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Remembering Quiz Wiz (Updated with Robot Goodness!)

29 March 2009 Leave a comment
Coleco's Quiz Whiz

Coleco's Quiz Wiz

When Neal Postman lamented in 1985’s Amusing Ourselves to Death that the American public had been inundated with so much useless triva courtesy of television information was no longer useful; it had been a long time since quiz shows were prevelant on the air waves, and the second iteration of Jeopardy! was just starting to become a hit. Of course, in the late 1970’s, I had absolutely no idea about any of this stuff. I was much more interested in toys, and toys that engaged me were where it was at.

One of my favorites was Coleco’s Quiz Wiz, which was given to me sometime in the very late 70’s. The one page on the Internet that had any information about the game identifies it as a product of the early 1980’s, but I was still living with my mother when I received it, so it was definitely the late 70’s.

Quiz Wiz was a cartridge-based handheld system, similar to Milton Bradley’s MicroVision, only without the display and recessed pad controller. Each cartridge came with a theme, such as History or Mathematics, and was accompanied by a booklet that contained 1001 questions of varying difficulty. You’d key in the question number and then provide your answer and it would let you know if you were right or wrong (I actually don’t remember how it did this, probably via beeps and boops).

Additional cartridge/booklets could be purchased seperately for a vaitety of themes. I don’t quite recall what those themes are, as we only had the initial cartridges, but according to the accompanying picture you could learn/quiz yourself on such topics as energy and the ocean.

Do you remember my name?

Do you remember my name? I am the 2-XL. Greetings!

Quiz Wiz was easily over-shadowed by the much more popular and robust robot quiz toy, the name of which I have long forgotten. It also used a cartridge system, and had all sorts of flashing lights and sounds. Despite its total cool factor, we never had one of these, and I’m kinda sad that we didn’t. If you remember anything about this toy, especially if you know its name, please post a comment!

Update: I should have Googled “quiz wiz coleco”! Here’s a page all about the toy: http://www.handheldmuseum.com/Coleco/QuizWiz.htm

Update #2: After hours, and I really do mean hours, of searching, I finally found the name of this toy robot!

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the 2-XL from Mego! According to the Wikipedia article, those are actually 8-track tapes, not cartridges like the Quiz Wiz uses. I wonder if you could play actual 8-track audio cassettes on it [edit: according to the commercial (see below), you could dance groovy groovy in your bell bottoms while it played your music cartridges]. Tiger Electronics came out with a more Buck Rogers-looking version of the robot, using regular audio cassettes (then in vogue with home computers) rather than the long-dead 8-tracks.

Skooldays notes that the 8-tracks came in the following flavors, and also describes how it worked:

“Challenges of General Science,” “Guinness Book Of World Records” and “Wonders Of The World.”

The fun of 2-XL began when the user inserted a tape in the robot’s midsection and pressed a red button on the top of its head. Many tapes also came with special overlay cards that could be placed over the four buttons to make them game-specific. With a press of the “Question” button, 2-XL began its string of multiple choice and true/false kid-stumpers. Once a guess was entered, the 2-XL would make a few computer-style noises and tell the user whether their answer was right or not. It would also chime in some extra information on the topic in question.

So, there we have it. Mystery solved. I’d go to sleep now, only I have to start working in 40 minutes. But it was a hunt well won!

Remembering the Little Professor Calculator

22 March 2009 Leave a comment

While surfing around my innumerable feeds I came across a interview on the G4 blog with Jon-Paul C. Dyson, the Director of the National Center for the History of Electronic Games and Eric Wheeler, Associate Curator. While it’s true that there is now a valid reason to visit Rochester, NY (and why build a museum all the way out there is what I want to know), something smacked me upside the head with a big old “oh my god, I totally forgot about that!”

The Little Professor Calculator

The Little Professor Calculator

Meet The Little Professor Calculator. Released by Texas Instruments in 1976, it was given to me for Christmas that year by one of my parents, most likely my mother who couldn’t handle helping me learn new math. The Little Professor was not a bad gift to give a child who was not doing well in mathematics. I was fine with 1 + 1 = 2, but after that I’m all fingers and toes (and still am!).

I was completely in love with my Little Professor. It had buttons, flashing LEDs, and was electronic and I was utterly fascinated with it despite it’s mathematical inclination. It had a wrist strap which was attached to the professor’s plastic mortarboard-like top, so it kind of looked like a tassel. According to Retroland, it came with five levels of difficulty and 16,000 math problems. I think it even had problems where you were given two numbers and a result and had to figure out which operator resulted in the answer. I think it may have even kept track of how many answers your got right or wrong, but my memory is kind of fuzzy on this point.

I spent a lot of hours counting fingers and toes playing with this thing. But sadly, I don’t think the Little Professor helped my budding educational career when it came to math: to this day I struggle with my seven and eight times tables. Maths is clearly not my thing. But at least for a while, until the next cool shiny electronic toy came along, I had a friend in the Little Professor helping me along.

Here’s the Little Professor co-starring in a Texas Instruments calculator commercial from 1978: