It's easy to see why skateboards, rollerboots and BMX's were so popular among kids in the 70s, but Space Hoppers? For one, it seems a little odd to be bouncing up and down on a big orange rubber ball at the best of times, and considering it didn't help - but rather hinder - getting from A to B, it could be labelled a bit pointless, really... They didn't enable you to jump higher, go faster or run further than you could on foot. But you had to have one.
The space hopper (Hippity Hop in America) was invented by Italian, Aquilino Cosani in 1968, though he referred to it then as the Pon-Pon, and it was launched in Britain just as trance/rave culture was picking up speed in the summer of '71. This may help provide some explanation behind the trend, and space hoppers went on to make appearances at Glastonbury and Birmingham psychedelic trance parties well into the 90s.
Despite being marketed as 'the amazing inflatable riding ball', its design was pretty simple. The earliest space hoppers were made of red or blue rubber, inflated via an internal valve system, reaching up to around 20 inches. These days though, adult versions are available too, enabling the children of the 70s to relive their bouncing glory days - this time with fewer grazes on their knees.
Each hopper featured two handles on the top so you could keep your balance - but still many kids ended up flying right over these very handles after things got out of control! It really wasn't the safest toy around - its saving grace was its apparent inability to burst, although we had a good try at it. But it was great fun, especially when your mates lines up on theirs and you raced each other to the end of the playing field.
The majority of space hoppers had a smiley, kangaroo's face painted on the front, but kids were also treated to themed hoppers in the late 70s, which featured plastic moulds of Disney characters, including Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse, on the front. Despite such efforts, though, the US Hoppity hop went out of production and the Space Hopper's popularity is sporadic. So, let's hope the people of Folkestone might spark a revival after they broke the world record for the most people hopping simultaneously, taking it to 1000 people on 4th July 2006.
Other space hopper world records of note include the fastest time for 100m on a space hopper, which was set by Ashrita Furman in 2004 when she did it in just 30.2 seconds. And Ashrita also set the fastest mile on a space hopper in January 2005. Fancy setting your own record?