The Time: The dawn of microprocessors/electronics in the toy business.
The Mission: Put some magic into the Playskool line.
Good Fortune: To meet and work with an inventor team known as Hyman/Greenberg (or fondly called, Greg and Larry).
Nothing like a royalty check to make inventors smile.
The actual assignment "back then" was to redesign a clunky, mechanical action toy called "The Computer" that looked like something that would have made Fred Flintstone happy. Fortunately, the electronic consulting talents of Hyman/Greenberg were then part of the world of Milton Bradley/Playskool, and they used the power of microprocessors to bring lights, sounds, music and game play into a happy breakthrough playmate that was to become known as, Alphie the Robot. We could not imagine then that the efforts of the Playskool design team, Mike Meyers, Paul Lapidis and the wizardry of Hyman/Greenberg were actually creating a toy that would be successfully morphed for over 30+ years to Alphie 2010. (A sad page in the long history of Alphie was the all-too-soon passing of Greg's warm, funny, and talented partner, Larry "The Colonel" Greenberg.)
Little did I know when Greg's skills spawned the innards of Alphie that I was dealing with a true electronics genius, who fortunately for the industry, chose to focus his talents on creating new toys. Greg has proven that he is an inventor extraordinaire. No inventor I know can claim creation of more than 85 electronic toys that he has placed since licensing Alphie in 1978. And certainly no other inventor can claim a more entrepreneurial start than Greg, "The Inventor", who at age ten in New Rochelle, NY advertised to teach third and fourth graders about electricity in 12 one hour sessions. ( I would have participated in that 1957 offer, but I was already a year out of H.S. and living a great distance from NY.)
The beginning days of Greg, the Inventor
So many years after his flirtation with teaching electricity and invention, Greg Hyman reflects on his early interests in things mechanical and electrical with the question, "How many people can live the dreams they had back in the third grade and actually make money doing it?" The answer, most likely, is those creative minds that share Greg's idols, Thomas Alva Edison, Guglielmo Marconi, and Alexander Bell, and also have similar inventive skills.
What started in 1976 with Creative Playthings' Little Maestro Piano Organ and mushroomed with Alphie shortly after, Greg's creations and those he co-developed with others have added the proverbial "bells and whistles" to a long list of winners including See & Say Story Maker, Talking Barney, Tickle Me Elmo (and a whole host of Elmo extensions), Baby All Gone, Talking Handheld Monopoly, and on and on.
Greg has plenty of Elmo's in his world.
Like most inventors in the tough business of selling ideas, to get to the success level Greg has reached takes hundreds of models and renderings only to have some of the favorites end up as trophies on workshop shelves. He has ridden the roller coaster of toy creation very well by taking to heart the quote of his idol Thomas Edison, "Invention is 1 percent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration". "Greg, the Inventor" has given the industry a lot of great products, but no one knows better than he that it has not happened without a good deal of perspiration that started way back in his third grade.