Archive for the 'Electronic Toys' Category

[ 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?

[ Fuzzy Memory ] Grinning Triangle Man Toy

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

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

Pseudo3D writes:

Hello. While reading about the Sega Pico on another website, I suddenly had a flashback to a toy I used to have a long time ago. I'm going to describe it in the best detail I can…

It was a yellow toy made by Texas Instruments (96% sure), all yellow (logo was in blue). It was larger than a modern TI graphing calculator or an original Game Boy, and also had a handle. Anyway, it consisted of an LCD screen (like a calculator would have), the mascot (I guess) was a grinning triangle man. To run the "games", you inserted a card into the front, which was a flimsy-looking touch-sensitive surface. The cards were made of paper and had a colored border on one side. The games were relatively simple. One was a simple calculator card, one had this Simon-like memory game…I'd say there were about 20 or so cards (I think they were two-sided). Unfortunately, when I google Texas Instruments toys, all I get is Speak & Spell (and its variants) and two more things that were definitely not it. Can you help?

The Search Begins

It's up to you to find the object of Pseudo3D's fuzzy memory. Post any thoughts or suggestions in the comments section below. Pseudo3D 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 ] Dungeons and Demons — The Infraceptor Watch

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Infraceptor Watch Ad - 1995The time? Half-past dagger.

Does anybody know more about this interesting looking watch? I don't recall seeing or hearing anything about it beyond this tiny profile in Popular Science's "What's New" section back in 1995.

Casio's Infraceptor watch functions as a game machine, a phone book, an infrared message sender, and a stopwatch. Its IR beam lets you play a "dungeons and demons" adventure against other Infraceptor users. You prepare the phone book information — for as many as ten people — or canned questions and replies for the message-sending function on a JD-6000 Digital Diary before storing it in the watch. Price: $100.

I wonder how the so-called "dungeons and demons" game worked. I'm completely guessing here, but I suspect it wasn't very fun. It's still a neat concept that I would have killed for as a kid (I can imagine surreptitiously playing it at school).

Check out this neat Japanese page with pictures of other super-nerdy watches on it.

[ From Popular Science, April 1995, p.12 ]

Discussion topic of the week: Tell us about the geekiest watch you've ever owned. (i.e. Calculator? Digital address book? Built-in camera? Dick Tracy-style radio?)

VC&G Interview: 30 Years Later, Richard Wiggins Talks Speak & Spell Development

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Texas Instruments Speak & SpellThirty years ago last June, Texas Instruments introduced Speak & Spell at the Summer Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago. This electronic spelling teacher for kids broke new ground by speaking out words via built-in voice synthesis — a world-first for a consumer product.

By Christmas 1978, the iconic orange and yellow device hit stores with a suggested retail price of $50 (US). TI's new toy sold very well and became a media sensation, landing on magazine covers and eventually making an appearance as a key prop in a major Hollywood film, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

Intending to write an article about Speak & Spell's 30th anniversary last July, I conducted an email interview with Richard Wiggins, a member of the original Speak & Spell development team. Wiggins is notable for co-designing speech synthesis techniques capable of being mass-produced in an inexpensive consumer product, which was no minor task in 1978.

I wanted to share my interview with Mr. Wiggins before the year is out, as it's not only more relevant during 2008, but it also might be of interest to historians some day. In the mean time, I hope you enjoy reading it.

[ Continue reading VC&G Interview: 30 Years Later, Richard Wiggins Talks Speak & Spell Development » ]

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Game Boy Punishment?

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Hudson Game Boy Ad - EGM 1993(Click above for full advertisement)

The promise of the Game Boy could never have been made more clear than in this 1993 ad by Hudson. Confined to your room? No problem; play your Game Boy. The portable nature of Nintendo's first handheld console opened up incredible new possibilities for how and where you could play video games.

Those possibilities felt very real when I finally convinced my dad to buy me a used Game Boy around 1990. (Sure, it had just come out in 1989, but it felt like forever because I was begging my parents for one all along the way.) With the Game Boy, I could play video games in the car, in school (although I never did), in bed at night, and I even remember wandering through the local art museum — black Game Boy earbuds in place — glued to Tetris instead of paying attention to the paintings. Oh, that glorious stereo sound. Those were amazing days indeed.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, June 1993 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What was the first handheld electronic game you ever played? Also, feel free to share your first Game Boy experience.

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Simon Turns 30

Friday, July 25th, 2008

Milton Bradley SImon 30th Anniversary

Like an alien mothership come home, a small flying saucer surveyed the pulsing, Technicolor scenery of Manhattan's trendy Studio 54 dance club. The saucer, a four-foot replica of a mysterious electronic toy, hung overhead in preparation for an unveiling later in the night. Yet the revelers below, entranced by thumping disco and free-flowing decadence, barely noticed the invasion in progress.

Further up, in the pitch black balcony, a 56 year-old engineer from New Hampshire fought off drowsiness and reminded himself why he had attended the deafening event: among the glamorous movie stars, the blasting music, and the swirling mirrored balls, it was his creation they were there to celebrate.

At approximately 3 AM on the morning of May 16th, 1978, the music stopped. The dazed crowd parted like the Red Sea, and a middle-aged man — the Vice President of Milton Bradley — took the stage to introduce the company's latest toy, a curious wheel of blinking colored lights and musical tones called Simon that would soon become the must-buy gift of Christmas 1978.

In the balcony, the engineer smiled: he had reached the end of a story that had begun, surprisingly, six years earlier.

[ Read more about Simon's creation at 1UP.com ]

[ Fuzzy Memory ] Tutankhamen Rises Again

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Fuzzy MemoryWe're back. Last week's Fuzzy Memory mysery was such an astounding success that we've received another request from someone seeking resolution of their distant childhood gaming memories. I'm not a fount of infinite knowledge, so like always, I need the adept VC&G readership to help solve the mystery.

Spirits of Ancient Egypt

Julia, from Australia, wrote me a few days ago regarding an electronic handheld game from her past:

G'day red

I'm hoping you can help me locate a game I played when I was a child. I live in South Australia. The game was a handheld game made around 1981 with a lcd screen. The name Tutankhamen comes to mind but it may have been called something else, but I'm pretty sure it had an Egyptian theme. I don't remember how the game was played, I only remember what it looks like. It may have been red in colour, small between 10-20cm wide an I recall it had a little black stand attached to the bottom of it. I think it was modelled after the 2 player tabletop arcade games except a mini version.

Your help would be much appreciated!

Cheers

-Julia

[ Continue reading [ Fuzzy Memory ] Tutankhamen Rises Again » ]

[ Fuzzy Memory ] Seeking Childhood Computer Toy

Friday, April 18th, 2008

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.

[ Continue reading [ Fuzzy Memory ] Seeking Childhood Computer Toy » ]

Welcome to the Family, Whiz-Kid

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

VTech Talking Whiz-Kid and VTL Computron

Yesterday afternoon, I made a trip to some local thrift stores that I hadn't visited in eight years. I left with a 24-game N64 cartridge drawer, some books, an unopened copy of Bill Gates' The Road Ahead on audio cassette, some neat board games, and the two devices you see above. It's more junk, but it's good junk.

The VTech Talking Whiz-Kid (1987, right) came with the box, manual, and cards. This educational toy reads paper "program cards" as you insert them into an optical reader slot. The cards don't contain any software, but instead bear a simple bar code that tells the Whiz-Kid which built-in program to start. Highlights include Hangman, word scramble, and an extremely limited calculator.

I remember seeing the VTL Computron (1980, left) in J.C. Penney catalogs as a kid. It works too, although it's missing the battery door. The LED-based Computron plays matching games based on which letter you select. Most of the games obviously went along with a printed guidebook that I don't have.

Neither device does BASIC like the VTech Pre-Computer 1000, but they're both highly collectible microprocessor-powered toys. Total cost for both? $10 (US).

Anybody else have one of these? Feel free to share your memories with us.