16/09/2021

Learning products

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Being in the Consumer Products division provided fun too. When they introduced the Little Professor, a fun calculator to drill children in arithmetic, the designers had included a small pad of paper and pencil for the child to do the ‘Math’ before checking it on Little Professor.

ASIDE: In those days in the UK, many companies used Boots the Chemist as their quality assurance team. They were widely appreciated as rigorous, so why do it yourself? The sample Little Professor we supplied to them, came back with a report that the paint on the pencil had four times the permitted levels of lead. The whole team had to spend a day and evening opening every product pack to throw away each pencil, we didn’t replace it.
Little Professsor

On another occasion we had to test an early-American prototype of Spelling B, another calculator-like learning product where you had a picture book. The child looked at the picture and then had to key in the word they believed it displayed. There were a number of choices that made clear the USA and UK were indeed separated by a common tongue (GBS?). The first was this slow-moving creature which we instantly identified as a ‘tortoise’ and had to work out that any self-respecting American saw the picture as a ‘turtle’. But the one that defeated us completely was a guy who vaguely looked as if he was Elizabethan walking on a beach, we tried various Elizabethans, none of us Brits came up with ‘pilgrim’.

Spelling B

I was to be on a busy commuter train travelling in to London for the launch of Speak ‘n’ Spell at the South Bank. This disembodied voice from my briefcase kept saying things like ‘Spell Elephant’ to the packed carriage, it was sufficiently disembodied that I could ignore it and my fellow passengers weren’t too sure where it was coming from.

Speak ‘n’ Spell

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