Synopsis of Toy
Are they alien flowers? Haphazard scribbles? The dodo birds’ flight path? What could the crazy series of circles, ellipses, and strange curves be? De Roberval called them trochoids, Pascal called them roulettes, Galileo called them cycloids, and Kenner called them Spirographs.
The year was 1965, and Denys Fisher introduced the little ones to mathematics with a set of ridged plastic shapes known as Spirograph. This amazing toy was nothing more than plastic circles and shapes with ridged edges (like gears) that created the most intricate designs when a pen traced the path of the small shape as it rolled along inside of the bigger circle. It seemed so simple, and yet these two pieces of plastic and a pen miraculously created the most elaborate patterns of swirls and shapes.
The Spirograph was dubbed ‘Toy of the Year’ in '67, and was quickly acquired by Kenner. Made for ages 5 and up, the Spirograph was a great toy for boys and girls of all ages. Countless hours passed as sheet after sheet of paper was scribbled upon, then pinned up on your bedroom walls turned art gallery. A few spins around the circle would create simple spiral-like designs, but a maniacal hand that went round and round until the paper ripped could create some of the most bizarre shapes. And just like snowflakes, no two designs were alike.
You didn’t have to be a junior scientist to get excited over the wizardry of the Spirograph—a handful of colored pens could keep you busy all day long, and you didn’t have to know what vector, sine and cosine was for another 10 years (when Trigonometry would make you pine for the glorious days of youth and the plastic Spirograph in your hands once again).
Spirograph still excites and educates (albeit subliminally) and has even added a modern twist. All sorts of crazy neon plastic shapes make up today’s Spirograph, but the concept remains the same: the wonderful, seemingly magical (but mathematically sound) series of ridged circles and ellipses create the best in pre-Einstein years mixed with a little Warhol for good measure. The Spirograph made even the most artistically challenged feel like we could wear a beret with the best of them.