Pocketeers - Handheld Games From The Mechanical Age
By James Grahame
The first eight Pocketeers hit the UK in 1975. I was an impressionable 7-year-old when they appeared in local shops and it didn't take long for them to overrun my school, accompanied by their tell-tale rattle.
Predictably, the Pocketeers (sold in the USA as Tomy Pocket Games) were compact enough to slip into a pocket. Most were games of skill that required manipulating tiny ball bearings, but several incorporated thumbwheel-driven magnets hidden under the playfield that controlled little cars or horses.
Over the course of the next few years, British toymaker Palitoy produced a total of 46 Pocketeer titles under license from Tomy. New titles were introduced yearly and it seemed as if the craze would never end. Sadly, as with all toy crazes, things came to a grinding halt in the early eighties when a new breed of microprocessor-controlled handhelds captured the attention of kids worldwide.
My son is now a precocious 7-year-old and his Nintendo DS accompanies him everywhere. He grew up in a world infused with mp3 players, computers, video games and DVDs, yet I think he'd see these clever little mechanical toys as something really special...