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Hip Hop, the Sugarhill Gang, and 2-XL

He’s brainy and he’s hip:

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Sighted: Production sample dating to 1981

1165643

The button label is the most striking feature of this 2-XL. It looks homemade, perhaps it is merely a replacement label, but also genuine. Read about it here: Vintage Mego Corporation R&D Version 2XL Talking Robot with production sample box featured at Toy Fair 1981.

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“Grazie per me girare su di voi”

Mego 2-XL Italian Type 2 - front 01Note the button label. This is an Italian 2-XL, distributed by New Gioco in the early 1980s. I lately acquired this item on eBay, paying a modest price for what is a very rare version of this popular Mego toy. Being Italian, I am thrilled to have this in my collection.

Disappointingly, a tape was not included in the transaction. Nor have I noticed any Italian-language tapes (of the Mego variety) on the Internet. Until I discovered this item on eBay, I did not know Mego marketed the robot in Italy.

(In the 1990s, Tiger Electronics, through GiGi, did offer the second iteration of 2-XL in Italy, offering a full collection of tapes. See the “Tapes” page for a listing of these.)

I did find a YouTube video of the Italian 2-XL some time ago, only I mistook it for the Ensueno Electronica 2-XL, sold in Mexico. The image is blurry and one never really catches a glimpse of the question button, “Domande” as opposed to “Pregunta”; false, in Spanish and Italian is “falso.”

Watch the video:

2-XLers will note that the Italian model is a Mego Type 2, dating the toy to around 1980, when a majority of the international 2-XLs were produced. Only the French-Canadian model was offered earlier in the Type 1 style. For the international market, Mego offered 2-XL in Mexico (Spanish), Canada (French), Germany and Italy.

One other note, my Italian 2-XL is non-operational, and was originally missing two buttons. I swapped out two from another machine, but I haven’t looked inside to see why my recent purchase does not turn on.

Oh, and regarding the phrase “Grazie per me girare su di voi,” that’s a Google translation of “Thank you for turning me on.” I hope the translation is accurate.

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2-XL as an accessory

Yes, you can accessorize with 2-XL:

Directions are featured here: HOW TO – Make a 2-XL laptop bag (blinky LED lights for your bag)

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2-XL on Pick Your Brain

2-XL Pick Your Brain with Marc Summers

The second iteration of 2-XL, produced by Tiger, got his own show in the 1990s, called “Pick Your Brain,” with Marc Summers. The voice of 2-XL was supplied by Greg Berg, though according to 2XLRobot.com, the talking robot’s creator Dr. Michael Freeman was considered — Freeman provided the voice for both the Mego and Tiger robots. More details can be found at Wikipedia.org. If you want a retro experience, visit this GeoCities page on the WayBackMachine.

Catch some of the action on YouTube:

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Weltrekorde or “World Records”

German 2-XL tapeTitle: Weltrekorde or “World Records”
Release date: 1978 (original Mego tape)
Number: Art. 7504 00 (Airfix)
Ages: unspecified
Booklet: unknown (original tape did not)
Label card: unknown (original tape did not)
Music: uknown

Unlike Spanish versions of 2-XL’s tapes, this tape retains the label styling of the original Mego programs. This is the German version of “Guinness Book of World Records,” though whether or not the content is the same, I cannot say. I imagine the “Guinness” name was not licensed for the German tape. The questions printed on the label are (more or less) as follows:

  • What did the world’s fattest twins weigh?
  • How fast is the fastest airplane?
  • What is the longest taxi ride?

These match questions on the Mego tape. The final statement on the label reads, “And many other incredible questions about world records.”

Note: The photo of this tape was gleaned from an eBay seller’s page. Visit b.a.m.-store-2010.

Visit this page for a comprehensive list of program tapes.

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1976 Apple 1 sells for $668,000 at auction

Computer History Museum Apple 1

According to the Associated Press, a functioning 1976 Apple I sold for $668,000 at a German auction (see story). This computer originally sold for $666.66 as a kit.

One wonders about the highest price a 1978 2-XL has fetched. I have one with a low serial number (13587), but I only paid $25 on eBay.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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2-XL’s look

Dr. Michael Freeman, who invented 2-XL, created several educational toys prior to his working with Mego in the 19070s. None of his previous robots looked anything like 2-XL, which I gathered was not his design. The robots he designed appeared more “human-like,” i.e. they had arms and legs and faces — that said, they still looked like tin boxes. According to the Mego Museum, the exterior of 2-XL was designed by John McNett:

A paradigm-shifting product (due to its elevated price-point, which pundits proclaimed would kill the product), 2-XL was monumentally successful for Mego. John named, styled and developed the product, which was invented by Dr. Michael Friedman, the man “who did all the voice recording.” John pointed out that “the complex chin design is a grafted-on Micronaut part, used as an expediency because Marty didn’t like the plain, deadpan look on 2-XL’s face.” Faced with a production deadline, Mego “didn’t have time to redraw the styling. So [they] just glued the chin onto the model (prototype), and shipped it off to the orient.” John later added that “Sid Noble created and developed the flashing red eyes for 2-XL, shortly before its release to the [factory in the] orient.” — source

 

For reference:

Rudy - Dr. Micahel Freeman's first robot

Freeman’s first robot, Rudy. Dad and son, left and right.

Patent Image 01

Freeman’s design for an interactive toy in patent application.

2-XL Prototype

Production model created from prototype.

Postscript: The Mego Museum also writes, “Mego’s Harvey Zelman would script the 2-XL tapes and go into the recording studio with Friedman. The late Neal Kublan made mention of a new version of 2-Xl being developed that features sound and images but this never materialised.”

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Wanted!

I own an extensive collection of 2-XLs and tapes, but my collection is not complete. I don’t expect to acquire every item that was made, but I am hoping to add a few more items to my collection. Here is my top ten wish list:

  1. Storyland, not Storyland: 2-XL and the Time Machine, but the original Storyland, which may well be the rarest Mego tape.
  2. Mego Demonstration Tape. Working or not! This tape is available on Mouser’s 2-XL simulator.
  3. French Canadian 2-XL (Mego, Type 2) — I own a Type 1.
  4. Airfix 2-XL (German, Mego, Type 2 version)
  5. Spanish 2-XL (Ensueño Electronica)
  6. Any foreign language tape (Mego or Tiger)
  7. Complete Robotrivia. I own the tapes, but not the box, board or pieces.
  8. Tomy 2-XL (British)
  9. MB 2-XL (German)
  10. Plastic wrapped Mego tape. As Mego was clearing out its stock following its bankruptcy, the company plastic-wrapped the program tapes for quick sell. Would be nice to have one in the collection.

If you have any of these for sale or trade, please contact me at netadams (at) gmail (dot) com. I have several extra Mego tapes for trade.

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“Talking Calculator” and Number Game

"Talking Calculator" and Number GameTitle: “Talking Calculator” and Number Game
Release date: 1979
Number: 82207-2
Ages: 4 to 9 years old
Booklet: Yes (visit 2XLRobot.com for PDF)
Label card: Yes
Music: Many selections, some lengthy

This tape includes two programs. On one, children calculate numbers with 2-XL providing the answers. On the other, children use the booklet to test their math skills. This tape includes a lot of music, a bit of sports trivia, and quite a few math-themed jokes, e.g. “Why is a baby the least important member of a family? Because it doesn’t count!” & “How do you make ‘seven’ even? Take away the ‘s’!”

Here is the blurb from the tape: “A program to teach, test, and review the addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of numbers. As long as you can add 2+2, 2-XL will come up with numbers and also ‘calculate’ the answers. By the press of a button, you decide how difficult this program should be. Math skills have never been so much fun. For children 4 to 9 years old.”

Visit this page for a comprehensive list of program tapes.

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