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Notable Buzzers

Posted: Mon Dec 16, 2019 1:44 pm
by Skepticism and Animal Feed
Am I correct in saying that the present day is a nadir for buzzer diversity in quizbowl? Seems like due to a combination of other buzzer companies going out of business and Anderson having a superior product at a lower price, everyone is just using those Anderson buzzers now? Certainly, the last quizbowl event I moderated seemed to be exclusively run on Anderson buzzers.

Back in my day there was an astounding amount of buzzer diversity. There are two in particular I wish to discuss, and I invite others to come talk about buzzers they have known.

The first is UChicago's giant modular buzzer, which was used at practice while I was there (2004 - 2007) and for many years later. You could plug like 20 different buzzers into this system, and further the system was modular so you could plug different kinds of buzzers into it. This meant that on the same "team" one person could have a judge paddle style buzzer and their teammate could have a thumb plunger. I recall that when I was an officer of the UChicago quizbowl team, I looked into buying additional buzzers for this system and learned that you could even plug in "seat" buzzers, i.e. buzzers where you sat on the buzzer and "buzzed" by standing up. Alas, I foolishly did not order any of those. Given the great utility of this buzzer system and the many great players who have used it over the years, I might one day nominate this specific buzzer set for the Carper Award.

The second, far less well known buzzer I want to discuss is something that the MIT team had in its possession circa 2008-2009, and brought to at least a few tournaments. This was a homemade system, I think, and the notable thing about it is that the noise it made when somebody buzzed in was a "ding!" similar to the bell at the front desk of a hotel. This whimsical buzzer set brought great joy the first few times you heard somebody buzz in, and great annoyance every subsequent time. As I recall, there was a silver bell and a little arm that moved to strike it each time somebody buzzed. I bet there are no homemade buzzers in quizbowl in 2019.

Re: Notable Buzzers

Posted: Mon Dec 16, 2019 3:02 pm
by CPiGuy
Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:
Mon Dec 16, 2019 1:44 pm
I bet there are no homemade buzzers in quizbowl in 2019.
Ann Arbor Skyline High School owns, and has brought to tournaments, a homemade buzzer system housed in a bright red metal toolbox.

Re: Notable Buzzers

Posted: Mon Dec 16, 2019 4:39 pm
by Whiter Hydra
It has occurred to me that it's been a really long time since I've seen "The Knot". It was a 16-player buzzer system, obstinately for four teams of four, but with all 16 cables coming out of a central console. The cables naturally became tangled up in a way that seemed to defy 3-dimensional Euclidian geometry, and thus it got its name. The worst part about the system was that only the moderator could really tell who buzzed, so they would have to call out "B3", and you would have had to remember that written on tiny print on your own buzzer was "B3", which meant that you were the one to get there first.

Re: Notable Buzzers

Posted: Mon Dec 16, 2019 4:50 pm
by Skepticism and Animal Feed
Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite wrote:
Mon Dec 16, 2019 4:39 pm
It has occurred to me that it's been a really long time since I've seen "The Knot". It was a 16-player buzzer system, obstinately for four teams of four, but with all 16 cables coming out of a central console. The cables naturally became tangled up in a way that seemed to defy 3-dimensional Euclidian geometry, and thus it got its name. The worst part about the system was that only the moderator could really tell who buzzed, so they would have to call out "B3", and you would have had to remember that written on tiny print on your own buzzer was "B3", which meant that you were the one to get there first.
No that's exactly the UChicago practice buzzer I described in my OP. The little tiny printed "B3"'s wore off so what happened is at the buzzer check at the start the moderator would tell everyone what their letter and number was.

Re: Notable Buzzers

Posted: Mon Dec 16, 2019 5:11 pm
by Stained Diviner
This is even before my time, but I am told that there were no commercially available buzzers in the 70s, so part of being a tournament host was building a couple of buzzer systems. Because buzzer systems were rare, tournaments would only have ~2 matches going on at a time, which meant that larger tournaments had to be single elimination.

When I started coaching in the 90s, most teams had a Quik Pro connected by telephone plugs, and there were some coaches who carried around equipment and parts so that they could replace the plug at the end of the cord when the plastic tab broke off. Other teams just taped the cords into the plug to keep them from repeatedly falling out.

Re: Notable Buzzers

Posted: Mon Dec 16, 2019 8:16 pm
by Ndg
Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:
Mon Dec 16, 2019 1:44 pm
The second, far less well known buzzer I want to discuss is something that the MIT team had in its possession circa 2008-2009, and brought to at least a few tournaments. This was a homemade system, I think, and the notable thing about it is that the noise it made when somebody buzzed in was a "ding!" similar to the bell at the front desk of a hotel. This whimsical buzzer set brought great joy the first few times you heard somebody buzz in, and great annoyance every subsequent time. As I recall, there was a silver bell and a little arm that moved to strike it each time somebody buzzed.
Oh man, I remember using one of these at my first (and only) HS pyramidal tournament at Wilmington Charter in 2007. Quite the experience to get our butts handed to us by a mask-wearing Charter G team on such a whimsical contraption.

Re: Notable Buzzers

Posted: Mon Dec 16, 2019 9:16 pm
by Mike Bentley
It's less novel on the hardware side of things, but I know of 3 separate people besides me who have created custom software to turn the PS2 Buzz buzzers into quizbowl buzzers. Interestingly, one was by the Indian Quiz Club I sometimes participate in at Microsoft.

Also I have a custom version of this that uses parts intended for MAME arcade cabinets. It works and is low-cost, but to make it functional (i.e. longer than 1 foot cords) I'd need to order some custom parts from China.

Re: Notable Buzzers

Posted: Mon Dec 16, 2019 11:22 pm
by kearnm7
Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:
Mon Dec 16, 2019 4:50 pm
Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite wrote:
Mon Dec 16, 2019 4:39 pm
It has occurred to me that it's been a really long time since I've seen "The Knot". It was a 16-player buzzer system, obstinately for four teams of four, but with all 16 cables coming out of a central console. The cables naturally became tangled up in a way that seemed to defy 3-dimensional Euclidian geometry, and thus it got its name. The worst part about the system was that only the moderator could really tell who buzzed, so they would have to call out "B3", and you would have had to remember that written on tiny print on your own buzzer was "B3", which meant that you were the one to get there first.
No that's exactly the UChicago practice buzzer I described in my OP. The little tiny printed "B3"'s wore off so what happened is at the buzzer check at the start the moderator would tell everyone what their letter and number was.
I assume we're speaking of this: http://c-e-d-inc.com/products.htm? I call it the Certamen buzzer, since it is the standard machine for Certamen. It may be composed of 12 or 16 buzzers (for three or four teams), though the version I own, due to my prior background in Certamen, has 12. Yale has been forced to use it at least once at a tournament in the past few years when we were one short on buzzers. It's not great, but it's better than playing slap-bowl.

Re: Notable Buzzers

Posted: Tue Dec 17, 2019 6:45 am
by Wartortullian
Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite wrote:
Mon Dec 16, 2019 4:39 pm
It has occurred to me that it's been a really long time since I've seen "The Knot". It was a 16-player buzzer system, obstinately for four teams of four, but with all 16 cables coming out of a central console. The cables naturally became tangled up in a way that seemed to defy 3-dimensional Euclidian geometry, and thus it got its name. The worst part about the system was that only the moderator could really tell who buzzed, so they would have to call out "B3", and you would have had to remember that written on tiny print on your own buzzer was "B3", which meant that you were the one to get there first.
This is the standard buzzer system for the 3-teams-to-a-match-clusterfuck that is Colorado Knowledge Bowl, so we see a lot of them out here.

Re: Notable Buzzers

Posted: Tue Dec 17, 2019 1:47 pm
by Rufous-capped Thornbill
In the fall of 2009 we went to Univeristy HS in Morgantown, WV to play a tournament directed by Fred and one team there had a buzzer system that I believe they had made themselves, with each buzzer housed in really beautiful wood cases. Whoever made it was a real craftsman and I don't recall there being any problems with the system.

Re: Notable Buzzers

Posted: Tue Dec 17, 2019 3:34 pm
by gerbilownage
In North County Academic League back in San Diego, "THE JUDGE" was always the gold standard. I think you had to push downwards to buzz. It did feel satisfying pressing down on the buzzer with all your might.

Re: Notable Buzzers

Posted: Tue Dec 17, 2019 4:42 pm
by Skepticism and Animal Feed
I was never a big fan of the Judge (the grippy part of the judge paddle seemed to always come off, making it a sticky mess) but many players of my era have fond memories of it. I'm told that in the years immediately after 9/11, it was often difficult to get the Judge through airport security.

Re: Notable Buzzers

Posted: Tue Dec 17, 2019 6:39 pm
by Susan
Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:
Mon Dec 16, 2019 4:50 pm
Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite wrote:
Mon Dec 16, 2019 4:39 pm
It has occurred to me that it's been a really long time since I've seen "The Knot". It was a 16-player buzzer system, obstinately for four teams of four, but with all 16 cables coming out of a central console. The cables naturally became tangled up in a way that seemed to defy 3-dimensional Euclidian geometry, and thus it got its name. The worst part about the system was that only the moderator could really tell who buzzed, so they would have to call out "B3", and you would have had to remember that written on tiny print on your own buzzer was "B3", which meant that you were the one to get there first.
No that's exactly the UChicago practice buzzer I described in my OP. The little tiny printed "B3"'s wore off so what happened is at the buzzer check at the start the moderator would tell everyone what their letter and number was.
Actually, this is incorrect--the practice buzzer Bruce described in his OP was modular, but The Knot (which Chicago also had one of) had sixteen buzzers that were permanently affixed to the central console.

Re: Notable Buzzers

Posted: Wed Dec 18, 2019 11:17 am
by ValenciaQBowl
When I started coaching in the 90s, most teams had a Quik Pro connected by telephone plugs, and there were some coaches who carried around equipment and parts so that they could replace the plug at the end of the cord when the plastic tab broke off. Other teams just taped the cords into the plug to keep them from repeatedly falling out.
Quik Pro systems are still the most common systems used in the Florida CC circuit. I have two working systems and around 4-5 broken down systems in a closet, as they do break down eventually.
I'm told that in the years immediately after 9/11, it was often difficult to get the Judge through airport security.
Going through airport security in Orlando with strongly built Ahmad Ragab carrying the USF judge system on our way to Chicago led to a lot of concern from TSA personnel, not that they'd ever profile or anything.

Re: Notable Buzzers

Posted: Wed Dec 18, 2019 10:46 pm
by tiwonge
QuizCo was a local buzzer system company that went out of business several years ago. A lot of local high schools have their buzzers, although I don't know how many are still around.

When the INL sponsored science bowl, I think one of their electrical engineers built a custom buzzer system for them (that "ding"ed not buzzed, and was a bit touchy sometimes).

Re: Notable Buzzers

Posted: Thu Dec 19, 2019 12:47 am
by The Stately Rhododendron
My old QB coach and MD alum Casey Reterer told me a story of once leaving THE JUDGE in a classroom overnight and coming back to discover that the university had called the bomb squad, which drilled a hole clean through it.

Re: Notable Buzzers

Posted: Thu Dec 19, 2019 9:59 am
by Mike Bentley
The Stately Rhododendron wrote:
Thu Dec 19, 2019 12:47 am
My old QB coach and MD alum Casey Reterer told me a story of once leaving THE JUDGE in a classroom overnight and coming back to discover that the university had called the bomb squad, which drilled a hole clean through it.
I suspect Casey was pulling your leg here. I've never heard this story.

Re: Notable Buzzers

Posted: Tue Dec 24, 2019 10:35 am
by pray for elves
Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:
Mon Dec 16, 2019 1:44 pm
The second, far less well known buzzer I want to discuss is something that the MIT team had in its possession circa 2008-2009, and brought to at least a few tournaments. This was a homemade system, I think, and the notable thing about it is that the noise it made when somebody buzzed in was a "ding!" similar to the bell at the front desk of a hotel. This whimsical buzzer set brought great joy the first few times you heard somebody buzz in, and great annoyance every subsequent time. As I recall, there was a silver bell and a little arm that moved to strike it each time somebody buzzed. I bet there are no homemade buzzers in quizbowl in 2019.
The one with the bell wasn't a homemade buzzer -- it was a Quiz-A-Matic. There was a different MIT homemade buzzer but it made a beeping sound.

Re: Notable Buzzers

Posted: Wed Feb 05, 2020 8:27 pm
by Joshua Rutsky
I have had a couple of students in the Engineering Academy at Hoover build buzzer systems as a senior project. One was wireless and mounted inside a hollowed-out hardcover classic edition from a Barnes and Noble.

Re: Notable Buzzers

Posted: Fri Feb 07, 2020 9:52 am
by eygotem
If only there were a team version of this...

I can attest that it works quite well for ocean science bowl practice :razz:

Re: Notable Buzzers

Posted: Thu Feb 13, 2020 11:57 am
by the return of AHAN
These seem to prevail in Illinois High School circuit, though Anderson is definitely making inroads as you can't beat their portability and price.
https://buzzersystems.com/
I like using the Slam-In system, but the price and lack of portability make it a non-starter for most programs. Nevertheless, it's what's used in IESA State Series (scoreboard and kid who buzzed is projected for everyone to see!).
Zeecrafts have become less and less common in Illinois ever since they lost their IESA contract, and their prices edge ever upwards...
http://www.zeecraft.com/