Atari 2600 among new Toy Hall of Famers
Published Thursday, November 8, 2007 8:42PM EST
ROCHESTER, N.Y. - To celebrate the toys inducted Thursday in the National Toy Hall of Fame, hug a red-haired doll, grab a single-button joystick -- or go fly a kite.
Raggedy Andy, the Atari 2600 video game system and the kite were chosen for entry into the Strong National Museum of Play's all-star lineup, joining the bicycle, Lionel model trains, Mr. Potato Head and 33 other classic playthings.
"They are outstanding toys that have engaged multiple generations over time, inspiring them to create, learn, discover," said the Rochester museum's president, G. Rollie Adams.
In 1977, Atari converted a television set, for good or bad, into a toy. While it wasn't the first home video game system, it popularized the fledging electronic games genre with its bright colors, catchy music and pop-in cartridge versions of arcade favorites such as Pac-Man, Frogger and Space Invaders.
"It may look primitive compared to the advanced video game systems available today, but it helped make these possible," said the museum's curator, Patricia Hogan.
The game system is the most recently invented member of the hall. The kite, believed to have originated in China almost 3,000 years ago, is among the oldest.
Kites remain a universal favorite, with some cultures in Asia and the Middle East turning kite contests into a national pastime.
While its uses have extended to warfare, aerial photography, meteorology and experiments in electricity, the kite endures for its capacity to exercise a handler's agility, endurance and knowledge of scientific principles, Hogan said.
At its heart, however, "a kite needs only a bit of breeze, a wide open field and a kid who wants to play," she said. "And nothing sends the human spirit soaring so well as a colorful kite aloft."
The kindly rag doll character Raggedy Andy follows his sister, Raggedy Ann, into the hall.
"It really seemed like the two of them should be one unit together," said Christopher Bensch, the museum's vice president for collections.
Raggedy Ann, inducted in 2002, was created in 1918 in a children's book series by illustrator and author Johnny Gruelle, and her brother was introduced two years later. They come to life when humans aren't looking and embark on stirring adventures, and have been featured through the years in stories, poems, cartoons and greeting cards.
Strong acquired the five-year-old National Toy Hall of Fame from A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village in Salem, Ore., in 2002. The toys enshrined so far range from Barbie to Jack-in-the-Box, Legos to Lincoln Logs, Slinky to Play-Doh and Crayola crayons to marbles.