Whatever happened to... Yo-yos

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It's 200 years since the first yo-yo craze swept Europe and 65 years since the design was patented.

The Ups and Downs

The hardy and wholesome childhood toy that brings back memories of Just William and boys in short trousers standing on street corners, was in fact the subject of the first toy craze back in Ancient Greece. The toy, preferably made of wood, can be seen depicted on classical Greek vases, but at this early stage the yo-yo was an adult toy.

In the 17th century the Philippines adapted the yo-yo for use as a weapon. It proved enormously successful in hunting the then delicacy, monkeys from the high tree tops. A heavier, two kilo, version was used against the Spanish and Portuguese traders trying to muscle in on the spice trade in the islands.

Yo! Your Highness...

Since then it has become the childhood toy we all know and love, arriving in the UK in the 19th century, when it was known as the Prince of Wales toy. The toy, long considered a prime example of moronic activity was patented in the US in 1932 even though yo-yo-ing was condemned as "an example of time wasting immoral novelty".

Coming around again

Despite the recent crazes - Rubik's Cube, Masters of the Universe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, My Little Ponies - affection for the humble yo-yo has not died out.

A favourite in children's party bags, Hamley's report that sales of the yo-yo are still going strong after a come back in 1992. The cheapest found in the Regent Street store are pounds 2, rising to pounds 10 for the super-deluxe yo-yo, complete with clutch control.

Style ranges from the standard wooden yo-yo your Grandfather had, to musical yo-yos and others that glow in the dark. John Ward of Wellingborough has even invented a safety net for beginners. Such an invention may have saved four-times yo-yo world champion Ted Gerner who was killed by an 80 mph disc in Sydney, Australia in 1995.

Slight Return

The best thing about the yo-yo is, unlike the latest trend for the Japanese electronic pet, Tamogotchi, or Nintendos and Playstations, its batteries won't run out and it won't explode when dropped in a pint of beer. The evolutionary new clutch control yo-yo could see another big surge in popularity. As long as your string doesn't break.