Mel Birnkrant's
Mel Birnkrant's
All Original Toy Concepts, Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
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          The year was 1987.  With three lucrative, but unsuccessful, projects, Weenies, Sleep Stars, and Animax, behind us, KISCOM and I were just beginning our career in toy inventing.  Our previous efforts had all been licensed properties.  Perhaps we should have stuck with that.  We had yet to sell a toy invention.  My twenty years with Colorforms had come to an end, and I was no longer the Creative Director of anything, other than the pile of rubble on my desk,  ... when, miraculously, out of the Chaos came Order:
          Order in the form of “Sound Ware!”  We had been courting a company called, Worlds of Wonder, the folks who made a talking bear called, “Teddy Ruxpin.”  For a while, it looked like they might purchase Braniacs.   But, in the end, that didn’t  happen.  Then, they acted like they were serious about a concept we called Pinky Bears.  Gosh I forgot all about that, until now, I should really add it to the Land of Lost toys. 

Now, for the next act, I went shopping and purchased a multitude of bits and pieces, trinkets from the the dollar store, gadgets from the gift store, and lots of tiny speakers from Radio Shack.  Without bothering to do drawings, I just set in to combine these diverse elements into Sound Ware, which was a concept based on small speakers that a kid, or strange adult, could wear.
         Portable tape players called “The Sony Walkman” were popular then.  Many people carried them, and listened to music as they went jogging, or simply walking, through their day.  They usually listened on tiny earphones that were inserted in their ears.  Sound Ware replaced the earphones with small decorative speakers that the listener could wear.  And because the music now became audible, it could be shared.  A pair of Sound Ware speakers, working together as a team, could produce stereo.  And, through the use of an “expander,” one could add more speakers, and turn their entire body into a human boom box. The speakers, themselves, were decorative, and conveyed various themes.  So, Sound Ware was not merely functional, it also became a fashion statement.

When everything was ready, I arranged it neatly in a briefcase, purchased for that purpose.  The Case also contained a portable AM FM radio, a Walkman tape player, and an expander, which was something I concocted to allow any number of speakers to be plugged in at the same time.  Then, I quickly snapped a few photographs of the finished presentation, and KISCOM took it out and sold it, on the first try.
          The buyer was a small company, called, Nasta that specialized in electronic gadgets, and was, somehow, associated with Radio Shack.  This was so exciting!  It looked like it was really happening.   And it did!  I exuberantly sent Nasta drawings of possible speaker designs, all of which are lost, now, and they actually replicated many of them.  Nasta really did this project right.  I found this photograph of their 1987 catalogue on the internet today.
           The heart of the line consisted of a variety of speakers, suggesting many different themes, from sports to fashion.  There was something for everyone.  And the entire card was sealed in plastic.  That is why, thirty years later,  these samples are still pristine.
          Nasta also manufactured the "Expander." This device amplified the power, and thus, enabled the wearer to add additional speakers.
          And for users who didn’t already have a radio, Nasta manufactured one of those, an AM, FM radio, made specifically for Sound Wear.  Each accessory came with an extra speaker.
          Nasta also added licensed properties to enhance and expand the speaker line.  These included Nickelodeon, and would you believe, Barbie?
         Last of all, Nasta produced this rather long commercial, with the intention of advertising Sound Ware on Nickelodeon TV.  I don’t believe it ever aired.  Nonetheless, all things considered, Sound Ware was a valiant effort.  Nasta did their best to give it a fair shot, and for a brief moment, it managed to almost succeed.  But, in the end, Sound Ware did not prove to be everybody’s cup of tea.  To transform oneself into a traveling boom box, and walk around, broadcasting music, required the user to be, either an exhibitionist, or, to borrow an expression from my English wife, Eunice: "a bloody nuisance."