Wednesday, August 21, 2013

They Don’t Make Toys like they used to. They’re better

There’s a familiar attitude that comes across from our grandparent, and even parents sometimes when they come across a new gadget, toy or pretty much anything made this side of the Great War. That attitude is usually a kind of fearful reverence of whatever it is, along with a line similar to, ‘oh, toys aren’t what they used to be.’ But what’s more confusing is that they seem to think the old toys were somehow better. But why?

Old folks don’t like it easy

We can’t really put it any better than the Monthy Python ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ sketch. For an unknown reason, there seems to be a need with the older generations to see who lived in the most depraved and horrible conditions. The worse they lived, the better. There’s no point in trying to figure out this problem, but we can compare the toys we have today to what we used to, say, one hundred years ago.

Toys in 1913

Toys as we know them, even old ones, didn’t really kick off until the late 20s and early 30s, so a lot of playing was purely down to the imagination of the people involved. For that reason we can argue that this here plank of wood is your average representation of a 1913 toy.

I know what you’re thinking. That’s a bad toy, and it is really when you consider its actual use, but there are some that argue the advantages of this low-fi entertainment. In the Boston Globe, Andrew Doerfler writes about Howard P. Chudacoff’s argument that it actually wasn’t all that bad:

“When toys work with motors or you have a remote control, the toy is going to do certain things, and then you’re bored with it,” says Singer. “But give a child two sets of wooden blocks, and he’ll do anything with it.”

The argument is basically that the piece of wood can be a gun, a mast, a paddle, a surfboard, it can be anything they want it to.

Now let’s look at 2013 toys

We could go on for a while about all the technological advancement, but things like Moore’s law dictates that it’s happening really flipping fast, so there is no point in trying to define it at any particular moment. We can look at other advancements though. Readily available tech like lasers means we can have pretty much anything personalised. From our golf balls to our cufflinks, it’s certainly something that wouldn’t happen back then. Have a look at some of the bespoke gifts from Personal favourites include a customisable champagne label (Champagne included) and a door mat with any message you desire on it.

So we mentioned guns earlier…

This thing is the Hasbro Nerf N-Strike Elite Centurion. It was realised August 2013 and fires faster than any Nerf gun and, in fact, any other toy-foam-pellet gun ever. For those of us down on our toy facts, that’s 100 feet in range. This was achieved by adding a spring and ‘hefty darts’ which carry them further. Chudacoff would argue that this can only ever be a gun, so will eventually be boring. But if you ask me, this beats any non-toy that 1913 could throw at us.

About the Author
David is a UK writer than regularly writes about a whole host of different topics.

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