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Whatever new-fangled video games and hover boards are hitting toy store shelves this Christmas, there are some classics that just never go away. We're talking about toys that go back decades and even centuries. Why? We're not sure, because most of them suck.

10
Slinky

What is it:
A floppy spring-shaped thing that's supposed to walk down stairs and was designed by Richard James (later of James Industries) in 1943. We're guessing the design phase consisted of him drawing a curly squiggle on the back of a napkin while on the telephone.

Why it sucks:
Throughout human history, we highly doubt anyone ever claimed that going down some stairs was a fun activity, yet this premise is entirely what Richard James based his toy on. And, it seems, two generations of parents agreed with him. They rushed out to buy their offspring a Slinky for Christmas, instead of a Total Death Chaos Raygun 3000 or other similarly named toys that promised instant awesomeness.

Those children promptly ran up to the top of the stairs, pushed the Slinky off the top step and watched it flop down to the next where it would stay, completely inert until they nudged it again. Then, it would roll sideways off the step and lay sadly against the wall. Sighing, children the world over would then pack their Slinky away then go outside and do something more fun, like poke some dog shit with a stick.

What can make it better:
It's hard to make something that falls down stairs better, but James Industries could have tried. Maybe, it would have been more interesting if it had negotiated something trickier than a staircase--a cluttered floor, a minefield, one of those tire drills they always have at the NFL combine. How they could get a spring to do that, we don't know, but then again, we never claimed to be toy makers, James Industries.

Fun fact:
The Slinky has been named the Official State Toy of Pennsylvania as of Nov 4, 2001. We're thinking the Amish might have had a hand in that.

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9
Space Hopper

What is it:
An inflated rubber ball with a handle thing. Originally called the Space Hopper, it also has been marketed as a "Hoppity Hop," "Hop-A-Roo" and any number of equally retarded names. The idea is that a person sits on the ball, grasps the handle and propels himself along using the power of bounce.

Why it sucks:
A Space Hopper is an awesome idea in premise, and the kids in the commercials always look like they're having a blast. Every kid who watches it sees himself bouncing over houses or zipping across the yard as if mounted on a round, rubbery steed. The name alone suggests that with one bounce, a child can be launched into the stratosphere.

In reality, the bouncing properties of a Space Hopper equate to those of a dropped egg. And, forward movement is approximately that of an asthmatic beetle with two missing legs. Still, parents around the world saw those ads and, for many of us, at least one Christmas featured a huge, almost round wrapped gift under the tree.

"Gee, what do you think that is, Sport!," your father would say.

"Gosh, I just don't know." You'd lie, while secretly hoping it might be two BB guns and a poster of the chick from Weird Science wrapped up with a soon to hatch Gremlin. But, you knew you were just fooling yourself.

What can make it better:
Just making it out of some kind of actual bouncy material would help. As it is, you feel like you're really doing all the work, trying to drag yourself and the ball across the yard with the sheer force of your pelvic thrusts. Though, we seem to remember the teenage girls in our neighborhood saying it was a brilliant toy, for some reason, and that it could never be improved. We all sneered at that, because what did girls know?

Fun fact:
Ashrita Furman from New York, holds the world-record for the fastest 100-meter dash on a Space Hopper. Ashrita Furman is a serial record breaker, and holds 25 current world records, including the longest pool cue balance, the longest underwater juggling and the longest pointless existence on Earth.

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8
Ball in a Cup

What is it?:

Sometimes called a "balero" depending on what part of the world you're in, it's a wooden cup on a handle, attached to a ball on a string. The idea is to toss the ball into the air and catch it in the cup. And then you...well, nothing. That's it.

Why it sucks:
Catching things is not that hard, and catching a ball in a cup doesn't make the task any trickier, especially when the ball is attached to the cup by a piece of string about 18-inches long. The re-playability factor is also sadly lacking: Once you catch the ball in the cup, that's it. There's no smaller cup to move on to, or bigger ball or longer string. Thus, when a child is presented with this toy from well-meaning parents on their 7th birthday, they duly toss the ball into the cup three or four times, then put it down and go back to drawing on a younger sibling's face with permanent markers.

What can make it better:
Removing the string. At least children could fling a ball without a cup connected to it hard up into the air or hard at each other's heads. And, as a plus, the ball would quickly get lost, meaning they would never have to play with the fucking thing again.

Fun fact:
The TV show Family Guy parodied the toy in an episode, and pretty much captured the futility of the whole thing.

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7
Hula Hoop

What is it:
A hoop, usually made out of plastic, that can be twirled around the hips, waist or neck. It was 'invented' in 1958 by Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin, founders of the Wham-O toy company.

Why it sucks:
"Playing" Hula Hoop involves holding the hoop around you at waist level, then trying to spin it at a rate approaching 1,000 rpms. Then you stand with your feet planted on the spot, spasmodically twitch your waist and hips as the hula Hoop drops to the floor. You sigh, pick the thing up again, and restart. But this time, you manage to keep it off the ground, at which point the Hula Hoop ricochets up your body and smacks you in the face.

Chances are there will be someone nearby whose body seems to be made of rubber, who can somehow gyrate their way to having five of the fucking things spinning around their waist and neck. They'll claim in a loud voice that it's so easy, that you just have to put your hips into it and you'll be fine. It is always OK to throw rocks at this person.

What can make it better:
Ignoring its toy factor altogether and instead, marketing it to tubby people as a novelty belt.

Fun fact:

The current endurance record for hula hooping is held by Roxane Rose, who hula hooped for 90 hours in April 1987, probably due to some kind of mental illness.

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6
Aerobie Sprint Flying Ring

What is it?:
Frisbee designed to be thrown over great distances.

Why it sucks:
Frisbees are quite fun, for the short term, especially when three or four people are in a park and tossing it between themselves. The Aerobie attempts to improve on this with a design that enables it to be flung over great distances, sometimes upwards of 200 yards. This feat of toy engineering has the effect of rendering the toy useless for every child whose yard isn't the size of a football field.

A game of Aerobie usually consisted of you throwing the Aerobie to a friend, or more accurately, toward a black speck on the horizon. Your friend will then have to go looking for the Aerobie, which has been predictably blown off course and ended up in a dog-shit infested clump of bushes 150 feet away. After an indeterminate amount of time, your friend emerges, covered in burrs, twigs and poop, and flings the Aerobie back at you. The Aerobie will, naturally, sail 20 feet over your head and land in the stagnant pond 100 meters behind you. The game will then be held up indefinitely as you and your friend decide "motherfuck an Aerobie" and go home.

What can make it better:
Toy makers stop dicking around with something that was fine the way it was.

Fun fact:

The word "Aerobie" can be used to refer to the sport of ultimate Frisbee, which is a non-contact sport and thus totally pointless.

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5
Boomerang

Why it sucked:
A curved piece of wood designed to return to the user when thrown. They are usually associated with the Aboriginal People of Australia, which leads us to believe that the Aborigines did not have many friends if they had to develop a method of playing catch with themselves.

Why it sucks:
Has anyone ever known someone who could throw a boomerang and actually get it to return? Someone always knows someone who swears someone managed it, but we're certain that's an urban legend. What generally happens when you throw a boomerang is it shoots forwards and curves upward, at which point it either:

  • a) lands in a tree
  • b) flattens out and disappears over the horizon
  • c) curves upward and away and lands in a river 300 feet to your left
  • d) plummets to Earth and half-cartwheels, half-bounces along at lethal speeds, whereupon it usually hits another child in the head, knocking him off his Space Hopper.

Either way, you usually give the boomerang a couple more hopeful throws before it gets lost or confiscated by a an irate mother. At this point, you shrug and go back to fun activities, like making the fat kid with glasses clamber into the pond to get your Aerobie.

What can make it better:
For toy companies to stop pretending a boomerang is a toy, and instead regard it as what it really is; a shitty novelty hunting device that apparently takes years of training to master.

Fun fact:
The returning variety is not the only form of boomerang. You can also get non-returning boomerangs, though most people just refer to these as sticks.

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4
Home Chemistry Kits

What is it?:
A toy which promises children an entire chemistry laboratory in the safety of their own bedrooms.

Why it sucks:
Home chemistry kits promise so much. A glance at any chemistry kit box shows two or more children, usually clad in white coats (not supplied, ever) staring in awe at a glowing green rock or holding some amazing contraption and looking at it in wonder. Even the box for My First Chemistry Kit seems to infer that you can alter your perception with some sort of LSD magnifying glass, and that it even contains a powerful acidic substance that you will naturally use to torture insects. So, while the box never exactly claims that you'll be able to create explosives powerful enough to fell several trees, that's definitely the implied message.

But what you get instead are three glass beakers, a few bags containing salt, sugar, iron shavings, chunks of wood, some substance that turns water green (and makes you feel slightly peculiar when you drink a glass-full), laughably oversized safety goggles and something that looks suspiciously like a Chemistry textbook. The disappointment of realizing you're not going to be able to create your very own thermonuclear device ensures that home chemistry kits are one of the biggest let downs of a child's life.

What can make it better:
Adding stuff that can explode to the kits. If they just let the people who design the box art decide what goes in, then home chemistry kits would be the finest toys available.

Fun fact:
The Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab, released in 1951, had the right idea. They actually supplied a chunk of uranium with the toy, so the child could try all kinds of atomic experiments. Of course, the isotope, U-238, was dangerously radioactive and has been linked to cancer, leukemia and lymphoma. That's right kids, it even got you out of school.

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3
Pogo Sticks

What is it:
A pogo stick is a pole with handles at one end, and footpads at the other, beneath which is a large spring designed to bounce the user up and down.

Why it sucks:
Pogo sticks look fun when other people are playing on them. Someone else always seems to work them easily, merrily bouncing around the street or their yard until they comically topple from their perch, all the while shrieking gay laughter.

When it's your turn, you clamber aboard with the aid of a wall, grip the handles, push your feet down and launch off, expecting a laugh-a-minute roller coaster ride. Except instead of joyfully bouncing around in a happy-go-lucky style, the pogo stick compresses down about 9 feet, then shoots off the ground at a velocity approaching Mach 2. Surprised, and sporting a pair of rapidly browning underpants, you release your grip from the handles and try to step off. At this point the stick would inevitably carry on its ascendancy and smash you on the chin with slightly less force than the punch of a super heavyweight boxer. All the while you get to listen to the cruelest sound ever; the mocking laugh of a fellow child. (No, this never happened to us.)

What can make it better:
We grudgingly admit pogo sticks might be fun when someone has mastered their terrifying and unpredictable nature, and has sensibly clad themselves in adult diapers. But, when we say they're fun, it's like we're saying base jumping is fun. Thus, if they are properly marketed as a suicidal sport not to be attempted by the sort of bespectacled children who grow up to write comedy on the internet, instead of as a harmless children's toy, then we can live with them.

Fun fact:
In rocketry and aerospace design, a form of extremely dangerous oscillation is referred to as pogo oscillation, in reference to the motion of a pogo stick, which only serves to reinforce our view that pogo sticks are fucking insane.

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2
Diablo

What is it:
A Diabolo, or a Devil On Two Sticks, is a juggling toy whereby a spool is whirled and tossed on a string connecting two sticks. They evolved from the Chinese Yo-Yo, which was extensively used throughout the Eastern Kingdom in the 12th century, where we're assuming it was still the most boring form of side walk performance art in existence.

Why it sucks:
Diabolos suffer from two main drawbacks: Tossing a spool into the air is not fun, and it's really, really hard. Just balancing the spool on the string takes Gandhi-like calm, and once that is achieved, the spool has to be flicked into the air and caught again on the string. What usually, no, always happens is your desperate, flaying efforts to catch the spool result in it being flicked away from you at a fairly rapid pace. It then rolls straight under the sofa, forcing you to drop the sticks (immediately and irreparably tangling the string up), get on your belly and shove your hands under the piece of furniture so you can pull out the wretched thing. Also, it is somehow always attracted to the one corner where you need a clothes hanger or a golf club to reach the fucker.

We remember being given these things by well meaning, yet elderly, aunts who clearly believed that any toy that might be fun is the work of Satan and that constantly having to dig the spool out from under the sofa would build character. "Ooh, it's gone under there again, the naughty thing," the demented old crone would cackle. "You need more practice!" And then our parents always forced us to apologize to dear Aunt Gladys for telling her to shut the hell up.

What can make it better:
The toy would be improved several times over if it came in packs of two. Two children could spend the afternoon flinging the spools at each other, scoring points if it hit them in sensitive areas. That's how toys should work.

Fun fact:
Cirque du Soleil, the Montreal-based entertainment empire, frequently have Diabolo performers in their shows, which just goes to show how dire things have become north of the border.

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1
Yo-Yo

What is it:
A yo-yo is comprised of two discs of equal weight connected with an axle, from which a string is attached. The user loops the other end of a string around his finger and proceeds to flick the yo-yo up and down the string until inevitable frustration sets in.

Why it sucks:
Yo-yos have been fobbed onto kids as fun toys for far too long. There's a good chance that anyone whose childhood was from the 1970s onwards will have experienced a yo-yo troupe performing in a school assembly or youth center, in which sparkling performers whipped glittery yo-yos into the air, rolled them up walls and generally managed to get these revolving plastic devices to break every single law of physics.

Then, when the performance was over, every child in a 100-mile radius begged their parents to spend $15 on an official Coca-Cola stunt yo-yo. Then what happened?

Hours of frustration. Hours of trying to untie a piece of string which has a mind of its own when it comes to entanglement. Hours spent watching your yo-yo idly twist at the end of the string instead of snapping smartly back into your palm. The slim volume coming with the pile of shit that promised to make us yo-yo masters within minutes had wonderful drawings and photos of the tricks, but it didn't tell you how to fucking do them. The only trick anyone ever learned was the 'walk the dog' trick, which was just rolling a yo-yo on the floor. All yo-yos did was give two generations of schoolchildren bruised knuckles and friction burns on their index fingers.

What can make it better:
Somehow making the difficulty curve exactly that, instead of a difficulty cliff. Mastering the ascending/descending motion of a yo-yo was not tricky, but trying to get it to do anything else was headache-inducing hard. Either that, or just don't pretend that yo-yos are cool and stop sending lithe, glittering women into our nation's schools to promote them as just that.

Fun fact:
None. There is nothing fun about yo-yos. They are the devil's own stringy testicles.

If you like this article, check out David Knight's article about the 10 Most Insane "Sports" From Around the World.

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