Peter Farran

Posts Tagged ‘toys’

Design Classic Number 36: Rubik’s Cube

In Design Classics, Toys on December 20, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Rubik's CubeImage by Jin.Thai

Popular Puzzle Still Packs a Punch


Creator: Erno Rubik
Created: 1974
Origin: Budapest Hungary

Rubik’s cube is a mechanical puzzle where each group of 9 smaller cubes can be rotated relative to the others quickly mixing up the cubes from their original solved position. The puzzle can then be solved by rotating groups of cubes in a number of possible sequences to arrive once again at the solution. The puzzle was created in response to the challenge of finding a way of allowing 36 cubes to be moved in three dimensions around a central pivot point which had previously only been acheived in a 2 by 2 cube rather than a three by three cube.

The first prototype was created in 1976 while the inventor was working at The Budapest College of applied Arts as a Professor and became widely available in 1980. In 1992 the first Rubik’s Cube world championships were staged demonstrating it’s longevity and world wide appeal.

Erno Rubik was able to hold all of the pieces together and yet allow them to rotate relative to one another with only a three dimensional, spring loaded cross at the center which was originally adjustable to reduce or increase the force needed to make rotations. Erno Rubik was able to create this incredible puzzle no doubt through his experience as a sculptor and architect and the subsequent success was down to the inate inginuity and challenge of the puzzle rather than the usual marketing.


Weekly Design Classic Number 34: Radio Flyer Classic Red Wagon

In Design Classics on December 18, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Radio Flyer Classic Red WagonImage by Kevin Dooley

Go Back in Time in a Little Red Wagon

Creator: Anthony Pasin
Created: 1917
Origin: Chicago, USA

The Radio Flyer Classic Red Wagon is a children’s toy in which one or two small children can be pulled along by an adult. The trailer is mainly of metal construction with solid rubber wheels . The Radio Flyer was designed to take advantage of the new metal mass production methods being used in the early car industry and to replace a similar toy then made from wood.

The inventor of the Radio Flyer Little Red Wagon was born in Venice Italy in 1898, He emmigrated to the United States at the age of 16 and began producing his Radio Flyer wagons in his Chicago factory in 1917.

The body of the Radio Flyer wagon is still pressed from sheet steel much like the early automobiles of the era. The wagon is steered and pulled by the sturdy handle which is carefully designed to avoid either tipping or pinching. Anthony Pasin the inventor of the Radio Flyer Little Red Wagon worked as a water boy for a sewer digging crew before saving enough money to rent a small workshop and tools for the production of his first wagons.

Images, Reviews and: Buy from Amazon US


In Classics on October 17, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Slinky Spring
The Slinky Spring

Creator: Richard James
Created: 1940
Origin: Holidaysburg, USA

Support us: Buy from Amazon US

The slinky spring is a toy which takes advantage of the unusual properties of a large diameter thin wire helical spring. It can be made to walk down a flight of stairs or walk across an inclined plain powered by it’s own shifting weight and momentum. It was designed out of an accidental observation by a naval engineer Richard James at a ship yard when a thin wire helical spring seemed to playfully take a step as it fell from the table to the floor. With some refinement James was convinced that  this type of spring could make for an interesting toy.

With the support of James’ who named the toy Slinky it was developed in the early 1940s and first offered for sale in 1945 at Gimbel’s department store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It has remained in continuous production in the United States since then. Production was moved to Holidaysburg, Pennsylvannia in 1964 after the business was taken over by James’ wife Betty in 1960.

The Slinky has maintained it’s popularity through embedding itself in our culture. It’s appeared in school science labs to demonstrate longitudinal wave motion, in army camps as makeshift radio antennae and even been taken in space by NASA astronauts. The slinky is irresistible and instantly recognizable. A true design classic.

View Master Classic Model L

In Classics on August 29, 2010 at 8:29 am

Fisher Price Viewmaster Classic

View Master Classic Model L

Creator: Sawyer’s Photo Services
Created: 1939
Origin: United States

Support us: Buy from Amazon US

The Fisher Price View Master Classic model L is a stereoscopic or 3D viewer of photographic images. The images are printed in pairs onto transparent film which can be viewed sequentially by pressing a lever at the side of the viewer. The viewers are now marketed to children although the viewers will still view any of the discs ever created.

The original discs were 3D alternatives to postcards but discs have been created for the US military, Disney characters, cult TV shows such as Star Trek and Movies such as ET. The View Master concept has had many owners and the design has undergone many modifications but the basic concept remains the same with a lever on the side for mechanically advancing the images and a slot for accepting the circular disc. The specification for the disc remains unchanged so every viewer will still view every disc.

The viewer was born to fulfill the need for a simple inexpensive viewer for stereoscopic 3D images. Popularity has been maintained since the original partnership of photographers William Gruber and Harold Graves led to production of the first Model A viewers in Portland, Oregon, USA.

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