Christmas Electronics of Yore
The passage of time is a bitch. It doesn’t matter how cool electronics, computers, video games and the like get as the future becomes the present, it only matters how much older I feel every time I see these new things. It’s not that I long for the days of old or anything, trust me those days were pretty dull before the home video game and computer became a thing, but I do miss them. A little.
Sometimes technology just makes me shake my head. I have a Smart Phone, a tablet, a laptop… and I pride myself on at least learning as much as I can about this stuff, but tech is just so fast and I am slowing way, way down. Anyway, the point is let’s talk about old school electronics, especially those we used to get for Christmas back in the day. Let’s go back in time… about thirty-five to forty years… to stuff I had as a kid! Well, I can’t really write about stuff you had, now can I? But chances are you had this stuff, too!
It’s Tic-Tac-Toe! It’s Blackjack! It’s Simon! It’s a musical toy! I’s red! It’s MERLIN! Everyone remembers MERLIN, right? This thing was outstanding and for its time (granted, it was released in 1978) and really let the user have a ton of fun with all the different games it came with… or with which it came. Yeah, don’t end sentences in prepositions. Anyway, I remember opening this one Christmas and everything else was just shoved to the side and I went to my room to forever be engrossed in MERLIN… for about fifteen minutes.
Three words: frustrating as fuck. This toy was out to get you from the minute you took it out of the box. Basically –if somehow you don’t recall- you followed this sadistic machine’s barrage of colors as it flashed them out and you had to do it exactly or else you’d get the dreaded mechanized raspberry and have to start all over. Like I said: frustrating. Oh, and just in case you forgot, it also got faster the better you got. Nice. Real nice.
Speak & Spell
The guy’s voice on this thing was sinister as shit. Even if you got the spelling correct, it still sounded admonishing and condescending. But when you got it wrong… well, then it just plain shames you and makes you feel like a complete asshole. But you know what? This thing was fun as hell to just mess with. You could make it say just about anything, and it always sounded like some kind of demonic Metal singer. YOU ARE WRONG!
Yes I had one and yes this thing was just plain wrong. Why would anyone want a calculator that doesn’t actually give you the answers to your problems but rather tries to teach you to figure the answer out for yourself. What the fuck? If I wanted someone to teach me how to answer the question I wouldn’t need a calculator in the first place! The only reason this thing was cool was because it looked like a Little Professor, hence the name. It was cute, albeit a giant pain in the ass.
Admittedly this ‘toy’ wasn’t exactly the most exciting thing ever to come out of the electronics toys boom of the 80’s, but what it lacked it overall play-ability it more than made up for in gripping coolness. See what I did there? Gripping? Yeah, I brought jokes. Anyway, the whole point of this arm was to manipulate it to pick up small things within its two-foot reach. That’s about it. Oh, and it could time you, if you really wanted that kind of stress in your life.
Let’s say what you really wanted for Christmas back in the 80’s was a little robot not unlike R2-D2 who could tote around small objects, make kooky noises, trundle around your playroom, and play tapes, well then what you had to have was the TOMY Omnibot! Did I mention it also recorded stuff and had a goofy robot voice from which it could talk and stuff? Oh, I didn’t? Well it did all that stuff, too! For its time, this little guy was the shit… and stuff.
Tanks were awesome. And if you had a legion of G.I. Joes who were sorely in need of heavier firepower to do battle against those pesky Transformers (oh come on, you know you did that, too) what you really needed was a big ass vehicle capable of smashing through that robotic army. Big Trak was your huckleberry! It was programmable, it could move in a variety of directions, and yes, best of all, it could tote around your Joes no problem! Big Trak was dope.
Who knew this thing was only available (maybe initially, I don’t remember) through Sharper Image? I didn’t. Anyway, Lazer Tag was bad ass! Finally we could pay guns with sort-of actual lazers just like the guys in Star Wars! Yes please! Though meant to be a game, complete with chest target and helmets, Lazer Tag rapidly became a huge phenomenon becoming, among other things, a TV show and a cartoon! It was fun, and far more fun at night.
This was, and currently is, my watch. I don’t care how goofy they look, and I sure as hell didn’t then. Casio was the coolest in watches, making everything from calculators to little TVs to my favorite, the G-Shock. They’ve come a long way from the boxy things from the 80’s to what they are now, both in looks and in all the pretty sweet things they can do. Sure, smart phones have a clock built in and everyone owns one, but there is something so endearing about a Casio, and a watch in general.
Ugly and tan could be two words used to describe this archaic machine. Two others could be awesome and amazing. Sure it’s old, and sure it even looked old then, but the fact is this was one of the most fascinating things I have ever used as a child. I remember my dad surprising us with this one Christmas back in the 80’s and luckily for us he was (and is) a computer programmer so he made it do all kinds of fun shit that just boggled my mind. We had Zaxxon and some kind of D & D type game and Pacacuda… yeah, those memories will never fade. Three color screen was what sold me… ah, memories.