by Michael Kabel

    Though the decade has fallen prey to over-simplified memories of big hair and tacky clothes, the 1970s was a tumultuous time of frantic and sweeping change, not least of which for children. The advent of cable television, the coming of the dual-income family, and shifts in education systems altered the landscape of childhood forever.

    On the positive side, the Seventies saw a renaissance in toy manufacturing and innovation. Toys and games became complex and fascinating like never before, offering children massive potential to escape into ready-made imaginary realms. Presented below are five of the leading toys of that celebrated era, in no particular order. 

5. Mego Action Figures (1971) - every one of the endless Batman and Spider-Man action figure collections at your local big-box store owes a debt to the Mego line, which ran like wildfire from 1971 to 1982. The sprawling line of interchangeable 8" and 12" dolls included superheroes, the Wizard of Oz, Planet of the Apes, James Bond, Sonny and Cher, Star Trek, Diana Ross, and the rock group KISS. The dolls dominated the toy market for much of the 70s, until competition from Star Wars toys and other competitors forced the Mego Corporation into bankruptcy. 

4. Simon (1978) - the advertising for this early electronic game said it all: "Simon's a computer, Simon has a brain, you either do what Simon says or else go down the drain." Of all things, the children's game had its public debut at the legendary Studio 54 discotheque in Manhattan, where its flashing lights and strobing sounds no doubt amused the club's heavily "medicated" patrons. Players would attempt to match the sounds and light patterns Simon made by pushing the buttons on its surface. The game inspired a host of imitators, and contiues production to this day. 
3. Star Wars Millenium Falcon Playset (1979) - Star Wars took the toy world by storm in the late 70s, thanks in no small part to maker Kenner's dazzlingly versatile and durable toys and playsets. The Millenium Falcon starship was no exception, coming packed full of play features like retractable landing gear, a removable bulkhead, and working boarding ramp. There were a lot of Star Wars toys that could've made this list, but this one was almost certainly the most popular - and the most envied. 

2. Big Wheel (1969) - A fixture on millions of suburban lawns, the Big Wheel's sturdy yet safe plastic construction made it a hit with parent's groups. It's bright colors, adjustable seat and no-spill frame made it loved by a generation of small children. Following a lull in popularity, they've returned to the market in recent years. 

1. Atari 2600 Game Console (1977) - The granddaddy of all video game platforms, the Atari 2600 boasted four microchps to create sound and graphics using cartridges that included game code. Though their were many other competitors on the market (like the Odyssey and Intellivision), the 2600 became the poster child for the gaming craze of the 1980s. Some of the system's dozens of games - Pong, Combat, Pitfall, and many more - are the stuff of legend, and even collectred as valuable keepsakes among electronics enthusiasts.