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Subject: Anyone still interested in this? rss

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Argle Bargle
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I notice some of the most recent posts go back to 2009, so I'm wondering who is still interested in Challenge Bridge.

Last week I located an opened copy of this on eBay for a good price and I got it just to find out how it all worked. I strongly suspected from the pictures that it was based on the once-ubiquitous computer punch-cards. After all, the game's publication date was 1972. Sure enough, the pads of game cards were, in fact, exactly the height of a punch-card and the holes were a perfect position match for the old 80-column cards.

Frankly, this was a brilliantly designed system. Inserts for the dealing box were printed with identifying labels, then run through a duplicating punch machine which copied a simple master. The cards were then die-cut into the shape which players could then pop out.

The patterns on the cards back were fabulously designed to be "marked" cards, but no person was going to be able to read them. The squares on the backs of the cards were just slightly smaller than the rectangular holes in the inserts. This was smart in one way that could still be used despite any slight misalignment. Further, "noise" squares were scattered on the backs that fell in rows that put them between where holes could be punched. These would never be seen when covered by the insert, but when laying on the table, added enough visual noise to prevent you from identifying any of the cards.

Since I got the game, I have decoded all the card backs. Why, you may ask? It just so happens that I own a manual keypunch. I've also got access to a few thousand duplicate games in PBN format. Also the computer skills to map the deals to the punches needed to distribute the cards. Woot!

Now, if only I could find a duplicating card machine. In a way, it's a shame about those. I remember visiting another college's campus circa 1981 and saw a room filled two-deep with then obsolescent keypunch machines. They were dinosaurs on the way out. Just think: someday we'll be telling the grand kids about how in our day, people used these things called SD cards that only held 32 GB of memory.

(I think a punch card that holds 80 bytes of information weighs more than a micro-SD card holding 32GB.)
 
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David Renzoni
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WEST HAVEN
Connecticut
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I may count as interested. I have thought about learning bridge a for a few years and did pick up a copy of challenge bridge for that reason, as well as challenge bridge volume II. I thought there was a 3rd too, but have never seen it. Any way challenge Bridge sounds like a really effective way to learn the game. Someday I will!
 
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Argle Bargle
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If you want to skip my rant, scroll down to my proposal.

After not playing online bridge in many years, I returned the last couple days to playing on one of the better known servers. Things could get just as bad now as 13-14 years ago when I played on Microsoft's (now defunct) Online Bridge. I got harassed at length by an alleged "expert" at bridge who made the most absurd bids I've seen anyone make in a long time, spoke at me in typonese and bingo with a stuck caps-lock ("U R LEWSER U R NO ECSPEWRT").

Generally I like to play cards with the cards in my physical hand and surrounded by pleasant friends. Watching a partner leave and be replaced by 4-5 people within 10 seconds, half of whom have nothing in their profile to indicate how they play. I personally don't mind playing with an enthusiastic partner who knows that (s)he is making mistakes and is willing to learn from them. It is far better than the arrogant no-nothing who opens with half the requirements to bid and loses and still claims to have it right. There are far too many of the latter.

That's not to say I don't enjoy online bridge. With a good friend or partner, it can be fun to roast players who don't have a clue. It's also fun to hit the full tournaments. You avoid the idiots that way.

But at the same time, I find it more rewarding to get to the local ACBL club and play live. The competition is always good and you meet some real interesting characters.

Proposal

First of all, I got interested in Challenge Bridge for several combined reasons. First, I wanted to deal "premade" hands to students to teach the game by playing. For example, teach how to make a 1NT opening, then the next group of hands a guaranteed to have a 1NT opening. Players can then get hands that just concentrate on the current topic. Second, I hoped to do this with bar-coded cards and the use of a "cat" (it's a low-cost, USB bar-code scanner for just $5 current market price). Unfortunately, it's hard to bar-code regular cards yourself and even harder to make work with the cat. I gave up on that. Third, I looked into Duplimate which has a hand-held deal duplicator. It's considered a low-budget tool for small clubs, but it's still nearly $400, an amount I wasn't willing to spend for one item.5db

I got my hands on a Challenge Bridge game new from eBay for just $12 plus shipping. Adjusting for inflation, I paid less than half the sticker price when it was new. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have a manual keypunch and I decoded the backs of the cards. I can now make one-off inserts that let me have my own custom deals. Unfortunately, they inserts are simple squares and a bit of tape is needed inside the box to keep the insert from being pulled out with each card.

I called a friend of mine to ask if he knew anyone with a duplicating keypunch. He was a bit stunned by the request. After all, I'm the guy he'd probably call to ask the same question. After explaining what I was up to, he told me I didn't really need a keypunch. There are modern devices that can produce the same results. I'd have known about this if I did what he told me to do a year or so ago when he invited me to join a group with access to laser cutters, 3D printers, etc.

Bottom line: I do a little programming, use the various PBN files and other duplicate results that I have and I can stick a sheet of card-stock in one end of a machine and out the other end comes inserts for Challenge Bridge complete with holes and labels.

If I could find 20-30 people with CB interested in such a thing, I could pursue what 3M never did.

And for that further matter, it would be possible to make a series of lessons with canned hands so a group of 4 players willing to learn and excel at bridge could learn to play properly. I'd just need to know who was interested.
 
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