For those whose artistic tastes lean away from the traditional and more toward the cool, look no further than a child’s bedroom. Disregard the crayon drawing on the refrigerator. Put the coloring book down. This sort of artwork is so good, it can only truly be seen in the dark.
In 1967, Hasbro gave us the Lite Brite. Seen under the bedroom lights, it wasn’t that impressive: A plastic housing (not unlike a television) with a black plastic grid of holes where the screen should be. Behind this grid sat a light bulb which, when activated, threw light through the umpteen different holes before it. These holes were covered, however, by a piece of black construction paper. The artwork came in the form of colored pegs – blue, clear, green, orange, pink, purple, red, and yellow – that one punched through the construction paper and into one of the grid holes. Kids could either invent their own patterns or follow the very helpful color-by-letter sheets that came with the Lite Brite. One way or the other, the scientific result was the effect of light passing through the holes and into the myriad of translucent pegs, producing a picture of twinkling color. The artistic outcome, however, was one of glowing coolness.
Of course, one of the most memorable things about Lite Brite were the many commercials, each featuring that infectious little jingle that you could find yourself singing for days:
The Lite Brite had a surprising number of possibilities despite its small size (about a foot square). Over the years, Hasbro created dozens or color-by-letter patterns to fuel the creative mind (or slake the lazy one) which could be purchased separately. Merchandising made its way to Lite Brite, and soon kids were making luminescent masterpieces of Scooby-Doo, Darth Vader, My Little Pony, Mickey Mouse, and Mr. Potato Head. And because of the tendency to misplace very small things, Hasbro also made it possible to buy refills of colored pegs.
For those that never had the pleasure of playing with a Lite Brite, Hasbro now has a nifty online simulator, so you can try your own hand at illuminated artwork and even print your creations. For those, however, that enjoyed the pleasure of experiencing the real thing firsthand, we want to hear about all of those childhood memories in our comments section – as we pay tribute to this iconic toy that continues to mesmerize us with its colorful patterns and unforgettable commercial jingle. It’s playing in your head right now, isn’t it?