WEEK 53: Seb Lee-Delisle – three retro toys that changed the world

It is hard to imagine life without technology – with self driving cars, virtual reality and complex algorithms causing scandals with our social media posts, it is easy to forget where it all started.  A head of his show at Week 53 Festival, we invited BAFTA-winning coder, hacker, laserist (yes, that IS a real job) SEB LEE-DELISLE to give us his run down of the must-have gadgets of yesteryear and the impact they made on the technology we cant live without today.


Atari VCS (later known as 2600)


The Atari Video Game System with its trademark woodgrain effect finish, launched way back in 1977 but continued to sell well into the 80s. It was the first time you could play arcade classics like Space Invaders, Asteroids and Pacman in the comfort of your own home.

You may have seen its featured appearance in recent blockbuster “Ready Player One” along with the game “Adventure”; the first game with a hidden feature (or “Easter Egg”). Its golden age came to a close in 1983 with the disastrous launch of ET, (widely regarded as the worst game ever) and the so-called video game crash.

Date: 1977 and throughout the 80s in various incarnations

Outstanding features: the iconic joystick

Original price: $199 (that’s a whopping $842 at today’s rates)


Sony Walkman


I’ll never forget the first time I experienced a Sony Walkman. Michael Jackson’s Thriller, playing in hi-fidelity sound, straight into my brain, in a completely portable device. In today’s world of smart-phones and Spotify, it’s hard to imagine a time where music was a rare commodity. And up until that point our only portable music option had been crappy crystal radio sets with a single ear-piece.

When it launched, it was socially unacceptable to wear headphones in public, but seemingly overnight, the walkman was the must-have gadget, and just a year or two later, Argos catalogues were filled with cheaper copy-cats (some of which did away with the rewind button – you’d have to flip the tape over and fast-forward!).

Date: 1979-1984

Original price : $200


ZX Spectrum


It was the brain-child of eccentric 80s entrepreneur Clive Sinclair, and his grand vision was to produce a computer that anyone could afford. It was a best seller, and it was an ubiquitous fixture in my friends’ living rooms.

The iconic black compact design with its rubber buttons and cheerful rainbow insignia was designed by Rick Dickinson, who sadly passed away in April.

There were hundreds of classic games like Jet Set Willy, Ghostbusters and Manic Miner, although many people at the time bought computers specifically to learn to program them. A whole generation of coders can thank the ZXSpectrum for their careers.

Launch date: 1982

Original price: £125


Obsessed by the invention of these 80’s pioneers, Seb’s new show HACKED ON CLASSICS pays homage to the classics in the only why he knows how – by taking them apart and updating them with up-to-date tech.  Well, mainly lasers.  Join Seb on stage as part of the Wk 53 Festival as The Lowry to see how it is done and have a go yourself.  If your teenagers don’t know how you can make music on a Casio calculator, or they laugh in your face when you tell them the save icon is, in fact, a ‘floppy disc’, this is the show to bring them back to the future.

Seb Lee-Delisle’s Hacked on Classics is on at The Lowry as part of WEEK 53 on Mon 28 May, 3pm & 7pm


0843 208 6000