Galaxy Watch 5 Galaxy Buds 2 Pro Android 13 Best Wireless Earbuds QLED vs. OLED TVs Air Conditioners Fitness Supplements Shower Filters
Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
No, thank you

Retro Tech: Mego's 2-XL

Mego's 1978 trivia robot with a personality, 2-XL

When I was growing up, the closest thing we had to artificial intelligence was something called 2-XL (if you're younger than 30, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about). We've always had trivia games--what made this one interesting, especially to a generation that's just seen Star Wars, was that these trivia questions were asked by a plastic robot.

In 1978, when I got my hands on 2-XL, I was ecstatic. It was the it toy back then. 2-XL was a trivia robot created by Michael J. Freeman, an inventor with an interest to educate as well as entertain, hence the name 2-XL (To Excel). He not only created 2-XL, but he was also the voice behind it. 2-XL used 8-tracks (also known as Stereo 8) tapes as cartridges.

For those too young to remember, it was a quarter inch tape that looped and had four tracks you could choose from to listen to. Each track was in stereo, thus, 4 tracks x 2 channels = 8 tracks. But the Mego 2-XL didn't take advantage of the stereo part; it assigned each track to a button (Q was track 1; A was track 2, etc.) This way a 2-XL tape would have the same program recorded on all four tracks, with the changes only made in the parts of the tape where 2-XL would give you an answer. As the years went on, Freeman got more and more ambitious with playing multiple tracks, to the point where 2-XL could have up to three programs on the same tape.

There were quite a few 8-tracks available for 2-XL including General Information, Wonders of the World, U.S. Presidents, and Science Fiction. It also played regular music 8-tracks.

The Mego version of 2-XL was produced for four years, 1978-1981. Then in 1992, Tiger Electronics reintroduced the new look 2-XL. However, Instead of 8-track tapes, the new version used cassette tapes that were twice the length of the 8-tracks and had better sound quality.

For those who are nostalgic for the old, simple, yet great fun times, there are 2-XLs out there on eBay that need a home. They, too, would make a great addition to your collection of classic technology.

Try 2-XL for yourself, thanks to the 2-XL simulator.