Here’s a list of the many neat things I’ve liked from the past few years, most of which aren’t well-known so I want to show them off here. These can be gift suggestions or something you might enjoy,
1. Retro-Bit Super Retro-Cade (left). This plug-and-play console is my daily driver for older retro games. It has 100+ games built-in, two controllers, HDMI output, and an SD Card slot. I love it because it’s easy to use, easy to add games to, and is just a solid all-round machine. I’ve wrestled with a few Raspberry Pi consoles in the past, and the Super Retro-Cade was a walk in the park to use. Highly recommended.
2. LDK Game (right). This was the first of many Chinese handhelds that have come out in the past 18 months, and it’s been another daily driver for me when I hit the road. It’s easy to pocket, and adding games over USB is a breeze. My one complaint: only about 3 hours of battery life. There are many other handhelds with analog sticks and wider form factors, but I mostly play 8-bit and 16-bit games so this is perfect for me. If I had to get a system with analog controls, it would be an Anbernic handheld (the 350M, 350P, or 351).
3. Tiny Arcade DIY Kit (left). I don’t own this but it is very cool device! You put the whole thing together and load it up with freeware games (like Tiny Tetris and Tiny Invaders). A perfect project for kids or adults who like to tinker with stuff. They are about the size of those Super Impulse Tiny Arcade toys which have been popular for a few years now.
4. Haynes Retro Arcade Kit (right). Another kit that you build yourself, the end result is a PONG game with a screen made up of LED bulbs. Requires soldering of wires, so it’s not exactly for kids. If you would prefer something that is already built, Arcade1UP is releasing a Mini PONG Jr in the near future too.
Continue reading ➞ Some Things I Like
For years I thought it would be fun to embed a smart assistant like Siri or Alexa into a plush toy like Teddy Ruxpin so a child can converse endlessly with a character they enjoy. However I was not comfortable with all the electronics that would be inside the plush toy, or the upkeep that would be needed (like charging the battery or cleaning the plush toy).
I feel it would be best if all of the electronics were completely separated from the plush toy, and placed in a walkie-talkie that the child can interact with. The plush toy would be holding a walkie-talkie too, but it would have no electronics, it is just a prop. The battery, speaker, microphone — everything needed to engage with a smart assistant is in the main walkie-talkie.
As for the smart assistant, I’m not sure if Siri or Alexa can be given the helium treatment to sound like Elmo, or if the character’s voice actor would need to record new dialogue, but either way the voice is a very important feature for this toy, it is the main selling point after all.
Ideally a child can have entire conversations with Elmo, play games, or even be quizzed for an educational aspect. The sky’s the limit with smart assistants, although this one would need parental controls obviously.
In 2006 a new miniature scale of model trains were introduced, the T gauge. I believe we can go even smaller! This is a complete train set that is the size of a book, featuring a motorized train that has variable speed and the ability to switch tracks on demand.
The locomotive is propelled by a magnet attached to an on-rails motor in the base. This system is a lot like those mechanical PONG tables which debuted a few years ago. The nose of the train has the metal needed to be pulled by the magnet below.
The rails system is something you’d find in a 3D printer, image scanner, or even an Etch-A-Sketch. It would guide the tiny train along its route that is stored in an onboard computer. It would be nice to swap out the track for different layouts (these could be printed on cardboard).
This desk toy would feature dedicated controls for the track switches, and a big dial for the speed. When this device is powered off, the train is automatically diverted to a side rail where it parks. The design above is sparse but the layout could be populated with buildings, trees, vehicles, and so forth. Lights and sounds are also possible.
There are drawbacks! Only one functioning train is possible, the train length would need to be short, and the terrain would need to be flat (you can add tunnels, but no bridges over rivers for example). And lastly if the motor is loud this concept wouldn’t be worthwhile, this thing needs to be quiet!
In the meantime you can buy these neat tiny trains but they feature basic oval tracks.
Mini arcade cabinets are all the rage these days, even SEGA is getting in on the act! My hope is that a company like Basic Fun or My Arcade will issue a Last Starfighter-themed mini cabinet. Or even better, Arcade 1UP releases a bartop cabinet.
While there are fan-made video games of what was featured in the film, I think the twin flight sticks may make things difficult to execute. I would settle for a Galaga or Missile Command re-skin, or a generic shmup will do. As long as the iconic attract mode from the film is present in some form.
Even a Hallmark keepsake ornament (like this) would be neat. One can dream.
I’ve looked into building a bartop cabinet of this recently (I made the above mockup for that purpose), but I’ve hit a wall: all my email inquiries for custom side panels and vinyl prints have gone unanswered! Probably due to the recent worldwide hullabaloo.
Tamagotchis allowed people to care for virtual pets, and I thought Baby Yoda would be ideal for such a toy. Now you can look after the little green spud, or frequently endanger him just like the TV show does.
Continue reading ➞ Baby Yoda Tamagotchi
This is a homage to the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine, a toy that’s been around for over 40 years. I’m not a fan of Snow Cones, but Ice Cream? All day every day.
This is a papercraft project where you can make a small gift box or greeting card. I recommend card stock paper, both are designed for regular 8.5″ x 11″ paper. Find the template for the gift box here, and the greeting card here. The greeting card can be used as a certificate too.
As you know Baby Yoda toys are nowhere to be found this holiday season, which reminds me of what happened when the original Star Wars film came out in 1977. During the holidays of that year, toy company Kenner issued Early Bird Gift Certificates (seen here on the left), because the toys wouldn’t be ready until the spring of 1978. This stop-gap measure was a huge success, and is fondly remembered by toy collectors to this day.
So I made this gift box/greeting card for fans who find themselves in a similar predicament here in 2019. I hope you enjoy! Happy Holidays.
Note: I will probably delete this in a few months when Baby Yoda toys are everywhere, much like Baby Groot was in the summer of 2014. The look of this design matches a recent 40th anniversary reissue, not the original (sorry).