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Archive for the ‘Toys – Miscellaneous’ Category

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Major Morgan

Posted by Big Boo on March 17th, 2010

major morganMajor Morgan was a toy that my sister received for Christmas one year, but which both she, myself and my Mum and Dad all really enjoyed playing with.

Major Morgan was a musical instrument, of sorts. Made of plastic and shaped like a friendly looking soldier in blue and red uniform, his stomach area comprised a keypad of 16 buttons marked with letters corresponding to the musical note that played when you pressed them. Above the keypad was another little area which had “MAJOR MORGAN” written on in big friendly letters.

Pressing the buttons made the Major produce a weird warbly kind of sound. Great fun could be had by trying to work out which buttons to press to play different tunes, or simply just wiggling your finger over the entire pad to make a warbly din.

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Big Trak Back On Track

Posted by Big Boo on February 10th, 2010

big trak is backIf, like me, you desperately, desperately wanted a Big Trak during your younger years, but never got one, then you may be pleased to hear that this brilliant toy is going to be making a comeback!

Big Trak was a sort of futuristic looking tank which could be programmed with simple commands such as go forward, turn or the ever popular “fire phasers“. If you ever used the languages Logo or Delta on a BBC Micro at school then you’ll be familiar with the kind of movements you could make Big Trak perform.

The revamped Big Trak appears to be almost identical to the original, the only major change being that the keypad appears to have been made a bit larger and less colourful. The only other enhancement is being able to store up to 32 programs in its memory (I believe the original only allowed a single program).

You’ll need to be patient for a little while yet though, as the new Big Trak is not due to be released until Summer 2010, priced at around £40, which is probably less than it used to cost when it first came out. There are also plans for digital camera and rocket launcher add ons to follow, so now you can’t just flash little blue lights at the dog, but take a picture of it jumping into the air as you shoot it with a plastic missile. No word on the rather pointless trailer that the original had though, but that’s no great loss!

Many thanks to my mate Al for bringing this to my attention! Its quite possible my daughter will be getting one of these for Christmas… Ahem!

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Top Trumps

Posted by Big Boo on February 1st, 2010

top trumpsFor a long time as a child I was quite puzzled by exactly what Top Trumps was. Apart from the slightly giggle worthy name (trump being a childish word for the passing of wind) I wasn’t sure why I had what appeared to be a pack of playing cards that just had a lot of different pictures and a load of numbers on.

I remember having a pack depicting various sports cars, and I used to enjoy flicking through the set looking at the pictures and reading the statistics and picking out my favourites. Then, one day a friend of mine said did I want to play Top Trumps. “Play?“, I thought, “I didn’t know it was a game!

Turned out that those statistics were actually the core of the game. The cards are divided equally between all the players, and the lead player chooses a statistic on their top most card that they think will “trump” their opponents card. For example, it might be the top speed of a car. Whoever has the best card wins all the other cards from that round, and gets to choose the next statistic. You are out of the game if you lose all your cards, and the game ends when one player has all the cards.

From that day on I had a renewed interest in my Top Trumps cards, and even got myself a couple more sets with my pocket money, including a set of dragsters and another of dinosaurs, which quickly became my favourite as like most kids the world of dinosaurs seemed fascinating.

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Tin Can Alley

Posted by Big Boo on January 20th, 2010

tin-can-alleyHere’s another entry into my list of toys that I asked Santa for, but he sadly didn’t bring. Tin Can Alley was a little shooting gallery toy, where you had a plastic rifle that fired a beam of light at a target, which when hit flipped a little imitation plastic drinks can off a wooden wall, made of plastic of course.

In the US, where owning a gun of some sort often appears to be mandatory (well, that’s what Hollywood would have us believe anyway), I’m sure Tin Can Alley was extremely popular as rifle owning parents bought the game for little Jimmy to practise on before being handed “a reel gurn“.

Living in the UK where owning a rifle was almost unheard of in the Eighties, it’s a surprise that the toy was even given a launch over here, but there it was, sitting in the Argos catalogue and making my trigger finger itchy, but alas, that itch was not to be scratched. Not until I got a PlayStation and Time Crisis many years later anyway.

I suppose the closest we had to Tin Can Alley was when the fairground came to town, and they had those shooting gallery booths with air rifles, where you can win an oversized cuddly toy or an Elvis Presley mirror.

I don’t know if Tin Can Alley is still available in the US, but it doesn’t seem to be easily available over here. However, a far more British equivalent is available in the form of the Beano branded Dennis the Menace Catapult Tin Can Alley, which ditches the light rifle in favour of a capital Y shaped stick and a piece of elastic. Not quite the same, is it.

Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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Newton’s Cradle

Posted by Big Boo on December 21st, 2009

newtons cradleIt isn’t certain when the Newton’s Cradle was actually invented, but it was probably in the late 1960’s. Whilst named after Sir Isaac Newton, he certainly had nothing to do with its actual creation, other than through discovering gravity and his work on understanding the laws of physics of course.

The Newton’s Cradle was the invention that really started the idea of the “Executive Toy”, something that someone in a high position in a business wouldn’t be afraid to have on their desk as an idle distraction from their busy work schedule. Nowadays there are a whole range of such gizmos, but it was only in the Eighties, with the rise of the Yuppie and their disposable income that such trivialities became really popular.

So what is a Newton’s Cradle. Put simply it is little more than five balls suspended from a frame, but it is also a great tool for explaining gravity, pendulum motion and the principal of conservation of energy and momentum. Pulling one of the balls aside and letting it drop into the others transfers all it’s energy through the remaining balls onto the last one, which then swings up into the air, only to drop down and repeat.

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Mr Frosty

Posted by Big Boo on December 9th, 2009

mr-frostyI’ve spoken previously about my love for Slush Puppie, the fruity flavoured crushed ice drink, so it will come as no surprise that as a child I desperately wanted a Mr. Frosty machine all of my own. Sadly I never did get one, although now I’m older and wiser I can see this was probably a good thing. I’ll explain why in a moment, but first, let me explain what Mr. Frosty was.

Mr. Frosty was a snowman shaped piece of plastic whose sole purpose was to take ice cubes and crunch them up to make slushy ice. The ice cubes were placed into his head, and his hat acted as a plunger to keep the cubes firmly pushed against the ice grating surface inside. Turning a handle on the back of the toy produced the slush, which you could then scoop out of a hole in Mr. Frosty’s stomach.

The set came with some little cup like bowls, some ice lolly moulds, and a little penguin shaped plastic bottle (Percy Penguin, as the TV ad dubbed him) which you put fruit juice into and could then squeeze onto the crushed ice.

So why was this not a Good Thing? It sounds perfect for a Slush Puppie fan, but the catch is it didn’t actually work all that well. Of course, on the TV advert a few ice cubes made enough slush to fill two cups for the kids playing with the toy, but in reality crushing the ice was nearly impossible, even for an adult.

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Shrinkie Dinkies

Posted by Big Boo on December 2nd, 2009

shrinkie-dinkiesBack in the good old 1980s breakfast cereal manufacturers used to compete with each other to give away the greatest set of freebies they could. This practice seems to be dying out a bit now, with only Nestlé appearing to keep the idea alive by giving away children’s books, which I must say is probably better than a piece of useless plastic tat from some movie that you’ll have forgotten about in a years time.

Having ridiculed the plastic tat, there were some freebies which were particularly good, and a good example of these were Shrinkie Dinkies, or Shrinky Dinks as they are sometimes also known, which I believe were given away with Shreddies a number of times.

The Shrinkie Dinkie was a thin piece of plastic film, at least initially anyway, with a black outline picture printed on it. One side was shiny, and the other side had a matt finish, and the idea was to colour in the matt side with some colouring pencils. Once coloured in, you popped the Shrinky Dinkie into the oven (get an adult to help!) and a few minutes later it had miraculously shrunk to around a third of its original size, and got a fair bit thicker in the bargain as well.

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Wrist Racers

Posted by Big Boo on November 6th, 2009

wrist racerToy cars have always been fun to play with, from the tiniest Micro Machine through Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars right up to much larger radio controlled affairs. Some cars you have to be content with just pushing along yourself, whilst others (particularly those dream filled supercars) are really intended to be ornaments rather than playthings. Others may be battery driven, or there’s always the good old friction driven pull-back-and-go ones.

Wrist Racers were a popular brand of toy car during the 1980’s, and as the name suggests the gimmick with these was that you wore them on your wrist. Doesn’t sound that much fun does it? Well, it was more fun than you might think.

The Wrist Racer car itself was about the size of the average Hot Wheels car, but where it differed was that it contained a little wind up motor. Once fully wound, the car was inserted into a holder (which you wore on your wrist like a gigantic watch), and could be covered with a transparent plastic lid to keep it safe.

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