Playskool Rockin' Robot - The Grinning Cassette Recorder
If there's a theme we encounter time and time again here on Retro Thing, it's the irrational emotional bond people form with retro tech... but this 80's (or 90's? This particular one is labeled 1991) tape recorder makes me a little uneasy. Is it just me, or is it almost like this kiddie cassette player is looking and grinning at us?
There have been lots of tape recorders (fewer these days, I suppose) made expressly for children. Usually these were just chunkier versions of regular adult tape recorders with giant colorful buttons. Playskool took kid-friendly design that extra step to create a funny faced recorder that my adult friends seem to take a shine to, even today.
As a budding junior audio engineer, I would have killed for a tape recorder with features like built-in AM/FM radio, and a hardwired mic for recording my own tapes as well as barking out my demands over the PA system. It's in this public address role that we saw the Rockin' Robot make an appearance in the first two Toy Story movies. Our lanky lead, Woody, used Mr. Mike (the recorder's stage name) to make speeches to the other characters.
Mr. Mike was even issued in non tape-recorder mini version as a Toy Story tie-in later in the 90's. The hard-to-find toy includes a voice-changer to turn you into any of several robots, which is very cool... but doesn't really explain the high prices either version of the toy seems to command on Ebay. I've seen this analog relic go for over a hundred dollars - which may be just enough to break my irrational emotional bond with this grimacing tape deck.