Monday, July 6, 2009

Television Spaceman (Alps / 1961 / Japan / 13 inches)

When I first became interested in vintage robots, one toy kept catching my eye: The Television Spaceman. With its purple-tinted visor, those weird, golden, bulging eyes, a myriad of flashing lights, and that fantastic TV in its chest, I could never figure out whether it was created by a drug addict, or just a run-of-the-mill lunatic. Regardless, whoever came up with the robot should get a medal (and maybe a month or two of free treatment) for even conceiving of such a fun and engaging toy, much less getting the company to actually produce the damn thing. 

This is one of my earliest pick-ups -- one of the first three, actually -- and set the bar high for what a robot should be able to do when you pop in a couple batteries and power it up. Besides walking, the Television Spaceman has a light-up, scrolling TV, spinning eyes, space sounds, and a color-wheel just underneath its face. It also makes a lot of noise, in case all the flashing and motion isn't enough to drive children over the edge.

The Television Spaceman underwent a few small tweaks over the years, starting in 1966. The most noticeable is Alps' switch from tin to plastic legs, feet, and battery door. They also replaced the antenna, going from a metal one shaped something like a cross to the "fry basket" style found on this example. On the plus side, the company increased the size of the robot's TV screen, which, as far as I'm concerned, outweighs any of the changes in material that might otherwise turn off some collectors. 

The Television Spaceman isn't a tough robot to find; the toy was popular enough that Alps made thousands of them during its production run. With so many floating around today, prices remain reasonable, making the robot an easy one for new collectors to add to their shelves. 


  1. If I may ask Doc, how do the eyes spin on this robot...mechanically, what causes them to spin?

  2. I've actually had an opportunity to peak inside one of these toys once, and I seem to remember it using a long, flexible shaft. Imagine a long, thin spring, coiled very tightly, allowing it to bend at a more-or-less right angle.

    This shaft runs up from the motor/gear box, hooks sideways, and connects to the eyes. As the motor/gears spin, they rotate the shaft. As the shaft rotates, the eyes spin.

    Does that answer your question? If not, feel free to pose it another way and I'll do my best to try answering it again.

  3. Nope, you answered it perfectly fine, thanks!

  4. My sister (who was in high school at the time) gave me one of these when I was three, that would be in 1969. I had been quite ill and in the hospital (I only learned a couple of years ago that I had menengitis!). It was one of my favourite toys. A couple of things got a little bent and I lost the antenna, which acted as the switch, but that was easily fixed by as short piece of wire coat hanger. I kept the robot and occasionally took it out to see if it still worked, and it did. However, it disappeared from my parents place in the late 80's or early very early 90's. I decided to get it out for my nephew, but I was unable to find it. My mom said that she hadn't touched it, and she knew how precious it was. The theory was that my dad had thrown (absent-mindedly) it out. Still, I have some good memories.


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