Few people have heard of it, yet many consider John Blankenbaker's KENBAK-1 to be the first commercial personal computer.

Koss introduced these headphones over 40 years ago, and they remain affordable favorites to this day.

Retro Shanghai: A Trio Of Bizarre Transformers

Robos-pkg-HLIN2Transformers have been back for a number of years thanks to a couple of overblown feature films, and a relaunch of the accompanying toyline. I wasn't the right age to play with Transformers the first time around, but I had a passing interest in the cartoon and the core concept. Some of those toys are amazingly & pleasingly complex, even (or maybe especially) for an adult. I have a couple around my office, mostly amusing models that convert into truly stupid non-robot forms. I've got a pinball machine, a one-armed bandit, even a deadly cash register.

Walking around Shanghai's open market, I got the idea that transforming robot toys never truly went away. Despite the Transformers reboot, there were still plenty of converting robots that were truly dopey. I saw one that converted from a panda to a bad-ass looking battle robot... with the head of panda (I know, I know... I should have bought it).
Robos-in-plasitc-HLINThen there was this trio of robots. It looked like they'd been hanging in the shop for ages. As robots, they look formidable enough (except for the one that has a surprised face for a crotch). I pulled them out of the package. The toys are made of such a fragile plastic, that an afternoon's place will reduce these robos to deadly shards... (much like the old Dapol Doctor Who figures). After you follow the microscopically printed directions to convert the robots, you're left with... well, I don't know what you're left with.

Okay the green one is some kind of robo frog who can hold accessory tadpoles in his special tadpole compartment. I'm taking on faith that these gray plastic squiggles are tadpoles, and not sperm. Admittedly this guy's transformation is pretty much a cheat since you basically fold the robot a few times, and then plug on the frog body. It's sort of like you have a battle robot that likes to curl up inside a frog-shaped cozy.Robo-frog-HLIN

Yellow stripey converts into a giant bumble bee while you stare transfixed at his second crotch-face. That might not sound especially scary, but just remember how you acted the last time you had a bumble bee after you. Now enlarge that by a thousand, and imagine that bee as a diesel burnin' robot (or mutant pollen spores... I don't really know). Pretty clear threat, I'd say, especially if you're allergic to bee stings.Robo-bumble-bee

Finally, you've got a robot that converts into... I don't know... a battle-ready roll-on deodorant? Ignoring for the second time the crotch-located face, what in the heck non-robot are we looking at here? To clarify this point to Transformers designers... Non-robot mode is a disguise, or some kind of vehicle (or an outscaled gun, but that's a different story).Robo-rollonPerhaps these robots are part of a different psychological approach against the enemy. Befuddle the bad guys, then transform into a robot and throw your tadpoles at them.

The back of the package shows that I missed models that transform into a shark (fair enough), and a grumpy public garbage can (I need a lie down). Do any of our Chinese speaking readers have any insight into these robots I brought home with me?  Since these robots are half animal, should they have been quaranteed for six months at the border? Shark-+-garbage


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