Monday, September 7, 2020

ROM the Space Knight (Parker Bros. 1979)

ROM Spaceknight
ROM Spaceknight
Here, on a bright new horizon, stands a figure of modern electronic technology. He is Rom – a creation with powers you can hardly imagine.

Through the magic of advanced circuitry, Rom’s electronic features and accessories create striking effects in sound and light. Sparked by these innovations, a child’s imagination will soar.

Parker Brothers welcomes you to an age of microelectronic lights, sounds and excitement.

The age of Rom has come!

ROM -- An Advanced Electronic Toy

ROM was the brainchild of inventor Bryan Lawrence "Bing" McCoy who, along with Scott Dankman and Richard C. Levy, patented an idea for an electronic action figure (then dubbed "COBOL" by McCoy, named after the programming language) and brought it to Parker Brothers, who bought the concept, redesigned the look of the toy and changed his name to "ROM." (Presumably after Read Only Memory, another computer term)

It would soon be painfully obvious that this was a new venture for the game publishing company. Due to the costs of the electronic components, the decision was made to produce the figure as cheaply as possible with the result of a final product with hardly any points of articulation, severely limiting any playablity the toy might of had. The novelty of the toy's electronic features just wouldn't be enough to make up for this and the toyline flopped! Parker Brothers abandoned the toy returning to what they did best -- manufacturing board games.

The action figure stands approximately 13-inches tall with articulation only at the shoulders, hips and knees, unlike any of the other action figures at the time (notably dolls from Mego Corporation). But, what ROM lacked in flexibility, was supposed to be made up for with his built-in electronics. He features two red LEDs for eyes, two additional red LEDs in his chest, and two more in his attached jet pack. All of which light up and pulse when he is powered on, all with the help of a 9-volt battery.

This light show is complemented by audio effects as well! Pressing the two buttons on his back in different combinations produces a variety of sounds, including breathing and the sounds of his various accessories.

ROM also comes with three accessories -- the Energy Analyzer, Translator, and the Neutralizer. All of which emit lights and sounds with the help of a wire connected to ROM's jet pack.

First there is ROM’s "Energy Analyzer", which "lights up" and "makes strange electronic sounds" so you can pretend ROM is detecting whether any beings he encounters are good or evil..

Secondly, there is ROM’s "Translator" which makes an "eerie" sound which grants ROM the ability to "communicate with any intelligent being in the universe."

Finally there is ROM’s weapon: the "Neutralizer." Featuring "flashes and zapping sounds", the Neutralizer banishes "evil creatures" to the "Shadow Zone."

Here is the instruction sheet for ROM:

Thanks to The Museum of Classic Chicago Television, here is the commercial for ROM the Space Knight:

To build interest in the toy, Parker Brothers licensed the rights to use the character to Marvel Comics, which in turn, created a comic book featuring ROM and providing a detailed back-story for the toy, including his origin and a rogues gallery of foes to do battle with him. The comic character would prove to be much more popular that the toy, lasting until 1986, over six years after the demise of the toyline!

Now lets take a closer look at ROM the Space Knight:

Time to hear from you! What did you think of today's adventure? Were you ever a ROM fan? What was your favorite toy from your childhood? Give us a shout out in the comments below.

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