Author Topic: TOYS FROM THE 1970s  (Read 173 times)


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« on: October 10, 2019, 08:03:14 PM »

The Stylophone
Although the Stylophone was invented in 1967 by Brian Jarvis, it wasn’t until the 1970s that this miniature stylus-operated synthesizer became hugely popular.  It was put into production in 1968 by Dubreq and was available in three different styles: standard, bass and treble.  Dubreq arranged to unveil the Stylophone on “The David Frost Show” (ITV) but when this was delayed, Rolf Harris contacted the company and offered to debut it on his “Rolf’s Saturday TV Show” (BBC).  Harris was already familiar with the Stylophone, having used one on his 1969 live concert album (only released in the UK) entitled “Rolf Harris Live at the Talk of the Town” which was recorded at a London nightclub.  Dubreq agreed and as they only had one Stylophone, the company made 6 more units so as The Young Generation could play along with Rolf on the show. [/font]
It was an instant hit with children and ‘The Rolf Harris’ Stylophone quickly went into mass production, winning Toy of the Year in 1970.  In 1973, sales reached the one million mark and to celebrate the milestone, Dubreq held a ‘Golden Stylophone Dinner’ and had a small number of gold-plated Stylophones specially made for selected guests, including Harris.   Harris remained closely linked with the Stylophone until manufacturing ceased in 1975 and Dubreq closed in 1980.  Did you know that David Bowie wrote “Space Oddity” using a Stylophone and played one on Top of the Pops when performing the hit song? [/font]

Space Hoppers and Klackers[/font]
The must-have items for a kid in 1971 were a Space Hopper and Klackers.  They shared the Toy of the Year award that year.  Space Hoppers were large inflatable bouncers, mainly orange in colour, with horns for handles. Klackers were two balls tied to either the end of a piece of rope which made a klick-klack sound when they bounced off each other.  Crossfire was a board game manufactured by the Milton Bradley Company in 1971 and was also a huge seller that Christmas.  Essentially it is air hockey without the air and the mallets.  The idea of Crossfire is to get your puck into your opponent’s goal by shooting metal ball bearings at the puck to push it in the direction of the opposing goal nets.  There were two pucks in play; each puck was made of plastic and had a metal ball bearing in the centre to allow it to move. One of the pucks is star shaped whilst the other is triangular.  The hand guns (both red) are fixed to the board (shaped like a football pitch measuring approximately 100cm x 80cm) at either end of the field of play and are re-loaded after the ball bearings roll back into your ‘bin.’  Game level can be adjusted quickly by changing goal guards.  However, the original version of the game used a flat board which meant the ball bearings had a tendency to remain on the playing surface.   A later version of the game saw the introduction of a dome shaped board which permitted the fired ball bearings to roll much easier back into your bin to allow you to reload your gun much quicker, adding to the fun.  In 1973, Gunfight at the OK Corral was produced by the Ideal Toy Company and its concept is quite similar to Crossfire.  I never saw the sense in a Space Hopper, too much effort without getting very far.  And Klackers were for girls.[/font]

Spirograph is a geometric drawing toy invented by Denys Fisher, an English engineer-inventor who was born in Leeds, England in 1918.  Fisher came up with the idea for Spirograph at home during Christmas 1962 after developing various drawings by using Meccano pieces and whilst listening to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.   The next day he went into his workshop where he created his prototype Spirograph from a Meccano cog and a geared ring. A Spirograph consists of a set of plastic gears comprising edges and teeth to permit them to lock into other gears of varying sizes and shapes (rings, triangles etc.).  The smaller ring shapes can roll around the outside of the larger shapes whilst smaller rings can be used inside larger rings.  To use Spirograph all you have to do is pin the principal piece of the set named the ‘stator’ to a piece of paper and use the other pieces to move around and inside it with the use of coloured pencils or marker pens and then sit back and watch your own masterpiece develop before your eyes.  In 1968, Kenner (who sold Spirograph in the USA under licence from Denys Fisher Toys) introduced Spirotot which was aimed at pre-school children who would find Spirograph too difficult.  Did you know that Fisher had originally intended to create his Spirograph as a draftsman’s tool but when he showed it to a close friend he was instantly persuaded to market his idea as a toy?  Not being very artistic I wasn’t really into Spirograph.[/font]

Mastermind, which had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the popular BBC show of the same name, was a code-breaking game for two players.  The game was invented in 1970 by Mordecai Meirowitz, an Israeli telecommunications expert.  Meirowitz pitched his idea for the board game to all of the leading toy companies of the day but his advances were roundly rejected.  However, Invicta Plastics, a small educational toy company based in Oadby, Leicester, liked the concept of the game and began manufacturing it in 1973.  It won Toy of the Year in 1973 and went on to become a worldwide sensation, selling in excess of 50 million sets across 80 countries, making it the most successful new game of the decade.  The idea was to crack your opponent’s code, which was four coloured pegs hidden behind a shield, within 8, 10 or 12 turns.  One player assumed the role of Code Maker whilst the other became the Code Breaker.  [/font]
Did you know that Mastermind, the BBC show, was first broadcast in 1972 and was hosted by Magnus Magnusson?  Its creator, Bill Wright, got the idea for the quiz show from his own personal experiences of being interrogated by the Gestapo during the Second World War.  [/font]
Magna Doodle and Raving Bonkers[/font]
Magna Doodle was a very popular magnetic drawing toy which you could hold in your lap and it won Toy of the Year in 1974.  Another mega selling toy in 1974 was Raving Bonkers, which features two mechanical robots; the red robot (Red Rocker) and the blue robot (Blue Bomber).  The toy was designed in the USA by Marvin Glass and Associates and first manufactured in 1964 by the Marx Toy Company under the name “Rock'em Sock'em Robots.”  It was a hugely popular two-player action toy game in which the two robots fight one another inside a bright yellow boxing ring until one of the robots has its head knocked off.  Did you know that in the 1999 “Futurama” episode entitled “A Fishful of Dollars,” Fry gives Bender an antique robot toy (Rock'em Sock'em Robots) but when one of the robots’ heads is knocked off, Bender is horrified?[/font]
Rubik’s Cube[/font]
In 1974 a new craze swept school playgrounds, offices and homes of the United Kingdom and left millions of people scratching their heads in frustration.  Rubik’s Cube was one of the must-have toys of the year and was invented by Erno Rubik.  Rubik was the Editor of a Games and Puzzle journal for three years before deciding to form his own company, The Rubik Studio, where he commenced making games and furniture.  Rubik’s puzzling brainchild is made up of 26 small cubes (or cubies) which form one large cube.  The large cube comprises layers of nine cubies coloured red, blue, white, orange, yellow and green which can twist; and the layers can overlap whilst any three squares in a row, except diagonally, can join a new layer.   The overall aim is to twist the cubies until every cubie is the same colour as the others on all 6 sides (faces) of the large cube. [/font]
When he first designed his puzzle, Rubik hand carved the cubies and used elastic bands to hold them together.  He then placed coloured sticky paper over the cubies and began twisting.  Today, his colourful invention is the bestselling toy puzzle in history; and it is believed that at least 1/8th of the world’s population has laid their hands on one.  Rubik’s Cube spawned a number of other similar puzzles invented by the man himself including Rubik’s Clock and the Pocket Cube.  Whilst there is only one correct answer for the Rubik’s Cube, there are actually 43 quintillion incorrect ones.  I never managed to complete a Rubik’s Cube and to be honest I never owned one.[/font][/font][/size]