2XL – Robot of the Future

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This is 2-XL, a futuristic robot from the 70s. I met him at the thrift store. Just look at those eyes, though hard plastic and robot-button red, they have a life-like emotive quality about them. Or maybe I’m going crazy. But among the unwanted Bratz dolls and generic RC cars, I could hear 2-XL’s eyes pleading, take me, take me home!

At home, I looked him up and down. I never heard of a 2-XL. I even laughed at him. This is what they thought futuristic robots would look like. How they always get the future so wrong. Where is my flying car? Where is my 3 course meal in a pill? Most importantly, where is that moving conveyor belt a-la Jetsons? I’m sick of walking everywhere.

As you can see, 2-XL has a large slot — a slot that could hold one thing — those bulky tapes from the past, 8-Tracks. And I believe I denigrated 2-XL by hastily attempting to play a Neil Diamond 8-Track in his tape player. I was so crass. I imagined myself having the ultimate one-up at hipster parties and dive bars. When people were talking about their vintage turntables while wearing their vintage tees, I’d say, oh yeah, well I have a robot that plays 8-tracks.

I had to do some research on this guy. What I found was the story of a beloved and innovative toy. Mego Corporation, a huge toy company for dolls and classic action figures in the 70s, also produced 2-XL. It was a revolutionary idea, combining toys and education; his name literally meant To Excel. 2-XL was like the original Teddy Ruxpin–he talked, told stories, and sang, all via special 8-track tapes. His tapes asked multiple choice questions depending on the subject/theme of the tape, and you pushed one of his corresponding YES/NO buttons, which would change the track of the tape. Crude, but a brilliant use of the technology available at the time.

2-XL’s tapes were created with care by the inventor, Dr. Michael Freeman, who did the voice of the robot himself. With the self-admitted awful singing and quippy personality, 2-XL was an original. Even more fascinating is that 2-XL was marketed not just to children, but to teenagers and adults as well. Teenagers could play their rock and roll on him. Adults could work out with 2-XL’s exercise tapes. Take a look at the commercial:

2-XL isn’t rare or worth much money yet. An in-the-box 2-XL can be found on eBay for as cheap as ten bucks. One guy I saw on eBay was selling 2-XL, each individual tape, and 2-XL’s AC Adapter, all separately. I can understand selling the tapes individually, but come on, it’s shitty to sell his freaking plug by itself. In the late 80s/90s, an updated 2-XL was released, newly-outfitted with a cassette player by Tiger Electronics. Tiger is a toy company that brings back memories for me.

If you’re my age, you may also recall another educational robot, Alphie. Produced by Playskool, Alphie I was a direct knock-off of 2-XL, but 2-XL informs me that he had the better looks. Alphie had an internal memory, not requiring tapes, and was marketed as a computer. Alphie II came out in the 80s, and this is the one that I had. You’ll see how he worked in the commericial. Wait for the end, where the kid goes “I got it right.” That was the “and I helped” moment.

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2 responses to “2XL – Robot of the Future

  1. You should submit that first photo to the “Faces in Places” blog. :-)

  2. Just found this site while looking for images of the 70’s version of 2XL. Not worth much money…uh, stay away from the auction sites unless you want sticker shock. People are collecting retro (prior to 1980) games and toys are hot sellers, even globally.

    No idea if this will show up but take a look at this eye-opener on Ebay for 2XL – http://goo.gl/C4AsA

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