There are certain toys that, upon remembering them, instantly transport me back to a time in my childhood.
The Tamagotchi is one of them. Magic sand, another. Those mini Bratz dolls that you could get in Happy Meals? Don’t even get me started.
There is one crucial toy, however, that managed to slip through the cracks of my memory until recently, which is surprising considering that this toy played a pivotal, dare I say life-changing, role in my early life.
Like a moment of divine inspiration, though, this barking orgasm emerged from the high heavens a couple days ago and randomly popped into my mind, subsequently penetrating my heart once more.
It was the Tekno Dog. There was once a time when my life was consumed by this voice-activated, touch-sensitive robotic puppy in late 2000.
With the promise of containing over 160 emotions and functions, and the ability to understand and respond to both voice and visual commands, Tekno the Robotic Puppy (AKA. Tekno Dog) burst onto the scene and instantly became the epitome of toy luxury.
I would stop at nothing to become a Tekno Dog owner. My classmates would stop at nothing to become Tekno Dog owners. It quickly became a status symbol on the playground, not dissimilar to when you’re in year 12 and one of your mates got a car and it was the greatest thing on the planet Earth. Less pubes and petrol, in this case.
In fact, the Tekno Dog was single-handedly responsible for sending all ’00 Australian children into an irreparable rage, a canine tunnel vision of sorts, until they were all Tekno Dog owners.
I remember seeing the Tekno Dog ad on TV. I think it triggered my flight or fight response. All basic bodily functions like hunger and having to piss fell away. All I wanted, nay, needed in that moment was Tekno Dog. I would have swapped the actual puppy we’d gotten a month before, Ralphina, for this battery-powered piece of barking plastic.
Luckily I didn’t have to, because a week of tantrums and tactical bed-pissing resulted in a trip to Kmart… and my very own silver robot dog. Also we saw Rob Mills perusing the CD section on that same trip so probably best day of my life.
Sorry Ralphina. G’day Rob.
Naturally I flocked to the World Wide Insta-Web to ask my fellow cyber-comrades about their affinity with the technological beast. Results varied.
“This bitch was my flex at sleepovers,” said Bec.
“I had the $3 version my nan bought back from Hong Kong that didn’t actually work,” Clay added. Mood.
“I was never allowed,” replied Mitch. “I had to settle for the cost-effective brother, the Poo-Chi (my drag name).”
(Poo-Chi is a fucking great drag name, by the way.) (Also, long live the Poo-Chi, the Michelle of the Destiny’s Child robotic puppy industry.)
The Tekno Dog would eventually spawn various iterations, including Kitty, the Tekno Kitten, Polly, the Tekno Parrot and Mack, the Robotic Fish (which came with an apt disclaimer that Mack – despite popular belief – did not belong in the water). Surprisingly, the latest Tekno product – Tekno Newborns – was released in just 2016. C’mon, longevity.
There’s no doubt that Tekno Dog will always be the true OG, but was it actually as incredible as it was hyped up to be? Could we really teach a new dog new tricks, or did it truly belong in the dog house? Was it all bark and no bite? (I’ll keep going. How much time do you have?)
It was definitely revolutionary for its time when it was introduced to the world 19 years ago, with it being one of the first toys promising ‘artificial intelligence’. With the intellect of an 8-week-old puppy, Tekno promised to respond when you yelled out his name, clapped your hands and fed him his bone. This kind of toy interaction was previously unheard of.
Complete with head, neck, nose, mouth, sound and light sensors, Tekno also promised to learn new tricks – such as barking on command, moving forward on command, singing, dancing, making “rude” noises and doing that card trick – but most of these ‘tricks’ just required you to hold a bunch of buttons down in certain orders for a number of seconds, rather than interacting with and training Tekno.
Then there was the added factor of Tekno being rather temperamental. “Since puppies aren’t perfect,” the manual reads, “sometimes Tekno will respond to your commands, and other times he’ll do what he wants to do.” I don’t know why I find this so funny.
Am I being too hard on a toy that was released 19 years ago? Probably. I just remember giving up on training the pup because some of the training instructions were literally paragraphs long and my infant ass didn’t give a shit about reading or being patient… I just wanted a dog that did cool shit.
So, inevitably, my Tekno did fuck all. And I got bored.
That being said, as long as I could gloat about it to my classmates and flex my newfound parental skills by giving Tekno a plastic bone on the odd occasion, I forgave it for slightly malfunctioning and only occasionally emitting a terrifying sound resembling a woof.
To its credit, Tekno actually made me content for an entire 15 minutes… before the novelty wore off and I wanted an actual shit-producing dog. Partly because I’m a spoilt little brat, partly because all children have the attention span of a goldfish and quickly look for the next best thing.
“Fuken hell they rely was so shit,” queen Cherylyn Barnes told me.
Maybe the grass is always greener on the other side. Maybe it truly is a dog-eat-dog world.
Either way, long live Tekno the Robotic Puppy, every 00’s kid’s gateway drug into real pet ownership.
Paws up, little monsters.Image: Tekno Dogs, bitch.