10 Awesomely '80s Electronic Prizes From Press Your Luck
Airing on CBS from September of 1983 to September of 1986, the game show Press Your Luck, hosted by Peter Tomarken, pitted three contestants against the "big board," a collection of 18 squares with rapidly-changing prizes, cash amounts, and whammies. The goal: amass the most loot by stopping the flashing lights at the right time. (By studying the light patterns, contestant Michael Larson made history by winning over $110,000.)
As fun as the show is to revisit in its own right, perhaps the most amusing part is the 1980s technology offered as prizes. We watched dozens of episodes of Press Your Luck and picked out the clunkiest, most '80s-esque electronics we could find. Get ready to turn off your Walkman, put away that ginormous mobile phone, and revel in the glory that was 1980s tech, Press Your Luck style. Big bucks! No whammies!
1. CASSETTE RADIO
In this episode from October 1983, reigning champ Miriam stops the flashing lights on a cassette radio. A radio! That plays cassettes! Unfortunately, Miriam didn't get to enjoy that $290 radio (she hit a whammy later on), and nobody else did either: according to an episode guide, this was the only time that cassette radio appeared on the board.
2. PORTABLE TV
One episode later, challenger Sandy lands on a portable television valued at $320. Just imagine the convenience of carrying around a bulky electronic box so you could watch TV shows whenever, and wherever, you wanted. Game changer!
3. VIDEO GAME CARTRIDGES
Another one-time-only prize was a collection of video game cartridges offered in this episode from April 1984. (The system to play them on was in a separate space on the other side of the board.) Ultimately, it didn't matter: Joe—the contestant who landed on the cartridges—hit a whammy two turns later, and the cartridges joined the cassette radio in the unclaimed prize warehouse.
4. STEREO SYSTEM
Sure, we have stereo systems today, but look at the size of this one! And it's on casters, meaning you could spend a good half-hour moving it wherever you wanted. As an added bonus, it came with a remote control, which was probably bigger than the smartphone you're reading this article on right now.
5. BIG-SCREEN TV
Big-screen TVs are nothing special today, but this one serves as another reminder of how compact electronics have become over the past few decades. This Sony projection TV measured in at a healthy 46 inches (diagonally, of course), but it's the overall size of the set that has us scratching our heads: the thing is as large as the entertainment center you probably use to house your TV and a dozen other pieces of electronic equipment today, with an XL price tag to match. (This particular model cost $3800.)
6. PAGING SYSTEM
One of the prizes contestant Seth wins in this episode is a paging system. Apparently, the technology was so innovative that the picture used on the game board described it as a "Paging System (Phone)," to distinguish it from the paging systems you (apparently) used with other electronic devices. As Rod Roddy notes, this gem is "a versatile people pager. Beep children home or use for home security … or as a panic beeper." The system cost $299—today, you could probably download apps that do the exact same things for free.
7. HOME COMPUTER
Check out this Texas Instruments model that contestant Robert won. Worth $765, it appears to be the TI-99/4A. This episode originally aired on September 26, 1983—the company got out of the home computer business just over a month later.
8. HOME ROBOT
A robot! For your home! According to the prize description, "the future is here!" This guy boasted a number of futuristic capabilities. For example, he could perform wake-up calls, carry objects in any direction, and play cassette tapes. (Who needs a dumb cassette radio when you've got a robot?)
9. VIDEO RECORDER
In an episode from February 1984, contestant Brenda lands on a video recorder worth $799. That's about $1900 today (assuming you could even buy something like that in 2015), which is enough to purchase a whole lot of Netflix subscriptions.
10. VIDEO CAMERA AND VCR
Just a few months earlier, contestant Jeff took home a VCR and a video camera. Worth $2345 (in 1983 dollars!), Jeff had the capability to record an entire eight hours of programming—or, as announcer Rod Roddy suggested, create his "own home TV productions."