2-XL (2-XL Robot, 2XL Robot, 2-XL Toy), is an educational toy robot that was marketed from 1978-1981 by the Mego Toy Corporation. The toy was then re-introduced by Tiger Electronics in the 1990s. 2XL was the first "smart-toy" in that it exhibited rudimentary intelligence, memory, game play, and responsiveness. It won many prestigious awards. It was infused with a "personality" that kept kids concentrating and challenged as they played and interacted with the robot. This made learning fun through use of jokes, funny sayings, and verbal reinforcements. During its time in the marketplace, and even to this day, 2XL is heralded as a very important step in the development of toys and in particular, educational toys. Two-decades after 2-XL was discontinued for manufacture, it is still remembered by millions of fans. 2-XL was considered one of the top 10 toys ever developed by Playthings Magazine because it could educate.
2-XL was considered the first smart-toy and exhibited rudimentary intelligence, memory, game play, and responsiveness. Dubbed the "Toy with a Personality," 2-XL could respond verbally to the user depending upon which "input or answer" buttons were chosen. 2XL during its run was one of the most popular toys in terms of market revenue and was dubbed the Talking Robot with a mind of its own. The toy's voice was done by inventor Michael Freeman. It was a great way to make learning cool and fun." 2-XL was first introduced in 1978 by the Mego Toy company, a US based corporation. It was brought back in 1992 by Tiger Electronics a division of the Mattel Corporation..
Mego Corporation, a publicly traded US based toy company based in New York City was introduced the 2-XL toy to the public in 1978 and became a success. The toy was sold in different countries and and the tapes were translated in seven foreign languages. Games were also developed for the toy. In 1981, the toy's popularity waned, and it was later discontinued.
Mego Corporation, that was otherwise known for its production of dolls and classic action figures in the 70s was seen as an innovator combining toys and education. The toy's name literally meant "To Excel". The toy was voice capable; was able to tell stories and sing using its special 8-track tapes. The toy's tapes asked multiple choice questions (MCQs) based type of tape chosen according to its subject. This was operated by pushing a YES/NO button that changed the tracking of the tape. It was crude, but reportedly innovative use of the technology that was present in that era.
In 1992, 2-XL was re-introduced by Tiger Electronics, a toy company based in Vernon Hills, Illinois. The toy was changed into a more modern design, and new programmed toy cartridges were also introduced. The voice for this version was done by Freeman as well, and all programs were translated into many different languages.
Scholastic Magazine ("The Toy Business Authority since 1903") in its cover story of September 1978 considered the 2-XL robot as one of the most important toys ever developed, and included it in a class of "toys with impact" along with the Teddy Bear, Barbie Doll, Raggedy Ann, Mickey Mouse among others. The robot was a popular educational toy whose success anticipated the dominant influence of technology in education today. Dubbed the "Toy with a Personality," 2-XL could respond verbally to the user depending upon which "input or answer" buttons were chosen. Part of the reason for this is the connection the toy made between education and fun. "2-XL was a glorious display of plastic robotics."
In addition to its general popularity 2XL was unprecedented in terms of market revenue. "The 2XL was hot, in demand, and everyone wanted one." "It was a great way to make learning cool and fun." 2-XL was introduced in 1978. The toy was invented and licensed for manufacture by Michael J. Freeman, inventor, Ph.D. and was patented. Freeman used a synthesizer to make the voice a high-pitched robot-like sound, yet his voice and the personality he created for the toy came through this process. 2-XL was interactive playing various tracks from a magnetic audio tape depending on the user's actions. It also had complex applications where the various tracks were not only selected to create interactivity but the use of staggering the tracks and psdo memory were also utilized.
2-XL's personality was very popular and kids loved the back-and-forth banter. For example, If a child got an answer wrong 2-XL might utter something like: "perhaps your brain went on strike! You are Wrong." Or, "Nice try but (whispering) you are wrong, but go ahead, I will be a nice little toy robot and give you a second chance now." "Even though you needed two chances you finally got the answer right, elephant is the correct answer"'. "But do not get too excited, you have now earned yourself a more difficult question. Hold on to your hat, here it comes" If the child was right, 2-XL might say: "Although I have the looks you have the brains. You must be a genius. Good work." Or, "it is amazing that big brain of yours fits into the head of a child. Nice answer, football is correct."
The original version, created by Mego Corporation, was made of brown plastic with white plastic found on the anterior face of the robot. It had two red light bulbs for the eyes. These bulbs also flashed at moments while 8-track cartridge tape programs played. It had four red buttons on its stomach with designated options for answers to questions asked by the toy, such as "Question," "A or Yes Or True," "B or More Info," and "C or No or False. A knob is also found on the lower right portion of the toy which controlled its volume and power. At the bottom was a large slot for the 8-track cartridge tapes.
This particular version was essentially a regular 8-track player, but by utilizing unique, clever, and patented mathematical decision tree programming methods, over 20 interactive modes of operation were achieved. It seemed to most people like a computer which had enough information and interactive questions to entertain and educate a child (or adult) up to two hours. Subjects included sports quiz, Guinness Book of World Records, the metric system, general information and jokes.
The mold and look got a minor change in 1980. The eye lights became red and responded to the voice. The flashing lights also became brighter, and the speaker in the back of the unit was changed from a hexagon shape to a more traditional round. The plastic was glossier looking.
Tiger Electronics re-introduced 2-XL in 1992. Instead of using 8-track cartridge tapes, this version used cassette tapes that were twice the length of the tapes in the previous version and had a better sound quality. Freeman again recorded the toy's voice in a professional sound studio. In addition to eyes that would light up the toy now sported a circle for a mouth that could light up as the machine talked. The toy could now run on batteries and had a headphone jack. Instead of the buttons simply switching tracks on the 8-track tape as in the old version, the cassette version took advantage of the fact that a cassette has a total of four tracks - one for the left and right channel on each side. The tape head in the player could play any of the four parallel tracks, based on which button was pressed. Playing a 2-XL tape in a standard tape player would result in different audio on the left and right channels, and if the reverse side was played, one would hear the other two tracks played in reverse. Using all four tracks simultaneously was unique to 2-XL and provided the basis for the interactive give and take.
As with the previous version, this version could play any standard tape of similar tape, but the user needed to first push the "Question" button (or the "2/A/No" button would work as well, playing the correct channel). Pressing three or four buttons would play one of the channels on the reverse side of the tape backwards.
Newly released tapes were branded with comic book and cartoon characters, including Spider-Man, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, X-Men and Batman. 2-XL games would allow the user to go on an adventure with various superheroes, deciding their fate by pushing one of the buttons. The second version was on the market from 1992 through 1996, and about 45 tapes were released in total. The toy was sold internationally, including in Japan, Germany, Hungary, Italy, France, England, Canada, and others. The tapes were translated into many foreign languages, but were not recorded by Freeman.
The toy's success was also the basis for a game show called Pick Your Brain produced by Marc Summers Productions and Summit Media Group. The 2-XL robot in the show served as the assistant of Marc Summers. 2-XL was also a spokesrobot for basketball player Michael Jordan and his charitable foundation in 1992 and 1993 and appeared in a nunmver of PSA (public service announcements) with Jordan.
World of 2-XL was sold with each toy robot. The remainder programs were each sold separately:
One of the last tapes released for the Mego Corporation version of 2XL was "Trilex", a complete board game designed to be played against 2XL. The tape came with a board which fitted over the front of the 2XL unit itself, with the board in front of the tape slot. The game board consisted of an inverted pyramid shape, 4 squares wide at the top to 1 square at the bottom, with each row colored in a different color (Blue, Yellow, Green, and Tan), and 4 slots through which pieces (which 2XL called "checkers") could be dropped into the pyramid. The slots aligned with 2XL's 4 buttons, with the intention that dropping the checker would also press the appropriate track button on 2XL. The objective of the game was to create either a line or a triangle of three checkers of a selected color. The game and tape design are interesting because they enabled the 4-track tape player to provide a passable simulation of a game-playing AI.
A number of secondary products were licensed under the 2-XL (2XL) name including: laptop computer bags, earphones, lunch boxes and more.
During its time 2-XL in either version won hundreds of awards including Disney's Family Fun Magazine award for best toy of 1992, and Right Start Magazine which selected 2-XL as Europe's best toy in the 3 - 5 year age category for 1993, and one of the ten best toys ever developed by Playthings Magazine. The Tiger 2-XL was also the winner of the 1992 Walt Disney Co. Best Learning Toy for 1992.