MY GREATEST XMAS RETRO TOYS ...EVER!
Tired of the excess XBox? Pissed off with Playstation? ... Didn't think so!
But to those of a certain generation we never had access to technology
like that kind. In a world on Nintendo Switches and Fifa 2057 there was a time when Christmas presents came in a more modest guise.
So I'm putting together 10 of the best retro toys that I was lucky to have recieved on Christmas morning in the hope it (a) might rejig some wonderful memories and (b) educate some of the younger in you who live for 17 hours in Gamestop and breaking your Smart TV having lost a game of Red Dead Redemption.
10. EVEL KNIEVEL STUNT CYCLE
PROS; Winding it up and watch Evel goes 700 mph down the stairs.
CONS: Possibilty of killng the family cat in the same process.
Back in the day Evel Knievel was greatest stuntman on two wheels. The kid from Butte, Montona made a living out of regularly jumping over 30 cars, trucks or basically anything dangerous. So it was only a matter of time before Mattel, the biggest player in the toy industry brought out a tiny replica of the popular stuntman in his red, whire & blue on his trademark bike. The gig with the toy was this....place him in his red ramp, wind the bastard up as much as you can and watch it dissapear into the horizon at the speed of sound. Naturally this never worked and almost took my mother out one Saint Stephens Day when Evel veered from the sitting room carpet onto the kitchen lino. I narrowly avoided the wooden spoon (the weapon of choice for many mothers back in the day) and swiftly confined Evel to my bedroom. However I remained convinced the minature model of EK could fly. After all this was a guy who tried (and failed) to power over the Grand Canyon in a rocket, so later that day I placed him on his ramp, aimed him for my bedroom window....he took off....and was never seen again. I remain convinced he travelled a world record distance of my window and dissaperared across to road to my mate Richie Quinn or was taken out by the Colberts dog. But don't take my word for it. Just look at the video.
9. STRETCH ARMSTRONG
PROS; You could beat the living shit out of him but he still came back in one piece.
CONS; Cats and dogs liked him to much. Stretch was often the victim of a mauling.
Looking at in now in this world of political correctness gone mad it would seem a little suspect to fondle a rubber man for hours upon end but Stretch Armstrong actually sold in the millions when he was introduced to the world in 1976. The idea was simple.
You could drag the blond haired hulk everywhere and he still came back to his original size and shape. You could hit him with a mallet or (in the case of one of my friends) try set him on fire but Stretch took it all in his stride. After a while you got a little tired of pulling him six ways till Sunday and he inevitably ended up under the bed but for a time in the seventies every household one of the rubbery blond adonis.
8. TIN CAN ALLEY
PROS; A rifle that could shoot any object within ten feet of you...... sign me up!
CONS; May encourage you to become a roof top sniper or paid hitman as a living.
A gun of any sort to a young kid who (no matter what you think) would seem fun! And kids of my generation got their wish (albeit a more safer one) when Tin Can Alley hit the stores in 1976, it quickly sold out. The idea again was simple. You would aim your rifle at some stood up tims and using some fantastic 70's technology you could knock them down with some infared beam coming from the rifle.
No matter how many times you set up and knocked down the cans, you always wondered would the technology be good enough to actually kill someone! Hence the reason kids quickly got bored of aiming the gun at som battered cans and pointing it at your next door neighbour or the kid across the street expecting the same result. Once we were told we could get arrested for that we quickly stopped. But it was fun!
PROS; Not a bad educational toy.
CONS: Most likely to have been battered to death with a hammer for annoying the living christ out of you trying to play it.
We really didn't do electronic games back in the day so when Simon arrived on the scene in 1978 it was as high tech as it came. The game was simple but my Christ was it bordering on insanity playing it. The rule was easy.... follow the colour pattern that the toy dictated. Red. Then Red, Green, Blue. Then Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, back to Blue, off to Red, then Green then...... JESUS H CHRIST! On one hand it was a great way of improving your memory but on the other you looked a total tit in front of your friends if you couldn't remember at least five colours in a row. Think of it as the rubix cube of the day with annoying sounds everytime you pressed on a colour. It was revamped by makers Milton Bradley in the nineties and is still a sought after expensice retro toy.....If you like annoying the shit out of yourself that is.
6. JAWS - THE GAME
PROS; A test of skill and dexterity for all ages.
CONS; Fightening the living shit out of anyone playing it.
Based on possibly the greatest film ever made, Jaws was a simple but effect game. The idea was to get all the objects out of the plastic man-eater before his jaws snapped and closed shut it a motion that drained the blood from every kids body. The end was inevitable. At some point somebody had to lose so the only way you could win was through somebody elses misfortune. There had been similar games like Buck-a-Roo (which was the same idea but with a horse) but none had the power of a plastic mouth shutting so tight it could take a finger off in the same motion. The spin-offs from Steven Spielberg's classic 1975 blockbuster gobbled up all the competition back in the day (there was, and still is) a popular board game of the film, but this one sold by the millions.
PROS: The was no end to the amount of things you could build with it.
CONS; You always ended up with at least 16 pieces of it embedded in you knees.
Nothing, NOTHING , will ever top Lego in terms of it's popularity and sales. It's been estimated that 600 billion lego parts have been created and sold in millions since it was first introduced to the world by Danish inventor Ole Kirk Christiansen in 1949. Astonishinly Lego still sells to 225 million sets around the world each year and since they've been doing that for 74 years, not even the popularity of the Playstation or high-tech games could last that long or rival those sales.
Everybody has had a set at one point. Depending on how creative you were you could built a model titanic or skyscaper or settle for something simple like a small house depending on how stupid you were. Anyone who says they havent ended up hosptail with a fractured ankle after stepping on a piece of Lego is a lying bastard!
We've all done it!
4. THE COMMODORE 64
PROS; The introduction of high tech computers of the day/
CONS; Very little, except a real shortage of games to go with it.
Technology improved as we came out of the 1970's (remember PONG anyone?) and entered the 1980's with the launch of the commodore 64. Arriving on the market in 1982, it was an 8-bit homer computer that was quickly snapped up and seen as a major breakthrough. The C64 dominated the computer market for most of the 1982-1986 period and sold two million units at its zenit. It would briefly outsold IBM and APPLE computers (until Apple really got their shit together in the late-1980s) - and only Atari (and possibly Spectrum) could be counted as oppostion. Of course the real problem was every year technology got better and better and by the time Bill Gates launched Windows 95 on us with lunatics staying in camps outside a computer shop for three weeks before Windows went on sale (don't worry thet were Americans so thats par for the course) the C64 quickly got lost in all the Microsoft Mayhem. It still sells well as a retro game and doesn't cost the price of remortaging your house like it did back in 1982. It did have some nifty games as the advert shows you.
3. THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN ACTION FIGURE
PROS ; When you bought it you thought the toy could run at sixty miles an hour just like the TV Show and his bionic eye meant you could see for miles/
CONS; You were sorely mistaken .
If you want a good laugh, search You Tube for excerts from the TV series ; The Six Million Dollar Man starring Lee Majors which somehow ran fice season between 1973-78. It's as camp as they come. Majors character, Steve Austin, had been involved in , well - just take a look at the programme intro.
No cashing in on the series, a toy replica was rushed out . Not only did you get the seemimgly industructable Steve Austin but he can complete with his own little rocket ship. And when you have the combination of a rocket-ship and a bionic man you could send the two of them 500 feet into the air and expect them to return in one peice, right? Wrong! He couldn't run at the speed of light, his bionic eye didn't get you a farway glimpse of the girls bra across the road and he snapped like a Kit-Kat if you put enough effort into it.
2. CHAMPIONSHIP MANAGER
PROS; A forerunner for the Football Manager game now dominating the market.
CONS; Trying to get Exeter City into the Premiership always ended in failure and more than likely relegation to non-league ...If non-league existed in the game itself!
It would be remiss of me not to mention Championship Manager which arrived in the early 1990s and done away actually breaking a joystick in order to try score a goal with your players and now put you in control of the actual team management. This was serious shit back in the day! Buying and selling players, tactical line-ups. Competiing in different leagues, changing jobs and the inevitable sacking which came with running a team. Its testament that this old fogie made way for Football Manager which increases with popularity each year. One plus .... If you were having a crap season with Arsenal and got beaten by Scunthorpe United in the League Cup you could always unplug the computer and start again......as I did many, many times!
Honourable mentions go to BATTLESHIP, GUESS WHO, THE CABBAGE PATCH KIDS (who turned grown adults into absolute morons overnight when people (mainly Americans) thought they were more important then their actually kids) CLUEDO, OPERATION, GAMEBOY, TRANSFORMERS and the humble Walkman, all of which I owned at some point as well.
SUBBUTEO (Number 1)
PROS; The excellence of a football game, as well as management, and the joy, pain, anger and esctasy of it all at your fingertips.
CONS; Your star striker could snap like a twig and you could lose youe defenders to a hoover very easily.
I was introduced to my first Subbuteo set back in 1980. I remember that Christmas Day well. A simple red and blue kit of eleven plastic players eachthat you set out in any formation on a lush green surface and convinced yourself you were going to replay the 1978 FA Cup Final when Ipswich poxed the cup beating Arsenal 1-0.
It was a dull gamer against my father. 10 minutes aside and a 0-0 draw. It was the last time he ever looked at the game but I was hooked.
In it's heyday Subbuteo held it's own against the ever increasing computer games of the day which in itself was testament to the game and though it seemed to go out of circulation for a time, the flick-to-kick board game has made a humble comeback so much so it's rather expensive to buy a set of goals or a tango football without breaking the bank. The one thing a Subbuteo set was missing was a tube of UHU or similar glue. That way when your star striker snapped in two in early September in your local Subbuteo league, you could glue him and have him fit 45 seconds later in time for the next match! To many, old and young, it remains one of the greatest games of yesterday, today and hopefully the future!