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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Back in the day: Failure to communicate

When my first grandson was born, my daughter couldn't wait to buy him some of the reissued classic Fisher-Price toys she had enjoyed playing with as a child. I confess that I was excited too, because the line even includes some toys I remember having when I was a kid in the 1950s.
I bought him one of Corn Popper push toys for his first birthday, and it has been a big success with him. The Lil' Snoopy dog fared somewhat less well. We got it for him when he was too young to understand the concept of pulling it behind him, so he carried it dangling by the string, looking more strangled than loved.

Corn Popper push toy by Fisher-Price
Lil' Snoopy pull toy by Fisher-Price

But the biggest loser of all has been the Chatter Telephone, about which Fisher-Price said:
Introduced in 1962 as the "Talk Back Phone," the Chatter Telephone is an entertaining pull-along toy that has captured hearts for generations. Chatter Telephone makes children smile with eyes that roll up and down, a mouth that chatters and a dial that rings. Brightly colored and perfect for little hands, Chatter Telephone is a classic pull toy that children have adored over the ages. The toy was designed with a rotary dial to teach children how to dial a phone. This friendly phone is being re-introduced for a whole new generation of children to enjoy!
This toy simply doesn't translate, at least not with my grandson. The problem, I'm sure, is that it bears no resemblance whatsoever to phones today, so he doesn't have the slightest idea what to do with it. My daughter and SIL only have cell phones. They haven't had a landline phone for years, and even if they had, it wouldn't have looked anything like the Chatter Phone.
He normally has excellent spatial sense for his age, but I noticed the other day that he couldn't figure how to put the receiver in the cradle, which is understandable, since he doesn't see adults use phones like that on a daily basis. When I tried to show him, he looked puzzled...and then mildly annoyed. When I tried to teach him how to use the rotary dial and then say, "Hi, Momma" into the mouthpiece, his eyes completely glazed over. You could almost hear him thinking, "What is she talking about? I know what a phone looks like...and this isn't it."
As much as I love vintage, some things are left in technology's dust, and eventually they fade from our the typing eraser I posted about not long ago. I think this may someday be one of them.

Chatter Telephone by Fisher-Price


  1. An quote from - a very interesting speech by Kevin Kelly about 'The Future of the Digital Media Landscape':

    "…and a story of a family that have an iPad, a toddler, and they left a photograph on a counter, a coffee table, and the toddle came up and was trying to do this to the photograph, and was saying it was broken because it wasn't getting bigger just as a photograph should…"

  2. @Ridou Ridou: I hadn't thought about that, but that's true. They'll think they just need to use two fingers to pinch/zoom an image. I hear there are even devices that enlarge or reduce image size by tilting one direction or the other. Suddenly I'm feeling very antiquated. :)

  3. Got one of them for a niece recently - you're right, it doesn't seem like a phone and doesn't have enough buttons and sounds for a toy for her!

  4. Not only is it a landline phone, but a rotary one as well. I barely remember those.
    When he's a little older he'll make the connection between his toy and the Chatter Telephone in Toy Story 3.

  5. I used the telephone and the corn popper when I was little - both were so fun!
    I've recently launched my own blog devoted to mid-century modern style. Please have a look!

  6. The corn popper is pure fun!

    I agree that some retro tech are really programmed for extinction. WHat comes to mind when I say that is the VHS rewinder. Lol