1979 – Milton Bradley BigTrak
Back in 1979, while Gary Numan was tweaking his Minimoog on Top of the Pops, a company called Milton Bradley from Massachusetts, USA was working on what I’d describe as a “white electronic badger”. The original BigTrak (pictured above) was a six-wheeled electronic tank that was controlled with a touch-(in)sensitive keypad. The keypad allowed you to program a series of 16 command manoeuvres which set the BigTrak trundling around your living room, kitchen, or precariously along the landing and teetering towards the stairs. A lamp hidden inside a blue plastic cover at the front of the unit flashed as part of the command sequence, and the BigTrak would emit an electronic ‘photon’ sound in accompaniment to the flashing light. You were able to program a forward movement, for example, followed by a brief pause, then get the unit to turn and move off in a different direction. There was no LED display, so if you programmed it wrong, it went wrong.
There was only one accessory for the BigTrak, in the form of a trailer. You could then program the unit to move off, pay a brief visit to the living room, tip an apple out of the trailer at your mothers’ feet, and then beat a hasty retreat before someone came a cropper on the discarded fruit.
The British version of the BigTrak was housed in white plastic. The American unit was finished in a grey colour, and even our friends in the USSR had their own unofficial version called the Elektronika IM-11. Which was pink. Initially tagged The Lunokhod, it sported a collision sensor in the front bumper, which would bring the unit to a halt when it hit the cat. There was no trailer with the IM-11, and the motion sensor was rubbish. Another version which came later (called The Planetokhod) had front/rear LED lamps and a launchable rotor blade as an accessory. And as you know, nothing amuses kids more than a sharp, high velocity rotor cutting a swathe through the air.
2010 – Dubreq BigTrakJr
This summer, Dubreq (the company famed for the wonderful Stylophone and Top Trumps) will unleash BigTrakJr on a ravenous world. Not only am I totally indebted to Ben Jarvis (son of the genius who invented Stylophone) for these images, but also for his savvy to bring this beauty back within our grasp. His email to me said this:
“The operation of the product is pretty much the same as the original, with a few tweaks and add-ons. The new keyboard has a retro sci-fi circuitboard design (no more bright colours). The biggest technical changes are the memory function, which used a new ‘M’ button on the keyboard, which essentially allows the user to write a program and save it for future use whilst still being able to pay with the toy, write other programs etc. – even turn it off for a few months then come back to it.”
TURN IT OFF FOR A FEW MONTHS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME, BEN?
He goes on:
“The other big tweak is the active accessory port – we’ve made it powered, which means that rather than just switching accessories on and off when actuated (like the old one), it actually powers the accessories, thus meaning they can be smaller and cheaper and don’t need their own batteries.”
“RRP on the BigTrakJR (shown left) will be £29.99 though I have a feeling this will be dropping to £24.99 in the run-up to Christmas this year. The accessories will be between £9.99 and £14.99 each.”
Ben gives the dimensions of BigTrakJr as approx. 195mm L x 135mm W x 105mm D. Sadly, I can no longer run down to Woolworths and pick one up when it eventually arrives. Hopefully we’ll be able to buy them direct from Dubreq online.
First accessory (shown above) will be the digital stills camera. It can take up to 99 still images on command.
Another accessory (above) is the rocket launcher. It rotates and fires spring-loaded rubber-tipped darts.
Ben tells me Dubreq have other accessories planned, and all being well, will be announced at the end of the year. BigTrakjr is available in the US with the grey finish.
Below: The US model with grey finish.
The link from @BigTrakjr to this pic also included an image of the new white BigTrakjr production model, which has low profile ‘balloon tyres’ and ‘increased ground clearance’, plus ‘independent suspension on the front climbing wheels’. And here it is …
So here’s the low-down:
- Features just like the original BigTrak
- Active Accessory Port for future modules
- Memory save function to program and recall movement
- More ground clearance!
- Low profile balloon tyres
- Independent front suspension on climbing wheels
- Powered by 3 AA batteries
- Six ‘moon crater obstacles’ included
- 800g weight (with batteries)
- 15cm (6”) Wide, 20cm (8”) Long, 9cm (3.5”) High
The BigTrakjr guys just posted this image:
BigTrakjr is in the Lucerne Valley area of California. The guys have just launched their BigTrak Express rocket high into the skies east of Victor Valley, which encompasses Hesperia, Victorville and Apple Valley.
Just found a new video on YouTube of a couple of Production Samples doing their stuff:
And here’s the box!