Horseboy revisited

Regular readers may remember my post about when, in 1995, I emailed TV2’s late-night news programme Newsnight with a poem about Horseboy, the show’s mascot hobby horse. Marcus Lush read it out on air, making it one of the first viewer emails to be shown on New Zealand television. Or something like that.

Well, recently I had a chance to view that episode. It was pretty much how I remembered it (I’m sure I had video-recorded it and watched it a few times back in the day), and now I’ve taken a few screen shots and added it to the post.

Actually, let’s just pause for some lolz. Here’s a screen shot from that same episode of the Absolut CHOGM map – when Newsnight realised that route of the motorcade security loop in Auckland for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting looked like a wonky Absolut vodka bottle:


But anyway, watching that old episode of Newsnight – and a few others from late 1995 – it was really interesting to see how they treated that crazy new “internet” thing.

In another episode, Newsnight looked at Auckland art dealers Fox Gallery who had built a website to showcase their art. The interview was filmed at the physical gallery and much of the footage was of actual art on the walls, not online. (Though there were a few crappy shots of the gallery’s website, shown on crusty old Netscape.)

At the end of the story, the URL was shown on screen for interested parties to jot down. It was – steady yourself –

Srsly. Remember when URLs used to be like that?

I just googled Fox Gallery to see if it still existed. It doesn’t seem to, but the search results brought up heaps of other Auckland galleries. These days it’s completely unremarkable for a gallery to have a website.

Now, when Fox’s 54-character URL was up on screen, Marcus Lush realised the graphic would actually need to stay up there for a while to give people a decent chance to write it down. So he ad-libbed, saying, “They say the trouble with the internet is that no one’s ever found a use for it. There’s nothing to do.”

And, yeah, that’s almost what it was like back then. There was no Trade Me, no Facebook, no Google. I’d only been online for a few months and while I was thrilled by the obvious potential of the internet, my first website will still about 8 months away and I was still trying to figure out what to do with the internet.

So now maybe the general internet has got to the stage where it’s a bit ordinary and boring; and now if you buy a handbag on Trade Me or watch an old Flaming Lips video on YouTube, people don’t think you’re a “computer whizz” and expect you to be able to fix their PC.

Though there are still corners of the internet that haven’t wiggled into the mainstream yet. For example, as ubiquitous as Twitter may seem, it’s still really hard to explain it to people who haven’t used it; who don’t get why you’d use it, just as 15 years ago they wouldn’t have understood why an art gallery would have a webpage.

But eventually they figure it out.

Tales of the Old Skool 2: The Horseboy Email

The final part of Tales of the Old Skool, brings us an incident even older than my webpage. This goes all the way back to 1995 and involves a hobby horse, Marcus Lush and an email.

Remember Newsnight on TV2? It was a late-night (10.30, usually) news programme that was broadcast in the mid-90s. The first half was the serious news section hosted by Simon Dallow and Lorelei Mason (later Alison Mau), then the second half was the entertaining part hosted by Marcus Lush.

Among the many entertaining things in the Marcus section was the appearance of a hobby horse that was named Horseboy. I think Horseboy had been rescued from outside someone’s house at inorganic rubbish collection time.

An excited viewer had written in with news that they had a Horseboy too, so there was much merriment at the news of two Horseboys.

Then on another episode it was announced that Newsnight had one of those newfangled “email address” things, and Marcus invited viewers to email him. (See, back then, email was a novelty. Its power had not yet been harnessed.) My brother and I decided that we should take advantage of Marcus’ offer, so I wrote a poem about Horseboy:

Horseboy is more than a toy
He fills the screen with love and joy
He’s more than a head on a pole
He fills up television’s empty hole

I would like to take Horseboy for a spin
Lots of fun would soon begin
We could gallop down the street
I think that would be really neat

I like Horseboy’s fuzzy blue face
He travels at a moderate pace
Horseboy is a very nice thing
A good use of old bits of string

Horseboy’s friend has got a mohawk
That must make the neighbours talk
Now that Horseboy has a friend
It seems the fun will never end!

So off it went to and lo and behold, a reply came:

brillianty. we will brodcast it. we have put it in out


And then on the Newsnight of 7 November, 1995, Marcus mentioned that they had received a viewer email, and said something like that is was even more exciting than the viewer faxes on Holmes. It was jokingly called “email of the week”.

The email was shown on screen, including my email address, and the poem was read out on air, which was awfully thrilling.

I wrote in my diary at the time:

On Newsnight, Marcus read out the Horseboy poem. He said something like it proved that not all interneters were geeks.

The next day I got an email from some guy who’d seen the item, scribbled down the address and thought he’d email it to see if it was real. I was excited that he’d emailed me, and he was excited that I’d replied. Such was the excitement of the ‘net back in those days.

So I don’t know for sure, but I think this may point to me being the author of the first email ever read out on New Zealand television. Excellent.

Update – 11 April 2009

Thanks to the magic of the internet, I have recently had the opportunity to see this episode of Newsnight, and have taken a few screenshots of the historic poem reading.

Marcus Lush reading the email:


And the graphics of the email:







Ok, I know what you’re thinking – “Why is the emailed signed Herman Afrodyte??!?!” Well, that is another story for another time.

Update: here’s a video of the segment itself.