Talking at the Speed of Light

A quick perusal of the Nintendo corporate history on the company website reveals that the company burst onto the world scene in 1985 with the NES console system. Before that, let’s see, according to this timeline, absolutely nothing! Yep, Mario, Game Boy, Wii, that seems to be everything. Absolutely no reason to think that the company started way way back in 1889, and spent the first half of its existence as a playing card maker, transitioning to toys of all sorts, to include electronic gadgets, in the 1960s and 70s, before hitting the big time with the NES.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, we aren’t stuck as shills for the man reciting some bland revisionist corporate history. We can tell the real story. The truth is out there! And that truth is, Nintendo came out with some quite nifty items in the time prior to the video game explosion. Things like the Light Telephone (full name is Opto-electronics Light Beam Telephone LT), a walkie-talkie system that utilizes a modulating light beam to transmit your conversation.

To use the Light Telephone, you simply aim your unit at your buddy’s (who is ideally 10-30 m away, and hopefully neither of you is in a brightly lit area), speak into the microphone, and listen for his response. The two of you can even talk and listen at the same time!

It even works through windows or bounced off mirrors, and has further utility as a regular flashlight, very useful when spotlighting rabbits!

Not only did it use 6 batteries per unit, but Nintendo was kind enough to include batteries with your purchase. Not a bad deal for your 9,800 Yen (approximately $27 at the 1971 exchange rate).

Review from Dec 1971 Popular Science magazine.

Images courtesy of, and further information and pictures can be found there. Via

  • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

    I saw a demonstration once where they used a photodetector tube to receive music transmitted across a darkened room. For the sending half a flashlight with three instead of two batteries was used. In this way the brightness of the bulb would change enough and quickly enough to make it sound pretty good actually. Also the bulb still lasted long enough for the demo.

  • As a kid, I would have thought that was beyond cool, especially if I'd had a friend living next door with a line of sight between our bedroom windows.

    Or any friend at all, for that matter.