Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Electric Robot (Marx / 1955 / U.S. / 14 inches)

During the 1950s, Japan nearly cornered the market on toy robots. However, the United States did produce a few doozies, including the wonderful Electric Robot.

There's something really magical about this old plastic toy, something that conjures up strong feelings of nostalgia even though I was born decades after it was sold. Maybe it's the simple, plastic construction -- in some ways, Electric Robot's much more primitive than his cousins from the Far East. It just feels like it dropped out of the past, you know?

The toy features a variety of actions, all of which are controlled individually by different knobs and buttons on its back. Not only does the toy roll forward and backward, and have light-up eyes, but it also can deliver Morse code (and there's a handy cheat sheet printed on the back of his head). Electric Robot's arms move up and down by turning the two knobs near his shoulders, and a switch at the back of his base determines whether he moves to the right or to the left. It's all so manual, so interactive -- it's hard not to have fun with the toy.

A knob on the back of the head controls the lights in his eyes; the two knobs on the shoulders move the arms; the button in the center of the robot's back activates the Morse code; the horizontal switch in the middle determines whether he moves left or right; the vertical switch underneath the waist turns the toy on and off. Take that, XBox!

The Morse code key.

There's also a small drawer in its chest which originally held small, plastic tools.

Electric Robot was also sold as Electric Robot and Son. This other version came with a small, plastic, robot child that could hang from the Electric Robot's claw. I never really liked the Son component -- it looks a little too much like a robot monkey wearing a loin cloth. I much prefer the Electric Robot on his own, running solo without a care or responsibility in the world.

The toy also comes in black and red -- more common than the silver version -- and there are two versions of the son as well (corresponding to the color of the main robot). It's not a tough toy to find -- Electric Robot pops up on eBay fairly often -- which means that everyone can have an opportunity to add this great toy to their shelves.


  1. "I much prefer the Electric Robot on his own, running solo without a care or responsibility in the "

    Ha ha!

    Love the Morse code key on him. I remember when learning Morse code was like learning a secret kid language. =)

  2. I re-read what I wrote, and now I'm a little nervous about what that might say about me. Then again, I do collect toys, so is anyone really that surprised?

  3. I was always kinda turned off by the "son" too. I didn't know ER came just by himself. I guess I'll have to look into that silver one.

  4. I always thought this toy was very creepy. But after reading your post I've come to appreciate it more. The morse code feature is beyond retro. To think people actually thought that in the future this technology would be used. I like this gold, grey and burgundy version better than the other version. Your photos really show off the beautiful styling of this toy.

  5. I agree, there's definitely something sort of creepy about that toothy smile and blank stare. But as you say, the toy grew on me the more I saw him in other people's collections. Definitely a toy I had to get used to, though.

    Morse Code: Yesterday's Internet!


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