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Avia Electronic Watch

Aitron Wrist Radio

Amstrad CPC 464 Computer

AlphaTantel Prestel

Atari 2600 Video Game

Avo Multiminor

AVO Model 8 Multimeter

Bandai Solar LCD Game

Binatone Digivox Alarm

Binatone Mk6 Video Game

Bio Activity Translator

Bowmar LED Digital Watch

Cambridge Z88 Computer

Candlestick Telephone

Canon Ion RC-260 Camera

Commodore 64 Home PC

Commodore PET 2001-N

CDV-700 Geiger Counter

Chinon 722-P Super 8 Cine

Craig 212 Tape Recorder

Craig TR-408 tape recorder

Dancing Coke Can

Dictograph Desk Phone

Eagle T1-206 Intercom

Electron 52D Spycorder

Electronicraft Project Kit

Ed 'Stewpot' Stewart Radio

Fairylight Morse Set

Fi Cord 101 Tape Recorder

Fidelity HF42 Record Player

Giant Light Bulbs

GPO Telephone Type 746

GPO Keysender No 5

GPO Trimphone

GPO Series 300 Telephone

Gramdeck Tape Recorder

Grundig Memorette

H&G Crystal Radio

Hanimex Disc Camera

Hitachi WH-638 Radio

Ingersoll XK505 TV, Radio

Jupiter FC60 Radio

Kodak Brownie Starflash

Kodak 56X Instamatic

Kodak EK2 'The Handle'

Kyoto S600 8-Track Player

Magnetic Core Memory 4kb

Mattel Intellivision

Maxcom Cordless Phone

Mini Com Walkie Talkies

Minox B Spy Camera

Mohawk Chief Tape Recorder

Motorola 8500X ‘Brick’

Music Man Talking Radio

Nimslo 3D Camera

NOA FM Wireless Intercom

Oric Atmos Home PC

Parrot RSR-423 Recorder

PH Ltd Spinthariscope

Philips Electronic Kit

Philips EL3302 Cassette

Polaroid Land Camera 330

Polaroid Supercolor 635CL

Polaroid Swinger II

Prinz 110 Auto Camera

Prinz Dual 8 Cine Editor

Psion Organiser II XP

Pye 114BQ Portable Radio

RAC Emergency Telephone

Radofin Triton Calculator

Realistic TRC 209 CB

ReVox A77 Tape Recorder

Rolling Ball Clock

Ronco Record Vacuum

Sanyo G2001 Music Centre

Seiko EF302 Voicememo

Sharp CT-660 Talking Clock

Shira WT106 Walkie Talkies

Shogun Music Muff

Sinclair Calculator

Sinclair Black Watch

Sinclair FM Radio Watch

Sinclair Micro-6 Radio

Sinclair ZX81

Sony CFS-S30 'Soundy'

Sony FD-9DB Pocket TV

Sony MDR3 Headphones

Standard Slide Rule

Staticmaster Static Brush

Stylophone

Talkboy Tape Recorder

Taylor Barograph

Technicolor Portable VCR

Telephone 280 1960

Tinico Tape Recorder

Tokai TR-45 Tape Recorder

Tomy Electronic Soccer

TTC C1001 Multimeter

Vanity Fair Electron Blaster

Vextrex Video Game

Waco TV Slide Lighter

Wondergram

Yamaha Portasound PC-100

 

Grandstand SD070 Video Sports Centre, 1980

History doesn’t record how much influence Endorsed by Kevin Keegan had on sales of the Grandstand SD070 video game, but the footballer with his famous perm was certainly a big draw back in the late 70s and 80s. Back then, as now, celebrity endorsements were much sought after and getting his face and signature on the box must have costs the company a pretty penny.

 

Unfortunately the game was nothing special, it was just one of many ‘Pong’ type bat and paddle colour video games that were flooding the market at the time. They were all based on the same General Instruments chipsets, which had the potential to play many more games, using plug-in ROM cartridges. For youngsters and those unable to afford the much more versatile Atari VCS system it was a way to join in the fun of playing simple games on the family telly. All you had to do was pop in half a dozen C cells or plug in a 9 volt mains adaptor, connect the aerial lead to the back of the TV, tune it in to UHF channel 36 and away you went. 

 

The box promised 10 games on the supplied cartridge but it took a great deal of imagination on the part of players to see much difference between hockey, tennis, soccer and basketball. Moreover 4 of the 10 games were essentially just single player versions of other games. Extra game carts were produced and there was a half-hearted attempt to create a sort of standard, but it never took off, at least not in the UK, in spite of at least half a dozen other games consoles using the same PC-50x cartridge.

 

What Happened To It?

The SD70 and its ilk reputedly sold quite well for two or three years but anyone who owned one soon tired of the very limited repertoire and would have hankered after something a bit more sophisticated. Even those who stuck with it were often disappointed, as build quality wasn’t that great. The joysticks were particularly tacky. After few hours vigorous gameplay the return springs would fail and the potentiometers, which registered stick movement, usually became noisy, resulting in jerky and erratic paddle action. Not even Kevin Keegan could save second generation video games like this one and by the mid 80s video gamers had either moved on to proper programmable systems, or were trying their hands at home computers, from the likes of Sinclair, Commodore and Tandy.

 

This Grandstand came from a south coast flea market and was more or less complete, with its original (rather tatty) box and poly packing. As far as I can see the only thing that was missing were the instructions. It was marked up at £10, but the owner was probably having a bad day and readily accepted an offer of a fiver, which was about right as they couldn’t’ confirm if it worked or not. As it happened it did, though one of the controllers was knackered (noisy pots) and there was a problem with the UHF modulator, resulting in a poor quality and difficult to tune picture. It was a simple fix, though, and after removing the top of the modulator a quick prod of the tuning coils with a screwdriver bought it back into line. As with most video games of this era, most of them were eventually thrown away, but a lot of them were made so they are not exactly rare. Nevertheless, good clean examples in their boxes with always be attractive to collectors but don’t expect them to contribute much to your retirement fund.   


GIZMO GUIDE

First seen:                        1980

Original Price                   £49.99

Value Today?                   £5.00

Features:                          Cartridge programmable (PC-50x type), 10 game cart & 2 joystick controllers included, variable speed & volume, auto/manual serve, UHF PAL output (Ch 36)

Power req.                        6 x C cells or 9v mains adaptor

Weight:                             1.1kg (ex controllers)

Dimensions:                      260 x 160 x 75mm

Made in:                            Hong Kong

Hen's Teeth (10 rarest):     4


Mattel Intellivision Video Game Console, 1979

The video game market of the early 1980s was a turbulent place with lots of comings and goings, mostly goings in fact. Nevertheless, there were some success stories and the one that everyone remembers was the all-conquering Atari VCS, which sold more than 30 million units over its 13-year reign. It never had any really serious competition, but one video games console did look like it could become a contender, and that was the marvellous Mattel Intellivision. It was the Rolls Royce of video games, by most measures vastly superior to the VCS, and one of its main selling points was the promise of a keyboard adaptor that would turn it into a fully-fledged home computer. Sadly it was never launched, at least not officially, and in the end only 5 million consoles were sold by the time the plug was pulled in 1984. At its peak there were around 125 games available. That’s nowhere near as many as the VCS but it was enough to keep most users amused, even though the line-up lacked big hitters like Pac Man, which were exclusive to Atari.

 

In addition to a faster, more powerful 16-bit processor, more memory, better graphics and sound, one of the main attractions of the Intellivision, over its rival, were the two hard-wired control pads with their innovative direction discs (an inspiration for the Apple iPod wheel maybe?). These looked and worked a lot better than the clunky Atari joystick. It was prettier too, though the US designers couldn’t resist cladding it in the almost obligatory mockwood trim. Power came from the mains and it plugged straight into the TV’s aerial socket. Pop in a game cart and you were away; you never needed to go anywhere near the instruction book.

 

When the first review samples arrived at the Electronics Today International magazine offices where I was working everything ground to a halt (looking back I’m surprised we ever got any work done…). There was much pulling of rank to see who would get to take it home. Eventually my turn came and I was blown away by games like B17, Bowling and Sub Hunt, not to mention a very respectable chess program, so much detail, and colour, and the sound was fantastic. 

 

What Happened To It?

Things started to go wrong for Mattel in 1983. The games console market had become saturated, the first stirrings of the home computer were beginning to be felt and the company had been overreaching itself in the belief that the good times would go on forever. But the final nail in the coffin, for Intellivision at least, was the failure to deliver the promised keyboard component home computer upgrade. It was supposed to have been launched in 1981 but it was put back, one of several delays, until Spring 82. By the Autumn Mattel admitted defeat and cancelled the project, much to everyone’s dismay and annoyance. It turned out there were reliability problems and big questions over the cost. A few thousand were built but they were recalled and the few that escaped are now worth a small fortune.

 

My Intellivision was found on ebay and cost £20. It came without a box or games but it was sold as a runner and that proved to be the case. There are plenty of games on ebay; prices start at around £10 so it’s a good practical collectable that can only gain in value as the years pass. Even after all this time the games are still very playable, but don’t expect anyone under 30 to be impressed.


GIZMO GUIDE

First seen:                        1979

Original Price                   £199

Value Today?                   £25

Features:                          GI CP1610 16-bit CPU, 2kb RAM, 8kb ROM, 16-colours, 160 x 196 pixel resolution, 3-channel sound, two hard-wired controllers (12 button numeric keypad, 4 Action keys & direction disc), cartridge programmable (over 125 released)

Power req.                       220 volt mains

Weight:                             2.1kg

Dimensions:                     380 x 230 x 65mm

Made in:                           Hong Kong

Hen's Teeth (10 rarest):     3  


Vectrex Video Game System, 1982

Scores of video game systems came and went during the 1980s but only a handful left any lasting impression. The two obvious ones are the Atari VCS and Mattel Intellivision. The only other one that stuck in my memory was the Vectrex and for me it will always be associated with France and cheap apple brandy. Allow me to elaborate. I had been given an early sample of the Vectrex to review for Electronics Today International and I was immediately hooked, so much so that I took it on a motoring holiday to Normandy, along with my unamused partner and a group of friends. The week was spent touring the sights by day and consuming vast quantities of Calvados and fighting over control of the Vectrex at night, and well into the early hours.

 

The big things about Vectrex are the vector graphics, and the built-in screen, which made it really easy to cart around. Vector graphics give the games a very crisp but boxy look; similar to the best arcade games of the day. Images are drawn on the screen by a moving spot, rather than built up in lines, so they tend to be quite basic and in black and white, but it didn’t matter as the games were superbly well designed and highly addictive. Game are stored on plug-in cartridges, and most come with a coloured overlay that clips to the front of the screen, giving an impression of colour. The console has a built-in game, called Minestorm, but the best one was a tank shoot-em-up called Armour Attack. Vectrex was also one of the first video games with a colour 3D facility – called 3D Imager -- predating today’s spectacle-based 3D TV systems by several decades.

 

What Happened To It?

Sadly Vectrex was a failure. It was late into the game – by then Atari and Mattel had cleaned up, and the first generation of home PCs were starting to take off. It was also quite expensive, at launch costing around £350 in today’s money, though within a year it had been drastically reduced to try and stimulate sales, but it was not to be.

 

Good quality examples, with a few games can easily fetch £150 or more but I found this particular example on ebay for a very reasonable £25. It was sold as a fixer-upper, for spares or repairs, but it turned out to be a runner and the only thing missing was the controller. They do turn up from time to time but it’s not a huge problem as it’s fairly easy to modify a standard Playstation controller. There’s usually a few games on ebay, typically selling for £10 - £20 – depending whether or not they come with an intact screen overlay, but I suspect that console and games prices will go up, so grab one whilst there’s still a few bargains to be had.  


GIZMO GUIDE

First seen:                         1982

Original Price                   £200

Value Today?                   £50

Features:                          8-bit Motorola 68A09 processor. 1.5MHz, 1kb RAM, 8kb ROM, 230mm screen (diagonal), built in 3-inch speaker 2 x controller ports (D-Sub), cartridke slot

Power req.                        220 volts AC mains

Weight:                             5.5kg

Dimensions:                      370 x 290 x 240mm

Made in:                           Taiwan

Hen's Teeth (10 rarest):     7


Bandai Breakout Solar LCD Game, 1982

These days’ solar powered gadgets are everywhere but back in the early 1980s they were definitely something of a novelty. Although I have no way to verify this, I believe that Bandai Breakout may have been the first, but if not, it was certainly one of the very first solar-powered hand-held electronic games. In the scheme of things it’s probably not much of a milestone. Nor did it and its ilk save any of the world’s energy resources – quite the opposite in fact.  Even today few solar cells ever generate more energy than was consumed in their manufacture, but it was an interesting harbinger of things to come.

 

It’s a clamshell design with the solar cell on the inside of the lid and the 35mm wide monochrome LCD screen on the lower part. There are five controls, Right and Left player controls, buttons for game speed and start and a sound on/off switch.


The actual game is quite rudimentary and incidentally, has nothing at all to do with the wall-busting game of the same name. The breakout in question is from prison, you have three lives, it’s against the clock and the idea is you are a criminal trying to escape from a prison cell by avoiding being seen by a patrolling guard. Once free of the cell you have to dodge the guard dogs and a prison warder taking pot-shots at you, then make good your escape in a waiting van. It sounds a lot more interesting than it is. The graphics are rather crude, essentially static images that pop up in sequence on the LCD screen. It’s enough to keep you amused for about five minutes, until you figure out how to beat it, or the sun goes in.

 

What Happened To It?

This was one of a number of pocket-sized solar powered LCD games from Bandai. Others included Raiders of the Mummy’s Tomb, Sub Attack, Shark Island and Escape from Devil’s Doom, though I’m fairly sure only Breakout made to the UK. Credit where it is due and Nintendo was the pioneers of the hand-held LCD game and it’s groundbreaking Game & Watch Series first appeared two years earlier in 1980. Bandai, Nintendo and others all had a pretty good run but by the late 80s the hand-held game market went through a seismic shift following the launch of the Nintendo Gameboy. This revolutionary cartridge programmable system killed the single dedicated game stone dead and they disappeared – mostly into dustbins I suspect -- virtually overnight.

 

This particular game is the last survivor of a number of hand-held games that I hung on to after reviewing them for a long forgotten magazine Gadgets and Games, which I edited back in 1982. It is in surprisingly good shape, once you open it up anyway. The outer case is a bit scratched but it still works. However, its cosmetic condition would probably be a problem for collectors so I doubt that this particular specimen is worth very much. They occasionally turn up on ebay. I have seen good boxed examples going for as much as £30, so it’s certainly worth keeping an eye out for them at car boot sales and antique fairs and I am pleased to say that there is a small band of collectors preserving this important but rarely explored back water of the electronic games market.   


GIZMO GUIDE

First seen:                        1982

Original Price                   £10.00?

Value Today?                   £5.00

Features:                          35mm LCD screen, sound on/off, right and left player control, reset & game speed buttons

Power req.                        built-in solar cell

Weight:                             80 x 66 x 15mm 

Dimensions:                      53g

Made in:                           Japan

Hen's Teeth (10 rarest):     6


Dancing Coca-Cola Can c1983

I can’t say for certain when the dancing Coca-Cola can craze started, or who invented it but they certainly became very popular in the early 1980s, along with that other disco-era novelty, the dancing flowers.

 

The first one I saw was in a market in Singapore. It was the sort of place where you could buy a diamond encrusted ‘Rolex’ watch for a fiver... I was so smitten that I bought one back with me – along with half a dozen very shiny Rolexes (the diamonds later fell out and the gold rubbed off…). I recall thinking how amazed and impressed everyone would be with the dancing can, only to discover that that in the couple of weeks I had been away the UK was awash with the things. They were being sold in shops and street markets for a few pounds and within a few months the novelty wore off and eventually you couldn’t give them away.   

 

In the highly unlikely event you haven’t come across one before here’s a brief description of what it does. The ‘can’ is actually a flexible plastic sleeve and inside the base there’s a module containing the batteries, a small microphone, a simple amplifier circuit that’s connected to a small motor and a crank mechanism attached to the top of the can. When the microphone picks up a rhythmic sound it fires up the motor, making the can twist and gyrate in time with the music. The detachable headphones and sunglasses clearly add to its cool credentials…

 

What Happened To It?

It seems there’s something of a revival, or maybe they just never went away because there are still plenty of dancing cans around; many of them are clearly new so they are still being churned out somewhere in far east. Original 1980s cans are also quite common on ebay, usually selling for less than £10, maybe a little more if they come in the original packaging.

 

My guess is that it will be some time before they ever become a serious collectable, though there is definitely potential. There were numerous variations based on other makes of soft drink as well a number of different mechanisms, including a rare break-dancing model. Maybe it’s time to bag a few while they are still cheap and plentiful. While you are at it, why not start a collector’s club and lay down some pristine ones, like fine wines, for your grandchildren.


GIZMO GUIDE

First seen:                        1983

Original Price                   £10

Value Today?                   £3

Features:                          Rhythmic gyrations in response to auditory stimulation

Power req.                        2 x AA

Weight:                             150g

Dimensions:                      7 x 15 cm

Made in:                           Macau

Hen's Teeth (10 rarest):    3


Binatone Colour TV Game Mk6 01-4761, 1976

For a short while, back in the mid 1970s, whilst working for Ferguson I had a profitable sideline building and selling video games. They were based on a groundbreaking General Instruments AY-38500 video game chip – basically an entire video game on a single chip -- and featured a couple variations on the classic tennis or ‘Pong’ game. I was able to buy the chips for £10 a piece and sell completed games for £40. It was a nice little earner, until the likes of Binatone got in on the act… Within a few months those GI chips had flooded the market and the world and his wife was churning out cheap video games, in some cases selling them for less than I was paying for the chips.

 

Binatone got into the video games market quite early on and the Mk6 game we’re looking at here was a ‘step up’ model, featuring a colour display and 6 games. Well, it was actually two games with 3 variations. Tennis, Squash and Football are all simple bat and paddle games, and Target and Shooting are basically a block of light bouncing around the screen, that you shoot with the supplied ‘gun’. Including the gun with the outfit was a clever piece of marketing and on many games of the time they were sold as optional extras. Calling the game colour was a bit crafty too as all that was coloured was the background, the ball and paddles were still white.

 

Other features that made this model so popular were the slick case design, it could be battery powered or run from the mains adaptor, it had a built in speaker and there was an apparent wealth of game options, for varying the speed and angle of the ‘ball’, changing the bat size and auto or manual serve. It looked very sophisticated but in reality it was just a poor-man’s alternative to the much more expensive cartridge programmable games like the Atari VCS, which had just begin to appear.

 

What Happened to It?

Games like the Mk6 were destined to have a fairly short shelf life. The price of cartridge programmable games fell quite quickly in the late 70s as new models arrived and competition grew and the once compelling allure of very basic games like Pong and its ilk soon wore off. Ironically in the past couple of years they’ve made a bit of a comeback.

 

This particular one was found at a local car boot sale and I managed to haggle it down from a rather optimistic £10 to a fiver. The condition is very good, it is complete with its original box and foams and it all works so that was a fair price, but I have seen them selling on ebay for just a couple of pounds and you can take it as read that they were in very large numbers. Nevertheless, I have a feeling that first generation games like this one could turn out to be quite a good long-term investment but they are plentiful and you can afford to be choosy about the condition. Also, be aware that with Digital TV juts over the horizon, in a few years you may find it difficult to find something to plug it into…


GIZMO GUIDE

First seen:                        1977

Original Price                   £25

Value Today?                   £5

Features:                          Colour display, 6 games (Tennis, Squash–Practice, Squash, Football, Target, Shooting), switchable sound, speed, angle, bat size, serve, auto/manual serve, two paddle controllers and light gun supplied.

Power req.                        6 x C cell/9-volt DC adaptor

Weight:                             0.9kg

Dimensions:                      280 x 210 x 80mm (whd)

Made in:                           Hong Kong

Hen's Teeth (10 rarest):     3


Atari 2600 VCS Video Games Console, 1977

The Atari VCS wasn’t the first programmable video game system, but it was without question the most successful, with over 30 million of them being sold throughout its 13-year life. It’s the granddaddy of all of video games and although now horribly dated by today’s standards, many of the games are still great fun to play, and highly addictive.

 

The VCS or Video Computer System evolved from a game system called Stella, developed by Semiconductor manufacturers Fairchild in the mid 1970s. In 1976 Atari, then owned by Warner Communications, took over the design and the first models went on sale in the US in autumn 1977, reaching the UK several months later.

 

I was lucky enough to get my hands on one of the very first UK test samples for review in Electronics Today International and to say it was an instant hit with everyone who saw it would be a gross understatement! As I recall all work in the ETI editorial offices came to an abrupt halt for three straight days, before the boss decided it was time to get back to work (and then only because he pulled rank and took it home…)

 

Despite Atari’s best attempts to control the game software many third-party companies got in on the act, producing cartridges. Many of these games were complete rubbish, but some companies, like Activision came up with some real classics, increasing the game system’s popularity.

 

It’s a near perfect design, there’s no need to read the instructions, just slap in a cartridge, flip the reset switch, waggle the joystick and stab the fire button. Everything about the VCS was right, from the cheesy mock-wood finish to the virtually indestructible joysticks and paddle controllers, I can’t remember ever breaking one, in spite of some fierce abuse.

 

What Happened To It?

The VCS wet through several design changes and continued in production until 1990, but by that time its blocky graphics had become seriously outdated and the market had shifted to faster and more sophisticated machines. However, the dedicated games console was in decline by the late 1980s and struggling against the more versatile personal computer, but what goes around comes around. By the mid nineties the games console was on the rise again, thanks to the success of products like the Sony PlayStation

 

This VCS is a 1981 vintage model, according to a date label inside, and one of the last of the first generation machines as it has the difficulty switches on the front (they moved around the back on later models). I picked it up at a local car boot sale for £12.00. It was a bit of a punt as the chap selling it couldn’t say if it was working or not but since it looked in good condition and came with two joysticks, paddle controllers, power supply, half a dozen games and the original cardboard box I though it was worth a gamble.

 

As it turned out it did have a fault, the solder joints on the on/off switch were intermittent and took all of five minutes to fix, but apart from that it was in perfect working order, and a real bargain. They’re not exactly rare but you can pay £40 to £50 for a pristine example on ebay, so boot sale finds like this one are not that common. The only trouble is once you have one you want more games, so it could turn into an expensive hobby…

 


GIZMO GUIDE

First seen:                         1977

Original Price                   £150

Value Today?                   £30

Features:                          ROM cartridge programmable, 1 or 2 players, 2 difficulty levels, joystick and paddle controllers (optional trackball and steering wheels controllers), UHF aerial output

Power req.                        9-volt mains adaptor

Weight:                             1.7kg

Dimensions:                     350 x 230 x 90mm

Made in:                           Hong Kong

Hen's Teeth (10 rarest):     4


Tomy Electronic Soccer 1980

Also known as Electronic Striker this handheld electronic game from Japanese toy maker Tomy first appeared around 1980, according to several handheld games sites, and I'm not about to argue with the experts. I vaguely remember this game being on the market but due to a lack of interest in the game, real and handheld, it wasn't one that I ever reviewed, let alone owned.

 

The actual game is pretty naff; the console is designed to look like a miniature stadium with three rows of red LEDs, beneath the pitch, representing the ball. The player's job is to direct he ball into the opponents goal, by tapping three direction buttons, and to prevent it reaching their own goal with a fourth Defence button. Scores are shown on a twin 7-segment digital display. Options are one and two player games and Pro 1 and 2 levels, which alter the speed. The game is accompanied by typically tinkly tunes and sound effects, which you can't switch off.

 

Build quality is pretty good, it was meant to take a fair amount of abuse and I guess fun for kids of 10 and under to play. I found this one in Brighton Station Market recently for £1.50. The case was okay but the batteries had been left in too long and there were signs of corrosion. Fortunately it wasn't too deep seated and I was able to remove it, and once the contacts were cleaned up it fired up straight away.

 

What Happened to it?

Like all handheld games of the late 70s and early 80s they provided a brief diversion for those who couldn't afford video games, but as soon as the prices stated to fall, in the mid 80s, single game consoles like this one vanished almost overnight. Of course handheld games did survive but only thanks to better LCD screens and cartridge programmability, which meant that you didn't have to get bored playing one game over and again.  

 

Although the game seems tame and slow by today's standards these little boxes of tricks are great fun to collect and I predict they will become much sought after in the next few years. They represent a real milestone in the history of electronic entertainment. Not many will have survived but those that do often sell for next to nothing, but probably not for much longer...

 


GIZMO GUIDE

First seen:                        1980

Original Price                   £15

Value Today?                   £25

Features:                          1 or 2 players, Pro 1 & 2 speed levels, twin 7-segment score display, sound effects

Power req.                       3 x AA & 1 x PP3

Weight:                            0.3g

Dimensions:                     220 x 150 x 40mm

Made in:                          Japan

Hen's Teeth (10 rarest):     6


Vanity Fair Electron Blaster 1979

Hand-held ‘video’ games were all the rage in the late 1970s and early 80s for the simple reason that real video games were still eye-wateringly expensive, and not very portable. The Electron Blaster, made by the Taiwanese company Vanity Fair was a typical example, based on the incredibly popular Taito Space Invaders game that had appeared on arcades video games only a year earlier. Electron Blaster game was one of several identical games, other popular variants were CGL’s Galaxy Invader, Gakken Invader and Fire Away, which was sold exclusively in Radio Shack stores.

 

The game was housed in a futuristic looking case, dominated by the narrow green fluorescent display. It was simple to play, aliens dropped down the screen, accompanied by some cheesy sound effects and your job was to shoot them, before they shot you or made it to the bottom of the screen. The ‘gun’ was aimed using the joystick and fired by pressing the red fire button; there was a choice of three difficulty levels, which altered the speed at which the aliens moved. Extra points could be gained by shooting a spaceship, which flew across the top of the screen, and the object of the game was to destroy as many aliens as possible, without loosing any lives, and score the maximum 199 points in as short a time as possible. At the time these games kept us amused for hours, though now, with the benefit of hindsight and a highly-trained fire button thumb it seems absurdly easy to beat.   

 

What Happened to It?

Hand held games never really went away though basic single-game, single player devices like Electron Blaster declined in popularity throughout the 80s and were eventually blown away by programmable games ‘consoles’, like the classic Nintendo Gameboy, which first appeared in 1989. This one still works and is in pretty good shape for its age. I picked it up at a market in Brighton a couple of years ago for 50 pence. This type of gadget has been overlooked for far too long and I suspect they could become sought after. Definitely a future collectible and pristine examples can still be found, sometimes with their original boxes for very little money.


GIZMO GUIDE

First seen:                         1979

Original Price                   £19.99

Value Today?                   £3

Features:                          Flourescent display, three difficulty levels, on/off reset switch, external DC connector  
Power req.                        4 x AA cell

Weight:                             0.4kg

Dimensions:                      245 x 125 x 45 mm

Made in:                           Taiwan

Hen’s Teeth (10 rarest):     4

 

 

 

 

 

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