Identify this computer trainer

In the early 1980s I visited a neighbour’s house here in Canada. His father was an engineer (SPAR Aerospace IIRC) and the house was filled with every gadget of the era. Among these was a computer trainer I had seen in catalogs and I’m trying to identify it.

The key feature of the system was a display consisting of a 4x4 (or 5x5?) grid of red LEDs lamps in a panel that was raised above the main desk-top console on two cylindrical supports. This placed the display at eye level. I recall the panel itself was oval shaped.

This is the key feature, if you’re going to suggest a potential system and it does not include this display, it is not the system in question.

I recall 8-segment LEDs being for score keeping but I am no longer sure if they were on the display panel or on the base unit. The rest of the unit was a simple desktop box with a hex pad in the lower right. Poking about in Google Images, it is overall similar in layout as the ELF II and I would not be surprised if it was based on this system. All I recall running on it was a Pong clone where the ball moved back and forth on the LED lamps.

As I had seen it in a catalog, that almost certainly suggests it was Tandy/Radio Shack, but looking through historical catalogs from 1978 to 1982 I cannot find anything similar - just those 150-in-1 kits where you wire together using springs. That might suggest Heathkit, but they were not terribly popular in Canada and I can’t find anything like that in their catalogs either.

I have a dim memory of the system being offered by two companies, that it was actually produced by one and was being white labeled by another… again, that strongly suggests the second company was Tandy.

Anyone have any ideas?


Is there any possibility it was more of a local product? Sounds like we might be in the Greater Toronto Area, which might be considered a fairly major innovation and technology centre. If it’s a computer trainer with a hex-style keypad, it’s not a toy or a game, and it might sell in low volume, being a bit of a niche product.

Another thing would be to expand the timespan of your searching: might it have been much older than the time of your visit? Might your visit have been a little later?

I had a quick look, but this is a difficult search project!

No, this was a “real” consumer product with full packaging. And I definitely remember seeing it in major catalogs.

My visit may have been as late as 1983, but no later than that.

Especially as there seems to be no combination of search terms that returns every computer ever, or none at all.

Could it have been two things? Like maybe your engineer friend had hooked up some kind of normally-separate display to his ELF-II system, and what you recall being a single unit was actually user integration of a couple of units?

I recall various breadboard kits from that era, with integrated power supplies and multiple breadboards and maybe a keypad and some displays, but that’s as much as I ever personally saw.

Also, at least in my 1980s circles (late-teenage hobbyists in Calgary), Heathkit was a definite presence, a few of our parents had and built Heathkit devices, and we all lusted after them.

Noodling around on this helped me discover, so that’s already a win for me!


No, as I mentioned, I recall seeing this system in a major magazine or catalog.

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Well there are a lot major magazines here. Just skip past the music and wireless stuff.