The original Magic 8 Ball was produced by the Alabe Crafts company in the late 1940s, and billed not for its swami abilities, but as a conversation piece and a paperweight.
Tyco got hold of the prediction toy after that, and these days, toy giant Mattel is the place the ball calls home. It is made now, as it was then, to look like the eight ball from a pool table, but about four inches high.
And we certainly don’t have to spend a lot of time talking about how the thing works: Just ask the ball any “yes or no” question, give it a good shake, and peer into the “Spirit Slate” window for your answer.
The triangular plastic answer piece will emerge out from the blue water and butt right up against the Spirit Slate, and there, in mere seconds, is your answer.
There are some emphatic responses: “You May Rely on It” or “My Reply is No”. There are also the less emphatic: “Signs Point to Yes” or “Outlook Not So Good”. And of course – and this is when no one is able to put the ball down – there are the deliciously coy: “Reply Hazy, Try Again” and “Better Not Tell You Now”.
The ball will always give you some kind of answer (and that’s more than we can say about parents or teachers) and it will never need batteries and probably never break (more than we can say about most toys). And maybe best of all, it won’t tumble off the coffee table it’s perched on, because the flat Spirit Slate window also acts as a handy flat anti-roll device.
Some people believe they can influence the ball’s answers by the length of time they shake; some people have very specific rituals that they perform before actually asking their questions (if you’ve ever seen those rhythm gymnastics routines that incorporate balls, you get the idea).
Some choose their Saturday night dates by the ball, some choose their stocks, and some just give the ball an occasional whirl to see if it will rain tomorrow or not. Whatever the depth of your question and whatever your asking methods may be, the Magic 8 Ball is here to stay.