From the musty innards of the 1975 Sears Wish Book comes…
…the first game console my family ever owned.
For decades I’ve had to rely on hazy childhood memories about the device. I knew it was a Sears-badged (because Sears was where families such as mine bought electronics in those days) Pong clone with paddles integrated into the casing, but not the specific make or vintage until I stumbled across this listing.
The big tell — which I’d honestly wondered if I’d been imagining it — was this primitive take on power sourcing…
Anything involving battery power in my childhood home meant a couple hours of active life followed by years of motionless (or noiseless or lightless) limbo. This is probably why the system was packed away in my parents’ closet with the model train sets and slot cars and other shit dragged out on extremely rare occasions. Even during good times, batteries were seen as a low priority luxury item.
Speaking of luxury items, the Tele-Games unit’s $98.95 price tag comes out to around $430 in 2019. Post-inflation calculations should always be taken with a few grains of salt, as they don’t account for contextual factors such as household expenses, interest rates, debt/savings ratios which provide more accurate pictures of relative spending power. Still, that kind of money would buy you a functioning muscle car in need of moderate body work in 1975 North Woburn. (Hell, my high school friend offered to sell me his slightly dinged 1966 Ford Fairlane for $100 in 1988.)
Our console was most likely a gift from my maternal grandfather, who loved such gadgets and bestowed a much beloved Sears 2600 clone upon us a few years later. I doubt we received it in 1975, though. It was more likely 1976 or 1977 after a price drop.
My final memory of this technological wonder was my tweener self asking my mom if I could have it, then opening the box and finding that the batteries had leaked their corrosive goo all through the device. I’m sure I felt sad for all of five minutes before going back to playing Pitfall.