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Snappy Again

The history and fate of the Snappy video capture device.

People actually read my stuff from time to time. One such fellow sent me an e-mail asking for my help about the Snappy video capture device.

The Snappy device is about the size of a TV remote controller. It has a male parallel port at one end, and two cable ports along the side labelled IN and THRU.

You plug the Snappy directly into the parallel port of your computer — or you do what I do and connect them with a 25-pin M-to-F cable. Then you plug a video cable from a VCR or camcorder into the IN cable port. Special drivers and software let you view and capture images from your videotape.

You'd think something like this would be very popular; and it was for a time. It made its maker, Play Incorporated, very wealthy and popular. The efforts of its chief spokesperson, the gorgeous redhead Kiki Stockhammer, didn't hurt, either.

What did hurt the Snappy started with its most annoying flaw: you had to unscrew three tiny screws in order to replace the 9-volt battery that powers it. That could have been fixed by replacing the parallel port with a USB socket. A USB Snappy could have been powered off the port, replacing the battery.

However, rather than develop a Snappy that used USB, Play set Snappy aside and made other video processing products, including Trinity and HoloSet. It also spent money on advertising and at least two spin-off companies, include the streaming media firm PSMG, now called GlobalStreams.

Then came the death of co-founder Paul Montgomery in 1999, followed by the dot.com collapse a year later. Play Incorporated vanished off the surface of the Earth, its assets mostly absorbed by its spin-off GlobalStreams. The only support for Snappy that GlobalStreams is willing to grant is at http://globalstreams.com/support/snappy/. And Play's web site is now a British DVD on-line store.

Update (20 March 2008)

GlobalStreams is still active, but it no longer supports Snappy in any way. The link to its Snappy support page is dead and has been removed. Snappy appears on eBay now and then, selling for far less than its original price. As USB has become dominant, the parallel port interface that Snappy requires is no longer provided in the latest personal computers, although adaptors exist to fix that.

Kiki Stockhammer has popped up in a Trekkie band called Warp 11.

As for my own Snappy, I gave it to a niece years ago.

Update (28 January 2011)

A site called Atomic Internet has a Snappy support page, working at supporting the wonderful and cutting-edge products once provided by Play Inc. If you still have a Snappy, you may want to invest in a parallel port adapter card, as most new PCs no longer have a parallel port, even on the motherboard.

Kiki is still cranking it out with Warp 11, and she is still a total babe.

Copyright © 2011 by Andy West.