Ghosts of Christmas Past: The long-ago geek gifts that made us what we are

ZX computers, Meccano and more

Prinz microscope

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Nothing says science like a proper microscope, and even high street retailer Dixons got in on the act with this Prinz microscope kit, specially aimed at kids. Complete with glass slides and in some kits a frog in a jar of formalin ready for dissection. There was just about everything you needed to take a closer look at the world.

Prinz microscope set

The kit even included scalpel, tweezers, dyes and balm to help prepare specimens. Microscopes weren't the only optical gear on offer in Dixons, either. For the more outward looking, there was also a range of Prinz telescopes for budding astronomers. With less light pollution, did the stars burn more brightly? Or perhaps that was just SkyLab drifting across our back gardens at the end of its mission.

Sony ICF-7600D

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For many of us, in the days before a TV in every bedroom, radios were a source of nighttime entertainment and amusement. Whether struggling to pick up the Great 208 on an old valve set, or turning the dial to listen in to cold war news from Radio Moscow, for the inquisitive kid, a radio opened up the world.

Sony ICF-7600D radio

Sony's ICF-7600D banished knob twiddling and let you just key in the frequency you wanted. Source: Universal Radio

As one of the first sets with digital tuning, the 1983 ICF-7600D allowed you to enter the frequency of the station you wanted to listen to, instead of spending hours finely tweaking a dial to pick up the right short wave station. Popular with travellers and those who just like to listen to the world, versions of the 7600 continued to be made and sold well into the 21st century.

For a bonus point, what could you pick up on 49.26 metres?

And with that we're done with our festive roundup of Xmases Past. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to all our readers! ®

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