Dig This: Twelve Crazy-Cool Toys from the ’70s
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Magna Doodle, the brainchild of a few engineers in 1974, is similar to Etch A Sketch, minus the need for knob precision to create a picture and the gratuitous shaking to clear it afterward. Instead, the magnetic drawing board and all the fun doodles it contains are erased easily with one quick slide of the bottom magnet.
What started out as a fun item in a Wisconsin mall in 1973 became a national sensation that, according to the company’s website, has spawned over 250 varieties. Who knew coloring plastic sheets and baking them into tiny plates would have such staying power?
If you’ve ever enjoyed playing video games in the comfort of your home, thank Atari. Its 1977 release of the Atari 2600 (arguably the predecessor of many of today’s fancy technological gadgets) introduced popular arcade games like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Pong to grateful video-game nerds across the land.
Holly Hobbie Dolls
In 1974, a toy company called Knickerbocker used the image of a sunbonneted girl on American Greeting cards to create rag dolls that quickly became all the rage among little girls of that era.
Pity those stuck with regular tricycles after Marx Toys released its beefed-up model in 1969. Even today, you can still hear a Big Wheel before you see it. The front wheel’s mighty tread announces, with every telltale crunch of sidewalk debris, that one tough kid’s coming through.
The trend of filling action figures with gel so that their limbs could stretch without breaking began with Stretch Armstrong in the mid-’70s. Other stretch toys followed, including various villains, monsters, and even a dog named Fetch Armstrong.
Milton Bradley brought this classic game to the market in the ’70s, but it’s said that the game was played under various other names for many years before that. In fact, one story suggests that Captain James Cook enjoyed it so much, the game was at one point called Captain’s Mistress.
Uno’s easy enough to follow—basically, get rid of all of your color-coded cards before anyone else—but the game itself is challenging and fun, which is why young and old folks alike have enjoyed playing it since 1972.
Pet rock mania lasted only a few months in 1975—but even that was perhaps a few months too long, considering it was a pet rock. It even came in a cardboard box with breathing holes and with an instruction manual. In true fad form, pet rocks now exist solely in the form of satirical imitations, like the USB Pet Rock pictured here.
Sit ’n Spin
No easy button pressing or switch flipping with this toy—if you want to have fun with it, you really have to work for it by spinning the wheel as hard and as fast as you can. And yes, falling dizzily off the base is part of the fun.
Evel Knievel Action Figures
After Evel Knievel rose (or jumped) to daredevil fame in the ’60s, Ideal Toy Company saw his potential for merchandizing and came out with a line of action figures and accessories in the early ’70s. Kids who worshipped him and his reckless stunts quickly scooped them up.
Star Wars Action Figures
Evel Knievel had a fan following, but it was no match for the frenzy that the Star Wars trilogy sparked when it started in 1977. Those movies and their many subsequent toys ushered in a space-themed direction for the toy industry during that decade.