From Wind-Up Dolls to Handheld Computers, Toys Follow Evolution of Tech
Five toys from our National Museum of American History that were high-tech back in their day

Who remembers Speak & Spell?

It’s one of many toys that showed off modern (for the time) technology, with an LCD display, removable cartridges and a digital signal processor to produce speech.

But take the tech-y toys back more than a century and they start to get a little creepy. 

This “Patent Autoperipatetikos” was one of the first toys in America powered by springs. Wind up the mechanism, and that doll walks itself. 

Our associate curator of American electricity collections, Hal Wallace, says toys illustrate the technological changes that happen in living memory, reflecting society’s progress and its attitudes toward tech. He adds: 

“Technologies don’t arise in a vacuum. They’re made, influenced and used by people.”