Back in 1977 Tomy produced the Tomy Tutor Typer, a plastic toy designed to mimic Mum or Dad’s fancy typewriter. The premise was simple – you press the orange keys and predefined words would stream out of the side, just like a real type writer.
Eager to not miss out on the home computer revolution, Tomy launched their Tomy Tutor computer in 1982. Produced by Matsushita, and shipping with 16k of RAM, a TMS 9995 CPU and chiclet keyboard, this was a real home comptuer, but unfortunately, the machine did not sell well, especially outside of Japan.
Tomy quickly went back to toy manufacture, and using their creative skill combined their 2 previous ideas into The Tomy Tutor Play Computer. Like the Tutor Typer, this machine consisted of orange keys and a twiddley side knob. But unlike the type writer toy, this thing was based on the new digital wonder of home computers.
Rather than single lines of text, pressing keys would now load a new program onto the 4″ high resolution screen line by line, of which there are 12 in total. The big red enter key triggers a new line, whilst the non-standard alphanumeric keys remove little black chips one by one, allowing you to line advance once again once they have all fallen. This process continues throughout the various screens, although you are welcome to press the space bar at any time and trigger a sawtooth panel which provides an outstanding impression of animation. This could be a plane propeller, a clown juggling (eugh clowns) or even the manic robot end screen… my personal favourite.
I received my Tomy tutor at the tender age of 2, and it’s quite possibly the reason why I’m sitting here today, talking to you about computers and toys on a daily basis, longing for that care free ’80s magical time, when the world of computers and their pretend counterparts seemed almost fantastical.
But we’re not here to nostalge in the past. Today is about ripping this thing apart and finding out how it works! To find out the workings, check out the Youtube video!