The Toys: Tomy's Tutor Typer, The Tomy Tutor Play Computer, and the Pyuuta-kun

Here is the toy that gave the Tutor the name, and the toy that succeeded it. And what the heck, Tomy Japan got in on the action too.

Last modify 1 January 2007.

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The Toy Tutors

Where did the Tutor name come from? The original Tutor was the Tomy's Tutor Typer, a typerwriter toy for young children that Tomy produced in 1977. After that came the real Tomy Tutor computer, of course, but that itself was "cloned" as the Tomy Tutor Play Computer in 1984 with a similar mechanism to the Typer (we'll see that in a minute). Tomy made tie-in variants of the Play Computer, including a UK version featuring Thomas the train.

[Thumbnail of both toys and their boxes.]

Both units and their respective boxes. Note how the Tomy Tutor Play Computer has a "title screen" reminiscent of the Tutor's (something like a combination of the Pyuuta and Tutor, or the Pyuuta Jr's).

Click the thumbnail for a larger view (54K).

[Thumbnail of back box copy.]

Box copy. Note the "programs" on the Play Computer box. We'll talk about this in a second. Click the thumbnail for a larger view (123K).

[Thumbnail of Tutor Typer toy.]

The Typer operates very simply -- a scroll shows a single line of invariant text through a window on the "paper feed." The orange keys are in three groups; as the child bangs on a group, one of the three levers strikes the "ribbon" (a sticker) and the carriage moves. The space bar also moves the carriage, but rings a bell instead. At the end of the "line," the bell rings; the child sends the carriage back and the scroll advances to the next line. At the end of the scroll, the child can rewind it with the yellow knob on the right of the carriage. The scroll has 36 lines total, with simple pictures and words in the vein of a portable interactive picture book.

Although fun for younger kids, I question the advertised 3-8 age range: even considering this age of video games and high technology, I don't see this as having been much interest to kids over six then or now. On the other hand, being purely mechanical, it'll never eat batteries.

Click the thumbnail for a larger view (53K).

[Thumbnail of Tutor toy.]

The Tomy Tutor Play Computer continues this same idea, but adds some rather interesting new features. Instead of a single line, you have a multiple line screen, although it still has a scroll backing it. Each screen's worth of "data" is considered a "program" and there are twelve in all, not counting the title screen.

To advance, press the red RETURN key and the screen jumps up a line, obscured by black "chips." There are two groups of orange keys, both removing chips one by one, until the line is completely revealed and you can press RETURN again for the next line. At the end, you rewind with the knob as well.

The space bar has a unique function. The Play Computer screen has the sawtooth texturing seen on animated stickers and postcards. When you press the space bar and let it go, a mechanism "scrolls" the textured surface, giving the appearance of animation (the background of the Tutor title descends; the plane spins its propeller; the clown juggles, etc.). Although simple, the effect is rather convincing on some of the screens.

This is actually a fun little toy to play with, even for adults, and while twelve "programs" won't hold a grown-up attention span too long, it probably does meet its age range (3-7). There was certainly no shortage of people banging on the keys at VCF where I had it as a prop, and like the Typer, it will never need a battery.

Click the thumbnail for a larger view (44K).

Pyuuta-kun Purikon

Tomy's Japan-only Pyuuta-kun was considerably more complex. I don't know a great deal about this device, but near as I can tell from photographs, it is a direct-to-TV game unit with a simple console and a chip payout slot (!). This unit seems to be currently or at least recently manufactured, as it is not extremely difficult to find in Japan -- I'm just trying to find a price I like for one, since I have the shipping to worry about too :( The technology and design seems likely late 1990s. These images are from a Japanese auction site, which I modified and retouched for display purposes.

(Btw, the -kun suffix, for those who don't know Japanese, is more or less essentially a term of endearment for a boy or young male. One could conceivably translate the title as "Pyuuta Jr" even.)

[Pyuuta-kun box face.]

The box, and the auction, advertised it as a "preschool computer" (purikon). It plays only three games: a slot-machine-like title -- I guess we're getting young Hiroshi-kun on the way way to Gamblers Anonymous early, okaa-san -- plus a version of paper-rock-scissors against a Blackbeard-like pirate and what appears to be some sort of match sequence challenge. All of them pay out in chips.

The slot machine and the Blackbeard pirate both apparently originated on one of the original Pyuuta game tapes (Blackbeard Crisis One-Hair Game and Slot Machine).

[Pyuuta-kun.]

This is all there is to it, three buttons plus controls for game and reset(?), and naturally the chips. More about this when I actually get one.

Pyuuta-kun Coin-op

Later on the Pyuuta-kun was apparently adapted to a stand-alone coin-operated arcade system. This version of the Pyuuta-kun has graphically improved versions of the original games plus a roulette wheel, although it replaces Blackbeard's rochambeau with a simpler Blackbeard-themed guess-where-the-sword-will-point game (interestingly, it's the same game as the back side of that same Pyuuta cassette). There is a page on it in Japanese with screenshots and photographs. Sure doesn't sound like a kid's system anymore!


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