Archive for the 'Electronic Toys' Category

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Nintendo Smartwatch

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Nelsonic Nintendo Game Watches Zelda Watch Super Mario Bros. Watch Service Merchandise catalog advertisement - 1989Why not put LZDN1WBF and LSMN1WBF on your Xmas wishlist?

As you probably know, Apple recently introduced the Apple Watch. That got me thinking about other nerdy watches of yore, and I remembered something I recently found in my mom's attic.

Last month, my mother and I searched through boxes and boxes of my grandmother's old dishes to see what might be of use to me now. The dishes had been sitting in my parents' attic untouched for two decades. Many of them were padded with old newspaper from eastern Tennessee, which is where my grandmother lived until she died in 1992.

Among the usual black-ink-on-yellowing-paper fare, I found a handful of gloriously full-color advertisement circulars. A December 1989 mini-catalog for Service Merchandise caught my attention immediately because it featured a pair of Nelsonic Game Watches licensed by Nintendo. (That segment of the circular is what you see scanned above.)

Each of these two watches, which sold for ($19.97 a piece — or $38.37 today when adjusted for inflation) played a simplified prefab-LCD interpretation of its console namesake. If you remember Tiger's LCD handheld games, you're on the right track. In the Zelda watch game, you were forever trapped in a dungeon, and in Super Mario Bros. you were forever hopping between platforms.

While these watch games were limited at the time, it was amazing to think you could fit a portable, battery-powered "video game" on your wrist and play it wherever you liked. I personally recall seeing more than one of these watches getting confiscated by teachers during my elementary school days.

That desire to carry functional video games with us has never abated. Heck, I bet that within days of the Apple Watch's release next year, someone will hack it to play emulated versions of Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda — allowing us to finally have the full NES experience on our wrists. It may be 25 years too late, but it will be amusing to see how things have come full circle.

[ From Service Merchandise Circular (IE499J), Dec 1989, p.11]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever owned a watch that played a game? Tell us about it.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Benj's 1989 Christmas List

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Benj Edwards 1989 Christmas List Xmas List scan - 1989An early example of the rustic illustrated Christmas list

While sorting through my childhood papers and effects recently, I came across this amusing Christmas list from 1989. I was eight years old then, and I apparently ripped out pictures of the toys I wanted from weekly newspaper advertisements and pasted them on a sheet of 8.5″x 11″ wide-ruled notebook paper. The result was a rare illustrated Christmas list that I don't remember making before or since.

(I'm not sure why there is a big chunk of the page missing in the upper-right corner, by the way. Perhaps I changed my mind on some item and physically removed it from my list.)

What's notable for our purposes is the healthy contingent of video game related items on the list. There's a wireless remote for the NES, a Game Boy (which had just been released that year), and even a Sega Master System.

[ Continue reading [ Retro Scan of the Week ] Benj's 1989 Christmas List » ]

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Tiger Barcodzz Handheld

Monday, June 24th, 2013

Tiger Barcodzz Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Handheld Electronic Game Ad - 1993DUUUDDE, BAAR CODZZZZ, MAAN

Never played it, never wanted it. Amusing idea though. See also: Barcode Battler

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 1994, p.163 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever used a barcode gaming device?

Remembering VCR Games

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

Remembering VCR Games on TechHive

Does anybody out there remember VCR games? They were typically board games that integrated a pseudo-interactive VHS video tape into the game play. The first two to be released were the Clue VCR Mystery Game and Rich Little's VCR Charades Game, both by Parker Brothers in 1985.

They weren't video games, per se, but you could call them "video tape games," or VCR games, as I preferred in the recent slideshow of 1980s and '90s VCR game classics I assembled for TechHive. Here's an excerpt from the intro:

The rise of the home VCR in the early 1980s brought about that last innovation, which resulted in dozens of board games (and eventually toys as well) that shipped with VHS tapes designed to be played at certain points in the game. Players had to follow cues in the game in order to call up the right segment to play on the videocassette—all in all, a tedious business.

Personally, I remember playing the Clue VCR game at a friend's house as a kid not long after it came out. It seemed pretty amazing at the time. I also vaguely remember playing some beach-themed game, and maybe one based on Trivial Pursuit.

Oh, and I also had the white Captain Power ship and some tapes. Loved that stuff.

The same sort of pseudo-interactive game format later made its way to DVDs, but the rise of multimedia video games (and ever-better graphics) essentially killed whatever chance they had of becoming a classic game genre.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] My Robot Watch

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Benj's Dirty Transforming Takara Kronoform Robot Watch - circa early 1980sIt's like a Transformer on your wrist.

I don't remember where this watch came from. Maybe my parents bought it for my brother before me. Maybe I begged for it when I saw it at a local Revco drug store (as I did with many toys back then). What I do know is that I played with it as a three-year-old kid, and I was completely distraught when I lost part of it in my back yard.

You see, this digital watch isn't just a watch — it's a transforming humanoid robot. The center piece detaches from the wrist strap and unfolds into a tiny robot man. It was first sold in 1984 by Takara, the company responsible for originating the popular Transformers toy line in Japan. At some point I lost the robot part of my watch, and I figured I would never see it again.

A few years later, my mom stepped in from the back yard and presented a dirty piece of plastic in her soil-stained hands. Joy swelled in my heart as I recognized what she had found while digging in her garden bed: my missing robot watch.

It was dirty, of course, and the clock portion no longer worked due to years of weather exposure, but I was still ecstatic. If you ever lost a favorite toy as a child, you know how painful it is. Rarely does one ever find such a missing toy again. This was the one that came back, the one small victory for lost toys everywhere. That tiny hole in my heart, the one left vacant by my missing robot buddy, had been filled.

Ironically, I probably just put the watch in a box and forgot about it. Decades passed. While looking through some childhood knickknacks recently, I found it again and thought you might enjoy the story. It still feels good to know, as I hold this toy watch in my hands, that not all things we lose are gone forever.

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's the coolest digital watch you've ever owned? Did you ever own a robot or game watch?

12 Electronic Toy Robots of the 1980s

Monday, July 11th, 2011

12 Electronic Toy Robots of the 1980s on PCMag.com

Gather 'round the fire, kids, and let me tell you about some cool robotic toys from the 1980s. On second thought, just look at this slideshow instead.

Kids' Computers Through The Ages

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Kids' Computers Through The Ages at PCWorld.com

Today at PCWorld.com, you'll find my new retrospective of kids' computers through history. It covers a selection of toy/educational/kid computers from the dawn of computing to the present via the cyber-magic of the web slideshow medium. I hope you enjoy it.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Big Trak Keypad

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Milton-Bradley Big Trak Keypad - circa 1979Bloop bloop bleep bleep bloop bleep bloop

While cleaning out my garage the other day (as I do periodically to make room for new stuff), I came upon the family Big Trak, which my father bought for my brother and me at a flea market in the early 1980s.

In case you didn't know, the Big Trak was an electronic toy tank that one could program to perform certain movements in a sequence. At its heart lay the famous Texas-Instruments TMS1000 microcontroller. While the user typed in commands on the keypad seen above, the Big Trak emitted an array of wonderful synthesized beeps and bloops that still give me warm and fuzzy feelings when I hear them today.

Like many of the flea market toys my brother and I received back then, our Big Trak arrived with a broken front axle and a missing battery door cover. My dad would purposely buy broken electronics for very cheap and fix them up for us. And so he did with the Big Trak. The gadget provided many hours of entertainment for us as it traversed our living room's shag carpeting time and time again.

After about 10 years of rough play and 20 years of improper storage, my Big Trak was in pretty terrible shape when I came upon it recently. It was time to put the Big fella to rest, so I pulled out this keypad just before saying a final farewell to our old family friend.

[ From Milton-Bradley Big Trak keypad assembly, circa 1979 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite electronic (non video-game) toy of all time?

[ Fuzzy Memory ] Touch-based Disc Toy

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Fuzzy MemoryEvery once and a while, I receive emails from people looking for a certain game, electronic toy, or computer from their distant past. I then pass it on to intrepid VC&G readers to crack the case.

The Clues

Matt writes:

Hey dude,

I've been stumped in my attempts to locate info on a toy I had in the early/mid 80s.

It was pretty big and took a slew of D cell batteries. It had a surface with touch receptors on it, probably 10″ square (no LCD of any sort though). An activity consisted of a plastic CD style disc that you inserted into a slot on the side, and a plastic overlay that you put on the touch surface. The plastic overlay indicated things you could touch to make the activity/game happen. All games had very lifelike sound that came from a built in speaker.

Any help would be appreciated, I've had zero luck even coming up with a clue on this one!

-Matt

The Search Begins

It's up to you to find the object of Matt's fuzzy memory. Post any thoughts or suggestions in the comments section below. Matt will be monitoring the comments, so if you need to clarify something with him, ask away. Good luck!

Have a memory of a computer, video game, computer software, 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.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Radio Shack Slot Machine

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Radio Shack LCD Mini Slot Machine Electronic Game Box (60-2464A) - 1994"Play slots anywhere you go without the expense!"

I believe I bought this Radio Shack LCD Mini Slot Machine unit at a hamfest back in the 1990s. The game broke not too long afterward, but I apparently kept the box and the manual.

Fast forward 15 years later. I recently discovered the box in a pile of my old stuff at my parents' house. After flattening the box, I scanned the whole thing so you can create your own tiny three dimensional reproductions of it at home (if you're into that Radio Shack diehard papercraft thing). Heck, fill a whole room with them and dive in!

[ Radio Shack LCD Mini Slot Machine box, 1994 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you (or do you) ever own any Radio Shack electronic games? Which ones?