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Главная  Каталог  История игрушек   Выпуск 44  100 лучших игрушек 20 века. Места с 10 по 1
Junior Rollerball for trainee snipers
There’s something about the sheer size of so many toys and games of the Cream era; they weren’t just played in the house, they took over the house. Nowadays, everything’s been reissued in petite “coffee table” versions on sale in the Gadget Shop. Back then, you needed French windows just to get the likes of Crossfire indoors. Basically a combination of pre-Pac Man arcade favourite Air Hockey and a fairground Rifle Range, this two-player combat game required the steady aim of an SAS-trained marksman and the ruthless determination to win of an American athletics coach. The object of each round? To score goals against your opponent by firing a constant stream of steel ball bearings – that’s steel ball bearings, folks – against a rolling puck (also steel) until it passed through his net (incidentally, once again made of steel). Any ball bearings which fell into your half became your next round of ammunition (to be loaded into the top of chunky red firing pistols at either end of the long chipboard playing area). Crossfire could be a fast and furious game (to paraphrase the advertising spiel) but, by crikey, it was certainly a noisy one. In addition to the endless chime of ricocheting steel on steel, the pistols themselves had a stiff and clunky trigger mechanism that not only discharged each ball with a loud crack but also had a tendency to jam mid-game (calling for a swift and strident blow to free the offending ammo). If nervous relatives felt the need to leave the room, who could blame them? In any case, the footprint required for both game and players to play in comfort (i.e. lying full stretch on the floor) meant that the settee had to be moved, so good riddance. As with all ball bearing dependent games, some would be lost over time. Had it been possible to detach the pistols from the field of play, however, and brandish them – airgun style – in the street, we concede that they would’ve gone missing a hell of a lot sooner.
Stop Boris
Creeping eight-legged suspense game
As once enthusiastically played by none other than Noel Edmonds on Multicoloured Swap Shop, Stop Boris broke with all long-held traditions about toys not being deliberately frightening or nightmarish by being, well, deliberately frightening and nightmarish. Bearing an overpowering visual resemblance to some one-off 2000AD strip come to life, the game consisted of a huge battery operated plastic spider on wheels, with vicious-looking teeth and a pulsing green brain and stomach that glowed eerily in the manner of a backlit monster from a Peter Davison-era Doctor Who story, which progressed stealthily along a PVC web and could only be repelled when the beam from the rather slick-looking infra-red ray gun hit it squarely in a small target located directly between its eyes. We say it moved stealthily, we mean shakily (and, in some cases, not at all). But, for a time, Stop Boris was the toy that everyone had to have. In reality it was also the toy that hardly anyone got, with the high incidence of rampant arachnophobia amongst more sensitive siblings being enough to persuade parents to allow pleas for ownership to fall on unheeding ears. Later and more sophisticated variants on the formula such as the mid-1980s effort B.A.R.T. frankly seemed like a pointless joke when compared to the menacing spider of whom most children's only experience was through prolonged and furtive staring at the relevant page in the Grattan catalogue.
Sea Monkeys
Protozoan pets
Winner of the award for "Largest Disparity Between Portrayal In Advertising Materials And Reality", it is with some pleasure we see these fishy fraudsters in such a high position in our chart (as this can only mean so very few people owned a set). Far from the apparent hierarchical society of tiny grinning mermen and mermaids presented in illustrated form on the packaging (to this very day), Sea Monkeys were, in fact, tiny - and we mean microscopic - crustaceans of the Artemia Salina family. Yet we were, as youngsters, encouraged to believe that they inhabited a mysterious world of sunken treasures, kings and queens, castles and adventure, in a brazen example of spin that should have surely invited the full punitive powers of the Advertising Standards Authority. (Actually, an episode of That's Life was devoted to an expose!) Devoid of any anthropomorphic qualities, less still any simian behavioural patterns, "Sea" "Monkeys" lived in a fresh-water tank of tap water rendered habitable by the addition of packeted solutes, "instant life" eggs (or brine shrimp to you and me) and powdered aphids (for food). The extent of the fun that could be derived thenceforth can be firmly listed under the category of "observation" (hence the accompanying magnifying plastic viewer), although this tended to appeal more to the family cat than impatient kids. But, for a time in the mid-Cream era when keeping a tropical aquarium wasn't considered retro-kitsch in a Bond-villain kindofa way, Sea Monkeys qualified as a genuine first pet of one's own and were thus desirable. Most interestingly, however, was the prospect of overpopulation. As some of them died, the surviving monkeys would cannibalize the bodies of their fallen comrades! Now, if only they'd put a cartoon picture of THAT in the adverts, we'd have definitely bought some. File alongside ant colonies, worm farms and stick insects under "things that died of neglect".
Big Trak
Futuristic armoured battle tank and apple cart
Resembling nothing more than a vehicle from Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons redesigned by Clive Sinclair, Big Trak was controlled, as the presenters of Tomorrow's World breathlessly related, by that all-important "silicon chip". The function of said chip was to make Big Trak fully programmable; it could be instructed to move and turn in different (albeit only approximate) directions, light up a couple of small LEDs, and make a couple of modish electronic noises. The novelty was that it was ostensibly capable of navigating cumbersome household objects (that is, of course, assuming that no-one had actually moved any of them whilst you were busily punching in a sequence of movements, or that any progression from room to room would not result in impact-related damage from table and chair legs) and that, when used in conjunction with the Big Trak Transporter (a slick plastic wheelbarrow with big tyres that was capable of loading and unloading), could be used to ferry objects around the house at a much slower speed than simply carrying them. There was also purportedly some capacity for interactive programming using a home computer but, if the green BOAC team lacked the required smarts to shift an egg across a room for Heinz Wolff, what hope did the average nine year-old have? Notoriously pricey, Big Trak was much desired but seldom seen. However, it looked, and indeed still looks, more futuristic than The Liberator from Blake's 7.
Star Wars Death Star Playset
May the toys be with you
So we'll take it as read that everyone had at least one Star Wars figure, because otherwise this is just going to be an uphill struggle - the card-mounted Kenner character was the standard unit by which all collections were measured and/or founded, whether you owned just Luke Skywalker or a whole squadron of stormtroopers. The fact of the matter is that entire 3,000 page catalogues have been published detailing the merchandising history of the Lucas franchise, but at least that leaves us free to skip to the top end (at least in our neighbourhood) of the desirability stakes and miss out the soap-on-a-rope C3POs, Leia earmuffs, Darth duvet covers, etc. In reverse order, then, those toys that we all would've happily been born a spoiled only-child for (or that are still stored in airtight containers by over-zealous fanboys), wish-fulfilment light-sabre Photoshopping aside. We loved the "pipework" detail on those massive chunks of moulded beige or grey plastic that formed AT-ATs, the Millennium Falcon or TIE Fighters (especially the ones with "hidden" compartments or "secret" buttons that would make parts spring off), although the varying scales they were constructed to meant for confusingly-incorrect-perspective battles. Conjuring up a similarly surreal David and Goliath fight potential were the 12" figurines of popular baddies, Vader, Boba Fett and so on. These guys had an advantage over their more-miniature fellows (not just in terms of size), insofar as their clothes/capes weren't fashioned from vinyl, they were more accurately detailed and their light sabres, etc., need not be retracted into their arms. But for anything other than display-and-admire purposes they were pretty impractical. By far the most coveted toy, however, was the cardboard-and-plastic hybrid that was the Death Star playset. Oh Death Star, how we desired thee. Shall we count the ways? The most thrilling parts of the film could be re-enacted with ease (from "TK-47" to "Run, Luke, run"). The seemingly-bottomless tractor beam control duct, rendered by simple means of a mirror at the base, was confirmed (as we suspected all along) to be slap-bang in the middle. And the working trash compactor even had the eye-on-a-stalk alien thingy drawn on it. In fact, the only thing really wrong about this Death Star is that it was way too cool and expensive for us to even consider returning to later, shooting a couple of plasma bolts at and destroying. If it had been down to us, the Rebellion would've been crushed just so we could carry on dropping Han Solo down the cellblock chute.
Airfix Model Plane
Inch high club
One word. Decals. It's hard to imagine a time when we hadn't heard of them; a time, perhaps, when we could see or think of RAF livery without immediately picturing one; a time before we soaked one in a bowl of warm water, slid it off its backing paper and placed it on the wing of a Spitfire or a Wellington Bomber. But that was in those elusive and pre-evocative days we tend not to concern ourselves with here at TVC Towers. So there it is: a word that only exists for us in the context of one thing, Airfix models - and, for the purposes of this entry in the Top 100, we're limiting it to model planes. Because it was only the model planes that came in such a ridiculously varied range of scales and sorts. Because you couldn't hang a miniature replica vintage Darracq from a piece of fishing line thumbtacked to the ceiling. And because the planes had a truly aspirational hierarchy (which we seem to recall was based largely around the number of moving parts. Pretty much all the model cars had proper moving wheels, but it was only the bigger and badder model aircraft that included moving propellers, rotating gun-turrets and tyres, or fully-opening bomb-bays and cockpits); therefore, they win. The decals, of course, were one of many hobby-threatening booby-traps designed to scupper your enjoyment, getting forever crinkled or folded before it could be applied properly. Here's another; polystyrene cement, which could be guaranteed to coagulate into crusty white flakes all over your fingers and tabletop without ever acting as a useful plastic adhesive. Or perhaps it was attempting to navigate the baffling range of Humbrol paints that fouled up your facsimile Fokker. Whatever, we know that, back in the day when there was such a thing, the BBC Visual Effects department boffins would keep a crate of leftover Airfix parts around to add detail to their spaceships with. All we can say is they must have had the patience of saints.
Top Trumps
Fight-initiating card game
Top Trumps was an idea so simple, it borders on genius - an adpatation of that schoolboy collector's perennial, the themed cigarette/bubblegum card, into the world's piss-easiest card game. Fifty pee bought you a rounded red plastic box containing thirty-two cards with pictures of warplanes, ships, and racing cars. After dealing them out on the table/playground/bit of waste ground, players would take the top card off their stack, study it with baroque expressions of intensity, before one of them confidently declared "Number of cylinders... eight!" Through such ritual did many a bonding experience occur. The makers were always keen to hype up the "educational" aspect - never before or since did so many children know the precise dimensions of the HMS Ark Royal - although the basic impulse of the game was less noble - to use that knowledge to get loads of cards off your mates for free. Quirks of the many editions are imprinted on many a memory - one ships edition ("Tonnage... eighteen hundred!") was, for some reason, printed lengthways. The horror edition ("Fear factor... five!") showed a bit of imagination, as among the usual suspects (Dracula et al.) was The Incredible Melting Man (yes!) and, er, a maggot. The downside was that the pictures were drawn rather hastily in magic marker. The prehistoric monsters edition fared slightly better, with photos of unconvincing plastic models instead. The range expanded for the next ten years or so, the originals mutating into Supertrumps (clear, more snazzy boxes, slightly better pictures) when Dubreq was finally consumed by John Waddington in 1982. Celebrity endorsement reared its head (Mike Brearley's Batting Aces!). Variations like the hopelessly fiddly Minitrumps, and poor rivals like Ace Trump Game, sprang up. Unfortunately, an escalation in the licensing costs of decent pictures for the cards led Waddington's to move the 'Trumps onto the backburner, where they stayed until recent heavily-branded revivals cropped up, although as far as we're concerned, if the pattern on the back isn't a white-and-blue image of a racing car, a boat and a plane, it ain't Top Trumps.
Action Man
Military mannequin
Naturally, there's nothing wrong with boys playing with dolls. But just in case there's the slightest chance that doing so could turn 'em a bit... y'know, make sure the dolls are butch soldier types who look good in a buzzcut and military uniform. So went the thinking, we assume, when Palitoy imported America's GI Joe and rebranded him Action Man for Brit kids in the - ahem - swinging '60s. Initially available with only painted-on hair and combat fatigues, the range was soon augmented by a whole wardrobe of snazzy outfits (including frogman, para, pilot, sailor, traffic cop and red indian) and cybernetic extensions to Mr. Man's physiognomy ("gripping" hands, "real" hair, "eagle" eyes). And, much like Barbie, the big fella got his own fleet of personal transports - although not for him the pink Limo treatment. Our favourite was actually the fairly unsophisticated, thumb-operated, backpack-copter (which enabled us to re-enact the best bit of Thunderball) although it must've been cool to have owned its full-size army hospital helicopter cousin. There were, we recall, two tank varieties (Scorpion and, erm, whatever the bigger one was called), a jeep or two, plus inflatable and outboard motor powered dinghies. Frankly, there wasn't anywhere our hero couldn't go, except perhaps somewhere that required him to stand on his own two feet on an uneven surface such as a deep pile carpet or anywhere on grass. Basic instability problems could be avoided with the application of a child's fertile imagination (which would require that members of the Grenadier Guards always adopt a laissez-faire, "leaning against a wall", attitude to their sentry duties, or that the 21st Lancers conduct their parades lying down). In the '70s, more poseable joints were added to the basic model, including one around the neck that enabled Action to adopt a "sniper" pose with one or more rifles from his impressive armoury. Endless battles could be enacted with this almost limitless selection of plastic weaponry, in a war of attrition the '80s superpowers would've boggled at (particularly given the unusual prospect of witnessing a fight between '80s dolls, Talking Commando and Captain Zargon). Rumour has it that classic Dr Who adventure, The War Games, was written entirely whilst Patrick Troughton's young sons were pitching German paratroopers into combat with the Queen's Horse Guards. And although we know that nearly everybody owned one, the important thing is that everyone we knew wanted more. By virtue of the fact that the combined forces of our street could never amass a platoon of even Dad's Army strength, Action Man goes on our list.
A computer
Programmable proto-Playstations
Never forget there are entire generations for whom giant stores like Hamleys and Toys 'R' Us were unimaginable fantasies on a par with space cars, food pills, and robot butlers. The rear sections of the catalogues were a 2D approximation of some incredible future where thousands of toys might be gathered in one place. As we grew up, though, we started to explore some of the other pages (and yes, thanks, the adolescent jokes about the underwear section have already been done - in 1996, by Frank Skinner, so let's leave it there, eh?). Girls tended to graduate to jewellery and, for the poor are always with us, occasionally the clothes. As far as boys were concerned, however, it was usually the digital watches that were first to attract attention, followed shortly (as noted elsewhere on this list) by the posh "scientific" calculators. Which brings us neatly to the rise of the home computer, a market entirely created by Clive Sinclair, whose previous experience in the electronics industry was successfully marketing the first pocket calculator. By 1981, he'd sold several hundred thousand Sinclair computers that were nominally more sophisticated but, with the introduction of the Spectrum 16k personal computer a year later, he finally hit paydirt. Inspiring the first generation of amateur programmers, the Spectrum (and Chipite-style rival, the Commodore 64) became a glorified games machine, cracking open opportunities in the software, peripherals and specialist magazine industries and bringing popular arcade classics into the living room. Enthusiasts and early adopters suffered from ropey British engineering and after-sales service, but for those of us who bought from catalogues, the choice was astounding (just check out any of the million web sites devoted to the history of home computers); random evocative name roll-call for Googling purposes - Kempston, Matthew Smith, Ultimate, Microdrive, Ocean, Mutant Camels, Crash, Jetpac, RS232, Chuckie Egg, QL, Elite. Shared experience memory-joggers for lazy comedy slags; waiting half an hour for a cassette game to load up, only to have the computer crash at the last second; typing in transcribed lines of BASIC from the back of Your Sinclair/64, only to have the computer crash at the last second; beating a high-score only to accidentally yank out the joystick/expansion port/power cable and cause the computer to crash at the last second. The fiercely competitive American triumvirate of Apple/Microsoft/IBM killed off the inept British micro business, after which only dedicated "consoles" appeared in the catalogues. However, where these limited micros scored over your Megadrives and Nintendos is that they at least allowed the owner to learn something about computing, if only the layout of the QWERTY keyboard at the very least, which laid the foundations for understanding the workings of PC operating systems, interfaces and networks, without which, etc.
A bike
Two-wheeled transport of delight
Okay, so we're prepared to concede that pretty much everyone owned a bike as a child and, indeed, that plenty of them were likely to have been bought at a rate of a pound a week for fifty weeks from the subs lady who came round on Wednesdays. Judging by the number of Cream era dads who spent Christmas eve wrestling a flat pack box from the garage to the living room (and the rest of the night attempting to piece wheels, mudguards, duralia and brake-cables together into something resembling a Raleigh Chopper), actually owning your first bike was hardly the sumptuous fantasy of a generation of shoeless urchins and more an achievable, almost inevitable, Chrimbo day rite of passage. But this slips straight into the top slot for a number of reasons. Firstly, the sheer desirability and range of two-wheeled vehicles on offer (no-one ever bought a trike) made for covetous browsing of the bicycle pages in the catalogues and comparative studies of tube-grips, spoke type and numbers, five- or three-speed Sturmey Archer gear shifts, cantilever brakes, metallic or pearlised paints, stickers and accessories, baskets, ribbons, and (literally) bells and whistles. (Bizarrely, the kids' bike industry in the Cream era was virtually a closed shop; Raleigh manufactured the Budgie, Tomahawk, Striker, Chipper, Chopper, Boxer and Grifter, plus various junior racers with razor-blade saddles - so all that brand rivalry and envy kids wilfully engaged in was just a false war perpetuated by The Man. The likes of Elswick, Dawes and Falcon - the other independent British kids' bike makers - have since been absorbed by bigger companies or gone to the wall.) Secondly, the bike you owned would reflect your personality - if not at first, soon enough by means of customisation with reflectors, spokey-dokeys, mirrors and lights (chunky boxes of battery-powered plastic or sleek wheel-rim-driven dynamos), bottle-carriers and panniers - and be invested with great dedication and pride (except maybe when it came to cleaning the thing). Mainly, though, a bike would unlock a world of adventure beyond the end of your own street; going to your mates' houses, picking up comics from the corner shops, stickleback fishing, popping wheelies, giving backies, racing - it was all for the taking. What do kids have now? Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell? Shove it up your arse. Nothing beats the thrill of riding a bike without stabilisers for the first time (except maybe the thrill of perfecting the art of riding "none-handed" for the first time). For crying out loud, does anyone even bother with the cycling proficiency test anymore? Presumably the advent of the custom-designed all-terrain motocross bike in the early '80s put paid to the simple pleasures of owning bulky, rusty, aggressively-designed death-traps and turned the bike trade into a genuine, even respected, sporting industry. Children's telly filled to the brim with professional BMX bandits, clad in padded white sponsor-patched gear, sci-fi dirt masks and helmets, catching air and pulling rad moves in concrete tubes. E.T. and Elliot scraped the face of the moon on the silver screen with Magburners. Kids across the nation started bunny-hopping on knock-offs of the Diamondback Viper and Mongoose. In 1985, Raleigh introduced the Vektar (the bike of choice for Star Wars' stormtroopers) before being acquired by Derby International and branching out into mountain bikes, city bikes and something now referred to as a hybrid, whatever that is. These days, we'd rather walk - but for everyone who ever forgot the combination on their chain lock, or wondered what that little block in a puncture repair kit was for, or scraped their shins on metal-toothed pedals, or wrapped luminous masking tape around drop-handlebars, we're slotting the front-wheel of a Cream-era bike into the number one concrete block. We were right about that saddle, though.

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