- 1 “Well, Hello” — An Introduction
- 2 Mego tapes — 1978-1981
- 3 Tiger tapes — 1992-1994
“Well, Hello” — An Introduction
2-XL was indeed the “brainy” robot, offering lessons in dozens of subjects. The toy was the invention of Dr. Michael J. Freeman, who had previously created educational robots for students in New York City. Freeman believed that technology implemented in the classroom would help students “to excel” in learning, and he strove to make this possible.
In the mid-1970s, Freeman partnered with Mego Corporation to mass produce a toy robot. Shortly afterwards, 2-XL was helping children “to excel” in many subjects. Between 1978 and 1981, the company offered 44 programs featuring the voice Freeman on various subjects ranging from sports to the metric system. Production of these programs must have been complex, as 2-XL operated on standard 8-track cassettes (unlike the robot Freeman had previously designed, which was computerized). By pressing one of any four buttons on a response panel, children could answer questions. To make it appear that 2-XL was replying in real time, each of the four buttons activated a different “band” on the recording — eight-track tapes consist of four stereo bands (2×4=8). A child would notice this scheme if he or she pressed a button too soon, which is why 2-XL is adamant that people press his buttons only when instructed. The more complex the program, the more nonsensical 2-XL became if children pressed buttons out of order.
Using 8-tracks functioned as “work around.” In the 1970s, computers were still too expensive and impracticable as children’s toys. It would not have been economically feasible to manufacture 2-XL as a computer. One notes that investors thought 2-XL expensive at $50 to $70, but his price would have been astronomical had he been computerized. That said, production of his programs would have been much simpler, as Freeman would not have had to record four, synchronized recordings. A computerized 2-XL simply would have supplied responses at the appropriate time. One wonders what 2-XL would have been like had he had a processor, not magnetic tape.
Production of the tapes was collaborative. The Mego Museum writes that “Mego’s Harvey Zelman would script the 2-XL tapes and go into the recording studio with Friedman [sic].” The voice of Freeman was then processed so as to sound robotic. That 2-XL sported a New York accent is not accidental: Freeman lived in Brooklyn.
If you don’t own a 2-XL, you can experience him here (off-site link to Mouser’s 2-XL simulator).
Mego tapes — 1978-1981
- 50’s and 60’s Nostalgia (1978)
- Adult-Games and Puzzles or Games and Puzzles II (1978)
- Amazing Sports Feats (1981)
- Amazing World of the Small (1981)
- Animal World (1978)
- Astronomy/2-XL in Space (1978)
- Basics of ABC’s, The (1978)
- Believe this or not (1978)
- Bet Your Life (1981)
- Challenges of General Science (1981)
- Exercise with 2-XL (1979)
- Fairy Tale Quiz (1979)
- Games & Puzzles Number 1 (1978)
- General Information (1978)
- General Information — revised (1981)
- General Information II (1978)
- General Information III (1978)
- “Guinness Book of World Records” (1978)
- Interviews With Great People From History (1978)
- Math and Number Games (1978)
- Mego Demonstration Tape (1978) – non-commercial
- Metric System/Education (1978)
- Monsters, Myths & Legends (1978)
- Pre-School Bed Time Stories (1981)
- Pre-School Facts and Fantasies (1979)
- Reading, Writing & Arithmetic (1978)
- Robotstronomy, two tape set and board game (1980)
- Robotrivia, two tape set and board game (1980)
- Science Fiction (1978)
- Science Fiction II, & also corrected edition (1979)
- Sports (1978)
- Sports II (1978)
- Storyland (1978)
- Storyland: 2-XL & the Time Machine (1978)
- Strange But Is It True (1979)
- Super Heroes and Comic Books Cavalcade (1979)
- “Talking Calculator” and Number Game (1979)
- Tid Bits and Funny Facts (1979)
- Traffic and Bicycle Safety (1981)
- Tri-Lex, with game pieces (1979)
- TV and Movie Challenges (1979)
- U.S. Presidents & American History (1978)
- Who Said It, & also corrected edition (1979)
- Wonders of the World (1979)
- Word & Sound Games, two-tape set (1980)
Advertised, but not produced:
2XLRobot.com mentions several unproduced tapes, including Psychoanalysis, which the webmaster confirms was conceived, but not produced. My thoughts on Psychoanalysis are posted here.
The Mego 2-XL was marketed Canada, Mexico, Germany and Italy.* Around 1980, a succession of foreign-language tapes were manufactured, though none of these featured the original voice of 2-XL, Dr. Michael J. Freeman. French Canadians received the first international 2-XLs, but, surprisingly, only one French-language tape has been discovered. Presumably, owners of these 2-XLs, with a French/English button label, used American tapes. It’s not certain that Mego offered any substantial line of French-language tapes.
The situation in Mexico was different. Today, one can readily find Spanish-language tapes. A number of Mexican commercials promoting 2-XL are circulating on the Internet too. Most of the tapes are translations of the originals, though with modifications. The artwork is unique, designed specifically for the Spanish-language market.
Though I have found only two German tapes, I suspect many more were manufactured. The German tapes feature the artwork of the original American tapes. I have not found any Italian tapes, but Mego did offer 2-XL in Italy. One presumes Mego also manufactured tapes for the Italian market.
* According to some reports, tapes were translated into eight languages and marketed in sixteen countries. I have noted the existence of four or five foreign-language tapes in my research: French, Spanish, German, Italian and possibly Japanese (2XLRobot.com offers a short clip from a Japanese recording).
Ensueño Electronica (Spanish)
Based on the number of tapes I’ve discovered on the Internet, I gather Mego marketed 2-XL very successfully to Spanish-speaking consumers. As near as I can tell, there are more Spanish-language tapes than any other foreign-language offering. The tapes, manufactured by Ensueño Electronica, can be found at mercadolibre.com.
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.
- 2-XL en el Deporte — “2-XL in Sports”
- Astronomia 2-XL en el Espacio — “Astronomy: 2-XL in Space” (YouTube video here)
- Calculadora Parlante — “Talking Calculator” (advertised on the back of this package)
- Chistes Adivinanzas y Esas Cosas — “Jokes, Riddles and Those Things”
- Deportes I — “Sports I”
- Deportes II — “Sports II”
- El ABC de las cosas — “The ABCs”
- En la Historia — “In History”
- En las Olimpiade — “In the Olympics
- En los Idiomas — “In the Languages” (?)
- Extrano Pero Cierto — “Strange but True” (advertised on the back of this package)
- Hechos y Fantasias Pre-Escolares — “Pre-School Facts and Fantasies”
- Hechos Graciosos — “Fun Facts” (YouTube video here)
- Informacion General — “General Information” (YouTube video here)
- Increible Pero Cierto — “Incredible but True”
- Juegos De Numeros y Mathematicas — “Numbers and Mathematics Games”
- Maravillas Del Mundo — “Wonders of the World”
- Monstruos, mitos y leyendas — “Monsters, Myths and Legends” (YouTube videos: part 1 — here; part 2 — here)
- Quien Dijo Que — “Who Said That” (advertised on the back of this package)
- Reino Animal — “Animal Kingdom”
Note: I would like to add any one of these to my collection!
This video below seems to feature English tapes — perhaps these tapes were used as props.
New Gioco (Italian)
I’ve not located any Italian tapes for the Mego 2-XL, but, there is an Italian-language 2-XL (see here). I am still hunting for the tapes. I think it is safe to assume that there is at least a General Information tape.
The Mego Museum offers the following: “Italian toy company New Gioco had been successful with many Mego items in the past such as 2-XL…” (link).
- Rätsel, Cogs und spiele — “Games and Puzzles” (not sure that “cogs” is spelled correctly; image source blurry)
- Weltrekorde — “World Records” — translation of “Guinness Book of World Records”
Watch a German version of the 1990s 2-XL here.
Grand Toys (French-Canadian)
A French-Canadian version of 2-XL was distributed by Grand Toys, which had exclusive rights to Mego products in Canada. Only one “French” tape is known to exist, and my guess is that, while the “English” 2-XL served, to satisfy French-speaking Canadians a “French” version of 2-XL was offered. The Canuck 2-XL sported a French/English button label, which seems a mere concession. My assumption is that most Canadians used English tapes. (If I’m wrong, please let me know.)
- Reneseignements Generaux — “General Information” (see 2XLRobot.com for more information)
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
Tiger tapes — 1992-1994
A more comprehensive list of tapes can be found at 2XLRobot.com, which numbers 44 tapes.
- Amazing World’s Records (?) — ages 7-12
- Count on It (1994) — ages 4-9
- Fascinating Facts (1992) — ages 4-9
- Fun and Games (1992) — ages 4-7
- Incredible Sports Feats (1992) — ages 7-12
- Mayhem in Metropolis (1994) — ages 7-12
- Monsters, Myths & Dinosaurs (1992) — ages 7-12
- Sports World (1992) — ages 7-12
- Stars and Planets (?) — ages 4-9
- Oceans of Fun (1993) — ages 4-9
- Trivia Time (1992) — ages 7-12
- World of 2-XL (1992) — ages 2 and up
- World of Science (1992) — ages 7-12
Tiger Electronics seems to have been prepared for the International market, offering foreign-language tapes almost immediately after the rerelease of 2-XL. Tiger even manufactured tapes specifically for the British market.
I don’t know how many Italian tapes were produced, but there are many more than those listed below.
- Agenti Segreti e Detective — “Secret Agent and Detective”
- Alla scoperta del corpo umano — “Discovering the Human Body”
- Avventura Nella Musica — “Adventure in Music”
- Avventura Nello Spazio — “Adventure in Space”
- Il Mondo Delle Fiabe — “The World of Fairy Tales”
- Il Mondo della Scienza — “The World of Science”*
- Il Mondo di 2-XL — “The World of 2-XL” (sound clip at 2XLRobot.com)
- Il Mondo Degli Animali — “The World of Animals”*
- Il Nostro Pianeta — “Our Planet”
- Il Mondo dello sport — “The World of Sport”*
- Il Nostro Pianeta, La Natura, L’Ecologia — “Our Planet, Nature, Ecology”
- Le cose più strane ed incredibili — “Strange but True”
- Miti e Leggende — “Myths and Legends”*
- Mondo del Mistero (or Il mondo del mistero*) — “World of Mystery” or “Mysteries of the World”(?)
- Nel Mondo della Musica — “In the World of Music”
- Viaggio nella Storia — “Journey through History”
* The Italian version of Wikipedia features an article about these tapes: see here. Apart from the fact that these appear in that article, I have not been able to verify the existence of these tapes.
A YouTube video can be found here, but I don’t know the title of the program being played.
I’ve not located a French 2-XL (Tiger version) yet, but 2XLRobot has a photo and sound clip of a French tape here.
- A la decouverte de 2-XL — “Discovering 2-XL,” translation of The World of 2-XL
MB Spiele (German)
Generally distributed by MB Spiele, some tapes have a Joker label affixed to packaging — I’m guessing Joker redistributed the MB Spiele tapes.
- Abenteuer Weltall — “Space Adventure”
- Das Glaubt Kein Mensch — “Fascinating Facts”
- Die Welt der Tiere — “The World of Animals” (YouTube video here)
- Die Welt des 2-XL — “The World of 2-XL”
- Dinos, Monster und Gespenster — “Dinosaurs, Monsters and Ghosts” (YouTube video here)
- Unser Planet Erde — “Our Planet Earth” (YouTube video here)
- Geschichten, die Noch Keiner Kent — “Stories that no one knows yet” or “Storymaker” (visit 2XLRobot.com for details)
One would think the only distinction between American 2-XL tapes and British tapes would be labeling — Tomy distributed the 90s 2-XL in Great Britain — but, according to 2XLRobot.com, there are some programming differences as well.
- Food Facts and You
- Fun and Games
- Monsters, Myths and Dinosaurs
- Sports World
- Voyage to Outer Space
- World of 2-XL
- World of Animals
Tiger ED (Spanish)
A Spanish version of the Tiger 2-Xl was marketed (see photo here). Finding tapes is somewhat difficult, which is surprising given the success of the original 2-XL in Mexico. I’ve located only three Spanish-language tapes. Watch this 2-XL in action here.