolutely be wrong, but if they were really a cassette and player at the bottom of the ocean, I kind of feel like they'd be ruined? Add to that that Bumblebee and the human know who they are when Soundwave and Rumble go back into robot form. They know they have an enemy who transforms into one, and one who transforms into the other. And yet, here they are, at the bottom of the ocean, and no suspicions are raised.

And that's how Bumblebee and the human were captured. At least Optimus Prime got them back because the Decepticons thought they could use this inconspicuous semi-truck/tractor-trailer/articulated lorry to transport the goods. It's like no one remembers that their enemies transform.


For the record: I just ended my first China shipment burn -- but I managed to get the refund. The seller listed the item as Shipped on May 10th, and I did receive a tracking number. However, from that point on, the location never updated. I allowed for the allotted shipping time plus a few coronavirus bonus weeks, then contacted the seller and asked for a replacement item. Also that it not be mailed via China Post.

Another week passed with no reply. This morning, eBay contacted me and asked what I wanted to do.

I checked the seller's feedback card and he is, put mildly, having a bad month: thirty-nine negative votes to one positive, making him into the (author's name redacted) of eBay. According to the most recent votes, he has been replying to no one and blocking anyone who pushes too hard. So with that in mind, I asked for my money back and had it granted.

So this is a case of your listed #3 and #5 combined. However, it really is my first burn on anything ordered from China. (Not so much for the States: the numbers are higher there.) I had received the few other pieces I've bought over the years, and so I may take a chance on a future purchase. It just won't be for a while, because A. budget -- I have to pay for her Vibro-Bladder procedure this month and, in a very rare case of looking after myself, need to schedule an eye exam -- and B. coronavirus: there's no point to placing another overseas order until the postal systems settle down. It's currently taking me up to two weeks to get anything from an Amazon warehouse forty miles away.

I have found a Stateside seller for the same item. They have a 100% positive feedback record, promise roughly three days shipping time (plus the virus factor), and while the price is higher, it's not outrageous. Bookmarked for September.

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