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On a recent family visit to Southern California, I was asked to go through some of my childhood belongings at my Mom’s. Sorting through several boxes, I discovered that she’d saved a LOT from my youth.

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At one point, my old Spirograph materialized from a closet and my first thought was to donate it. My husband insisted that we pack it into his suitcase and bring it home. I’d long ago resisted the urge to move things from one closet storage to the next, but my old Spirograph made the journey to Vancouver.

Spirograph
[In 1974, a Spirograph set cost a mere seven bucks]

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In retrospect, I’m glad that I was talked into not giving it away. Once I opened the box and found my old drawings, I realized that this was perhaps an early form of inspiration for my future graphic design career.

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Ironically enough, Spirograph is celebrating its 45th Anniversary this year, but for those too young to know what Spirograph is, let me give you a tour.

Those two orange pieces (called stators) in the photo above have pin holes underneath to secure the wheel to a piece of paper.

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The series of disks, oddly-shaped pieces (above the pens), and long bar all get moved around within one of the two large rings. All edges of the pieces contain grooves, so that the ring and the circular pieces engage, allowing a stable pattern to emerge.

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There’s a pattern guide on the underside of the box, as well as an instruction booklet to guide you along. By the way, those four colored pens stopped working years ago.

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Here are some of my first Spirograph creations (I believe I was 11 then):

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There are original Spirograph sets to be found out there. Sam’s Toybox includes a lot of early Spirograph photos. Peabody Penguin’s Spirograph Collections has a good assortment too. I’m not so sure I’m sold on the latest Spirograph set. I think today’s kids got the short end of the stick.

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2 Comments

  • Comment by Vincent Ng — March 17, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

    WOW….i can’t believe you have one. I had a flashback when I saw this. And it’s in mint condition! I’m hoping next time you find the first appearance of Superman or Batman!

  • Comment by arianec — March 17, 2011 @ 2:51 pm

    It’s amazing that my Mom kept it all these years. It’s been through many moves but the pieces are all there (obviously the pens are dead).

    Love the BAR printed on the kit. Wonder whether that would fly with today’s kid’s toys! So suggestive.

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