the science of play


If you are not

Nintendo and try to release a console in 1983 within Japan, you are gonna have a bad time. Tomy Company Limited, whose name comes from a shortening of founder Kantaro Tomiyama's surname, is most known for toys and games — items like Zoids, Screwball Scramble, and Pop-up Pirate and a range of cute robot toys including Omnibot, Dingbot, and Mr Money.

Then there are the electronic games they made from the electromec­hanical Blip, Super Cup Football, and Atomic Arcade Pinball to the tabletop games Caveman, Scramble, and Puck Man. Let's also not forget the Tomytronic 3D games, including the games Shark Attack, Thundering Turbo


and Sky Attack. This is just the tip of the iceberg for the amount of products Tomy put to market.

1982 saw Tomy release the Tomy Pyuuta in Japan

(the Tomy/Grandstand Tutor). A microcompu­ter similar to the Texas Instrument­s TI-99/4A using a 16-bit Texas Instrument­s TMS9995 CPU at 3Mhz, when its contempora­ries like the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 were still using an 8-bit CPU. The rest of its specificat­ions though was decidedly on par with the others — a small 16KB RAM, a TMS9918 VDP outputting 256x192 pixel resolution, 16

colours (with only 2 colours per each 8 pixel row) and 32 monochrome 8x8 pixel sprites like on a Colecovisi­on, Sord M5 and MSX computers.

Sound was the same as on the TI99-4/A with three square wave channels and one noise channel. The keyboard was chicklet dead flesh rubber style like the ZX Spectrum, making typing on the off-white keys not a fun experience.

Priced at 59,800 YEN on release, the Tomy Pyuuta was not cheap at all. But with the rise in popularity of video games, and no one taking this toy manufactur­er's computer seriously, Tomy made the decision to repackage the unit into a smaller, cheaper, form factor to only play games, releasing it as the Tomy Pyuuta Jr. for 19,800 YEN in 1983, the same month as the even cheaper 14,800 YEN Nintendo Famicom.

The Pyuuta Jr used the same colour scheme of an off-white body, with a blue face panel — the same as its more serious brother. Styling is very 70s retro with sharp angles.

The cartridge slot is on top with a spring loaded off-white dust flap, and below that a reduced keyboard with an orange monitor button, color Select keys, 4 Cursor Keys, MODE, 1, 2, PALLET, and ENTER (enough to play the games for the system). Along the front edge

there is a single 9-pin D-Sub connector for both controller­s to connect to, and a power on/ off rocker switch to the right. On the back is a hard-wired power cable and a single RF connector.

The game controller­s are eight-way flat discs with two action buttons with the labels SL and SR above them. They are also set in similar 70s retro futuristic looking off-white angled body top half, with a more comfortabl­e blue bottom half that have rounded edges.

There were 26 games released on cartridge for the system, including Konami arcade conversion­s such as Frogger, Jungler, Loco-Motion, Pooyan, Scramble and Turpin (Turtles). As well as some licenses like Mickey Mouse Athletic Land and Tron. The boxes were usually adorned with wonderful, colourful, eye-catching artwork. But if none of those took your fancy, there was always the built in art package — but good luck creating anything meaningful with the flat disc controller­s.

1983 was the battlegrou­nd year for Japanese video game consoles. The SG-1000 by Sega, the PV-1000 by Casio, the Compact Vision TV Boy by Gakken, the My Vision by Nichibutsu, the Cassette Vision Jr by Epoch, and of course the Nintendo Family Computer were all released.

We all know who won that war, and it wasn't the toy manufactur­er Tomy.

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 ??  ?? Below: Quang is smiling, he owns a Tomy!
Below: Quang is smiling, he owns a Tomy!
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 ??  ?? Above: The 70s look angular console.
Above: The 70s look angular console.
 ??  ?? Below: The box sure does have a lot of writing on it!
Below: The box sure does have a lot of writing on it!

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