Blinky things: Handheld LED games
By James Grahame
I had a paper route back in the early 1980s. When I wasn't slogging through the rain at 6am, I was cheerfully counting my hard-earned pennies and wondering what to buy. Regretfully, I didn't choose Microsoft stock.
Instead, I invested in an assortment of LED handheld games. For those who've never seen one, imagine a game of hockey or soccer played by little glowing red or green rectangular dots. Your "man" flickers, and your teammates glows brighter than the other guys. Sounds pathetic, doesn't it?
In the 'hood, the most desirable games were made by Mattel, probably because of their reasonably compact size and studly titles like Football, Hockey, and Soccer. We quickly tired of dots, and companies like Coleco answered our despair with funky new VFD (vacuum fluorescent) displays that brought little glowing color icons to games such as Alien Attack (shown here). They looked beautiful, but must have been insanely expensive to manufacture. As with most cool things, they were eventually crushed by an onslaught of drab monochrome LCD games from makers like Nintendo and Bandai. You can still buy used classics online, but expect to get fleeced.