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My worst Christmas present was a remote controlled hovercraft

OPINION: It was 1989 and what I really wanted for Christmas was one of those proper RC kits. You know, the ones with the off-road cars that could jump up curbs and run as fast as a real one. Problem was that those kits were super expensive and there was no way that I was going to get one.

Then, I saw it in the pages of the Argos catalogue: a remote-controlled hovercraft. The Taiyo Typhoon was everything that my young mind could want. “Runs on land and water,” said the blurb on the box, fuelling dreams of all the places I’d be able to use it. More importantly, it was the right price. I was sold, even with my parents trying to put me off.

Why would they try and ruin things, I wondered. This gift was going to be amazing. All those stupid people with their stupid cars would weep, as they saw my hovercraft blast past them, into the lake and out the otherwise. This thing was going to make me the best RC racer in town.

Christmas came and I unwrapped my hovercraft and slid it from the packaging. It didn’t quite feel like the premium product that the box had promised. 

Then, I noticed that it needed all the batteries. Literally, all of them. Every single AA rechargeable battery in the house was needed in the battery pack holder. 

Back in the 80s rechargeable batteries weren’t as good as they are today. For starters, they took a long time to charge. The sun would set and rise again, weeks would turn into months, and months into years. Empires would rise and fall and rise again, and entire civilisations would crumble to dust. And there, somewhere are the end of time the batteries would finally be charged.

With a fresh power pack, the hovercraft was ready to go, to launch itself into any territory. Only, it really wasn’t that exciting. On the right surface, it would nip along alright, although it was practically impossible to control, sliding like a drunk on an ice-skating rink. 

It wouldn’t work on carpets, hills, grass or inclines, which was most of the surfaces that I had access to. As for water, the hovercraft would run on the pond but didn’t have enough power to get up the small lip. Even if it had, outside the pond was grass that the hovercraft wouldn’t run on. 

While batteries may have taken an age to charge, they were gone much faster. Each set of batteries would give the hovercraft a few minutes of life, before the painfully long recharge had to be done. There were battery packs you could buy that extended run-time, although that might get you just over 10 minutes of use.

As it was, I was stuck with rechargeable batteries and the provided holder. With such short driving time, I was too scared to take the hovercraft to the local boating lake, in case I had to wade in to rescue it. 

Don’t tell them, but I should have listened to my parents that year and gone for something else. The hovercrafts should all have been driven off a cliff into the sea, only I doubt they’d have enough battery life or off-road capability to make it.

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