I vaguely remember visiting a toyshop as a child and seeing a twinkle-trousered man on some sort of pedestal, wielding a yoyo.
A simple toy, designed to be easy to get the hang of for novices, and yet open to more athletic manipulations by toyshop ambassadors who showed what spectacular feats may be possible with a little practice.
It unwinds itself down the string, taking advantage of gravity and some other effects known only to physicists, then since it continues to spin it winds itself back up again. Pretty much foolproof, and only the most uncoordinated child can’t get it to cooperate after a few minutes’ effort.
There have been a number of attempts to jazz it up of course, have the yoyo keep pace with changing tastes and a desire for more sophisticated toys. Flashing lights, neon colors, materials and designs that give various kinds of technical and mechanical advantage. Most intended simply to differentiate one brand or model from another, when the basic design of string and bobbin make them all otherwise pretty much interchangeable. And some innovations were an attempt to cheat a little, to make it slightly easier to do the tricks favored by those sequined sorcerers of old.
Which makes it all the more unfathomable that the most recent innovation, or at least the one I most recently came across, is this.
Wait for it.
A feature that specifically, intentionally prevents the yoyo from climbing back up the string.
I’m serious. They even invented a very appropriate term for these ground-breaking devices. They call them ‘unresponsive’ yoyos.
Unresponsive. You fling the things down the string, and — so far — everything is as you might expect. It’s all going well; the yoyo is spinning fast and smooth, and you anticipate it flying back up the string with a satisfying ‘snap’. But no; you paid extra, thinking you’d get a deluxe yoyo that would help you do all those spangle-suited tricks, but your yoyo sits at the bottom of the string, mocking any attempt to snatch, jerk, tug or eventually curse it back up again.
It’s mocking you. Spinning, perhaps with a slight ringing sound (if you paid extra for the professional metal version), stubbornly and — if you can only admit it — ethically enough remaining absolutely true to its ‘unresponsive’ nature.
You know what? You have to relearn everything you thought you knew about yoyos if you’re going to have any sort of success with this thing.
So. They took out the one function that made the yoyo a yoyo and not simply a piece of wood on a string.
Whatever next? An unresponsive boomerang? Easy to lose, probably sell lots of them. I think I had one of those at one time, too.
I know — dice with no spots on them. Call them uncountable dice.
A Monopoly game where you’re not allowed to own any property. Socialist Monopoly.
How about this — a phone with no headphone connection? A car with no driver?
OK I know — now I’m sounding ridiculous.