Another one for the Dead Technology file…
The heady days of group cooperation that facilitated the purchase of a ZX-81 had their seed somewhere in the late ’70’s. And that seed’s name was BigTrak. Pristine white (UK version) and chock full of coolness, fresh from a Jetson’s-esque robot-filled future.
Bask in the glow and feast your eyes on the mobile armageddon on wheels that changed the world: BigTrak
Man. Dig those crazy retro 70’s stripes! At the time, I think I would have donated body parts to medical science to have my room painted the same way. <sigh>.
Now it is possible that you just weren’t cool enough to own one of these. Or perhaps you’re just too darn young. But BigTrak could steamroller Aibo’s skinny canine butt any day of the week.
As The Wikipedia notes:
"It was a six-wheeled tank
with a front-mounted blue "photon beam" headlamp, and a keypad on top.
The toy could remember up to 16 commands which it then executed in
sequence (such as "go forward 5 lengths", "pause", "turn 30 degrees right", "fire phaser" and so on."
Got that? A tank, people! Photon beams and everything! What’s not to love! And we haven’t even gotten to the kicking electronic steamroller-from-the-future noise Bigtrak made with every move.
Wiser souls than me have assembled more info on the BigTrak than I remember, but here are some more highlights:
"Let Big Trak’s electronic memory treat you to an absolutely spectacular performance. Just punch in your program of
commands and watch Big Trak carry them out: moving forward, backward, left and right, up to 99 length units! Order Big Trak
to picot into a sharp or wide-angled turn, full circle, or even beyond that. Big Trak can lurk silently before continuing
on its course, and can fire either a single shot or a volley from its "photon" cannon. Send Big Trak out of the room,
around furniture and other obstacles, and back again! Easy enough for kids to learn, but so much fun, even adults won’t be
able to resist. One 9 volt transistor battery and four 1.5 volt "D" size batteries."
Aww. They even called it a "transistor battery". Cute. And 99 length units? How charmingly analog (and terribly far).
The amazing this is that this toy delivered on the hype. Sure, ours didn’t quite get it’s turn angles right, or the delay times, or even the distances, but it could be told to sally forth down the hallway, tool around the kitchen, zap an undeserving relative with it’s Photon Beam and return home. As long as you didn’t miscalculate or exceed the maximum number of steps (and that’s just CRAZY talk).
I have no idea where BigTrak is now. Off in some kind of space-age 100-length heaven from the future.
But thanks to the magic of the Internets, you can click the clip below to see this beast in action.
Bon Voyage, BigTrak. Bee-boo-bee-boo-bee-boo…