Friday, November 17, 2017

The Electronic Learning Machine

The Electronic Learning Machine from Coleco is an educational toy designed for kids aged 5-9 that was released in 1981. While the box calls it a computer, it's not quite one as there is no monitor, though it is designed to look like one and there is an 18-button keyboard. It requires four "C" batteries that power an internal motherboard to process the button presses, operate lights, and produce sounds via a speaker on the base of the toy. Users can interact with the keyboard to answer a variety of questions that appear on cards that slide in and out of the top of the device. Each card indicates which keyboard layout is required; there are keyboard overlays that change the function of the buttons to match the type of card being played.

Cards can be one of many subjects, including math, reading, spelling, music, and science. The cards are all 5 x 6.5 inches, made of plastic, double-sided, and have either red or blue headers. Holes are cut in every card that, along with the part that holds cards, informs the toy what card is active. As you can see in the photo below the part that holds the cards and sits on the back of the device can be detached; it plugs into a slot facing in either direction, with the heading being red on one side and blue on the other just like the cards.

Coleco packaged The Electronic Learning Machine with a set of cards and sold sets of 36 separately at a price of $10.45 each. I'm going to post a few more pictures next of the box, bottom of the toy, and documentation, and then below that there will be more as there is a reason I'm ending DC Comics week with this product. One of the box sides has a chunk missing which I'm thinking might have been where the UPC was; perhaps it was needed for a rebate of some kind.

Some sets of cards feature licensed characters, such as Mighty Mouse and those from DC Comics. I own one of the three sets of DC cards which results in 72 images due to them being double-sided. They scanned decently but sometimes you can see a little of the other side bleeding through. I used a black background rather than the scanner's default white which helped decrease the bleed through significantly; that's also why all of the card holes are black (corners are curved too so you'll see black there as well). There is a little fuzziness around the text on the headers, possibly due to the size I've currently got them at. I plan on lowering the resolution and adding all of them to the blog's Facebook page soon so that they can be more easily shared. I believe a lot of the artwork on the cards is original, as it is unlikely you'd find Clark Kent raking leaves without a rake or Green Lantern pointing at an empty bird cage anywhere else. I've got them sorted by character and then there are a few with multiple characters.

Listed in order of most cards to least cards per character:

Superman/Clark Kent

Wonder Woman




Captain Marvel

Green Arrow

Green Lantern






Lex Luthor

Multiple Characters

I'm a little surprised villains were included when there are so many other heroes available to choose from. Something else that stands out is that Superman is the only one that appears outside of his costume. Also, I see Robin driving the Batmobile just as in the jigsaw puzzle that I showed in the Batman video on Tuesday. I commented then that I didn't think Robin would be driving Batman around in the Batmobile and suggested he just slid over to brake as Batman leapt out of the car but perhaps I was incorrect. Robin even received more cards here than Batman!

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