A few days ago, I was distracted by some unexpected search-engine hits that brought me back to the 1970s... the land of my childhood. There are some games and toys from that period that everyone seems to remember, but there are some (that were special to me) that just don't seem to show up on the "I Love the Seventies" TV specials. Here, they find a home.
The above was standard issue for the nerdy kid growing up in the post-Watergate, Trek-rerun era. I'm pretty sure the mini-sized phaser, tricorder, and communicator didn't come pre-assembled, and there was airplane glue involved. (Contrary to the cliche, I thought that stuff smelled horrible... no apocryphal buzz could make up for it!)
I'm sure you've heard of the 8-track tape machine, but did you know that some of them came with a snarky AI that insulted you if you answered one of its questions incorrectly? 2-XL was billed as a robot that quizzed you and was responsive to your answers. Actually, there were 4 parallel audio tracks that you switched between by pressing the buttons. I remember letting them all play through, on each track, just to hear all the funny quips. Gotta get ones' money's worth, even if means slogging through lots of "Oh, you chose the wrong answer" responses!
Another entry in the "ooh, it's robotic" craze of the late 70s, Big Trak actually let you program in a series of motions, turns, sounds, and light flashes. The trick was getting it to go from one room to another, without bumping into walls, to pester other family members with its boops and pew-pew's.
I didn't ever own the game Dark Tower, but many of my friends had it. This was a surprisingly sophisticated combination of a board game and video (ish) game. It's display was only red LED lights and a rotating screen with little painted images on it (see above), but it kept track of lots of things that made each game a very different experience. Play it online if you dare! Most people assume it piggy-backed off the popularity of D&D in the late 1970s, but I think it owes a much more specific thematic debt to Ray Harryhausen's movie epics -- Sinbad, Jason & the Argonauts, and so on. It's just got that feel.
Well, here's one that lots of people probably remember. Merlin was a handheld computery device that let you play games, test your memory, and create short programs of musical notes. (A few posts ago, I mentioned that its list of suggested tunes included my first exposure to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony!)
Micronauts was a franchise in search of a story. At the time, though, we didn't care about who they were or what their motivations were, we just thought their translucent robotic parts and spaceships were super cool. Marvel Comics later created a story around them -- they were put into a tiny subatomic world that (somehow) sometimes interacted with our own -- but it was nowhere near as awesome as what we dreamed up.
I'm not sure if the French card game Mille Bornes was a 70s fad or not, but cards of the above trippy vintage happened to be around when I was a kid, and I was fascinated by their colorful iconography. I don't think I ever played the game as it was supposed to be played.
I remember almost nothing about the rules of Pokeno, but I remember playing it -- along with Yahtzee and, of all things, the Mad Magazine Game -- with my Mary Poppins-esque grandmother back in the day.
Is it silly to be focused on nostalgia like this? In moderation, I don't think so. The D&D blogosphere deals a lot with the products and experiences of the past, but I think they tend to keep one foot looking forward, too. Anyway, I hope this little trip down memory lane was fun for you!