At the risk of dating myself, I’ll tell you that I grew up in the 80s – in addition to those decades that were half crisp and half bright in color, depending on where you look and how much money you had for things like Memphis design. Technology seems to be advancing rapidly in almost every area of life as people in my decade demand convenience, diversity and style in everything from their toilet paper (remember the colors?) To their telephone. Although there was a lucky cost for the long distance at that time, we were encouraged to ‘reach out and touch someone’.
A healthy fear of bears
Looking back, it’s easy to see how all those advanced technologies and extra filters have been given to children I may be biased, but the 80s were a great time for toys and children’s entertainment in general. Not only were most of the toys well-made, even the ones that came in the quarter machine – many of them were technically amazing.
Take Teddy Roxpin, which debuted in 1985. Teddy was the world’s first animatronic children’s toy, a bear that could read stories aloud from special cassette tapes, removing his eyes and mouth with words. One track has audio and the other has three servos controlled in its mouth.
I remember looking at the commercials and imagining that Teddy was suddenly moving from the story to a Rockin ‘musical number in the showbiz pizza animatronic rock-affair explosion band (a Chuck E. Cheese contestant) during some annoying sleep. That kind of night I wanted to stay.
Although I went to the showbiz several times to play ski-ball and see the rock-fire exploding animals and their great set pieces, I never had a teddy raxpin. I remember one of them was torn to shreds and had to think that they were kind of scary, which scared me a little bit more towards the snag bear. When it comes down to it, Teddy’s price is too high – 69.99 for a bear alone and another $ 20 for a single cassette with a storybook. And that’s 198 1985 – according to my favorite inflation calculator, it’s কথা 250 in today’s sense for a talking bear and a bad story.
Which brings us to Casey Bearphone, an animatronic teddy bear telephone. Honestly, one of the reasons I bought the Bearifone was a kind of false nostalgia for Teddy. The main reason is that I wanted to own a kind of teleconcept unit, and it seemed the most fun to make a fuss about. A robot teddy bear that only makes speakerphones? Yes.
When you can’t stay there, stay bear
If there was one more thing that was known in the 80’s, it was the Lachki baby. My parents both worked, so for many years before and after school day-care facilities, I walked home from the bus stop and left myself every afternoon. Although my dad never went on business trips or anything else, he worked lots of double shifts and often came home late at night, long after I went to bed.
Many kids ’dads have traveled for business, and KC seems to have been made for Bearifone – just before bed the call comes from dad’s hotel room, so he can say good night and maybe read you a story.
Where Teddy tells a proprietary story in the gentle voice of some stranger, Casey Bearphone sounds like Dad, because that’s exactly what you want to hear – Dad’s voice. The difference is that theoretically, any clear audio of a human speech would animate the eyes and face of a Casey Bearphone. Weekly check-in with Grandma? Casey Bearphone became a sweet old woman. Conference call with Munich? KC Bearifone spricht Deutsch.
So why did Casey Bearphone exist? Probably for the entertainment of people, especially children. And most likely to capitalize on the insanity of the animatronic bear that Teddy Ruxpin started. But can you imagine that every caller’s voice is coming through the talking teddy bear? Talk about wild, and boot disarmament. If you are a nervous phone user, this idea is much better than taking pictures in collar underwear for your confidence.
Bear down for the teardown
At first, I thought I couldn’t go too far into this teardown, because I thought there was only one zipper that went behind Casey. But then I found a hidden zipper on the back of his head that allowed me to enter the goods. You can see how hard it is to tell what a wire is without entering the head.
Under the bear.
How many Sharpies fit this way in the battery box.
Looking for a way to get into the head? Hint: It has nothing to do with the zip tie.
Now that I’ve found that head zipper, I can get it anywhere. What you see here is how much I can pull the fur of his head, which is glued around the eyeballs.
Head shell with speaker.
Connect the head under the shell. Foot side: switch
On the right: motor and cap.
The zip tie around his neck runs through a cover on the collar of his fur suit and is used to close it and prevent the kids from seeing Casey’s inner horror. If I wanted to get to see the control board, I was probably going to snip it, so I sniped it.
At this point, I have decided whether to launch it. To my surprise, there were four D cells lying around our house, each with at least 1.5 V. What we don’t have is a landline, so I can’t test it that way, but the light comes on over the power switch, so it seems worth the effort to investigate further.
The end of the teddy bear picnic
Okay, it looks like I cut the 35-year-old zip tie for no reason and now I need to make a new thread through the casing. Oh well, it doesn’t have to be that hard; I’ve threaded the elastic part of my lamp through the fabric casings up to this point, so it will go very fast.
I thought I would have to undo each screw from the base of the neck to close the cover of the original box, but then I realized that the head post was slotted to the top of the body. Unfortunately, the head does not stay straight and backwards by itself. That’s probably a good thing.
“I saw what you did in my battery car. It’s time for revenge!
The panhead screw only gets off the battery cover. We need, of course, one of the countersinks.
But the bad part here – there are two screws at the bottom of the bogie that are very hard to find. I could probably go to them with a flex-head screwdriver. As I pulled on the back of the box and thought, I realized that I had no choice but to cut the keypad off Casey’s stomach or skin it completely. And I don’t want to go there.
Beer in mind, it’s not over
I still want to take input and do something great with it. I think it would be perfect to listen to a podcast on Hacked. So far, I haven’t had time to start hacking Casey Bearphone, but this project contains some interesting information, including a page on creating your own ‘transmographer unit’ if you can’t identify the commercial unit inside that gives voice signals. Manipulate Casey’s features.
And as far as Teddy Roxpin goes, I’ve got a semi-working unit on the way, so maybe we’ll have a real talking bear showdown these days. Is the world ready for this?