Chances are good that you either had a Spirograph in your childhood, or you enjoyed playing with a friend's toy. The Spirograph has been around since the 1960s and still is popular today. This simple design toy has had an impact on generations of children, helping those who felt they couldn't draw to create art.
Spirograph is a drawing toy that uses gears and wheels of different sizes. To use it, place a smaller gear inside or outside a larger one and line up interlocking teeth. There are holes in the gears to place the point of a pen. A design is made by rolling the gears alongside each other. Different designs can be created by using different shapes or sizes of gears, as well as by changing the starting point and changing pen colors.
Spirograph was invented by a British man named Denys Fisher. Fisher was an engineer who first developed the Spirograph as a drafting tool. His family encouraged him to market the Spirograph as a game, and it was a huge hit at the Nuremburg International Toy Fair in 1965.
U.S. toy company Kenner began marketing Spirograph in 1966. In 1967, it was named Toy of the Year. It's been available since, although it now is marketed by Hasbro, which acquired Kenner in 1991.
Looking at the different versions of Spirograph available over the years, you can see the toy's evolution from an educational game conceived as a drafting tool to a toy. The original version of Spirograph had technical instructions and came with straight pins to hold the large wheel in place on paper. Newer versions have more child-friendly directions and no longer use pins; the wheels are pushed onto blunt-tipped holders.
Various editions of Spirograph have included more or fewer gears of unusual shapes, different types of paper (including foil), a travel version and a toddler-friendly version. As of 2009, there are electronic versions of Spirograph for creating designs on the computer.
With the introduction of the Spirograph, children who thought they had no artistic talent discovered they can make beautiful, interesting designs simply by following instructions and applying mathematical rules. Interplay between art and math is visible with the Spirograph, which helps teach logical pattern rules.
As of 2009, Hasbro has several Spirograph versions for sale. It's a game parents and children can enjoy together, especially since its generations of use gives parents a nostalgic kick.