Space hopper


Space hopper

A space hopper, also known as a skippyball, kangaroo ball, bouncer, hippity hip, hop ball, or a hoppity hop, is a rubber ball with handles which allow one to sit on it without falling off. The goal is to hop around with it, using the elastic properties of the ball to move forward. This can be carried even further by employing several balls and organizing a race. Space hoppers are generally quite safe to use and are very difficult to burst unless they have been deliberately over-inflated.fact

Use

The Space hopper was a heavy rubber balloon about 60-70 cm in diameter, with two rubber handles protruding from the top. A valve at the top allowed the balloon to be inflated by a bicycle pump or car-tyre pump.

A child would sit on top, holding the two handles, and bounce up and down until the balloon left the ground. By leaning, the driver could make the balloon bounce in a particular direction. In practical terms, this is a very inefficient form of locomotion, but its simplicity, ease of use, low cost and cheerful appearance appealed to children.

History

The Spacehopper was said to have been invented by Aquilino Cosani of Ledragomma, an Italian company that manufactured toy rubber balls. He patented the idea in Italy in 1968, and in the United States in 1971. Cosani called the toy PON-PON.

Space Hoppers were introduced to the UK in 1969 - the Cambridge Evening News newspaper, England, contained an advertisement for the hopper in November of that year [http://space-hopper.blogspot.com/2006/08/1969-space-hopper-in-britain.html] and described it as a "trend". Although in practical terms they served absolutely no useful purpose whatsoever (in that they didn’t allow the user to go faster, bounce higher, or run further than they could on foot), nevertheless they became a major craze during the late 1960s/early 1970s. The Space hopper also lent its name and face to the Birmingham Psychedelic trance parties that ran from the mid nineties to 2000 and also appeared at the Glastonbury festival. Many up and coming acts were springboarded to fame at these events, including names such as DJ Tristan and Johnny Seven.

The original UK space hopper was manufactured by Mettoy (Mettoy-Corgi). Wembley made a similar model which had smooth handles rather than the ribbed original. The orange kangaroo design is now available in Adult Sized versions in the UK.

In the U.S., the first mass-marketed hopping ball (a version of an earlier European toy*) was the Hoppity Hop, released by the Sun company around 1968. Because of the market and media saturation by this toy, any such ball - regardless of origin - is now generally known in the U.S. by that name (or sometimes 'hippity hop').

The earliest HH's were made of rubber (usually red or blue) with a round ring handle on top and automotive tire valve for inflation. In the 1970s Sun introduced various character versions of the HH, such as Disney's Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck (hard plastic versions of the character's head attached to the ball).

The HH sold rather steadily for decades, but by the 1990s sales apparently started to slip due to increased competition from foreign hoppers. At some point the HH came to be made of a vinyl-like material, some molded in fluorescent colors. The Hoppity Hop now appears to have been discontinued, but the original - sometimes still in the box - comes up from time to time on online auction sites.

It is interesting to note that the Hoppity Hop's original targets (according to advertising materials) were adults as well as kids. Since the balls only inflated to around 20", however, it's doubtful any but the shortest hop-minded adults could have gotten much use out of one.

Today, numerous (usually Chinese) versions can be found in most stores, ranging anywhere from 16"-24."

The European "Hop!" balls appeared in the early 1990s and are still available. Made by Italy's Ledragomma/Ledraplastic, these are essentially the quality Gymnic exercise ball with a handle attached. The sizes of these balls range from the Hop! 45 to the Hop! 66 (66 cm, about 26").

While it is still is used for fun and exercise by many adults, the Hop! 66 is still borderline child-sized. So demand for truly adult-proportioned hopping balls was met with two notable items.

The first of these was Kitt 2000 Velp of the Netherlands "Mega Skippyballs," a huge hopping ball which by virtue of its size was intended only for adult use. There were three sizes, the biggest measuring 120cm, 100cm, 80cm. The Mega Skippyballs are a fun sport. Made of extra strong vinyl. In the Netherlands there are a lots of Skippyball races and Skippyball championships.

The newest (Jan 06) release of note in the U.S. is the Adult Space Hopper/Hoppity Hop, a 30+ inch ball also designed specifically for adult use (or, at the very least, for use by tall teenagers). This ball is the first in the U.S. to strike the balance between durability and ride-ability for the average sized adult.

Popular culture

*The British animated sketch show "Monkey Dust" features the recurring character Ivan 'The Meat-Safe Murderer' Dobsky, a man imprisoned in 1974 for a crime he didn't commit, being finally released in every episode with no possessions other than a variety of 70s clothing and a space hopper called Mr. Hoppy. Mr. Hoppy is eventually revealed to be both sentient and responsible for the Meat-Safe Murders himself (as well as the murder of Dobsky's wife of several hours).
*In British science fiction show "Doctor Who" Episode "Utopia", the Doctor disdainfully compares Captain Jack's "space hopper" vortex manipulator to his "sports car" TARDIS.

Records

* Simultaneous Hopping For A Duration Of One Minute

On 4 July 2008 in Folkestone, UK the world-record of 1,000 people simultaneous hopping for a duration of one minute beating the previous 600 people. The attempt organised by Shepway School Sport Partnership was filmed for Five News [ [http://www.tsttoys.com/catalog/guinness-world-record-space-hopper.php TST Toys Space Hopper Guinness World Record] , Five News, 4 July 2008] and also reported in regional press. [ [http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kol08/article/default.asp?article_id=44273 1000 Space Hopper World Record] , 4 July 2008] Previously in April 2007, a world record of only 600 people took part in a simultaneous hop for a duration of one minute on the Millennium Bridge, London, beating the previous record of 551 people set in 2003. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/6557635.stm Spacehoppers set bounce record] , BBC News, 15 April 2007]

* Fastest Time For 100 Meters On A Space Hopper

In November 2004, Ashrita Furman took just 30.2 seconds to cover the 100 meter dash.

* Fastest Mile On A Space Hopper

In January 2005, Ashrita Furman set the record for the fastest mile on the Great Wall of China, at Juyonguan outside Beijing.

References

External links

* [http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blspacehopper.htm History]
* [http://icnewcastle.icnetwork.co.uk/1000expats/expatsfeatures/tm_objectid=14647610&method=full&siteid=50080&headline=if-you-hadn-t-one--you-were-hopping-mad-name_page.html " If you hadn't one, you were hopping mad"] — article on the toy
* [http://www.spacehoppersite.co.uk/ The Space Hopper Site] - Reviews of present and past models


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