Giant ZRK PiecesI finally found time to dig into that big cardboard box we hauled back with us after a visit to my parent’s house earlier this year. I had some difficulty convincing my wife that it was worth the valuable space in Carson McSteem, our trusty Tucson. However, I knew that it was full of toys from a childhood that I am now more than 3 decades removed from so it was important to me. I had to find a way. I surmised it would be a non-starter to suggest leaving our daughter behind, and I do believe she was considering leaving the dog, but all of those years of Tetris playing finally proved to be useful, and we were able to make it all fit.

There was no doubt in my mind that the box was full of vintage Star Wars action figures and vehicles. I was a child from 1978 through 1984 after all, and I had a set of grandparents who found great joy in enabling my addiction to the 3.75 inch high pieces of Hong Kong manufactured plastic crack.  The box did not disappoint.  There were the “Initial 12.” And Boba Fett. The Millenium Falcon and an AT-AT. The feeling of nostalgia had me swooning. Then I at the bottom of the box I found this collection of “bones.”

Giant Zrk pieces

A curious find.

I immediately refocussed my attention on this new discovery. Truth be told, my passion for the Star Wars Universe has waned significantly over the last few decades. I think The Phantom Menace had a similar effect to varying degrees on my entire generation. I do still credit the original trilogy with my life-long interest in science fiction, or speculative fiction as the geeks like to call it now, and futurism. So I didn’t feel guilty about setting aside Luke and Leia to see if I could bring this robotic beast back to life.

Without the original packaging or instructions, I hit Google to see what this bad boy was and hopefully find some instructions to get him back on his feet. I immediately found a handful of pictures and determined this is a Tomy Giant ZRK manufactured and sold in 1983. In my haste to get started, I began the rebuilding process using the sometimes blurred, and often taken at bad angles, photos as my guide. If I had been a little more patient, I would’ve eventually stumbled on this page which not only includes information about the toy, but also restoration tips and a scan of the original manual:

Even without the instructions it didn’t take a whole lot of trial and error to get him together. Much to my surprise, I had all the pieces! I guess the sun does shine on a dog’s but every once in a while.

Would he still walk? I need two C size batteries to know for sure. Those I did not have. Double AAs and triple AAAs multiply like rabbits in our house, but even now I can’t think of anything we have that runs on Cs. I wasn’t sure that I felt like investing in batteries that would go unused if the motor in this beast had already called it a day.

My solution was to use the 3V output on one of the many Arduinos I have lying around to test it. With the leads attached to the Arduino and the underbelly of the monster, I held my breath and flipped the switch. Nothing. “Oh well,” I thought as I exhaled. “It still looks cool.”

At that moment, victory sprang from my partial defeat as it occurred to me that the AC adapter powering the Arduino probably wasn’t providing enough current to power the little hobby motor at the heart of the robot’s gearbox. My hunch paid off when I switched out the 500mA adapter for a 1A adapter, and the reborn dinobot took its first step in 30 years.

That’s when it hit me that something like this may be the job of future paleontologists and archeologists, piecing together the mechanical artifacts of a civilization making baby steps towards a technological singularity.

Enough pontificating. Here it is in all of its glory:

Tomy Giant ZRK

Tomy Giant ZRK

Now I am headed out the door to buy some C batteries.

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