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#1
I found an interesting piece of Yokoi/Nintendo history
Posted on: 6/11 0:09
VB Gamer
Joined 2007/4/14
Canada
27 Posts
Long Time User (10 Years)
I’m in Japan on vacation at the moment, and I stumbled across something pretty special that I wanted to share with you all.

As a lot of you probably already know, Gunpei Yokoi, the designer of the Virtual Boy and the Game Boy, had a long career at Nintendo before he started getting involved with video games. In the 1960s, he designed a bunch of non-video-game toys for Nintendo, and those products were responsible for pulling the company out of a financial tailspin. The success of Yokoi’s early toy designs are what transformed Nintendo into a toy manufacturer—and, eventually, into a video game manufacturer.

According to every history of Nintendo I’ve ever read, the very first toy that Yokoi designed for the company was something called the Ultra Hand, an extendable grabber arm that was wildly successful when it was first released in Japan at some point in the mid-1960s. I had never seen one for sale—until yesterday, that is, at a flea market in Shinagawa.

This is what I got for 2,000 yen.

The box is pretty beat up. The corners are damaged and it has an overall dirty appearance, as though it was sitting in a basement for decades. Still, you’ve gotta love that box art, which greatly exaggerates the amount of fun to be had with this thing. Imagine being a kid, ripping through some wrapping paper and seeing this:

http://i.imgur.com/uX9Wqsc.jpg

Nintendo hadn’t yet settled on its current logo:

http://i.imgur.com/rUzTjEz.jpg

The instruction manual has a more realistic take on the product’s appearance and capabilities:

http://i.imgur.com/KdYq0p2.jpg

And here’s the Ultra Hand. The one I got is in used, but functional, condition. The plastic objects on top are balls with cylindrical stands. You’re supposed to use the Ultra Hand to grab the balls from afar:

http://i.imgur.com/gxUMI7O.jpg

It works like a scissor lift. When you move the handles inward, the arm extends. When you move the handles outward, the arm retracts:

http://i.imgur.com/nBOWZ5q.jpg

The genius thing about the toy is the pinchers, which have been designed not to reopen once they close around something. So you can grab a ball from a distance and then use the arm to bring it back to you. The way to get the pinchers to open is by tugging on the red string, which disengages a spring-loaded gear on the top of pinchers and causes them to release their grip. It’s a classic Yokoi bit of ingenuity:

http://i.imgur.com/XiqcwrC.jpg

There’s supposed to be a weighted medallion that keeps the string taut during use. My Ultra Hand was missing the medallion, so I substituted a five yen coin:

http://i.imgur.com/Xdj6xDC.jpg
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#2
Re: I found an interesting piece of Yokoi/Nintendo history
Posted on: 6/11 4:47
VUE(xpert)
Joined 2011/7/3
USA
412 Posts
CoderContributorLong Time User (6 Years) App Coder40+ Game Ratings
That's interesting, Ive seen that design before. It seems like everyone and their brother have made something simular. I'm sure Nintendo was first.
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#3
Re: I found an interesting piece of Yokoi/Nintendo history
Posted on: 6/11 7:43
PVB Elite
Joined 2003/7/26
USA
1394 Posts
PVBCC EntryCoderContributorSpecial AchievementTop10 PosterHOTY09 EntryLong Time User (14 Years) App Coder20+ Game RatingsPVBCC 2013 Entry
Nice find! I found a picture of the actual medallion:

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-3zq ... _dot_com_ultrahand_12.JPG

It would probably be kinda pricey, but you could get it 3D-printed (in metal!) from a place like Shapeways (assuming you had a 3D model of it).

Can you estimate its diameter and thickness from the photo and your actual unit?
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#4
Re: I found an interesting piece of Yokoi/Nintendo history
Posted on: 6/11 9:07
VB Gamer
Joined 2007/4/14
Canada
27 Posts
Long Time User (10 Years)
I probably could estimate the size of the medallion, but I'm not sure it would be worth the price. To me, it's pretty amazing that this thing is as complete as it already is.

Nice new profile pic, by the way!
Edited by litephiter on 2017/6/11 9:18
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#5
Re: I found an interesting piece of Yokoi/Nintendo history
Posted on: 6/11 15:55
PVB Elite
Joined 2003/7/26
USA
1394 Posts
PVBCC EntryCoderContributorSpecial AchievementTop10 PosterHOTY09 EntryLong Time User (14 Years) App Coder20+ Game RatingsPVBCC 2013 Entry
Quote:

litephiter wrote:
I probably could estimate the size of the medallion, but I'm not sure it would be worth the price. To me, it's pretty amazing that this thing is as complete as it already is.


You're probably right. However, if you have access to a regular 3D printer, you could print two halves of a hollow one in plastic, then stick a lead or steel weight inside to make it heavy enough. It might be small enough I could print it on my printer (no heated bed (yet) so larger items warp pretty badly).

Or, you could make a silicone mold from a printed part, then cast it directly in lead (and paint it) or lead-free pewter. Still more than you probably want to spend, though.

Quote:
Nice new profile pic, by the way!


Thanks! I couldn't have done it without your (nice, in-focus) photo. It's more impressive at full resolution (I'm lookin' at you, KR155E )
Edited by RunnerPack on 2017/6/11 16:14
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#6
Re: I found an interesting piece of Yokoi/Nintendo history
Posted on: 6/11 22:13
VB Gamer
Joined 2013/7/5
Canada
18 Posts
Long Time User (4 Years)
Wow, that's a great deal! I paid much more for mine years ago. In case anyone's interested, the dimensions of the medallion are 2 cm wide and 2.5 mm thick.

One of the good things about collecting stuff from Nintendo's toy era is even though they're rare and sought-after, they're not as 'mainstream' as collecting their early video games- meaning that you can still get great deals on them if you shop around. (That probably won't last forever though, so get 'em while you can!) The Love Tester is an exception (which always goes for a fortune), as well as some of their later, lesser-produced toys.

Attach file:



jpg  medal1.jpg (63.09 KB)
3486_593da42733c28.jpg 516X600 px

jpg  medal2.jpg (58.44 KB)
3486_593da4351a915.jpg 578X480 px
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#7
Re: I found an interesting piece of Yokoi/Nintendo history
Posted on: 6/11 23:02
VB Gamer
Joined 2007/4/14
Canada
27 Posts
Long Time User (10 Years)
Quote:
I paid much more for mine years ago.


I had a feeling that these normally sell for a bit more, but it's been so long since one has shown up on eBay that I can't get an accurate read on value. Anyhow, it's hard to go wrong for $20.

When I saw it lying on the ground it was like seeing a legend come to life. As soon as I noticed the illustration, I knew exactly what it was.
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#8
Re: I found an interesting piece of Yokoi/Nintendo history
Posted on: 6/11 23:33
VB Gamer
Joined 2007/4/14
Canada
27 Posts
Long Time User (10 Years)
Thanks for those measurements, by the way. I'll save them to my laptop in case I ever do decide to print up a replacement.
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