Weird Picture-Taker: Vtech Phusion toy PDA from the year 2000

Me, like in 2006 maybe? No datestamping on the Phusion, but that’s about the right year, I think. Upsampled from the Phusion’s original 120×160 bitmap about 12 years after I took the selfie.

One of the benefits of not having a car is that I now finally get to go through boxes in the garage and dig out stuff I haven’t seen in a decade or two. Stuff that was packed during moves and never unpacked, stashed in opaque plastic tubs and forgotten. Many bits of my memory puzzle suddenly appearing and falling into place.

Dug up a bunch of turn of the century electronics, and I realized that I have a lot of electronics made in 2000 and 2001 – and that made me think about how revolutionary electronics were in those years. How many interesting and weird designs were introduced to the market in those years. I guess I have two eras of electronics I tend to collect; portable computers from the early eighties (and a few electronic typewriters of that era as well), and electronics from the early 2000’s.

Some things I’ve kept from the 2000’s are this Pentium III IBM ThinkPad T21 on which I am typing this post and the Vtech Phusion that I used to take the photos below. The Thinkpad previously was my “DOS Box“, and still is even with Windows 98 now installed, but I had to install Win 98 because the software for the Vtech will only run in Win 95/98. The software comes on a floppy and it connects to a 9-pin serial port, so a machine from the era is pretty much required to get your pictures off of the Phusion.

The Phusion is a handheld toy organizer with a small built-in camera that rotates 180 degrees that takes pictures in 4 level gray-scale, via a 160 x 120 pixel LCD measuring 8cm diagonally. The Phusion uses a 16-bit processor with 2MB of memory plus an additional 1MB of flash memory for picture storage. Controls and data entry consists of six function buttons and a small PTF keyboard activated with a self contained stylus. The organizer includes a spell checker, foreign language translators, and is PC 9-pin serial connectable using specialized Vtech PC Link software that only runs in Windows 95 and 98.

Swappable faceplate/stylus allows you to go from translucent blue to wasp yellow if you wanted. I always kept the blue trim on mine, though the yellow trim seems to be the default in all of Vtech’s photos of the device.

And, oh, what delightfully low-resolution 160 by 120 pixel black & white images. As a PDA, the Phusion is completely worthless – but as a bizarre picture-taker it’s a hit by my standards. It’s the whole reason I’ve kept the silly thing for so long, really. However, last time I moved, I managed to separate the Phusion’s PC Link cradle from the unit, and only found it the other day. I put some batteries in it and took some photos, then installed the software to the ThinkPad and downloaded the contents of the Phusion. I was surprised to find that the last photos I took on the thing over a decade ago were still on it, resulting in some photos where I have long, dark hair and others where I have silver hair. So there’s one neat thing about it – the memory is persistent and needs no battery back-up.

Me now – upsampled from the Phusion’s 120×160 bitmap. All said, it’s a fun little toy and interesting image-maker. Runs on a pair of AA batteries, so no issues there. If you find one, play around with it. You may fall in love with the silly thing.


User Manual for Vtech Phusion PDA

Updated: October 31, 2019 — 12:23 am


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  1. Sure must be fun to find the old 70’s electronics gadgets. I went through quite a few myself, but I do not recall saving any but my calculators. I do have plenty of old tube gear though (really fun to move with).

  2. I’d never heard of the Phusion. I guess things like the Phusion and Apple’s Newton were prescient. Eventually, we’d all be carrying around tiny computers in our pockets — but there wasn’t enough capacity there yet at the turn of the century to make the proposition worthwhile.

  3. Reminds me of Fisher-Price PXL-2000 Pixelvision.

  4. Really neat, saw one at my local K-Mart sometime in ’99 or early ’00. Thought it was pretty cool, especially for the price. I was obsessed with PDA’s as a teen for some reason.

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