[ Fuzzy Memory ] Seeking Childhood Computer Toy

April 18th, 2008 by Benj Edwards

Fuzzy MemoryOften we yearn to reclaim fond memories from childhood, but those memories remain just out of reach. Sometimes the event or object we're seeking happened so long ago that our recollections have become foggy or even distorted over time.

Well, in a way, that's why I'm here. As a historian, I like to help people reconnect with and rediscover the past. I regularly receive emails from people looking for information on games, toys, or computers that they haven't seen in years. Last week, I found another such email waiting in my inbox that left me stumped. That's why I'm turning to you, my wonderful readers, for help in solving the mystery.

The Mystery of the Toy Computer

A friendly fellow named Gowan McGland seeks help in identifying a childhood computer toy. He writes of his dilemma:

I remember as a kid in the late 1970s, perhaps early 1980s having a little computer kind of thing. It was all-in-one. I seem to recall it was blue and gray. It had a keyboard. The keyboard portion then had a neck that went to the display. The display was a rounded "head" with LED bulbs somewhat akin to LiteBrite pegs. I think there were overlays you could put over the bulbs. I remember you could play some games with it and you could also do little simple animations. You could program the LEDs to light up in sequences and then the device would replay the sequences in order and animate whatever you had "drawn" with the LEDs. It came completely assembled to the best of my recollection.

I have no idea what it was called. I honestly have no idea how to search for it online since my recollection is vague at best.

Anyone have any idea what I'm talking about?

So, here we pick up some key clues: (a) it was probably manufactured around 1978-1983; (b) it used large LEDs for a display; (c) it was programmable; (c) it had a keyboard; and (d) it didn't come in kit form. The other details might be hazy, so it's best to go with the basic elements first.

You have to remember that many details of a person's memory can be inaccurate, so if something matches the description 70-80%, it might very well be the item we're looking for.

Police Sketch

Gowan included a sketch of the device, which you can see below.

I'm clearly not an artist, but here's some indication of what the device looked like. It's not to scale and the number of buttons and lights is highly inaccurate, but it's the best my 30-some-year memory can do.

Gowan McGland's Fuzzy Memory

So far Gowan says that he's ruled out the Alphie, the VTech PreComputer 1000, the Talking Whiz Kid, and the Computron.

So what do you guys think? Any ideas? If so, please leave a comment on this post. Gowan will be checking out your responses, so he might be able to clarify some things if needed. The game is afoot!

Update: 04/20/2008

Success! Thanks to the help of our intrepid readership and Ed Kearn, we now have a picture of the T.E.A.M.M.A.T.E. computer:

T.E.A.M.M.A.T.E. Computer Toy

Special thanks goes to Ed for sending it our way. He writes:

Benj, I did find a photo–attached. Feel free to share it. I'm afraid I've got that packed away in storage and can't get my hands on it easily–or I'd try to get more info for you. Don't remember much about it–just bought it on eBay in 2000.

According to the box in the picture, T.E.A.M.M.A.T.E. stands for "Total Electronic Advanced Microprocessing Maneuvers and Tactics Equipment." Quite a mouthful, eh?

Thanks to Layne, we know that a company called "Logix" released the T.E.A.M.M.A.T.E. around 1980. We also know that, sadly, the unit wasn't truly programmable (according to Consumer Reports). Still, I'd love to take a peek inside the T.E.A.M.M.A.T.E. and find out what makes it tick.

For the latest developments, check the comments below.

Have a memory of a computer, video game, or electronic toy you need help identifying? Send me an email describing your memories in detail. Hopefully, the collective genius of the VC&G readership can help solve your mystery.



34 Responses to “[ Fuzzy Memory ] Seeking Childhood Computer Toy”

  1. Cozmo Says:

    This was the T.E.A.M.M.A.T.E. computer, one of which I received for Christmas in the early 80s. I remember that I actually liked it, even though it was pretty limited (programming letters like a scoreboard was kinda fun). I also remember they had a program you could type in to predict the weather using one of the overlays you put over the LEDs (basically just a random generator).

    Good memories!!

  2. Benj Edwards Says:

    Awesome, Cozmo. That really sounds like it could be it. Can anybody find a picture of the T.E.A.M.M.A.T.E. unit?

    Via the magic of Google, I found this sole description of the TEAMMATE computer on a comic book blog by Adam Barnett:

    That reminds me of this awful toy I had as a kid. It was called the T.E.A.M.M.A.T.E. Computer, and it sucked and blew. It didn't have a hard drive or a regular keyboard. It was like a calculator connected to a 4X4 LED screen, and you had to program the stupid thing every time you wanted to get to do anything (because it had no way to save anything, once you turned the power off, you had a blank slate). It would take you 45 minutes to program the thing to play tic-tac-toe. I think my parents got it as a punishment device. I mean, we all read the Consumer Reports review that said it was awful! And I think they dropped more than $50 on the thing back in the 80′s. My parents didn't have the greatest judgment.

    This thing sounds really interesting and I've never heard of it before. Anybody have more info? What company produced it?

  3. Cozmo Says:

    Guess that guy really didn't like it! It was meant to be for me since I liked to program the TEAMMATE even though I couldn't see any input, aside from maybe some blinking lights, and I was 9 or 10 years old at the time (and still programming 25+ years later).

    I wish I could remember who made it, but information on the web seems exceedingly scarce.

  4. Benj Edwards Says:

    What(s) year are we talking about here, Cozmo? I'm interested to know when this device came out.

  5. Kitsunexus Says:

    The T.E.A.M.M.A.T.E. isn't on old computers, either. :(

  6. Kitsunexus Says:

    old-computers.com i mean

  7. Cozmo Says:

    I'm thinking I got this in 1982…next time I'm at my grandparents I'll have to go through the old Christmas pictures.

    In researching this on the web, I did find that the Topeka Computing Museum apparently has one on exhibit. Goto http://www.gateman.com/museum/ and click on the "K=Kids Computers" section…but there is no picture. The do have a picture of the "Quiz Whiz" though, which I also had!

    Maybe you can call them up and get more info?!

  8. Layne Says:

    Taking the search a different direction, I found the Consumer Reports article. It provides a few more clues that might help locate a picture of the TEAMMATE.

    http://handheldmuseum.com/BooksMagazines/Mag-CR_1180/CR1180_07.htm

    So, the company name is Logix. That didn't really help the searching, but I did find some other old toys that gave us the full name (and I'm providing the link because I'm sure there are plenty of people here that will enjoy the site: http://www.samstoybox.com/toys/LogixComputer.html

    Searching for Logix Enterprises leads me to a page where trading was halted for the company in Oct of 2002, and I can't find any company web page, so I assume they went out of business shortly after that.

    I'll keep looking, but that might help someone else, so I thought I'd share.

    Layne

  9. Layne Says:

    So, I came across this link…..I'm going through several of the links there to see if anything turns up.

    Layne

  10. Layne Says:

    Well, this could be an interesting approach to finding an image…..
    eBay Link

  11. Benj Edwards Says:

    Excellent work, Layne. I just posted an update to the entry above — Ed Kearn sent me a picture of the unit. Now we have to hear from Gowan and see if the T.E.A.M.M.A.T.E. is truly what he was remembering.

  12. Gowan Says:

    That's it! That's it!

    Thank you everyone for your efforts. This has been knocking around in my mind for a couple of years now and I was actually starting to think that I might have imagined the whole thing.

    It's interesting to see how accurate my memory was. Guess I'm not all that forgetful after all.

    Again, thank you everybody. One of life's little nagging mysteries solved!

  13. Cozmo Says:

    Awesome!! I had forgotten that there is basically a 2 or 3 digit (I think) hex display that also shows various things while "programming".

    After Layne suggested the ebay link, I went searching for old catalogs online, as I think I remember seeing this in a JC Penney catalog or something. It was fun going through the web site "wishbookweb", which has a bunch of old catalogs…you can see a lot of early electronic "computers" and games from the 70s and 80s, and even some cool early home robots.

    Thanks for the nostalgia!

  14. Benj Edwards Says:

    Excellent work everybody — looks like you solved the mystery.

    If anyone else has a fuzzy memory they need investigated, send me an email and I'll use it in a future Fuzzy Memory column.

  15. Paul Becker Says:

    I've been looking for a photo of this computer for a LONG time now, so thanks for that!

    P3-8E-P1 sticks in my head for some reason. Can someone with the T.E.A.M.M.A.T.E. let me know what that does?

    We had one of these in Junior High School (around 1979/1980) and I'd like to have one myself.

  16. Layne Says:

    I was reading back through the Fuzzy Memory articles and saw Paul's post. I couldn't find any information on what it did, but I noticed that the box shows the 8E code. If we had a better image, we might could see what those pieces of paper said.

    Just guessing, it looks like the red keys are some sort of memory registers or control keys because you can enter any hex codes with the blue keys. So this could be an operation similar to ADD or something. But it's just a guess.

    Layne

  17. Philip Says:

    Ha! I found this page by searching for the phrase

    "P3-8E-P1″– I couldn't find anything on the machine itself with Google otherwise.

    P3 was a 'reset' button, clearing memory. 8E called a program in ROM (it played the tune Oh Susanna! and P1 was the 'execute' key.

    The keyboard as you can see in the picture was a Hex pad with the 4 function keys — P1-P4.

    If I remember correctly, the P2 and P4 keys were used to move one 'step' forward or backward in a program, which allowed you to change the register values of a page. I wish I could remember how many 'pages' there were.

    I actually took mine apart as a kid, attaching solid state relays to the 4×4 LED matrix in order to make it use those outputs for higher voltage stuff, like 110V lamps. Too cool.

    I still have all of it somewhere… may have to dig it up.

  18. Kevin Says:

    where can i buy one

  19. Kevin Says:

    where can i get a teamate computer

  20. Paul Becker Says:

    How strange that I could remember a valid key sequence for that thing!

  21. Paul Becker Says:

    The other TOTALLY strange thing is that I just realized that I remembered the TEAMMATE, re-found this site, and posted a message *exactly one year* from my last post.

    Now I am kind of creeped out.

  22. Benj Edwards Says:

    That is weird, Paul. Congrats on the strange coincidence! :)

  23. bMan Says:

    Wow, talk about retro! I've got one of these things in my basement and it still works. Runs off four D-cell batteries. It was the coolest Christmas gift ever circa 1978(?) And FYI, the P3-8E-P1 key combination played a demo song ("Oh Susana" I believe) and the LED's on the upper matrix flashed along with the music. It came with several snap-in paper cards that fit around the LED matrix that allowed each light to represent something different, depending on which paper card was there. One of my favourites was a card that linked criminals to crimes, simulating a police database. Mine was bought at Radio Shack in Canada; not sure how it was distributed in the USA. As far as I'm concerned this was THE first programmable computer intended for kids. If I'm bored sometime perhaps I'll scan-in the user manual. (BTW, the P3 key was like a "break" key that made it wait to accept a program order; the P1 key as the "enter" key; P4 (I believe) was a "data" key that allowed you to key-in your own data to programs (such as the criminal/crime one above.) I remember using mine to play a song at church one night and the entire congregation was absolutely in awe.

  24. Wallace Says:

    I had such a good time with this toy. My friend and I both asked for one for Christmas. Between the two of us we could make it do everything it could possibly do, which really wasn't much. But just remember no one had personal computers and they really had a futuristic look to them so we would take them places and people really would show interest and they would look at us like we were geniuses, too funny!

  25. Steve Says:

    I had one of these as a kid. The keypad started giving trouble and I eventually dismantled everything. The main base part and keyboard got tossed but I did keep the circuit board, the display with LEDs, and the cards. I also think I still have the manual somewhere… I'll have to try getting it working again.

  26. Steve Says:

    I had one as a kid, thought it was the coolest thing! I'd love to own one again if anyone is selling one in operational condition. smrigney2000@yahoo.com

  27. Andy Says:

    Nice site… stopped here while thinking of another old game I played, not too different from this (displays, 4x D cells, buttons, lights…). Recently I started playing with Arduino microprocessors and this looks - on the surface - like something one could build by adding an LED matrix and a keypad and a bit (?) of programming.

  28. Tony Says:

    Got one of these for Christmas 1978 via a JC Penney Christmas Catalog. Loved that machine. Used to program it to play music, pong, all kinds of fun. Eventually the 4 D cells leaked and ruined it.

  29. Belle Says:

    I have one in the attic from when I was a kid. My Dad went to a computer fair in the States and brought this home circa 1978. It was our first home computer. It gave me the idea of logic, programming, patience etc as well as tic tac toe.
    We later moved on to a ZX80 with a home made heat sink (a tobacco tin filled with water) but that is a whole other story :o )
    Once in a blue moon I take it out and for instance show our software developers here for fun.

    All best,

    Belle

  30. Gregg Dieckmann Says:

    I also have a working T.E.A.M.M.A.T.E. in excellent working condition sitting in my closet. Had periodically searched the web for evidence of others having one/remembering it. Thought I might have the only one that hadn't been tossed years ago. Glad to find that others remember it!

    Gregg

  31. Brian Says:

    OMG. You guys are bringing back so many memories! Yeah I ordered mine out of the JC Penny Christmas catalog back in late '70′s early 80′s. It was great! I was about 12. You program it using some kinda of hexadecimal codes. And the weather program results weren't random. You actually had to go outside gather the weather conditions temp, humidity, etc. and then enter that information according to the values that the unit would reconized and then run the program to get the forecast. Great learning toys back then! I also had the "Big Trac" programmable "cart type furturistic tank" with the dumping cart. It had the keypad on the top and a cool blue lazer firing cannon. Loved it! Timex Sinclair 1000 with 16K RAM pack. Atari 800XL running SMART DOS.
    With a Hayes 2400baud modem. I never finished ASYLUM software game and Castle Wofenstien. Those were the days!

  32. Michael Malak Says:

    Does any one remember how many bytes it had?

  33. don simpson Says:

    I have one and want to sell it whats it worth in box looks new

  34. Walter Says:

    I had one of these when i was a kid back in 1979, I got it from a Radio Shack i worked at near Yonge and Bloor in toronto. (same year Bad Habbits, by the Monks came out…). I was 14 at the time (working under the table for cash), into electronics and punk music… :) I remember the plastic neck breaking so I took it apart and remounted everything on a board of some kind. It certainly got me interested in computing. It inspired me to build a "real" computer, so I built another hex based computer, the Cosmac Elf from scratch, from Popular Electronics, which was awesome… ( I recently re-lived that by putting together an ELF2K from sparetime gizmo's. http://www.sparetimegizmos.com/Hardware/Elf2K.htm ).

    I kinda retraced my computer history, mostly on ebay… :) and I just today managed to find a Logix T.E.A.M.M.A.T.E. on ebay and won it for $39.00 :) so I am very excited, and cant wait for it to arrive… Then I will have the whole series:

    T.E.A.M.M.A.T.E.
    Cosmac Elf
    Acorn Atom
    Apple ][ plus clone
    Atari ST (various)
    Macintosh Plus
    some windows PC's
    then back to Mac's.

    I cannot wait to play with this thing and display it proudly next to my Cosmac Elf 2K (which I modified to work more like the original Cosmac Elf i built with pixie chip)

    Cheers. :)

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