If you grew up in the 1970s or 1980s, chances are you'll have some fond, if vague, memories of toys-gone-by. But, as it turns out, these two decades were filled with some impressive toys, even if they seem a bit basic by today's standards.
So, if you are a child of either of these decades, we hope the following tech toys will bring back some wonderful nostalgic feelings.
As per usual, this list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order. Happy memories!
1. The almighty calculator watch is definitely something that needs to make a comeback
Without a doubt, one of the coolest tech toys of the 1970s and 1980s was the calculator watch. A magical combination of a calculator, and yes you've guessed it, a digital watch, this was toy was the envy of many a child of the 1970s and 80s -- even if they didn't want to admit it.
Most popularly created by Casio and Timex, most of these watches only came with a few basic functions. However, more advanced features, like scientific functions, etc, were also produced by brands like Casio -- such as the CFX-200. Some even doubled as TV remote controls.
You can still find many originals available on secondhand markets today, and we'd suggest you get your hands, well wrist, on one as soon as you are able!
2. Do Transformers toys count as a tech toy? They do now...
Another iconic toy of the 1970s and 1980s was the Transformers. They were so awesome, that an entire series of cartoons and later movies were actually created by Hasbro to sell them!
But, they were much more than that. Most children would need to hone their problem-solving skills to transform them between forms -- especially "Triple Changers". Made more difficult by the fact that many children don't seem to care much for written instructions (a trait that hasn't changed at all today).
Their impact was so enormous that the Transformers toys and their universe are still alive and kicking today.
3. Do you remember the Speak & Spell?
First unveiled at the 1978 Consumer Electronics Show, Texas Instrument's Speak & Spell is probably one of the most iconic tech toys of the 1970s and 1980s. A very successful series of hand-held electronic toys, the original series was actually produced up to the early-1990s!
Brightly colored, and very appealing in design, this veteran child's toy contained a linear predictive coding speech synthesizer, a keyboard, and a receptor slot for adding games.
The basic premise of the toy was to improve literacy by helping young children learn to spell and pronounce basic and more complex words. As you can imagine, this would prove revolutionary for the times.
As it happens, this legend of a toy has recently been given a facelift and available in all good toyshops.
4. Mattel's Electronic Football was another awesome tech toy from the 1970s
Another cool toy was Mattel's Electronic Football. Released at around the same time as the mighty Atari 2600, this tech game was a much simpler, and cheaper, piece of kit.
Powered by a 9v battery, the game consisted of a rudimentary representation of the game of football (the American kind, not real football, known in the U.S. as soccer), with a series of red rectangles on a black field. Its relatively low price tag made it very popular indeed at the time and, it can be argued, simple games like this opened the door to an interest in successors like the Nintendo Game Boy.
5. How about Simon?
Do you remember Simon? This was an electronic memory game released in the late 1970s and became very popular indeed. In fact, it is still available in its original format, as well as a digital version.
Devised by Ralph H. Baer and Howard J. Morrison, the toy created a series of tones and lights in a sequence that would need to be repeated by the user/player. If the user gets it right, the game became progressively more complex over time.
Players would lose and have to start again if they got the sequence wrong or ran out of time. No pressure!
Apparently, in theory, the game never actually ends. Sounds like a challenge?!
6. The Omnibot 2000 truly is a legendary toy of the 1980s
The Omnibot 2000 was the creme de la creme of robot toys in the mid-1980s. It could, by all accounts, move over any surface (yes including shag carpets), and bring you stuff on command.
Built by TOMY, the Omnibot 2000 came with its own built-in cassette player and digital clock and could be programmed to perform some basic tasks -- like entering a room at a specific time. You could also broadcast your voice from its speaker using the remote control it came with.
It was, however, pretty expensive back in the day and would set you back around $1,500 in today's money, give or take.
7. Did you ever own a Lite-Brite?
Yet another amazing toy of yesteryear still available today is the Lite-Brite. While it was originally released in the late-1960s, this toy became all the rage for most of the early-1970s.
It consisted of a lightbox into which small plastic-colored pegs were slotted to take a lit picture. You could either make your own unique designs or follow set patterns provided with the toy.
Developed by Marvin Glass and Associates, it was invented by Joseph M. Burck and later licensed to Hasbro for mass release. It proved so popular, that iterations of it are still in production today.
Time Magazine even named it one of the top 100 toys of all time. Plus it was, well is, still an awesome toy.
8. Star Trek Electronic Phasers were brilliant too
While the original Star Trek series was first released in the 1960s, eager child-fans would have to wait until the later-1970s to get some actual working phaser toys. They could be used as a kind of laser tag toy where you could hit opponents using a piece of paper taped to your opponent's shirt.
While it sounds pretty basic today, at the time this toy was revolutionary and great fun. In fact, this toy is commonly cited as one of the main reasons laser tag would become so popular in the following decades.
9. Nintendo's R.O.B. is, hands down, one of the coolest toys of the 80s
And finally, who remembers Nintendo's R.O.B.? Perhaps one of the most disappointing, while simultaneously awesome, tech toys of all time, R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy) has certainly earned its place on this list.
Designed as an accessory to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), it was first released in the mid-1980s and was one of the world's first interactive robots -- well sort of. R.O.B. (warning video link may contain strong language) was, in theory, supposed to be able to assist players while playing compatible games.
We think R.O.B. is well overdue a resurrection.
Since we are on the subject of 1970s and 1980s toys, here are some honorary mentions that we ran out of room to mention in detail. Again, these are only a select few.
- Magna Doodle
- Evil Knievel Stunt vehicles
- Nintendo GameBoy
- Fischer Price PXL-2000
- Timex Sinclair 1000
- Portable 8-Track Stereo
- Superstar 3000 Guitar
- Teddy Ruxpin -- only joking, this toy sucked.
And that is your dose of nostalgia for today folks. If you have any fond memories of other tech toys from the 70s and 80s we haven't mentioned, feel free to include them in the comments.