Dec 21, 2011

Toys of Christmas Past - Big Trak

MB electronics strikes again with a futuristic, programmable tank!
Big Trak originally rolled out in 1979 in two color schemes: grey (US) and white (UK). Even though I grew up with the grey version, the white version look like it belongs in the same universe as Star Bird. By using the built in keypad, you could program Big Trak to perform a series of actions that include moving forward or backward, turning, and firing it's photon cannon. I know, it may not sound exciting by today's standards, but having a programmable toy at that time was pretty cutting edge. What? Stop laughing.

The "fun" came from trying to work out the exact program instructions to get Big Trak to maneuver around your house without getting stuck. You could only program a maximum of 16 commands. However, the move forward/backward command worked in units from 1-99 (one unit = one vehicle length, about 13"). So one command could tell it to move forward 99 units or about 107 feet! In theory anyway. I guess if you were using it outside that would be viable. In addition to household objects, Big Trak's other mortal enemy was tiled or wooden floors. Slick surfaces tend to cause the tank to go in less than a straight line and overshoot turn commands. One small deviation from your programmed route was usually a recipe for disaster.

Big Trak had one produced accessory which was a trailer. There was a button labeled "out" you could include in your program that would cause the trailer to tilt back and drop its contents. It wasn't very useful and by the time you got the programming figured out, you could have brought said object where it needed to go multiple times. Don't buy the hype!


There was also the mysterious "in" button that was to be used in a future accessory which was only mentioned in the user manual and never produced.

Of course this lumbering behemoth (or technological terror *wink*wink*) found its way into my Imperial army and was frequently deployed to attempt to crush Rebel Alliance bases across the galaxy.

Big Trak has quite an online fan community and has recently made a return both in original size and a Jr. desktop size. The Jr., despite being scaled down, sports more features. Who knew technology would advance in 30 years? It can hold up to 32 commands, even storing favorite routines, and has a peripheral  port on top that can hold a digital camera or a mini foam rocket launcher. There is also an adapter that will allow you to use the Jr. peripherals with the regular size re-released version.

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