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Author Archives: James Grahame

Rear View Mirror: The Classics of Christmas Past

Every other week, James Grahame, from RetroThing will delight us with some highlights of gadgets of yore. They might be old, but they’re still delicious. And by the way, James just published a book on this stuff, so check it out.[-Ed.]

My wife always asks for practical gifts at Christmastime – a toaster, or perhaps socks. I, on the other hand, lean heavily toward goofy tech toys. I’m secretly hoping she got me an indoor helicopter or Atari Flashback 2.0 game console this year. In that spirit, I’ve dedicated this edition of Rear View Mirror to a handful of geeky toys that caused excitement under the tree (no, not that kind…) in decades past.

Meccano (1907): Inventor Frank Hornby patented his metal nut & bolt assembly kits and started marketing Meccano in 1907. His toy construction sets became extremely popular and additional factories were opened in Germany and France. Ownership of the company changed hands a few times over the decades – it was even owned by cereal maker General Mills for a few short years in the early 1980s. These days, Meccano is part of the Japanese Nikko group. And, almost 100 years after their humble beginning in Liverpool, they still manufacture metal construction sets, along with modernized plastic versions.

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Feature Column – Rear View Mirror


I’m pleased to introduce a brand new feature column, here at OhGizmo. Every other week, James Grahame, from RetroThing will delight us with some highlights of gadgets of yore. They might be old, but they’re still delicious. And while you’re at it, check out his site. -Ed.

There are many clever old devices hidden away in attics and garages – forgotten movie cameras lie on dusty shelves beside obsolete computers and clever mechanical toys, all crying out to be rediscovered and brought back to life. That’s what Rear View Mirror is all about – getting the word out about classic gadgets. I’ll do my best to drop be every couple of weeks to highlight the neatest, coolest and weirdest stuff from Retro Thing.

Sinclair ZX81
Let’s start by checking out a nifty “new” 20 year-old computer kit. There was a crazy competition in the early 1980s to produce the cheapest computer possible. The hands-down winner was Sinclair, who managed to crack the $100 barrier with a kit version of their incredibly low-end Sinclair ZX81…

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