Also known as Hoppity Hops, Hop Ball, and Kangaroo Balls – the Space Hopper bounced into the UK during the Summer of 1969 and served absolutely no useful purpose whatsoever.
The Hopper was a lurid orange inflatable rubber sphere which you sat on and bounced along the pavement, holding on via two ribbed rubber handles which looked like horns (since the toy had a strange and freaky face painted on the front).
Space Hoppers originated in Italy, where they were created by Aquilino Cosani, inventor of the ‘Swiss Ball’ (for exercise) and co-owner of the firm Ledragomma. He called the toy “Pon-Pon” when he patented the idea in 1968, but it wasn’t long before its popularity saw a host of imitators.
Mettoy was the first company to bring Space Hoppers to the UK market and they were originally a blue colour. The revised version, in orange, would soon follow and become the ‘iconic’ Space Hopper.
The TV ads promised some sort of wonder device that would see the end of cars and bicycles as a means of transport, from now on you could just sit on your Space Hopper, bounce once or twice and then proceed to bounce off to school or race your mates around the block with no further physical effort . . .
In reality, of course, they didn’t allow you to go faster, bounce higher, or run further than you could on foot. But you had to have one.
For much of the early 1970s children spent hours bouncing up and down busy roads (after about 10 bounces you were knackered) until they either developed a headache, fell off and grazed their knees, or burst their Hopper – not an easy task unless it was cunningly over-inflated.
And what exactly was that face on it supposed to be? It looked like a satanic rabbit and was enough to give kids nightmares for a month.