Archive for November, 2010

Cool Toy of the Day: The Edison Talking Doll

Edison Talking Doll with mechanism

As Christmas draws near and we’re all shopping for the newest electronic devices, I thought we’d step back a few years to one of the earliest technology-driven toys.

In 1890 Thomas Edison began selling the very first talking doll. It was quite a technological achievement at the time. Aside from being the first of a long line of talking toys, it was also the very first phonograph marketed for home entertainment with a pre-recorded cylinder.

The Edison Talking Doll stood 22 inches high and weighed four pounds. It was constructed with a metal body and articulated wooden arms and legs. There were two versions of bisque heads, one from Simon & Halbig and one from Bahr & Proschild. The price was $10 with a simple chemise, or $20-25 with full dress.

The dolls came with a mechanism inside that would play a short nursery rhyme when the handle was turned. There were 12 available titles such as Little Jack Horner or Mary Had a Little Lamb and the disks were not interchangeable. There was no motor mechanism, so children were expected to crank the motor at a steady rate in order to hear the recording properly.

The very first doll was sent to the Emperor of Germany and a few others were sent to various other important people. They first went on sale at the Lenox Lyceum in New York on April 7, 1890. The price of the doll was fairly steep at the time, equal to about two weeks salary for the average person. Apparently it got a lot of attention in the press. The Oroville Mercury stated "Toydom will be revolutionized". They may have been right about that, but they were not accurate on the success of the Edison Talking Doll.

Edison Talking Doll cylinder reproduction

Unfortunately the dolls were only marketed for a few weeks. Although they had shipped 2,500 dolls, only about 500 were ever sold, and many of those were returned by unhappy customers. Production ended the beginning of May, 1890 and the dolls were withdrawn from the market.

There were many problems with the dolls. The biggest being that the recordings were not terribly good. There was no way to mass-produce the cylinders, so each one had to be recorded individually in wax on the disk. Edison himself commented that “the voices of the little monsters were exceedingly unpleasant to hear.” You can hear them yourself at this website.

Because the disks were recorded in wax, they soon wore out. The disks were also not stable and eventually cracked. For this reason, there are none of the originals available today.

Recording the dolls voice

There were also legal problems that may have led to the end of production. Edison had an arrangement with Bell for the wax recording method used in the dolls, but it only applied to dictating machines. He apparently decided to stretch that agreement to cover the dolls, but Bell did not agree and apparently took legal action, possibly stopping the sale of the dolls.

All the returned dolls, along with all the remaining stock had their phonographs removed and were then sold off cheaply. For this reason, most dolls that survive today have no mechanism, or are fitted with a reproduction mechanism. Reproduction disks are also available which incorporate wire mesh in them to eliminate the cracking problem. They sell for about $100.00.

There were other legal problems as well. William W. Jacques actually developed the first prototype for the doll based on Edison’s original tinfoil recording method. Jacques and his partner Lowell Briggs licensed the Edison name and began the Edison Phonography Toy Manufacturing Company in order to produce the dolls. However, Edison soon took over the company even before the dolls were manufactured and demoted the founder, which led to years of lawsuits.

Obviously, for all their faults, it was a milestone in the toy industry. Talking dolls became a standard item and are certainly still popular in various levels of complexity today. A quick search on Amazon for "talking doll" returned 1,650 results. One curious search result is a CD from L. Gonze titled "Ghost Solos" which features the Edison Talking Doll recording of Little Jack Horner".

Continue below for some additional photos!

Closeup of the talking mechanism
Edison’s Talking Doll unclothed
Engraving showing operation
I talk!
This ad shows the list of verses available.

What’s it like when you unleash 1,200 Hot Wheels Cars?

When you were a kid (or NOW, if you are a kid), what would you have given to have 1,200 Hot Wheels
Cars racing around a track all at the same time? I know!

Well, Chris Burden, an artist in California has done just that. He’s currently working on Metropolis II, an installation that will appear at the Low Angeles County Museum of Art.

Metropolis I was created in 2004 and was composed of 80 cars. Obviously he upgraded a bit for this new version.

Once completed, the cars will race past a Rube Goldberg "city" made form Erector Sets, Legos, and Lincoln Logs.

I’m sure there’s a serious message behind this artwork, but for our purposes, it’s just way-cool. Hope it comes to the East Coast at some point in the future so I can see it in person.

Via Gizmodo

Holiday Toy Safety Tips from the CPSC

warning label
My favorite warning label

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has released some safety tips to help prevent toy-related injuries this holiday season.

This past year the CPSC has established new toy safety standards that limit lead content to the lowest levels world-wide, limit phthalates, and setting new testing standards. While these standards have been burdensome to small toy manufacturers, they have dramatically reduced toy recalls a quite a bit (there were 44 in 2010, 50 in 2009, and 172 in 2008.

The CPSC’s "three-pronged safety approach" for parents is:

1. Which Toy for Which Child – Always choose age appropriate toys.

2. Gear Up for Safety – Include safety gear whenever shopping for sports-related gifts or ride-on toys, including bicycles, skates, and scooters.

3. Location, Location, Location – Be aware of your child’s surroundings during play. Young children should avoid playing with ride-on toys near automobile traffic, pools or ponds. They also should avoid playing in indoor areas associated with hazards such as kitchens and bathrooms and in rooms with corded window blinds.

Some other safety tips from the CPSC and other sources are:

For children younger than three, avoid toys with any small parts, which can cause choking if eaten. Keep older sibling’s toys away from small children. Small magnets can be particularly dangerous if ingested, because they can connect across the digestive tract causing blockages.

Immediately discard plastic wrap and other packaging material

Batteries should be charged by adults or supervised by adults with older children. Chargers and adapters can get very hot and pose a burn hazard. Also be sure to monitor charging batteries because some charges do not have the ability to prevent overcharging.

Surprisingly, balloons can be particularly dangerous with small children, who can choke or suffocate on deflated or broken pieces. Discard broken balloons immediately.

Toy caps, noisy guns, Big Bang Cannons, and other similar toys can produce noise at levels that can damage hearing. Be sure to read all directions and warnings and use them only outdoors when cautioned.

Toys that propell projectiles can be turned into weapons by children and can cause eye injury.

Check all toys periodically for breakage, wear, or sharp edges that may be dangerous. Check all electric toys for wear and exposed wires. Throw away all damaged toys immediately.

Lastly, look for quality design and construction in all your toy purchases. This is something that Dave’s Cool Toys is all to familiar with (shameless plug). While parents should certainly evaluate all toy purchases for their children, we have spent much time reviewing each toy we sell prior to offering it for purchase to be sure it is well-built and of quality design and manufacture.

For more information on toy safety check out A Parents’ Guide To Selecting Toys For Infants And Toddlers or Toys That Kill
. And for an interesting look at how Safety concerns have changed childen’s toys, take a look at Good Toys, Bad Toys

Cool Toy of the Day: Animated Plush Goat

Sound of Music Singing Goat

I came across this video this morning (see below) on YouTube. Yes, it’s an animated plush goat singing the Goat-herder song from The Sound of Music.

First, I have a confession to make. Every time I see The Sound of Music
on TV, I have to watch the Goatherder song. Dorky, yes.

Although some of the videos I found on YouTube of this goat claim it’s rare, I did find it on Amazon.

What I can’t determine for sure is whether it’s Julie Andrews singing the tune. It certainly sounds like her. The song in the movie includes the children singing (trust me), so it’s not from the soundtrack.

The other thing that struck me about this video is the editing. Someone went to some trouble. Enjoy!

OK Go Does it Again with Toast

OK Go has once again created a great creative music video. This one also includes creative animation, which is something I love, which you might know from the flipbooks and other items we carry at Dave’s Cool Toys.

Their new video uses 2,430 pieces of toast with animation burned onto each one. I’m not sure, but I think they re-used some.

Anyway, it’s wonderful and I hope they keep it up! Enjoy

Via Gizmodo

Cool Toy of the Day: Hasboro Reinvents the ViewMaster with my3D

View-Master my3D

This is awesome!

Hasboro has reinvented the View-Master.

OK, at first that sounds like a really bad idea, and maybe it is. We’ll see. They’ve tried to update the View-Master before and I thought it sucked. One example is the Talking View-Master. I used to like to listen to the Jurassic Park Lost World one just because it sounded so bad. I liked the slide that said "Mommy is angry". I’m easily amused.

The View-Master is obviously a classic toy. The basic version has remained unchanged for many years. I have View-Master reels that belonged to my father when he was a child and they work with current viewers. Classic.

But this sounds great. At least to me. It’s the View-Master my3D. It’s basically 3D lenses in a device that will hold an iPhone or iPod Touch at the other end. In it’s most basic form it will view 3D images just like the original View-Master. But with both free and paid apps, it could be much, much more. For example, with the motion sensing capabilities of the iPhone, 3D images can move around as you move your head, so you can be looking around at an entire 3D environment. There will certainly also be 3D movies, trailers, etc. And there will also be 3D games. This could be great.

The View-Master my3D will be available in Spring at a price of about $30.00. Presumable, it will include at least one app. Of course, it will also require and iPhone or iPod touch. I will be looking for it at Toy Fair in February. Check back.

Dave’s Cool Toys Blog
We post news about new toys on our site, new toys in the market, general toy information, or stuff we just thought was cool (usually toys).

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Be sure to check out our toys at Dave's Cool Toys. We work hard to find toys you won't find at the big box stores. Now go out and play!

Dave Ference

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