The 1980’s was the era of the robot. It was during this period that robots become the go to device for toy manufactures, as they incorporated more computer technology alongside the usual plastic housing of toys at the time. With many television programmers and journalists at the time reporting on the rise that robots would play in our lives, it seemed amazing that you could actually get your own robot friend for your birthday or Christmas. Here is a list of the best robots from the 1980’s that you wished you owned and probably still do.
Playskool Alphie II
The original Alphie arrived on toy stores in the late 70’s. The Hasbro Playskool Alphie II was released in 1983 to much fanfare among young children. The Alphie II was an educational robot, that worked with an array of paper inserts to teach concepts such as basic maths, english, basic problem solving and matching. He ran on batteries, and had a funny little robot voice that would congratulate, and encourage you. It could also pay music.
Playtime Steve The Butler
Just when you thought your home help could do everything, along came Steve the Butler. Marketed on his front cover packing as having the ability to carry small object, and possibly serve you breakfast, the reality was Steve could hardly do anything. He looked like a sophisticated robot, but was in fact just like a radio controlled car. With the attached hand held remote control, you could move him around on a smooth surface in all directions. You could actually move his arms, and place objects in his hands, but there was control s of anything except his small wheels. At 9″ (23 cm) he was a robot that could at least be used to scare your cat.
There were lots of robots released in the 1980’s from Tomy, who were the dominating electronic toy designer at the time. Chatbot was a wireless remote controlled robot that featured an internal tape recorder, and also a serving tray. You could secure items on his little table and control him as a robot servant to deliver them. Combined with a recorded voice delivery, this small robot certainly packed a technological punch for its age. It was released in 1985, and also featured flashing lights to give him that genuine robotic feel.
Another Robot developed by toymaker Tomy, was the Verbot. This multi talented and multi functional robot from 1984 was voice activated. It was 9 inches high, and would respond to a selection of voice commands that you gave it. It could move its arms up and down, and its mouth and eyes would light up if you told it to smile. Pioneering innovation at the time saw the Verbot adopting 2 driven wheels and a ball bearing to give it a fluid amount of movement on flat surfaces. It had on its chest 8 buttons to perform its various actions with and could move in all directions. You could also program in custom voice commands for each of the Verbot’s functions.
Light years ahead of the iRobot Roomba, the Tomy Dustbot was an automated solution to your vacuuming needs. Released in 1985 the Dustbot featured large red flashing eyes, and little arms that held a dustpan and broom. As the Dustbot traveled he would make a sweeping action with his hands, but it was also a fully working vacuum and could hoover up small bits of paper and crumbs from your tabletop or hard floor. He featured edge detection technology sensors to stop him from falling off your table during his cleaning duties.
Released in 1980, the Omnibot was a robot with a built in cassette player in his chest area. You could record and playback sequences of commands and make recordings with him too. The Omnibot featured a built in digital clock with timers and alarms allowing you to play recorded messages a designated times. You could control him via his remote control, and also broadcast your voice through the remote control to play via Omnibots onboard speaker. He also carried a little tray that would slide into his claw hands, allowing him to carry small objects. He was a robot with carpet navigating capabilities.
The Playtime Skatebot was a robot attached to a skateboard. Release in 1986, this 7.5″ tall robot was batteried poewered and operated wityh a bump and go system, meaning the Skatebot would keep going forward until it bumped into somethign, and he would then change direction and zoom off. Skatebot could perform a couple of tricks too, such as a radical wheelie or a spin out action.
Making his entrance in 1983, Topo was a giant 36″ tall robot of the future. The Androbot Topo was the nearest that children could have got to a full size robot playmate. The point in the Topo was that you built him up as a piece of robot kit, and he was expensive. He was controllable by a joystick, and featured an interface that was programmable through the Apple II computer at the time. Allowing for his movements and actions to be fully programmable.Topo’s educational electronic appeal did not take off even though subsequent followups to him were released including the Topo II and III, and then followed up by BOB.
Manufactured by Tomy and sold in the early 80’s by Radio Shack, the Armatron was a simple crane like robot that allowed yout o control it by the use of 2 small joysticks on its control panel, rotating and moving the arm. Armatron was capable of picking up small objects, and features a countdown timer to really heighten the sense of anticipation when you were using it to transfer something from one spot to the next. The robot arm was powered by 2 D cell batteries which went into the bottom of the unit, and had soft rubber grips.
1985 saw the release of Nintendo’s Robotic Operating Buddy (ROB). It was a robot shipped with the Nintendo Entertainment System Deluxe version. STanding at 9.6″ tall, ROB was meant to be a way of promoting the NES to the youth of the period. He was compatible with a couple of games, Gyromite and Stack-Up. He was powered by 4 AA batteries, and could detect interaction commands from the television set in the form of the 2 compatible games. Once the NES became popular, Nintendo dropped the inclusion of ROB, and he has now become a rare collectible among Nintendo fans.
Ideal Maxx Steele
Shipped to a toy store in 1984 near you, Maxx Steele was priced at a massively expensive $349.99, which in todays money is almost $800. He was a programmable robot that featured 2k ROM memory. Maxx could wake you up in the morning, play games with you, and deliver messages with his movable claw hand. He had a sophisticated remote control, and a number of voice commands. He was part of the childrens toy line at the time, Robo Force. His abilities were able to be upgraded through the purchase of expansion kits, but only around 5000 Maxx Steele units were ever made.