This 1960s Gadget Is More Kid-Friendly Than Today's

The Kenner Close n Play was a modest gadget from the outside: you put in a vinyl record, closed the lid, and it would play. It looked like a lunchbox. It was simple. But above all, it was for kids.


It's brilliant. Vinyl tonearms are delicate mechanical twigs that were just asking to be snapped by eager children. The Close n Play solved this problem—that kiddos like music like everyone else, but might break the hardware necessary to enjoy it—by hiding it all away. Not through some mechanism that made them feel like kids, but by almost making the precaution part of the fun. Close the lid to hide the player's guts—music starts playing automatically! From there it was safe for tots to cart around without damaged needles or scratched discs. Open it up to swap out discs, and the tunes end. And all the while, it still looked like something sophisticated for adults.

Today, gadgets for kids are either insultingly designed to look like something from Fisher Price, or you have to go through the one size fits all approach of just handing them mom and dad's $600 iPad—gear designed for adults. And that's just begging for the fun to end, and maybe shatter.


Bill Spencer

OK, here's one for you to look up. Sometime in the late 50's, I think, Chrysler was offering a dashboard-mounted 45 RPM record player. Just like some of today's car CD players, you just slid the record into a slot and it played through the radio.

And, it would play both sides without turning the record over. It had vibration compensation so bumps wouldn't make the record skip. Unfortunately, it never really caught on before 45's died by themselves.