April 14, 2008

Retrotech: Big Trak

(video is not embeddable: click here to view) Aw, look. The kid has programmed it to do an act of kindness. You can also have it deliver dad's daily martini or heroin shot. If he's the angry type who beats his children on sight, the Big Trak could literally be a lifesaver. Looking like a cross between the Landmaster and the Ark 2, this 1978 robotic wonder obeys a sequence of up to 15 commands (forward, backward, left, right, hold, fire, and dump) on the built-in control panel. It has a rabid following among hackers. More here. I was inspired to look this up because I just finished reading Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asberger's by John Elder Robinson, which I don't recommend. Robinson was an electrical engineer for Milton Bradley in the late 70's and helped design the big trak. He also went on tour with Kiss and built their special effects. As long as I'm going off on tangents, here's an ad for an item that was on store shelves around the same time. Could this be the worst toy ever? Imagine asking for a Big Trak for Christmas, and getting this instead. How many seconds of playtime before it's sent to the back of the closet or the dumpster? But the commercial is worth a laugh for immature types like myself: "with a few pumps... you can make The Thing expand in size!" (giggle)


Lance Ehlers said...

Why bother installing The Thing in the rock trap when you could stuff it in your mom's bra while sleeps instead?

Big Trak was the only electronic toy of its time which actually living up to it's hype.

Jen said...

I not only still have my Big Track, I have the dumtruck accessory that hooks on the back.

What about the game "Dark Tower"??? Anybody else have recuring dreams about the spinning tower rolling up Orc after Orc???

stexe said...

I almost did "dark tower" instead, partly because Robinson also designed it and talks extensively about it in his book, partly because orson welles hosts the commercial:
But as far as its retrotech qualities are concerned, it isn't much. Just a backlit spinning gizmo and an led display.
There's barely a working dark tower out there these days, since the mechanics went through so much wear and tear in a single game. So some kindly soul has made a flash simulacrum of it: