|Type||Educational toy robot|
|Inventor||Michael J. Freeman|
2-XL (2-XL Robot, 2XL Robot, 2-XL Toy), is an educational toy robot that was marketed in the late 1970s and early 1980s by the Mego Toy Corporation. The toy was then upgraded and re-introduced by Tiger Electronics in the 1990s. 2XL was the first "smart-toy" in that it exhibited rudimentary intelligence, memory, game play, and responsiveness. It was infused with a "personality" that kept kids concentrating and challenged as they played and interacted with the robot. 2-XL was the first toy that actively attempted to make learning fun through the use of jokes, funny sayings, and verbal reinforcements. During its time in the marketplace, and even to this day, 2XL is heralded as a very important step in the development of toys and in particular, educational toys. Two-decades after 2-XL was discontinued for manufacture, it is still remembered by millions of fans. In fact, searching 2XL Robot and 2-XL (with the dash inserted) Robot on the Internet, retrieves combined hits of close to than one-million.
Scholastic Magazine ("The Toy Business Authority since 1903") in its cover story of September 1978 considered the 2-XL robot as one of the most important toys ever developed, and included it in a class of "toys with impact" along with the Teddy Bear, Barbie Doll, Raggedy Ann, Mickey Mouse among others. The robot was a popular educational toy whose success anticipated the dominant influence of technology in education today. Dubbed the "Toy with a Personality," 2-XL could respond verbally to the user depending upon which "input or answer" buttons were chosen. Part of the reason for this is the connection the toy made between education and fun. "2-XL was a glorious display of plastic robotics." 
In addition to its general popularity 2XL was unprecedented in terms of market revenue. "The 2XL was hot, in demand, and everyone wanted one." "It was a great way to make learning cool and fun."  2-XL was introduced in 1978. The toy was invented and licensed for manufacture by Michael J. Freeman, inventor, Ph.D. and was patented. The voice for 2-XL was done by Freeman. He used a synthesizer to make the voice a high-pitched robot-like sound, yet his voice and the personality he created for the toy came through this process. 2-XL was interactive playing various tracks from a magnetic audio tape depending on the user's actions. It also had complex applications where the various tracks were not only selected to create interactivity but the use of staggering the tracks and psdo memory were also utilized.
2-XL was released in two different time periods. The 1978 release was produced by Mego Corporation, and used 8-track tapes. It was brought back in 1992 by Tiger Electronics in a version that upgraded to cassette tapes from the defunct 8-track cartridges. During its time 2-XL in either version won hundreds of awards including Disney's Family Fun Magazine award for best toy of 1992, and Right Start Magazine which selected 2-XL as Europe's best toy in the 3 - 5 year age category for 1993.
2-XL's personality was very popular and kids loved the back-and-forth banter. For example, If a child got an answer wrong 2-XL might utter something like: "perhaps your brain went on strike! You are Wrong." Or, "Nice try but (whispering) you are wrong, but go ahead, I will be a nice little toy robot and give you a second chance now." "Even though you needed two chances you finally got the answer right, elephant is the correct answer"'. "But do not get too excited, you have now earned yourself a more difficult question. Hold on to your hat, here it comes" If the child was right, 2-XL might say: "Although I have the looks you have the brains. You must be a genius. Good work." Or, "it is amazing that big brain of yours fits into the head of a child. Nice answer, football is correct."
History and development
Mego Corporation, a toy company based in New York City and headed by Martin Abrams, eventually took a chance with Freeman's invention. In 1978, the toy was introduced to the public and became a success. The toy was sold in different countries and was voiced in seven languages, including English. A lot of games were also developed for the toy. In 1981, the toy's popularity waned, and it was later discontinued.
In 1992, 2-XL was re-introduced by Tiger Electronics, a toy company based in Vernon Hills, Illinois. The toy was changed into a much modern design, and toy cartridges were also re-introduced. The voice for this version was done by Freeman as well, and all programs were translated into many different languages. The toy's success was also the basis for a game show called Pick Your Brain produced by Marc Summers Productions and Summit Media Group. The 2-XL robot in the show served as the assistant of Marc Summers. 2-XL was also a spokesrobot for basketball player Michael Jordan and his charitable foundation in 1992 and 1993.
Mego Corporation version
The original version, created by Mego Corporation, was made of brown plastic with white plastic found on the anterior face of the robot. It had two red light bulbs for the eyes. These bulbs also flashed at moments while 8-track cartridge tape programs played. It had four red buttons on its stomach with designated options for answers to questions asked by the toy, such as "Question," "A or Yes Or True," "B or More Info," and "C or No or False. A knob is also found on the lower right portion of the toy which controlled its volume and power. At the bottom was a large slot for the 8-track cartridge tapes.
This particular version was essentially a regular 8-track player, but by utilizing unique, clever, and patented mathematical decision tree programming methods, over 20 interactive modes of operation were achieved. It seemed to most people like a computer which had enough information and interactive questions to entertain and educate a child (or adult) up to two hours. Subjects included sports quiz, Guinness Book of World Records, the metric system, general information and jokes.
The mold and look got a minor change in 1980. The eye lights became red and responded to the voice. The flashing lights also became brighter, and the speaker in the back of the unit was changed from a hexagon shape to a more traditional round. The plastic was glossier looking.
Tiger Electronics version
Tiger Electronics re-introduced 2-XL in 1992. Instead of using 8-track cartridge tapes, this version used cassette tapes that were twice the length of the tapes in the previous version and had a better sound quality. Freeman again recorded the toy's voice in a professional sound studio. In addition to eyes that would light up the toy now sported a circle for a mouth that could light up as the machine talked. The toy could now run on batteries and had a headphone jack. Instead of the buttons simply switching tracks on the 8-track tape as in the old version, the cassette version took advantage of the fact that a cassette has a total of four tracks - one for the left and right channel on each side. The tape head in the player could play any of the four parallel tracks, based on which button was pressed. Playing a 2-XL tape in a standard tape player would result in different audio on the left and right channels, and if the reverse side was played, one would hear the other two tracks played in reverse. Using all four tracks simultaneously was unique to 2-XL and provided the basis for the interactive give and take.
As with the previous version, this version could play any standard tape of similar tape, but the user needed to first push the "Question" button (or the "2/A/No" button would work as well, playing the correct channel). Pressing three or four buttons would play one of the channels on the reverse side of the tape backwards.
Newly released tapes were branded with comic book and cartoon characters, including Spider-Man, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, X-Men and Batman. 2-XL games would allow the user to go on an adventure with various superheroes, deciding their fate by pushing one of the buttons. The second version was on the market from 1992 through 1996, and about 45 tapes were released in total. The toy was sold internationally, including in Japan, Germany, Hungary, Italy, France, England, Canada, and others. The tapes were translated into many foreign languages, but were not recorded by Freeman.
List of 2-XL tapes manufactured by Tiger Electronics between 1992 and 1995
World of 2-XL was sold with each toy robot. The remainder programs were each sold separately:
- Sportsworld (1992)
- Fun and Games (1992)
- World of Animals (1992)
- World of Science (1992)
- Monsters, Myths, & Dinosaurs (1992)
- World of Animals (1992)
- Trivia Time (1992)
- Amazing World's Records (1992)
- Fascinating Facts (1992)
- Storymaker (1992)
- Fascinating Facts (1992)
- Storymaker (1992)
- African Safari (1993)
- Jurassic Facts (1993)
- Batman: Carnival of Crime (1993)
- Treasure Chest of Facts and Fun (1993)
- Voyage to Outer Space (1993)
- Batman: The Sizzling Scheme (1993)
- Music Maker (1993)
- Oceans of Fun (1993)
- Planet Earth (1993)
- Pet Parade (1993)
- Counting (1994) - Scholastic Series
- Food Facts and You (1994)
- Fun With Words (1994) - Scholastic Series
- Incredible Sports Feats (1994)
- Are You Afraid of the Dark - Nickelodeon (1994)
- Geography & You (1994)
- Power Rangers (1994)
- All-Time Top Topics (1994)
- Careers & You (1994)
- Nature & You (1994)
- Ripley's Believe It Or Not!: The Strange & True! (1994)
- Safety First (1994)
- Say Hello to Famous Folks (1994)
- Spider-Man: For King and Country (1994)
- Stars and Planets Game (1994)
- Star Trek- The Next Generation: Blinded by the Light (1994)
- Superman- The Man of Steel: Mayhem in Metropolis (1994)
- Superman- The Man of Steel: A New Hero In Town (1994)
- Surprise Package (1994)
- X-Men: Deadly Games (1994)
- X-Men: Ghosts That Haunt Us (1994)
- Robotstronomy (1994)
- Robottrivia (1994)
- Tales From The Cryptkeeper: If Wishes Were Hornets (1994)
One of the last tapes released for the Mego Corporation version of 2XL was "Trilex", a complete board game designed to be played against 2XL. The tape came with a board which fitted over the front of the 2XL unit itself, with the board in front of the tape slot. The game board consisted of an inverted pyramid shape, 4 squares wide at the top to 1 square at the bottom, with each row colored in a different color (Blue, Yellow, Green, and Tan), and 4 slots through which pieces (which 2XL called "checkers") could be dropped into the pyramid. The slots aligned with 2XL's 4 buttons, with the intention that dropping the checker would also press the appropriate track button on 2XL. The objective of the game was to create either a line or a triangle of three checkers of a selected color. The game and tape design are interesting because they enabled the 4-track tape player to provide a passable simulation of a game-playing AI.
A number of secondary products were licensed under the 2-XL (2XL) name including: laptop computer bags;, earphones, lunch boxes and more.
- Dr. Michael J. Freeman
- Mego Corporation
- Tiger Electronics
- Talk 'n Play, another toy created by Dr. Freeman
- "75 Years of Toys" Playthings Magazine, September 2008, Volume 9, Cover page Story. Progressive Business Media. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
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- "Make-your-own cable heading to California". Times-Post News Service (Toledo, Ohio). Toledo Blade. March 21, 1995. p. 17. Retrieved December 26, 2013.
- "US Patent 4078316 A: Real Time Conversational Toy". IFI CLAIMS Patent Services. Google Patents. March 14, 1978. Retrieved December 7, 2013.
- 2-XL Tapes. Mego Corporation.
- "2-XL Electronic Game Console and Tape Player". The Strong. Retrieved December 6, 2013.
- Mannes, George (September 1, 2001). "Almost Famous Interactive television company ACTV has been the next big thing in the entertainment field for 18 years. Here's how the startup has managed to keep the dream alive. Sort of.". Fortune Small Business. CNN. Retrieved December 6, 2013.
- Kaminski, Joseph (May 22, 2008). "Retro Tech: Mego's 2-XL". CNET. Retrieved December 6, 2013.
- "You have selected B: Tiger 2-XL Type 3". 2XL Robot. Retrieved December 7, 2013.
- Turner, Peter (November 1979). "New toys with minds of their own". Omni 2 (2): 53.
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