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These Smart 1980s Robot Toys Were No Dingbats

Technology came alive in the 1980s, and it moved at breakneck speed into our homes and classrooms. From VCRs to microwaves to home computers, new innovations stepped in to improve our lives in just about every way. And our playthings hinted at even bigger advancements to come. Indeed, these smart 1980s robot toys inspired our imaginations to dream about how far machines might take us … someday.

Teddy Ruxpin

Yeah, this was marketed as a talking teddy bear, but it was really a sophisticated robot toy that could even read stories aloud.

And what enterprising young boy didn’t tear Teddy apart as he grew older to see what made it tick?

Dingbot

Introduced by Tomy in 1984, the Dingbot ran on AA batteries and roamed around bumping into things. That would cause him to change direction, with an occasional glance to the left or right.

Playtime was guaranteed for kids who wanted to chase or be chased. Especially if cold, soulless black eyes were your thing.

Big Trak

What 1980s robot toy list would be complete without a mention of the Big Trak? This one was made by Milton Bradley and had an optional wagon that you (your parents!) could by to haul things around.

Though this one doesn’t look at all humanoid, it did have a lot of features kids loved. Like the ability to respond to remote control commands with beeps and lights!

Well, not really remote control — Big Trak was programmable, a sort of gateway to the Commodore 64 and all the high tech to come.

This toy might have inspired the now cringeworthy but ubiquitous question — can you code?

The Robotic Workshop

Originally made for use with the Commodore 64 by Thames & Kosmos, was designed to teach kids how to think critically and build machines — robots! It came with a book of instructions on how to build models and then make them move in different ways.

Kids could also design their own robots using the parts included in this kit — they were no dingbats — or Dingbots!

Verbot

Another Tomy creation, Verbot was a classic 1980s high-tech toy that could be programmed or respond to voice commands. That would send Verbot off flapping his arms and flashing his eyes, to the delight of children — and adults — within shouting distance.

Maxx Steele

Produced by the Ideal Toy Company in 1980, Maxx Steele was a robot that could be programmed to do different things: chase after objects or people with its extendable arm; and even give you an “electronic hug.” He was also the leader of the Robo Force, a band of robots who could — you know, do 80s robot things.

Maxx could mimic Big Trak, too, by moving things around the house.

Hubot

Hubot looked like a computer terminal stacked inside an entertainment center cabinet, complete with keyboard and TV.

But the TV screen showed a “drawing” of a human-ish face, and Hubot could learn and remember the layout of a room or house. That allowed him to wander around the place — eventually — without bumping into everything.

The TV worked, too, to the extent that there was a Hubot model that came complete with an on-board Atari 2600.

These days, there’s a GitHub project also named Hubot, a set of scripts that can be used to automate tasks like chatbots.

Tomy Armatron

What better way to finish up our list than with yet another entry by Tomy.

The Armatron is just about what it sounds like — a big robotic arm on a platform that could reach out and grab stuff.

(Like 1980s Robot Toys? Then you might like our article on Toys from the 80s, click here.)

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