Saturday, June 24, 2017

Last New Thing

It's over. And I missed it.

Once again something came and went in all but a flash, and I am just learning about it. If you have school age children, this was likely on your radar; mine, not so much. You may have been buying your first one while I was cleaning the gutters of winter debris. About the time I was getting the grill ready for spring cookouts, you were likely on your second or third. And just as it was finally getting to the point that I could enjoy my morning coffee along with the paper while sitting on the deck, you were wondering how many your kid had to have. Now suddenly, just as am hearing the term “fidget spinner” for the first time, you are chucking them all into a drawer in the basement, happy to be done with them.

For the uninitiated, the fidget spinner was the hula hoop (or troll doll or super ball or Rubik's cube or Beanie Baby or jelly bracelet) of the moment that kids just had to have or their lives weren't complete. Made of plastic and ball bearings, spinners have two or three paddle-shaped blades attached to a central core. Think maple tree seedlings, and you're not far off. Squeeze the core, give the blades a flick and they spin. Yup, that's it, but that's enough. Need proof of their popularity? Recently they held the top 16 spots in Amazon's rankings of the most popular toys, and 43 of the top 50.

While they are purported to be helpful to those with ADHD or autism, there is no real evidence to support that. And why something becomes popular as a toy for the masses is also a mystery. But the physical act of spinning the paddles appeals to many (adults and kids alike) for whom there is a distinct lack of physical stimuli in their everyday lives. After all, we are all glued to screens minute after minute, whether on phones, pads or desks. And ever since the iPhone was introduced 10 years ago, things that you push, twirl or slide have gone the way of the dodo. Everything is now accomplished by sliding your finger around a smooth piece of glass, thrilling at first, but stimuli-sucking as you seem to do it endlessly day after day.

Indeed, as the fidget spinner has waned, it successor has started to trend upward, and in a big way. When the Fidget Cube appeared on Kickstarter, the funding target was $15,000, but the actual pledges came in at whopping $6.4 million. The cube fits in your pocket and sports a different type of satisfying physical interaction on each face: one has a switch, another a gear, another a knob and so on. Sure, you could just click an old fashion Bic pen a few thousand times, but this has buttons!! Three that make noise and two that don't!

I know, what you're thinking: if only you'd thought of that. Well, I did, and still have it in our basement. When our kids were little, like all tykes, they wanted to press and play with whatever moved. And that meant buttons and switches on remote controls and phones and other stuff that was better left alone. So I went to Radio Shack and bought one of every switch they had, along with a bunch of lights, buzzers and bells. I got a big Tupperware box, punched holes in the top and wired it all up to a nine-volt battery. We called it the Buzzer Box, and I should have patented it. Not quite Steve Jobs, but it would have been something.

What's next? There's the Nanodots Gyro Duo, which is made up of two balls that whirl around while repelling and attracting each other thanks to snazzy magnetic technology. Or the Jammer, a sort of weighted mini-duckpin that rolls and flips. Will either be the next big thing to catch the imagination of kids everywhere? There's one sure way to know, and it recalls the time my mother called me to ask me if I heard about the hot new club in the city. My response? “If you're calling to tell me about it, it's no longer the hot new club.” Translating that exchange to this circumstance: if you hear about what's trendy from me, it's already over and gone.


Marc Wollin of Bedford lives on the trailing edge. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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