OBSOLETE TECHNOLOGY: Book and Record sets

That’s right, kids. Here’s how I got my entertainment when I was young. A comic book that you read along with a vinyl record. It seems so ridiculous that I can barely believe it even though I lived it. Vinyl may have back, but this particular bizarre pairing probably isn’t.

Oh, to be young again…

…when there was actually some imagination required to enjoy life. The book-and-record set was a staple of 1970s life for kids, coming as it did when record players were affordable enough to give to children. Book-and-record sets, especially those created by the Peter Pan corporation, gave kids a vinyl record that literally read a comic book to them. Some of the best-remembered today licensed TV shows and movies that still had cult followings, such as Star Trek and Planet of the Apes. (imagine, at one time these were thought of as worthless properties.) Check out this cover art from a particularly well-remembered book from this author’s childhood:

In this spectacularly unoriginal tale, a species of extremely noisy aliens drive everyone but the ship’s resident feline officer mad. One can only guess the state of mind of the author, as it’s very likely that he struggled to find a story idea as his own kitty wailed.

When sci-fi really was for kids

Today we tend to place a high value on science fiction. Ever since its inception, sci-fi has aspired to be more than just entertaining pulp for kids. A lot of times, it succeeded. I gotta say, it’s possible that this time, this book, I am not sure they really managed to elevate the source material.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Someone uploaded the whole thing to YouTube.

It’s actually not badly written… it’s actually pretty good at representing the characters and the art isn’t so bad either. But, it lacks that characteristic quality that keeps Star Trek fresh. There’s nothing to provoke thought. It’s just a silly adventure.

High art isn’t for kids, and that’s ok.

I would be willing to bet that no one expected this book-and-record set, or any book-and-record set, to be heard 50 years later. These were childrens’ toys, nothing more.

Book-and-record sets were cheap entertainment for those folks without VCRs, which in those days cost as much as a decent used car, although they faded quickly from memory as home video games took center stage in the late 1970s. Some of them are collector’s items now, but that doesn’t mean the stories are really that good. It’s probably best this “art form” is mostly lost to history.

You have to wonder, though, what sort of technology we’ll be talking about 40 years from now. How long before people chuckle at our obsession with our phones or with our cars? It’s hard to know what will look better through the lens of nostalgia.

Oh well… set yourself a reminder to check out The Solid Signal Blog in 2060, and we’ll have a good laugh about all the stuff we think is so cool today.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.