The shocking history of the best-selling product… of all time
May 16, 2017 6:09 AM   Subscribe

 
These f**king things - I always assumed that somebody somewhere had accidentally ordered the manufacture of 2 million more ventilation system components than they needed and then thought "oh shit, now what can I do with these ..."
posted by GallonOfAlan at 6:13 AM on May 16 [8 favorites]


Tamagotchi may come and go, but Koosh balls are forever.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:44 AM on May 16 [10 favorites]


What the hell... I have never heard the words "fidget" and "spinner" in conjunction with one another before about four days ago. In the last four days every other thing I see on the goddamn internet is about fidget spinners. I finally Googled them yesterday to find out what the hell they were. I assume the Illuminati are testing their ability to use the entire internet as a unified advertisement delivery medium or something?
posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:45 AM on May 16 [14 favorites]


Let's have a Clackers revival. Bruised wrists are good for the soul.
posted by davebush at 6:54 AM on May 16 [16 favorites]


Vorso Flat Top

Anyone fancy paying 160 quid for one of these?

If it makes you happy I guess.
posted by Talez at 6:55 AM on May 16


They're like someone's half-finished idea of what a toy should be.

My kids have a few, and my observations are:

1. A lot of them have 2 or 3 extra bearings around the outside that appear to exist only because they add weight. Many of these outer bearings are so crappy they'll barely turn, so I'm guessing that there are vast bins of defective bearings somewhere that would otherwise have been melted down.

2. They're basically just a not-very good demo of what a bearing does. The range of tricks a normal person can perform with them include (i) spinning them, (ii) spinning them and then balancing them on a finger, and (iii) passing them from one finger to another whilst they spin. I've seen a few kids balance one on top of another while they both spin. That's about it, really.

3. It's a silly fad that won't last, but at least it doesn't have the capacity to kill birds and other small animals, like however many millions of tons of loom bands have been thrown out over the last couple of years.

The best fun you can have with them is in conjunction with a shop vac in blower mode. If you angle the air just right, you can get them up to phenomenal speeds. Use of safety goggles is recommended.
posted by pipeski at 6:57 AM on May 16 [4 favorites]


I bought a cube for my Nephew right around Christmas, and the spinners kept showing up in my recommendations on Amazon. There was one for a few bucks, so I was like "what the hell," and bought it for myself. I keep it next to my desk, and spin it sometimes as a way to aid concentration. I dunno, this 32 year old man likes them, personally.

I can imagine that it would be annoying if I was a primary school teacher, but so would any other toy craze.

RE: The video, it's a real shame that the original patent-holder never saw any money from her work. I know that within a few days of the OG fidget cube kickstarter there were already dozens of cheap knockoffs that were undercutting the minimum pledge by 10 dollars.
posted by codacorolla at 7:07 AM on May 16


I saw a couple of kids with these at the mall last weekend and I immediately wanted one. I want one of those little fidget cubes, too. If I had any physical dexterity I'd be wearing Heelys. I also really enjoyed a Panic! At The Disco and Weezer concert recently. I am basically a 14-year-old.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:08 AM on May 16 [22 favorites]


I was just saying to my partner that fidget spinners are a lot cooler than when I was a kid and everybody had pet rocks.
posted by Orlop at 7:10 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


I won't lie, I would probably be engrossed by one of those machined ones. Mmmmm, spinning.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 7:15 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Tamagotchi may come and go, but Koosh balls are forever.

My fidget spinners are emblazoned with tulips.
posted by Mayor West at 7:19 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


I bought 1 ($3.99) after that previous FPP.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:20 AM on May 16


As a high school teacher, let me chime in and say I'm impressed that fidget spinners have become a greater distraction than smartphones. The mind frankly boggles to understand how they can be more exciting than the entire Internet.
posted by thegears at 7:32 AM on May 16 [27 favorites]


So these fidget spinners...they vibrate?
posted by kozad at 7:34 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Was that actually Shelby Foote?
posted by fuse theorem at 7:35 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


I volunteer in a special-needs elementary school classroom. One of the autistic kids uses a fidget spinner to replace one of his repetitive behaviors, which is tapping/hitting things. I think fidget spinners are a fad for neurotypical people, but I definitely see their use among the differently-wired.
posted by workerant at 7:42 AM on May 16 [36 favorites]


1. A lot of them have 2 or 3 extra bearings around the outside that appear to exist only because they add weight. Many of these outer bearings are so crappy they'll barely turn, so I'm guessing that there are vast bins of defective bearings somewhere that would otherwise have been melted down.

It's pretty common for cartridge bearings to not spin freely because they're packed with grease and/or are pre loaded tightly enough that they will not spin.


2. They're basically just a not-very good demo of what a bearing does. The range of tricks a normal person can perform with them include (i) spinning them, (ii) spinning them and then balancing them on a finger, and (iii) passing them from one finger to another whilst they spin. I've seen a few kids balance one on top of another while they both spin. That's about it, really.


That's kind of why they're called fidgit toys. And it seems to me a pretty good demo of what a ball bearing does.

When I was a kid, I found a cartridge bearing with the seals popped off. It rolled freely and I stuck it on end my pen, where it became the simplest fidgit spinner. It was the envy of the classroom, at least among the boys, who loved to simply spin the bearing as they held the pen. All it did was spin, but I guess we were easily entertained by simple mechanical things, and I got make the goofy joke whenever someone wanted to monopolize my pen bearing spinner, "Go play with your own balls!"
posted by 2N2222 at 7:44 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Now I want to see an Errol Morris documentary about Wacky Packages.
posted by Lyme Drop at 7:46 AM on May 16 [11 favorites]


Actually autistic folk of my acquaintance tell me they're quite good for stimming.

And given how much grief they get for being autistic in public already, I generally line up in favor of things they say help them navigate a world very much not built to accommodate people like them.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:46 AM on May 16 [21 favorites]


You know, for kids.
posted by Bob Regular at 7:54 AM on May 16 [7 favorites]


My kids find them soothing, but they usually don't need to use these at school.

They also have a fidget cubes, but the fidget cubes are a replacement for what we had been using for them for fidgets for years. Industrial wires coated in silicone, or small wooden clicking things that don't click very loudly. Only one has fidgets on their school forms as it has been shown to help enough.

I think the repetitive nature of the spinners is what's soothing, as the puzzle games seem to help, and repetitive game seem to help, PTSD – encumbered persons.
posted by tilde at 7:56 AM on May 16


I have never heard the words "fidget" and "spinner" in conjunction with one another before about four days ago.

I guess you were out last week, when we had the previous thread about them?
posted by effbot at 8:00 AM on May 16


I don't want one of these things, but I totally am tempted to get a dinosaur stim ring.

(It was kind of a revelation to me when I realized that what I do is stimming. And I love the grown-up stim toys page, but I keep thinking "oh, I can't buy that, I'd only fidget with it," and then realizing that that's the whole damn point. It's so weird to think of this deeply shameful behavior of mine as something I might embrace.)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:07 AM on May 16 [9 favorites]


My mother-in-law bought spinners for both my sons, one of whom is autistic. His response was less than pleased, complaining that these were all over his school and that they were "the new crocs," whatever that means.
posted by bibliowench at 8:09 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


I am a 33 year old adult and I want one.. but the smoothly spinning motion and the kinetic energy speaks to me on a level that I couldn't possibly explain to you. They're so smooth, guys.
posted by INFJ at 8:21 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Was that actually Shelby Foote?

Yes, as well as excerpts from several other documentaries. Also LOTR clips with Isildur's Bane replaced with a spinner, as Déagol's hand reaches down and grabs it from the muck...
posted by XMLicious at 8:24 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]


I'm a 56 year old adult, and I own one.
Why? Because when I talk, I tend to really use my hands. I mean REALLY use my hands, in a jazz hands, that's really distracting sort of way.
A few weeks ago, at a relative's house, I came across my nephew's spinner and became entranced for an hour or two. I also held a conversation with my wife and family without using my really distracting hands. Instead I just spun this little doohickey.
My wife said it was the best and calmest conversation we've ever had.
I bought one the next day.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 8:24 AM on May 16 [11 favorites]


Funny you should mention "Extreme Talking with Your Hands Syndrome" (a thing I totally just made up), Major Matt Dixon. A couple off my co-workers have spinners and I am now expressly forbidden from having one in my hands when I (a "sufferer" of ETWYHS) speak to people. Let's just say there was an incident where one of those toys may have gone flying out of my hands while I was trying to make a point. It's possible there's a dent in the wall from this.

Maybe. I admit nothing. ;-)
posted by zuhl at 8:36 AM on May 16 [4 favorites]


I bought one for my son and he's already destroyed it by opening it up and letting grime get in to the bearings. This makes me think there is a next level of genius behind these things as they are designed to be fidgeted with, but extreme fidgeting may result in breaking it.

I'll try to hold out, but he looks pretty pathetic manually pushing the spinner arm around.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:37 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


Let's just say there was an incident where one of those toys may have gone flying out of my hands while I was trying to make a point. It's possible there's a dent in the wall from this.

I do not even begin to doubt it!
For such a small toy, they do have an amount of heft behind them.
Enough heft to dent some drywall for sure, depending on the strength of the spinnee and the trajectory of the spinner.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 8:43 AM on May 16


the craze spawned memes ridiculing the craze, so...job well done, i guess?
posted by ostranenie at 8:49 AM on May 16


I did a demo recently (as part of a bring-your-kid-to-work day) of a 3D printer and for lack of anything on hand, I printed off a bunch of fidget spinners as giveaway items. I had never heard of them before, and in fact only picked them because they were simple to print vs. most of the other toys on the first page of Thingiverse. You can print 6 of them at a time, jam some 25-cent skateboard bearings in there from Amazon, put pennies into the ends of the arms as weights—done. I figured if the kids hated them, I could just pull the bearings out and it was only a small waste of plastic filament.

Apparently I couldn't have made 3D printing seem cooler if I'd showed them a device that shoots crisp $20 bills, or an actual Star Trek Replicator. I had no idea that they were A Thing. (And not only that, but functionally the same thing sells for like $10 on Amazon. I am in the wrong industry.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:51 AM on May 16 [12 favorites]


It's a substitute.

I like it when my kid gets in the comfy chair and stares at the ceiling for twenty minutes and has an impossible question.

I've the bowl ready and straight out of that reverie he's on a stool kneading dough and talking about his thoughts and they are many and deep so many questions and I listen until he gets all of it out and holds up his powdered hands. He closes his mouth and looks at me like I should be able to address all that and I do try but "I don't know either" or "I wonder about that too" are acceptable answers and we persevere in existential darkness and get the bread in the oven, switch the laundry and we've got 30 minutes on the porch and he's concerned about the fucking universe imploding and I love him even more now.

It's overwhelming and he feels it too. Life is a risk. Not quite too old to get in my lap he wraps around me and gently I rock the porch swing and we bliss out until the timer rings and the bread is ready.

He'd be really into something to fidget with but I think this is better.



Spinners
posted by Mr. Yuck at 9:29 AM on May 16 [11 favorites]


workerant: "I volunteer in a special-needs elementary school classroom. One of the autistic kids uses a fidget spinner to replace one of his repetitive behaviors, which is tapping/hitting things. I think fidget spinners are a fad for neurotypical people, but I definitely see their use among the differently-wired."

This tracks with what I've seen. Some of the special-needs kids at my son's school got them and now everybody sees them as "the toys you can play with in class". But they're quiet and relatively harmless so teachers just let kids spin them.

...

Part of me is concerned that it's easier to let kids play with these than accurately diagnosing and treating their needs. Cheaper for the schools, too.
posted by boo_radley at 9:31 AM on May 16


Part of me is concerned that it's easier to let kids play with these than accurately diagnosing and treating their needs. Cheaper for the schools, too.
I dunno. I think I'm accurately diagnosed and treated (for ADHD and some related stuff, not autism spectrum disorder), but I still stim. It's a way that I cope with the chaos in my world, and I don't think it's particularly maladaptive. I think that allowing people to stim in a non-disruptive way may be part of a good overall treatment plan.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:41 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]


I don't know if we're just behind the curve here, but the media and memes have definitely preceded the craze. It's surreal to read seven front page articles about the huge impact and terrific concerns created by this toy you saw some kid use a few days ago.

That's why I loved the FPP parody! It seemed to perfectly capture a media machine that can invent historic dramatic arcs, and cover it with top not production, out of any scrap of thing that might sell copy.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:55 AM on May 16


Tamagotchi may come and go, but Koosh balls are forever.

I actually just stumbled across my old 1990s Koosh ball, which apparently has not disintegrate into powder after two decades of existence.
posted by ckape at 9:56 AM on May 16


The mind frankly boggles to understand how they can be more exciting than the entire Internet.

Physical beats digital every time.


The best fun you can have with them is in conjunction with a shop vac in blower mode.

See previously


it's a real shame that the original patent-holder never saw any money from her work. I know that within a few days of the OG fidget cube kickstarter there were already dozens of cheap knockoffs that were undercutting the minimum pledge by 10 dollars.

Considering the Hovertrax/ hoverboard/ swagway was duped with a different balance mechanism than the original Kickstarter "board."

As Dysk noted in that hoverboard thread, "manufacturers have to compete on price and features," so you see countless iterations with better and worse construction at different pricepoints, plus all sorts of weird features. For example, I just wandered to woot.com, where 10 of the top 24 Best Sellers are currently some variation on fidget spinners, including two Batman logo shaped spinners, with no apparent connection to DC Comics.


Tamagotchi may come and go, but Koosh balls are forever.

Rubik's Cubes are the truly eternal fidgety toy.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:07 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


I remember somewhere in the late 80s gyroscopes were a big thing in my school and lots of kids had them. Gyroscopes are probably a bit cooler than fidget spinners but are a similar kind of thing and there are worse things for kids to spend money on. My wife on the other hand teaches grade 5 at a Saturday heritage language school and she hates them, and I can understand why.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:14 AM on May 16


I got this one. It's mostly silent except when held up to the ear. Then it sounds like a tiny UFO. I really like it. It spins forever.
posted by Splunge at 10:23 AM on May 16


I enjoyed the video, but by god the sibilance is terrible on that. Move back from the mic, man!
posted by klangklangston at 10:57 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


Mark my words, someone from the devilstick/poi-spinner community is going to make a two-foot diameter version of this.
posted by rhizome at 11:17 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


The mind frankly boggles to understand how they can be more exciting than the entire Internet.

Well, a fidget spinner has never suggested its user kill themselves, or threaten to violate their body, so they have that going for them.
posted by stevis23 at 11:19 AM on May 16 [5 favorites]


The site Massdrop has been all about spinning tops, made by virgin elves out of space materials. I'm not sure why I keep getting that newsletter.
posted by bongo_x at 11:39 AM on May 16


Okay, sure, spinners, okay. But this was presented as fake Ken Burns. And as such, it is horrible, horrible fake Ken Burns.

Now this is how you do fake Ken Burns.
posted by Naberius at 11:46 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]




Interesting to think that these are now actively manufactured for this purpose, instead of using any old thing. Maybe with the loss of pen and pencil to keyboard and touchscreen, there no longer existed an object at hand with which to fidget?

Granted, I doodled more than fidgeted with a pen in class, but I was always fascinated by the manipulations one could do with a pen.
posted by linux at 1:59 PM on May 16




Well, a fidget spinner has never suggested its user kill themselves, or threaten to violate their body, so they have that going for them.

You sure about that?
posted by Splunge at 4:22 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


Splunge
That looks really cool, so I ordered one. It must be mega popular/out of stock because it won't get here until July. Damn!
posted by james33 at 3:29 AM on May 17


Just had a little YouTube browse on these, and the main thing I learned is how depressing a lot of current vloggers are - mid twenties adults acting down to connect with kids, often doing - almost literally nothing with these spinners over twenty odd minutes while saying almost nothing apart from pleas to like and subscribe. This, for example, is twelve minutes of the things being spun on a flat surface and left to run down, while the vlogger fills the time in a way that makes cricket commentary seem hard to keep up with.

.... I'm old, aren't I.
posted by ominous_paws at 4:14 AM on May 20


.... I'm old, aren't I.

Depends. You link to a channel about American Girl® dolls, which is a product primarily aimed at 7 to 12-year old girls. If you're older than 12, you might be too old.
posted by effbot at 5:08 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


I mean, sure, but on horrifying clickthrough to the full account (which somehow has the third hit for the search "fidget spinner" I bet a whole mess of the people involved in "agoverseasfan" are also much, much to old, and this doesn't help my discomfort with the whole business.
posted by ominous_paws at 6:27 AM on May 20


I bet a whole mess of the people involved in "agoverseasfan" are also much, much to old

That's probably a safe bet; after all, as noted here, they do indeed offer Mimosas in the American Girl® Cafes (now accepting reservations through August 2017).
posted by effbot at 6:50 AM on May 20


Oh god, time to update the "things I saw on Bob's Burgers that I assumed were jokes but were actually real" list again.
posted by ominous_paws at 11:00 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


I got this one from Amazon, and it really is very satisfying. I don't like that the ball bearing makes a rather audible whizzing sound, especially if it is spun on a hard surface, and it is much harder than I thought to do the "keep it spinning with repeated flicks" thing that I saw the kids doing. It spins so fast that it is almost impossible to time correctly. Is there anything readily available I can use to lubricate the bearing to try and reduce the spinny sound? I know enough not to use WD-40 as a lubricant, but I don't know any better options.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:57 AM on May 22


Spinners

Risky click. I was halfway expecting that to go to a porn site.
posted by fuse theorem at 7:01 AM on May 22


In the 90s, pre-smart phone, we had a million of these fads, some already mentioned (clackers, koosh, gyroscopes, devil sticks) and some more I can think of: yoyos; yoyo balls; anything Nickelodeon branded; those tiny skateboards; doodle pens; those balls with chimes in them that you sort of juggle; hacky sacks; a million iterations of stress balls with various fillings.

There were also the faddish electronic toys (diaries, tamogotchi, etc) but they tended to be banned from school because they caused drama/jealousy.

I think these kinds of toys are great for kids who have issues sitting still or focusing, and if anything they are annoying because they are a fad and everywhere. Once they cool off or the fad shifts to something else, they will go back to being used only by kids who actually need the stimulation.
posted by SassHat at 8:53 AM on May 22


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