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2-XL Storyland 1978 tape

My collection of 2-XL tapes is very much complete. Having just acquired Storyland, not to be confused with Storyland: 2-XL and the Time Machine, I now own every English-language tape. Unquestionably, Storyland and the Mego demonstration tape are the rarest, hardest to find tapes in the line. Over the last few years, I’ve only seen each listed twice on eBay. Every other tape makes regular appearances.

What is Storyland about? Writes Christopher Goodnough at 2XLRobot.com, “The basic premise is that 2-XL receives a magic hat which takes him to another world, where he encounters all kinds of strange creatures, and each one presents him with another challenge that he (and you of course as his Partner At Home) must pass to move on.” He goes on to explain that the tape has even twists and turns to make the tape enjoyable for at least a few runs. You can read more about Storyland here.


2-XL and iPad rhythms

Someone needs to design a 2-XL app for the iPad. Until then, we have the video above, made “custom samples and patches in NanoStudio for iPad,” according to the producer.


Columnist: From R2-D2 to 2-XL


Jason Chirevas’ 2-XL (see article here).

The original 2-XL, manufactured by the Mego Corporation, had an intensely successful but short run. Production ran just four years, from 1978 to 1982. He would reemerge for another short period in the 1990s and then disappear. As such, only two generations of children enjoyed 2-XL, including Deputy Editor Jason Chirevas of the Hometown Media Group who writes, “Playing with 2-XL was a completely interactive experience, particularly because there was nothing mechanical about 2-XL’s personality. Voiced by Freeman, who made no attempt to disguise his New York accent, 2-XL was at various times jovial, sarcastic, effusive, panicky and even a bit snide. He was a great companion and spending time with him never felt like school.”



2-XL speaks German

Not sure how many German 2-XLs were manufactured, but they are certainly hard to come by in the United States. By “German,” of course, I mean the button label; beyond that, he’s an 8-track player. I know of at least two German-language tapes — Rätsel, Cogs und spiele (“Games and Puzzles”) and Weltrekorde (“World Records”) — but I suspect many more were made.

Until recently, I had not heard one of the German tapes, but now a clip of Weltrekorde appears on YouTube. Not sure I like the voice, but then I was raised on the 2-XL with the Brooklyn accent!


2-XL’s general electronic madness

Writes a YouTube poster, “My 2XL robot is aware of himself,so he decided that he could be a much cooler robot than R2D2,here he is giving away some blips,blops,glitches and drones, general electronic madness!!”

The user modified an Ensueno Electronica (Spanish-language) version of 2-XL, but no translation is necessary. A blip, a blop, and glitches and drones are the same in any language.


AudiSee recordings: The Lost Ones, The Time Machine

The Lost Ones - AudiSee

As kids, my brother and I would sit around a turntable listening to Bill Cosby performances. We must have worn out “Revenge” and “Bill Cosby is a funny fellow, right!” When I was 10 or 11, I scrimped and saved to buy myself a copy of “The Story of Star Wars,” a narrated recording of the movie on vinyl. I simply could not get enough of this audio. That was in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when children still appreciated a good story.

Among my favorite recordings were several by AudiSee, including “The Star Prince,” “The Lost Ones,” and “The Time Machine.” I lately found “The Lost Ones” in a box of old tapes, only to discover I had recorded over it! (Blondie is on the recording, so this must have happened in the mid-1980s.) I checked eBay and Amazon to see if copies were for sale, and they were… but for upwards of $100!

One of the supreme ironies of life is that I lately discovered two of these recordings on YouTube. Oh, to hear them again. What I appreciate most about these recordings is that sense of fantasy they convey. Even though I would picture actors recording these stories in a studio (I, myself, made fantasy recordings at home), I nevertheless was taken by the stories. I was fully engaged.

I don’t know how long these recordings will be on YouTube, but, if you’re clever, you can download them using any number of YouTube downloaders. Until then, here they are —

The Lost Ones:

The Time Machine:

I don’t know much about these recordings, except that they were produced in the late 1970s by Bonneville Productions. AudiSee appears to be a brand. According to this site, Bonneville Productions released six titles:

  • The Lost Ones
  • The Rebels of Impiria
  • The Star Prince
  • The Time Machine
  • The War of the Worlds
  • Voyage to the Center of the Earth

Here is a blurb for The War of the Worlds:

Brace yourself for an exciting, realistic sight and sound journey into another world. . . . .another adventure. AudiSee Presents: H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds; adapted and produced by Lawrence Tamblyn with original music by Phil Davis. Includes a half hour stereo cassette drama with original cast and music and out-of-this world special effects; PLUS a 36 page book with full color, original illustrations. A computer tone on the cassette tells you when it’s time to turn the page in your adventure book. Cast includes: Narrator …………. Robert C. Simmons Mason (Mase) ……… Coleman Creel Tori …………….. Barta Lee Heiner Students …………. Craig Shipler, Jonathan Gochberg, Mark Anderson, Courtney McKenna, Melinda White, Margaret M. Varra Newswoman ………… Debbie Bromberg Man Reporter ……… Craig Clyde Dr. Brechtmeier …… Stanley Russon Flight Command ……. Michael Bennett Big Apple Leader ….. Michael Ruud Blue Fox Leader …… John Mason Crazy Horse Leader … H.E.D. Redford Charlie Alpha Leader . Scott Curran Red Tango Leader ….. Hyde Clayton Newswoman ………… Beverly Rowland

Here is one for The Time Machine:

Brace yourself for an exciting, realistic sight and sound journey into another world. . . . .another adventure. AudiSee presents: H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine; adapted and produced by Lawrence Tamblyn with original music by Phil Davis. Includes a half hour stereo cassette drama with original cast and music and out-of-this world special effects; PLUS a 36 page book with full color, original illustrations. A computer tone on the cassette tells you when it’s time to turn the page in your adventure book. Narrated by Robert C. Simmons with the voice talents of: Alan ……….. Russ Tamblyn Kingford ……. Gene Pack Guard ………. Richard E. Cannaday Receptionist … Jan Noyes Eugene ……… Oscar Underwood Old Man …….. Jim Strong Rulo ……….. Michael Leuders Mena ……….. Christine Konkol Taifa ………. Terri Purles Aliso ………. Hyde T. Clayton Eloi Voice ….. David K. Chambers Eloi Voice ….. Nancy Borgenicht

I recall owing “The Lost Ones” and “The Star Prince” and “The Time Machine.” Having found two on YouTube, I’d really like to hear “The Star Prince” too.

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Susan Bluerobot cross stitches 2-XL

Noticed this project on the web: Cross Stitch the Robot 2XL. There isn’t much to say, just check it out; however, one cannot help but peruse the artist’s other creations. Among my favorites are R2-D2 and this one from Microsoft’s solitaire game.


I’ve posted the following bit on the “Tapes” page:

According to a retailer at Mercadolibre.com, Jorge “The Tata” Arvizu provided the voice for the Spanish-language tapes. Several comments for a YouTube video featuring 2-XL on a Mexican television show (see here) confirm this detail. Writes dietiste, “La voz de el robot era la Del Tata solo un poco mas de velocidad” or “The voice of the robot was The Tata’s, only a little faster.” Read about Arvizu here.

Watch the YouTube video:


2-XL on Argo

I’m not sure how this video was made, but, good grief, it’s good:


1985 Elami Jr. vs. 1978 2-XL


2-XL’s programs were simple 8-track cassettes. Though the robot’s inventor had earlier designed a computerized talking robot for his wife’s classroom, manufacturing a mass-produced, computerized robot in the 1970s was simply not economically feasible. Nor would the experience have been very satisfying. While hobbyists appreciated the potential of computers in that decade, consumers would not have. Employing the 8-track served as a clever work-around, for 2-XL very ably and very inexpensively simulated a computerized experience.

Still, one wonders what 2-XL would have been like had he been an actual computer. One might look for the answer in subsequent toy robots. I recall noticing the Heathkit Hero Robot in 1982 (see Wikipedia), but it was so expensive I quickly dismissed the notion of ever owning one. I don’t recall the Elami Jr. robot in 1985 — though by that time I had outgrown such toys. (I was then 15 and more interested in mountain biking.) Elami Jr. was, in fact, a computerized robot.

Here are some specs from The Old Robots website:

8 bit microcomputer, 4K bytes ROM for operations, 16K bit speech processor & 2 x 128K ROM chips for vocabulary, Large LCD display – four espressions – happy, angry, suprised, sleepy, A total of 24 LED lights!, Two mechanical arms and grippers, 25 key talking keypad, 206 words of speech/15 programmable words or phrases, tactile bumper sensors, infrared sensor. — link

Wow! Actual computer specs! However, watching the following video quickly curbs ones enthusiasm for the product:

With such specs, Elami simply could not replicate the responsiveness consumers expected of robots. His voice is unaffected and artificial, and his expressions a bit weird. Granted, I’m sure many children loved this robot, but I doubt the average consumer did. Consider today how dissatisfied we are with the battery life of most smartphones; however, manufacturers have simply reached the limits of the technology. There are serious obstacles to overcome regarding battery life (see here). Such was the same with robots in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In general, our expectations exceeded the capacity of the technology. It’s no surprise that as the speed of processors increased, so did consumers’ demand for technology.

My intention is not to dismiss Elami Jr. and other such products, but simply to note the extraordinary obstacles inventors faced in meeting the demands and expectations of the general public. We are a demanding people.