What did “mobile apps” look like 35 years ago?

Today as I fiddled with my phone and checked Reddit, I walked by my very small collection of vintage Mattel Electronic games and thought to myself, “Those were the mobile apps from 35 years ago”.  I

Mattel Electronics handheld gameschuckled and thought a little more about it and there are some strong parallels.

Consider any one of the Mattel Electronic handheld games as a “mobile app”.  While these started coming out in 1977, these handheld games were small enough, at the time, that you could take it wherever you went and could whip it out to waste some time whenever you wanted to.  Sound familiar to your mobile phone?

While the Mattel Electronic handheld game is not exactly a platform where you can purchase and Mattel Electronics Baseballdownload apps, you could go to the nearest department store when you got tired of the “app” you had and you could pick up another one. If you really hated an “app”, you could try to return it to the store.

What’s that?  You wanted to try an app before you bought it?  No problem.  You needed to simply ask one of your friends who had “Baseball” and you could see if you liked it.   Want to just keep playing it for free?  Pray that he forgot about you borrowing it.

Now a days, you may lose your apps to a failed upgrade or a inopportune toilet dunk.  That would be akin to your mother cleaning out your closet and throwing out your favorite handheld games. 25 years later, it’s almost the same as the old days.

Kids now a days wouldn’t even pick up one of these Mattel electronic handheld toys.  They have a computer in their pocket (their mobile phone) that would rival anything on a desk top even a few years ago.  No is definitely a better time for gaming with mobile apps but it wasn’t so bad before either.  A few blinking diodes was sufficient.

Below are a few pics of the three vintage handheld games I do have in my collection.

Mattel Electronics Football

Mattel Electronics Football

Mattel Electronics Basketball

Mattel Electronics Basketball

Mattel Electronics Baseball

Mattel Electronics Baseball


And, of course, a final picture of the back of the units for those who may be curious.  They all had a 9 volt square battery in

Mattel Electronics handheld games - back

Mattel Electronics handheld games – back

them to power them.  I love the “If your game doesn’t work properly, try new batteries” label 🙂

Admittedly, this is a bit of a stretch for the sake of humor but vintage games like these are still entertaining even if you can’t see the sweat dripping off of the sports figure while playing.

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