Long ago, in the distant annals of time when our nation once before sampled the perilous taste of economic doom, there was a toy that captured the simple imagination of a simpler people. Big Trak was a programable toy tank which featured:
6 wheels, centre wheels are driven by two motors to allow the changing of direction, a 16 command memory, a 23 button keypad and front mounted blue photon beam headlamps.
You could programme Big Trak to go off on all sorts of crazy journeys, turning left and right and periodically firing its photon beam headlamps. It is hard to convey how magical this thing was. I encountered the Big Trak as a hand-me down from my brothers, but it was testament to its sturdy construction that it survived that long, as its principal use involved it being setup and purposely programmed to steer itself to its own calamitous fall off the top of our stair case. We would spend literally hours thinking of different ways in which to direct the Big Trak to the same fate. We didn’t care about its 16 command memory; we had only one command. Drive. To. Certain. Death.
Big Trak also holds a special place in an apocryphal Christmas family tale. It is traditional for children to attempt to sneak down early on Christmas morning to see what Santa Claus had left. In our house these trips had begun to get earlier and earlier to the point where kids were attempting to sneak down before they had gone to bed. Our parents, fun-killing demons they were, put a stop to this, and ordered the kids to stay put until the morn. One Christmas Eve a few dare-devil children snuck down in the dead of night. Under cover of darkness they began to unwrap their presents. One lucky sod received the 6-wheeled programmable joy that was Big Trak and immediately began playing with it. Unfortunately, this night time revelry stirred the senses of our father, who came down stairs to inspect. Just about covering their giggles, the children skulked in the shadows as the menacing figure of a wild-haired, dressing gowned body wandered in the dark. Sadly, for all their stealth, they were about to be betrayed by their robotic tank friend. Like all tragic robots in history, Big Trak can only follow the commands of its human master, even if this means destroying them in the process. Thus, Big Trak set off on its preprogrammed mission, slowly winding its way out from under the kitchen table in an L-shape, meeting with its final destination, a soft bump into a slippered foot. The jig was up. Big Trak made its way back into its box, and a bunch of children made their way back to bed with a sore arse.
My sister noted this week that Big Trak is back, available from Argos. I can’t help but think that in this day of electronic farms and touch screen goo-gas, that Big Trak may not delight the current generation, but for us it was truly a thing of joy.