How-To Geek

Ten Classic Electronic Toys and Their Modern Equivalents

Whether you’re looking to relive the toy exploits of your youth or pass your love of tinkering and electronics onto the younger generation, this list highlights ten great electronic toys of yesteryear and their modern equivalents.

Courtesy of Wired’s Geek Dad, the description for the all-in-one electronics kit seen here:

What is was: Arthur C. Clarke has said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. As a kid in the midst of an increasing technological revolution, electronics were at the heart of that. Learning electronics was made easy through the Science Fair Electronic Project Kits found at Radioshack. Through the project guides, kids could construct various ‘experiments’ by attaching wires to terminal springs that make circuits. The terminal springs would wire in components such as LED segment lights, photo sensors, resistors, diodes, etc. While it was fun getting the projects to work, the manuals lacked in depth explanation as to what was happening in the circuit to produce the project’s result.

Why it was awesome: First, it was a simple buy for parents. Everything you needed to get your child interested in electronics was right in the kit. You didn’t need to breadboard or solder. I remember a distinct feeling of accomplishment making a high-water alarm or a light-sensor game with the realization that the bundles of wires springing up from the kit were actually doing something!

Modern equivalent: You can still pick up variations of the 100-in-1 kits, but their popular replacement seem to be Snap Circuits by Elenco. All of the components are mounted on a plastic base with a contact on either end which interconnect with each other and the plastic base that projects can be mounted to. Each component also has the electrical diagram symbol for that component drawn on it so it can help you read schematics. For that reason alone, I like these better.

For the rest of the list, hit up the link below.

Ten Classic Electronic Toys and Their Modern Equivalents [Wired]

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 06/4/12

Comments (4)

  1. andyr354

    hey, I had a 160 in 1!

  2. Lighthouse

    I had the first Philips version, back in about 1964.

  3. conradlamb

    i wanted the 160 or 200 in one project kit sooooo bad—– i just might buy one now!!!

  4. Dark Reality

    I had one of those X-in-1 kits, but every picture I can find of them seems fancier than the one I had. I must have had a really old one. It wasn’t shiny or new when I got it for Christmas or a birthday in the mid-80s, if it was a seasonal gift at all. I just remember having it. And it had all these wires color-coded by length (white was the shortest, it was maybe 2″) and you had to screw them into various terminals. There was a thick booklet of things you could make, but it only told you which terminal to which terminal. There had to have been a couple hundred of them. Didn’t tell you which wire, you had to figure that out.

    The Wired article goes on to name an old Casio keyboard, some sing-along microphone, and the “Hit Stix” drum sticks. You can replace all that with Rockband, ideally on Xbox 360 (some songs are not available on PS3, and the controllers require extra hardware; many songs are not available on Wii and options are extremely limited). At $2 a song it is not cheap, but you can play a real guitar, a semi-realistic electronic drum kit, a keyboard, and the singing (up to 3 vocalists) is legit enough. It’s better and more elegant than getting one of those home karaoke machines, at least, and the software developer is made up entirely of musicians, many of them involved with local Boston-area bands, so it’s a very genuine experience throughout. (Modern Guitar Hero, after #2, is just a cheap knockoff… the people who make Rockband made the first two Guitar Hero games, and were shown the door when they wanted to add drums and a microphone… Guitar Hero still doesn’t have working vocals, and they’ve released four games that claim to have the feature. And the rest of it isn’t about playing music, it’s just about difficulty. This is the difference between a game made by musicians, and one made by lawyers and accountants.)

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