Vtech and tech

Electronic toys are at their heart imitative, that is to say they ape the ‘toys’ and objects of the grown-up world. A company like VTech, founded in 1976 in Hong Kong to cash in of the growing bandwagon for simple video games, soon branched out into educational toys a few years later – ‘electronic learning products’ – like the Computron and Quiz-a-Tron, the latter featured prominently in the 1980 Sears Christmas Catalogue. It joined an already crowded market, led by the classic Speak and Spell by Texas Instruments, introduced in 1978 (online version) along with several other TI educational toys, including the Wiz-a-Tron (1979) and the Little Professor (also 1978). Whereas the Speak & Spell and its ilk weren’t actually imitating anything, save for large-scale early calculators, modern ELPs frequent take the form of mini desktops (initially), then laptops and now tablets (the InnoTab 2, for example). It’s perhaps surprising that toys haven’t evolved from being mere precursor objects to their ‘grown-up’ counterparts into objects that shape technology instead.

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