Hot Wheels, Matchbox…and microchips?

by | Nov 3, 2022 | Living in the Future | 0 comments

Your age will determine your relationship to them, but just about everyone will at least be familiar with a particular type of tiny toy cars called Hot Wheels (or possibly Matchbox, before they merged). Painted, die cast, with spindly little axles and plastic wheels, they came in every form from vans to exotic supercars. You’d send them zipping around, race them against one another, drive them around chalk-drawn streets in the driveway; there wasn’t a lot of direction to them, so you made your own fun.

Eventually, they came out with bunches of accessories, including tracks and launchers, but the basic idea still remained the same. They were pretty simple toys.

Enter Hot Wheels id (the “id” being lowercase isn’t a typo), which brought tiny toy cars into the digital age.

With Hot Wheels id, you play with virtually identical cars to the ones enjoyed by older generations, but these cars come with a chip inside. The more you race them on compatible tracks, the better they perform in the companion app. Kids can race their friends with physical cars, then face off in online play when they’re not physically together.

Is this trampling on cherished childhood memories, the intrusion of yet more screens into modern life, or late-stage capitalism devouring our youth? I’m not here to debate any of that.

This is COOL TECHNOLOGY. Sure, maybe it’s not launching rockets to Titan or plugging our brains into our car audio systems, but it’s yet another innovation that modernizes familiar old staples of 20th century life (apologies to younger readers who don’t recall 20th century life at all).

Sadly, not all evolution is linear. Some adaptations do not prove successful. The Hot Wheels id product line was canceled in 2022 due to poor sales. (In case anyone was wondering whether they paid me to talk about this… obviously not.)

The moral of the story is: if you think something’s cool, and you can afford it, buy it, even if it’s as a gift. You could save the life of a fledgling technology.

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