Founded on that age-old truth that all professors, scientists and braniacs are characterised by ruddy cheeks, owlish spectacles and a mighty moustache, the Little Professor weedled its way onto the toy scene in 1976. Obviously, this professor wasn't like the fuddy-duddy ones who taught us in science class, because this one was at the front of cutting-edge technology!
The hand-held device had been devised and manufactured by Texas Instruments, who would later be well regraded for its success with the Speak & Spell, Speak & Math and Touch &Tell. The Little Professor was its preamble into the world of educational electronics - and an antedote to the more entertainment-based electronics of the Atari, which was becoming big at this time. Texas Instruments had realised that kids were being lured by the bright lights and repetitive bleeping of the electronic games releases, so decided to capitalise on this and sneak in some education to kids of the 70s, by way of the Little Professor.
Although it looked, at first glance, like a calculator, albeit with an owlish character emblazened across its front, the Little Professor offered so much more. Instead of allowing you to work out sums and write naughty words upside down on its screen, the professor would actually ask you questions. You would then have to enter the correct answer onto the LCD screen (which bizarrely resembled a window into his brain). In all, there were 16,000 different maths problems held within the device - covering subtraction, addition, division and multiplication - so it was impossible to cheat by memorising the answers. If, because of this, you entered the wrong answer, the professor would react by flashing up 'EEE' on its screen. No one ever knew what this stood for exactly, but it was nevertheless more than enough to make you rethink the difficulty level you'd selected and instead opt for a lower one of the five on offer. Well, you wanted to please the old man, didn't you?
Since its release, the Little Professor has spawned some offspring of his own (where did he get the time amid all those maths problems?), albeit with updates courtesy of Texas instruments and new LCD screens to keep kids entertained, ahem, educated...