The Toys: Tomy's Tutor Typer, The Tomy Tutor Play Computer, and the Pyuuta-kun (ぴゅう太くん)

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 23 August 2020.

Toy Tomy Tutors | Pyuuta-kun Purikon | Pyuuta-kun Coin-op

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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 the history of this device, but it's a direct-to-TV game unit with a simple console and a chip payout slot (!) from the early 1990s. (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.) I got this unit cheap from a Yahoo! Japan auction, but it turns out it was cheap because it was defective (read on).

[Thumbnail of Pyuuta-kun box.]

The box and machine advertise it as a "preschool computer" (purikon). It plays only three games: a slot machine -- I guess we're getting young Hiroshi-kun on the way to Gamblers Anonymous early, okaa-san -- plus a version of paper-rock-scissors against a Blackbeard-like pirate and a whack-a-mole game with three crazy cats. They all pay out in plastic chips that serve as coins. The slot machine and the Blackbeard pirate game are both updated versions from the original Pyuuta game tapes (Blackbeard Crisis One-Hair Game and Slot Machine), but the whack-a-cat is original.

Click the thumbnail for a larger view (78K), or look at the other sides of (88K) the (78K) box (77K).

[Thumbnail of Pyuuta-kun box contents.]

In the box are a video cable (missing in mine), a bag of plastic chips, the manual and the machine itself. The built-in games are played entirely with the three button controls. The coin acceptor on top acts as the start button; the long button on the left selects the game. The only other control is the power switch next to it.

Click the thumbnail for a larger view (61K), or look at a a closeup of the label (55K).

[A Pyuuta-kun coin.]

I'm rich! I'm rich! I'm stinking filthy rich! And a preschooler could choke on one of these too, so I can sue Tomy and be even richer!

[Thumbnail of Pyuuta-kun unit rear.]

The rear of the unit, with the chip holder, battery compartment and AV phono jacks. Click the thumbnail for a larger view (28K). The backplate reads "TOMY ©1993 TOMY MADE IN JAPAN."

[Thumbnail of Pyuuta-kun unit opened up.]

The inside of the machine is actually largely empty space. Other than a small logic board, the only other components are the payout actuator and the leaf switch which triggers when a coin is inserted. Click the thumbnail for a larger view (55K).

[Thumbnail of Pyuuta-kun main ICs.]

The logic board is fairly simple and is dominated by a monstrous 64-pin GAL chip in a DIP package. This chip is manufactured by Fujitsu (the little F logo) and reads "KIDS COMPUTER 213M K01" with a date code of 9321, which is probably 21st week, 1993. Next to it is what appears to be a PAL marked WR5625309A "KID1" with a date code of 9317. This chip is manufactured by Winbond (the W-globe logo). Click the thumbnail for a larger view (40K).

The board is otherwise devoid of ICs except for a single 28-pin chip on the underside of the board, not visible here, which reads "KIDS COMPUTER M00" with a date code of 9325. This is most likely the ROM. The rest is analogue components; a single 14.31818MHz crystal is the sole clock source, which is undoubtedly divided down by 4 to yield the standard NTSC dot clock of 3.58MHz.

The GAL probably contains almost all of the hardware of interest, including the RAM and CPU, and possibly the video controller. I don't know why the PAL wasn't consolidated into it other than space but the WR5625309A is clearly a custom chip (or it wouldn't be marked "KID1"); it may handle the audio. The Pyuuta-kun's architecture is mere speculation on my part, but Fujitsu was a second source for both the Intel 8086 and 8088, and it's absolutely plausible by 1993 that these would have been old enough and cheap enough to appear in a toy. Credence to this is added by the fact that the original IBM PC, which ran an 8088 at 4.77MHz, did so with a 14.31818MHz crystal as well (in this case, divided by 3).

[Let's play!]

Let's play! I have my hard-earned plastic chip coins ready! The following screen grabs were taken directly from the composite output.

[Title screen.]

Title screen. The overscan visible in these grabs would not have been visible on a TV of the era. Likewise, it uses NTSC artifact colours; a TV of sufficiently high resolution would just see lines instead of solid shades, some of which you can see in the phantom colours induced by the shrunken single pixel rendition of Blackbeard in the screenshot. It generates eight colours (black, white, cyan, purple, red, gold, green and blue) on what looks like a 640x480 framebuffer, though with the colour limitations the effective resolution is around 320x240.

Audio output is surprisingly good for a relatively cheap device. There is a simple tone generator that plays short melodies, but most of the audio is actually short digitized samples (naturally in Japanese).

The text says geemu o erande ne ("pick a game, OK?"). Pressing the select button cycles through the three games available. Insert a coin to actually start the game.

[Title screen.]

The Blackbeard game is basically rochambeau (i.e., rock-paper-scissors). Your move is selected by the three buttons. I didn't push one fast enough, so I lost.

[Title screen.]

I won. However, I mentioned the machine is defective: when you succeed, besides stabbing Blackbeard in some unmentionable bodypart (!), you win chips. No chips appeared and the machine seized up at this point, presumably because the actuator to dispense winnings didn't trigger. If you get all three knives into Blackbeard he jumps out of the barrel as shown on the title screen, no doubt to apply for work disability, but you have to win three times to do that and I could only ever win once.

[Title screen.]

So, the slot machine. This is probably the machine's original concept. Once you insert the coin, the reels start cycling; press the buttons as you would in Vegas to halt the reel (by exploding a bomb, which would get you escorted out of Vegas).

[Title screen.]

Of course, if you actually win anything, this unit doesn't pay out and freezes here too. Actually, that's very realistic. I think my last Vegas trip worked out the same way. Maybe this does teach kids a useful lesson.

[Title screen.]

Finally, whack-a-cat. Randos appear out of each box, some of which are cats apparently trying to steal your hard-earned polycarbonate lucre. You must fill each of the cyan bars by striking the felonious felines before you start getting a payout. You aren't penalized for not hitting the cats, but you don't get points either.

[Title screen.]

The three buttons trigger the hammer on the left, centre or right boxes. As you hit more, the boxes cycle faster. Yay, I'm getting money! Oh wait! I'm not!

So, anyway, that's pretty much all there is to it. I subtly feel my money was wasted on this device, which is also fairly similar to my last Vegas trip.

Pyuuta-kun Coin-op

Later on the Pyuuta-kun was apparently adapted to a stand-alone coin-operated arcade redemption game. This Pyuuta-kun has graphically enhanced but surprisingly bowdlerized versions of the games in the purikon.

Since the page on the Pyuuta Palace that used to have pictures has gone to the great Wayback Machine in the sky, I have reproduced them from my local copy, though I don't have them at any higher resolution. I also have an image which I believe was from a Japanese auction; hope they don't mind.

[Thumbnail of Coin-op P-Kun cabinet.]

The coin-op was developed and built by Sunwise under license from Tomy. The hardware is the same as their Power Kick redemption game (1994), though I'm not sure which one came first. The controls are exactly the same as the purikon except for the absence of the select button (and, of course, the power switch is hidden).

Click the thumbnail for a larger view (29K).

[Coin-op P-Kun cabinet and Power Kick cabinet.]

Both machines (the Power Kick is on the left in this image) use Toaplan version 2 hardware with a 16MHz Motorola 68000 CPU, an Oki MSM6295 DAC and Toaplan's GP9001 VDP at 320x240 resolution. As you can see, their form factors are identical.

[Title screen.]

Title screen.

[Game select screen.]

Game selection screen. Instead of the select button, you just press one of the three game buttons for the slot machine, knife game or treasure chest game.

[Slot machine.]

The slot machine pretty much plays as before, but instead of inserting and hopefully receiving worthless plastic chips, you insert valuable Japanese yen and hopefully get paper tickets.

[Blackbeard knife game.]

Blackbeard's rochambeau has been turned into a rather poor game of skill where you launch knives at Blackbeard's barrel using the three buttons to aim. You have three chances to hit him, after which he will have you arrested for assault with a deadly weapon and you will spend the rest of your life like Carlos Ghosn in the byzantine Japanese justice system except without the possibility of escape to Lebanon. See, this is why these games are real learning opportunities.

[Treasure chest game.]

The treasure chest game is even more simplified. While the kleptomaniac kitties do appear, you have to merely figure out which one they're in before they move elsewhere. You have three chances here too.

[Bonus roulette game.]

But, not content to pay you in worthless scrip tickets, if you nail Blackbeard or the cats, a roulette wheel appears. You get the number of tickets you spin for, down to and including zero. Sumimasen, tonikaku makemashita!

I can't imagine this machine was very popular, and I've yet to see one myself.

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