So now seems the appropriate time to look at things that can keep you fit in your home.
So how about something from the early 90s, for DOS?
Computer Athlete Interactive Fitness by CSA.
Let's take a look!
Yeah, I really need to stop buying old products wrapped in cellophane.
There's usually a reason it's still wrapped in cellophane, and collecting isn't the reason.
Anyway, here we are, Computer Athlete.
Fitness Made Fun, and as you can see, it's some kind of apparatus to use with your IBM
That well trusted fitness tool.
A quick scan across the box top shows us various game modes, skiing, jogging, whatever the
other two are.
But she looks happy enough, so I guess it must work just fine.
The rear of the packaging reveals more tempting delights, and clears up any confusion.
Bicycle Tour, X-Country Ski, Marathon Runner, Robot-Stepper, it's definitely all here, and
apparently, it fits ALL EXERCISE EQUIPMENT.
There's an obligatory photo to the right which shows the contents of our pack, along with
a blurb that really just goes over what I've just said.
The top of the packaging shows the Computer Athlete is use with various exercise equipment,
so let's dive in and get it setup.
Instruction manual aside, we've got a 3.5" floppy, a 5.25" floppy, a circular reflector,
some kind of control box with ethernet style connectors, a plastic screw nut and a 9 pin
serial connector for your PC.
The next layer provides us with various wires and buttons, along with a DC transformer,
and a couple of plastic stands, which I will now assemble using the power of instructional
So, those big plastic slabs, fit into these two supports, and then we have a choice of
holes to thread this sensor light into.
The reflector then acting as a, well, reflector to return light back to the sensor.
The idea being that when the beam is broken, movement is detected.
Pretty simple, and that's what allows you to use it with most exercise equipment.
My equipment of choice is my trusty PRO FITNESS cycle, that I picked up for ten pounds from
The purple and green buttons then need to attach to the left hand ride, whilst red and blue
to the right.
These then need to connect into that junction box... can you imagine setting this up, each
time you wanted to exercise?!
GOOD GOD....along with the light sensor, which then all goes into the PCs serial port, and
then plugs into US voltage mains, and then our workout can begin.
*fitness montage - intense music*
Well, after installing the provided software.
Now viewers of my last mystery PC unboxing may recognise this disk, and indeed this PC.
Because this PC absolutely scratched the crap out of this disk, rendering the whole situation
Especially as shockingly, I have no PCs with a double sided, high density 5.25" drive to
use the other provided disk.
Thankfully, at the moment we have time, and indeed, the internet, allowing me to order
YET ANOTHER Computer Athlete pack from the United States, so I could continue with this
Cue several weeks, a homebrew haircut, a change of clothes, and a Compaq Prolinear desktop
PC with a much nicer floppy drive, several weeks, and we can finally, bloody begin.
[jazz music continues]
Right first things first.
The Computer Athlete software needs to test everything is working.
So that requires untangling this mass of wires and plugging everything back in.
The software then asks you to test all the inputs.
I couldn't see the screen, but I essentially just hammered the buttons and pedeled on my
bike and everything seemed in order.
I can't see a thing!"
The software then starts and you can either Add Person or Quick Start.
"I've got to use the bike controls?! [frantic tapping of keys]
Oh god.... alright"
Yes, from this point on, it's the bespoke controllers or nothing.
Still, gives me a chance to rearrange the setup.
So this is what we've got.
Bike in font of the PC, buttons secured tightly, and those sensors positioned so the pedals
will cut the beam on each rotation.
I actually just plonked them down roughly, and they worked straight away, so that part
is far less faff than I had imagined.
Anyway, on to adding me as "A PERSON".
[nice twangy guitar music]
It's simple enough.
The green button jumps between options, or letters, and the Blue button accepts your
You can cancel with the Red button. [PC Speaker confirmation beeps]
After name, we have age, weight (pounds?!? I...)
height, sex, PHYSICAL CONDITION (groans), your choice of exercise equipment... bicycle,
we're using a bicycle.. and your intensity level.. moderate.
All this is used to configure the basic game settings and allow more accurate calorie calculation.
Because, this setup is actually pretty good in that regard.
Alright, let's jump in immediately with some cycling.
"Oh it actually works"
Yep, when I pedal, the avatar on screen pedals.
When I stop pedalling, so does he.
The faster I pedal, the faster he goes, and the slower, the slower he goes!
If I stop, he stops and the workout pauses.
It works, its actually working!..... wow"
[generic PC speaker collision sound]
"Oh right, I need to steer using the buttons.
Right, right, gotcha"
That is something.
What is THAT coming towards me?
This is AMAZING"
The green and blue buttons allow me to turn left and right, and actually, well, it's a
pretty playable exeperience.
Oh my god, no!
Oh my god" "Come here, come here you basterrrddddd.
Eat my rubber.
Burn some dust here" "Oh god, what is that?!
It's a giant rabbit.
A GIANT RABBIT"
Now actually, this is pretty good.
This is quite a good way to exercise.
It feels like the original Wii.
It's quite fun.
It's quite addictive.
All I'm doing is biking down a VGA road, but it's alright.
I'm quite enjoying it.
It's a shame I can't smack other people off - OH MY GOD THERE'S A CAR - the road.
But it's OK, it's alright!
But that was before I realised, that ACTUALLY, you CAN smash people off their bikes.
"Press both green and blue buttons and you can knock over competitors!"
*intense death metal music"
Hoho, this ups the game to a whole new level.
SMASHED HIM ON THE FLOOR.
YES, DOWN YOU GO, IN YOUR FACE.
ON YOUR ARSE.
HOHO, HE FELL DOWN.
WOAH THERE'S A DINOSAUR
[PC Speaker sounds of joy]
"woah different level!"
A somewhat compelling feature -if that's the right term- is that the background scenery changes as you progress.
My cycle started in a nice park, but somehow rapidly progressed into the Great Basin Desert.
"An ambulance with a man just opening and shutting the back door!
What is wrong with him?"
Which is probably not the best place for a bike ride.
This progression happens in each game variant, which is nice.
You also get the opportunity to collect objects at the side of the road for BONUS points.
But they tend to be in tricky places, so it's an added element of risk.
For instance in the rowing course, you have to traverse between passing boats and road
size hazards, to obtain these bonus points. You can decide whether that's worth it or not...
[PC Speaker making speakery sounds]
I can play any of these games just using my exercise bike "oh, happy days".
You see when your chosen game starts, there's a short calibration session which picks up
your pedalling intensity, and then any variations after that effect your speed.
"Good god" *PC speaker noises*
You can also choose to have different speed levels in the game, which definitely makes
things more interesting.
GET BACK HERE.
TWO IN A ROW"
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My legs are aching like something chronic...oh god"
I actually played this for quite a while.
I got a good amount of exercise out of it, and in that respect, it certainly succeeds
at it's goal.
Come on you *sean bean* basted.
Get your fat skiiing feet over here.
So I can lodge a skiing pole in your ar...."
I mean, you don't even have to have exercise equipment.
As long as you're breaking the line of sight for the photo eye sensor, you're good to go.
"oh yes, now we are cycling.
We're getting some serious speed now"
"This might look a bit odd, but we're getting some serious speed up.
59 miles per hour!"
"Oh, I'm dead.
Yes FOURTY... FIFTY MILES PER HOUR.. *laughs* too hard to control"
[plodding jazz continues]
That means, you can run at 59MPH if you really want.
Or just jog on the spot, kinda.
It's a bit hard to do.
*unhealthy nerd out of breath sounds*
Or pretend you have a rowing machine.
All these things work, and they work pretty well.
For what I expected to be a throw-away 1995 piece of novelty kit.
It's actually all rather good.
*background laughing. Probably from light headedness*
It's not only fun, but it's a good exercise aid.
After each session, you get statistics on calories burned, alongside your point totals,
and seeing those bar charts.
Well, it's actually quite motivating to do more.
Not as motivating as pushing competitors faces into the snow.
But pretty motivating. *background shouts of enthusiasm from shoving people in the snow*
The only real issue, is setup.
It's just not practical.
Unless in 1995, you had a dedicated PC, in your dedicated gym that was setup all the
time, ready to go, then this is as lot of faff.
Presumably you'd have to get your exercise equipment out.
Untangle the mass of wires.
Plug it all in.
Point your PC the right way, and only then could you get to work.
It's not switch on and go like Wii Fit, and it's for that reason, that it probably didn't
do as well as it could of.
Fundamentally, even when it comes to exercise.
People are lazy.
If you can just jump on your exercise bike and pedal to some TV, you're gonna do that
Rather than set all this up each time.
But for 1995, it's a triumph.
It's a fun piece of kit, and it's certainly going to keep me occupied for the rest of
You know it's not.
I'm not setting this up each time. I set it up once, and that is it.
But it was fun whilst it lasted.
And that was about an hour and a half.
So, thanks for watching, and have a great evening.
[Light jazz to see you out]