The lost Handheld Game Revolution of the 80's.
I did this article in a week, and although I don't totally hate it, I've done better. Seriously, what is wrong with the people at this site?
Back before PSP, Super Gameboy, Lynx, Game Gear, or even the original Gameboy, we had little hand held electronic toys with LED screens. They were everywhere, and in every fashion. We had ones that looked like binoculars, others that were watches, and my favorites, the ones that were modeled after their coin-op counterparts. Many of the machines in this article I received as Christmas presents, so it seemed fitting to me to release this article close to the Big Holiday.
As far as I know, the 'Hand-held Revolution' began in 1978 when Mattel released it's first generation football and basketball games, soon followed by MB electronic release of Simon. For about ten years these types of games ruled the portable video game market, until the release of Nintendo's Gameboy. Gameboy proved to be the Nirvana to all the LED hand held's hair metal bands. Once Gameboy was out, with its different cartridges and monotone screen, most of the LED games just disappeared overnight. There are still games like these available, but they really are just cheaply produced imitations and lack all of the imagination, artistry, and 'cool factor' of the original games of yore.
However, what these games represent to me is an almost lost part of my childhood. Many of them didn't last too long, and therefore were quickly disposed of and in too many instances forgotten about. That is until now...
Tomy Pacman- required 4 expensive C batteries
to operate, therefore I didn't get to play it much.
Pac attack! Crack was whack. And when I was growing up you couldn't turn a corner without seeing the yellow and black. Seriously peeps, It was a bona fide phenomenon. We had...
...and much more. I received my Tomy Pac-man machine on my tenth birthday from my Mom. I love the way it beeped the Pac-man theme when you first turned it on. You had two ghosts and two power pills, and it got hard quick. I had it for a couple of years, and then sold it to a friend of my Mom's for $10. I don't remember how I spent the money, but that's the way it goes sometimes. Pictured below are some of the other (many) Pac-man handhelds that were out there at the time.
When I was 8 years old, I peeked at my Christmas presents for the first and last time. I learned good lesson on that day about both the nature and pleasure of suprises. One of the gifts that I opened early was the Actronics Space Invaders game pictured above. I might have played this more than any of the others. It was rather addictive, with great gameplay and sound effects, in fact i can still hear the little ships moving nervrackingly closer and closer. I also rally loved the sound it made when you destroyed your enemies. This particular Space Invaders machine was also released by Tandy and Entex. This guy takes 6 AA batteries, so if I wanted to play it, i had to raid all the batteries out of my other games. But it was so worth it. I've kept it all these years as a reminder of my folly, but sadly it doesn't work anymore.
I still have the red Cosmic 3000 picture in the upper right. Very fun, a lot like Galaxian except you can fire two shots at once instead of just one. Thank you Grandma Nov, and it still works!
A few more of the many Space Invaders clones out there.
A few more of the many Space Invaders clones out there.
Space Turbo was the only present that I ever recieved that I returned to the store. I traded it in at a Radioshak for a crappy remote control car that worked for about a month before falling apart. Released by both Tomy and Tandy. I really wish I had kept this one!
Games that make you go hmmm...
This guy requires 4 AA batteries to operate
Simon Says was a great little game that was very popular back in the 80's. The premise was simple, the computer would give you a sequence of different colored light flashes and then you would have to repeat them in order. Sounds easy? Not really. On the hardest setting the sequences could be up to 47 beeps long. Still, I got good enough at it that I could beat it on the most difficult level more than I would lose.
I received my Pocket Simon and the Pocket Repeater on the same Christmas by different people. Once they had found out what had happened, they asked me if I wanted to take one back since there was no point in keeping two of basically the same game. Well I would have felt bad so kept them both, and I still have them. Even better they both still work perfectly, except that I did have to replace a light bulb on the blue square of my Simon.
Super Simon was designed to allow multiple players to go head to head, but it never really caught on.
"Merlin Merlin where did it go? Jaime's got it playing Tic Tac Toe." I never personally owned a Merlin, but many of my friends did. Advertised as containing 20 different sounds and 6 games in 1, all of which (with one or two exceptions)were pretty lame. Tic Tac Toe, 'Music Machine,' Echo, Blackjack 13, Magic Square, and Mindbender. Blackjack and Echo were my favorites. Merlin was released in 1978 by Parker Brothers and in recent years has been re-released under Milton Bradley's name.
"Now spell sweet." The Speak and Spell should not require any kind of introduction because if you grew up in the 80's, you already know what it is. Released in 1978 by Texas Instruments, S&S was practically in every school. Did you know that Stephen Hawking lent his voice talents to give the Speak and Spell it's distinctive sound? The S&S would verbally ask you to spell a word, and then you would type in your answer on the touch pad (earlier versions had raised buttons.) Sometimes though it was very difficult to understand what it was asking. Also released were Speak and Math and Speak and Speak and Read.
Check out a pretty cool Speak and Spell emulator at-
The 'Citizen Cane' of boardgame commercials.
Four the price of 12 D batteries you could drive your parents crazy for about a week with Tomy Racing. Screeching tires, engines racing, crashes, and sirens. All at true-to-life-volume and all very cool. I don't know where I got this, or who gave it too me, or what ever happened to it for that matter. But I recall that I loved it while I had it. I suspect my parents got tired of spending all the money for batteries for something that would only give them a headache, and so therefore got rid of it when I wasn't looking.
Blip was more like Pong than a racer, but I didn't know where to put it in my article to put it. So I decided to place it here because it's another Tomy game from the same era as Grand Prix. A line would travel from one screen to the next, and you had to guess where it would bounce.
When I was seven my family moved from small town Corvallis, Oregon to big town Phoenix, Arizona over Christmas break. It was quite a change to say the least. My new school had six times more students than my last. The weather was sunny and pleasant everyday as opposed to being dark and rainy. We didn't stay in Arizona for too long, but while we were there were some of the most difficult and rewarding times of my entire childhood. The first week after we had moved, there was a BIG BBQ put on by my family to welcome our arrival. Literally hundreds of people showed up: cousins, uncles, and aunts, all people I had never met before. They all seemed so happy to to finally meet me. I almost got sick that day with the pounds of ribs I ate, they remain to this day the best I have ever had.
I mention all this because my Uncle Abe, who hosted the days festivities, had Bambino Boxing for all the kids to play with. Over the next months whenever I would go over to Abe's house, we would all play the game, and see who could win the most bouts without losing.
And always we would eat the best BBQ known to man.
This one was pretty fun I remember, as long
as you didn't lose your screens. It seems to
me that they gave you three spares in the
box though.Another Christmas present from
my Grandma Nov.
Mattel's Championship Football.
Mattel's Championship Football 2.
Log in to comment on or rate this article. You can even write your own!