Raleigh Chopper creator ‘sad’ about modern children’s obsession with screens


The man behind some of the best-loved toy and vehicle designs of the 1970s has said he is “sad” about modern children’s addiction to smartphones and gaming.

Tom Karen, who created the Raleigh Chopper, the Bond Bug, the Bush Radio and the Marble Run, said he loves “good solid things”.

The Czechoslovakia-born designer collected his OBE for services to design from the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace on Thursday.

He headed the Ogle Design studio from 1962 to 1999 which created, among many other things, Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder for the Star Wars films.

Now in his 90s, Mr Karen is still making toys.

Asked about today’s children’s reliance on screens, he said: “I am sad about it. I also hate the plastic toys that you throw away after very, very little use.

“I’ve always been for good solid things.”

He said he had recently been to a wood yard to buy a length of wood to turn into bricks.

Tom Karen receives OBE
Tom Karen receives OBE

“The amount of creative things children can do building things – two to three-year-olds who can do a bit, but 10-year-olds can do really challenging structures.

“When they knock them over they get a huge amount of satisfaction and to me that’s a toy that gives me huge satisfaction.”

Mr Karen added: “I adore children. Part of my life was running a successful design office, but making things in various materials like clay and cane and sheet metal, coathanger wires and so on – I always wanted to do that.”

His daughter Josephine, who accompanied him to the Palace, said: “Get a child off their iPad and they will learn to play again.”

Mr Karen now spends a lot of time designing toys for his grandchildren, and has also created a range of toy birds to raise money for the children’s unit at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.