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That’s So ’90s — The Tech of Captain Marvel

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  March 8th, 2019  By Adam Morgan

The 21st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is here, and since “Captain Marvel” takes place in 1995, it’s chock-full of nostalgic tech products. During her adventures on Earth, Brie Larson’s superheroine encounters all sorts of consumer electronics, services, games, and toys that defined the dial-up age. We rounded up every ‘90s tech easter egg for you below, along with a little tech history — including a couple of anachronisms. If you haven’t seen “Captain Marvel” yet, don’t worry, we promise not to give away any plot points.

Nick Fury’s pager

Pagers (also known as beepers) have actually been around since the 1950s, but Motorola first brought them to the masses in the 1980s. By the time of “Captain Marvel,” more than 3 million Americans were using them to send the earliest “texts.” We first saw Nick Fury’s pager at the end of 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” but the device plays a larger role in “Captain Marvel.” The pager itself is a custom prop, but it’s clearly based on the Motorola Advisor II, first released in 1993. It could display four lines of text with 80 characters per line, store 52 messages at a time, and ran on a AA battery. Luckily, today’s best 4G mobile wireless carriers are slightly faster than 1995’s VHF and UHF radio networks.

Blockbuster Video

Photo by Toby Talbot/AP/REX/Shutterstock (6303514a). A Blockbuster sign on a store is seen in Barre, Vt.,

Before the days of Netflix, Hulu, and Prime Video, Blockbuster was the most popular way to rent movies. Beginning in the late 80s all the way through 2004, it operated more than 9,000 brick-and-mortar retail outlets around the world. But thanks to the rise of Redbox and online streaming, the company went bankrupt in 2010 and sold its remaining stores to the Dish Network. Today, there’s only one Blockbuster Video store left in the world — and it’s a pretty big tourist attraction in Bend, Oregon. The rest of us have to settle (boo hoo) for the best modern streaming services.

AltaVista

Wikipedia
Though it accounts for more than 92% of all web searches today, Google didn’t even exist until September 4, 1998. Before that, a handful of early search engines competed for users, including WebCrawler, Yahoo!, Excite, and a Palo Alto-based company called AltaVista, which makes a small cameo in “Captain Marvel.” However, AltaVista wasn’t publicly available until December 15, 1995, so unless “Captain Marvel” is set during the following two weeks (doubtful, given the lack of holiday decor), its inclusion is the slightest of anachronisms. She probably would have used Excite or Yahoo! (which bought AltaVista in 2003 and shut it down in 2013).

Nerf guns

Like pagers, Nerf had been around long before the ‘90s, but the first Nerf blaster was released in 1989: the Blast-a-Ball, which was essentially a plastic potato gun. The Nerf blaster that makes a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in “Captain Marvel” is a little more advanced. We’ll need a second viewing to identify the exact model, but it was reminiscent of 1992’s Sharpshooter, one of the first “dart blasters,” which became far more popular than Nerf’s original foam balls. Unlike AltaVista, Nerf blasters are definitely still around — here are our seven favorite Nerf guns today.

Nintendo Game Boy

James Sheppard/Future Publishing via Getty Images

It doesn’t get as much screen time as Nick Fury’s pager, but Captain Marvel does come across an 8-bit Game Boy early in the film. First released in 1989, it featured a 2.6-inch screen and ran on 4 AA batteries for about 15 hours. By the beginning of 1997, more than 64 million Game Boys had been sold around the world in a cacophony of colors. Nintendo discontinued the original Game Boy models after the release of the 32-bit Game Boy Advance in 2001.

Sony Discman

A supporting character in “Captain Marvel” listens to a Sony Discman, a ubiquitous lifestyle product from the late ’80s until the advent of MP3 players (remember those?!) in 1999.

Centipede, Space Invaders, and Street Fighter 2


Atari Centipede, IGN

At least three classic arcade games pop up in “Captain Marvel.” Atari’s fixed-shooter “Centipede” (which you can play online for free) dates back to 1981, and was something of a mix between “Tetris” and “Space Invaders”. Speaking of which, Bally’s 1980 “Space Invaders” pinball machine was a bizarre adaptation of the 1978 arcade game, the former of which stole heavily from the iconography of Ridley Scott’s “Alien.” Finally, a “Street Fighter 2” arcade cabinet makes a brief appearance in “Captain Marvel,” which you might think is perfectly fine since it debuted in 1991. But the scene in which it appears is a flashback to at least 1989 (or potentially earlier), making “Street Fighter 2” a bonafide “Captain Marvel” anachronism.

Featured Image: ©TCD/Prod.DB/Alamy Stock / Marvel Studios/CAPTAIN MARVEL

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