In 1979 there was only one thing on my mind for Christmas: A Big Trak.
While I realize a goodly number of you weren’t even a twinkle in your parents eyes at that time, I was 8-years-old, and I was obsessed. A Big Trak was going to be mine, oh yes it was. I really didn’t care what else I got that year, so long as there was a Big Trak under the Christmas tree, I was going to be happy.
Produced by the Milton Bradly company, the Big Trak was a six-wheeled, motorized alien looking tank. You would program it to go on missions, fire its “photon” beam, and, if you had the trailer they sold separately, you could have it haul things around the house. The Big Trak became the scourge oh household pets everywhere, and I was thrilled to find that I did indeed get one that year for Christmas.
… that was, until my father and uncle got a hold of it.
In 1979, electronics of any kind still held a fascination factor for just about anyone because consumer electronics were just coming into their own in affordable ways. So no matter what the electronic was, it fascinated all those around it, and the Big Trak was no exception.
The beauty of this toy was you could program it to do a number of different things: Wikipedia has a handy list of what the controls did on both the US and Great Britain (GB) version of the device:
- Forward/Backward: Move forward or backward in units of body length
- Left/Right: Turn left or right in units of roughly 1/60th of a full rotation
- HOLD: Pause in 1/10th of second time units (GB version; P: Pause)
- FIRE: Fire the light bulb “laser” (GB; Photon Symbol)
- CLR: Clear the program (GB; CM: Clear Memory)
- CLS: Clear Last Step (GB; CE; Clear last step)
- RPT: Repeat a number of steps (primitive loop) (GB; x2: Repeat key)
- TEST: Run short test program
- CK: Check last instruction (GB; Tick symbol)
- Out: Dump optional trailer accessory
- In: Reserved for future expansion (GB; missing. Disabled or not implemented on most if not all BigTraks)
Sure it was simple device, but you would think my dad and uncle were planning major operations as they would actually get out tape measures to figure out how far it would have to go before it turned right to enter the hallway. My mother had to finally ban them from it so that I could play with my Christmas gift … it was a sad day in the Aune household.
So, why do I bring this up? Apparently at the recent UK Toy Fair, it was announced that a company named Zeon will be re-releasing the white UK version (the US version was dark gray) in August of this year for £39.99 (approx. $62.38 USD). We spoke with Zeon, and their spokesperson confirmed that the company is in talks to release it in the USA, possibly through Amazon, but no deals have been finalized as of yet.
The new version will have the same keypad as the GB version, and all of the decals have been duplicated from the originals, so this toy should look exactly like the original. There are also plans for accessories later on, and while the trailer is not mentioned by name, I would assume it will be one of the first. Which, by the way, the announcement did use the plural form of “accessory”, so who knows what other goodies Zeon has planned for this.
Will this toy still hold up in a 21st century world where physical toys are disappearing with greater regularity in favor of video games and Internet past times? Who knows, but it’s going to have a huge nostalgia factor to it. I called my mother as soon as I heard the news of the new one being released, and her reply was, “Order two: one for you, one for your father.”
Will do, mom! I’m not repeating Christmas 1979!