40 years ago, this Star Trek toy invented the game of laser tag

It was PYEW-PYEW-pretty awesome to be a Trekkie in 1979.

1979 was a very good year to be a Star Trek fan. At long last, after an interminable ten years of waiting, Kirk, Spock and the rest of the Enterprise returned in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It was glorious to see William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy back in their familiar roles — even if they were wearing unflattering, powder-blue jumpsuits. 

Beyond the blockbuster movie (despite what critics thought, it was the fifth highest-grossing film of 1979), the return of Star Trek meant a swarm of new merchandise that overflowed off the shelves like Tribbles. After all, it was suddenly a post–Star Wars world. Taco Bell served up soda in Star Trek glasses. Kids skipped to school swinging Spock lunch boxes. There were belt buckles and books. Plus, a Starfleet-load of fresh toys arrived that offered a vast improvement on the goofy, nonsensical Star Trek toys of the 1960s.

The prior Star Trek toys released around The Original Series were true head-scratchers — and we're not just talking about the infamous and uncomfortable "Spock Helmet." Mego released nifty action figures in the Seventies that were a vast improvement. But Star Trek: The Motion Picture licensed loads of toys that actually looked like the props and ships seen onscreen. As it was the dawn of the '80s, technological advancements made for playthings that felt like they were from the future of the Federation.

No toy was cooler than the Star Trek Two Electronic Phaser Guns manufactured by South Bend Electronics, a division of Milton Bradley. The gray plastic zappers were the first toys to utilize infrared light and a corresponding sensor. The model phasers hit the market in 1979.

In other words, this was the very first game of laser tag.

It would take five more years until laser tag arenas opened up around America as a prototypical strip mall business of the Eighties. Photon in Dallas, Texas, would be the first to open its doors in March of 1984. Two years later, Worlds of Wonder released its Lazer Tag toy, a much-desired Christmas gift for any kid who grew up in the era.

But Trekkies had the tech first. Batteries not included.

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TCKirkham 58 months ago
OMG - I had these...and they were a BLAST! Mom got hem for me for Christmas the year they came out, cost her a whopping $50 (a lot at the time) and my friends and I had so much fun with them!
RobCertSDSCascap 58 months ago
Some more pix would have been nice.
I remember my Phaser. Cool sound effects and a bright light!
ELEANOR 59 months ago
More importantly, the Original Star Trek is also responsible for the invention of the cell phone. An inventor was frustrated because he wanted to call his wife from the beach. He happened to catch and episode of Star Trek and said to himself, "Why not?" And then he proceeded to invent the cell phone. No accident that the flip phone seemed to function and look like a communicator. I'm sure William Shatner must of had a flip phone. Do you suppose that he had to remember not to say "Beam me up Scottie" when he was using it?
djw1120 ELEANOR 59 months ago
Actually, he NEVER said "Beam me up, Scotty".
He would say: "Four (or five or however many people were in the landing party - but never more than six (unless you count TOS episode "City on the Edge of Forever") to beam up).
And then he would say "Energize". and you would get the special effect of the transporter sequence.
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