Wonder. The 1980’s was full of it. The ‘80s were an era of wonder. They were for me; I was just coming of age in the mid-‘80s and found wonder wherever I looked. They were for others as well. Many people likewise found wonder wherever they looked, so many that a coworker of mine once commented on it. Sometime in 1999, he contrasted the ‘80s with the ‘90s in this way: “In the ‘80s, we thought everything was high tech even though it wasn’t. In the ‘90s, everything was high tech and we didn’t notice.”
Perhaps no company epitomizes the wonder of the ‘80s more than a little toy company from Fremont, California, a little toy company founded by former Atari employees which used the word wonder in it’s name: Worlds of Wonder. It was a very evocative name, a name that provoked images of fantastic, awe-inspiring alien planets and ancient civilizations. And the company had the goods to back that name up. Worlds of Wonder brought us cutting edge products such as Teddy Ruxpin (one of the Retroist’s favorites), Lazer Tag (a bone fide phenomenon in ’86), and Action Max (an interactive VCR & light gun game). Without a doubt, each and every one of these products was high tech. Maybe high tech in the “not-really-as-high-tech-as-we-thought” way my coworker had described, but high tech nonetheless, high tech at least for the time.
And those high tech Worlds of Wonder products could not be limited to the play room or living room. No, they infiltrated the class room as well. In 1987, Worlds of Wonder released a line of high tech school products. This line included Sack-It (a backpack), Book-It (a day planner), Stack-It (a locker organization system), Stuff-It (a binder), and, at the crème de la crème, Express-It (a locker answering machine). High tech. Oh yes. High tech indeed. So high tech that they were not only rocking a theme with the names of their products (making everything “something-it”) but doing so years before Apple did.
Now I wasn’t interested in most of these high tech school products. Hey, there were just too many other high tech things taking up my attention at that time, so I could only be aware of and mildly interested in the greater bulk of the Class Act line. I was fascinated, though, with the Stuff-It binder.
I had always been a big fan of the Trapper Keeper, but the Stuff-It binder was in my opinion twice as good. Sure, it didn’t have all the lovely Lisa Frank abstract art that the Trapper Keeper did; it only came in gray. But it had a hard shell, making it more durable than the Trapper Keeper, and it had side walls so that it formed a completely sealed container. A Trapper Keeper could lose stuff like pencils and erasers; they could fall out the open ends. The Stuff-It could not lose anything. There was no way it could lose anything because there were no openings.
Unfortunately, I never had a Stuff-It binder or anything else from the Class Act line. I think a friend did. I even think there was one person at school who had an Express-It before they were banned. But I didn’t. My experiences with the Stuff-It binder (like my experiences with so many of the great things of that age) were limited exclusively to its TV commercials which no doubt aired in heavy rotation on Nickelodeon. But I wondered at it at the time. And I still wonder at it a little today.