Executive toy

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A Newton's cradle executive toy

An executive toy (or office toy or desk toy) is a novelty item, typically a small mechanical gadget, found on the desk of a corporate executive or other office workers. These objects are designed to inspire or amuse the owner, and have no direct work-related function.


An early executive toy may have been a gadget designed by the mathematician and engineer Philo of Byzantium (c. 280 BC – c. 220 BC), which was an octagon-shaped ink pot with openings on each side. One could turn the pot so that any face was on top and dip the pen in the opening, but the ink never ran out through the holes on other sides. The interior inkwell was suspended in the centre on a series of gimbals and remained upright in spite of any rotation.[1]

Ancient Chinese emperors and nobles often collected natural and man-made curios, such as multiple concentric carved ivory spheres, or chains carved from a single piece of jade.[citation needed]

The European cabinet of curiosities, or "Wunderkammer", often included devices that were ancestors of modern executive toys, including clockwork automata.



  1. ^ * Piter James, and Nick Thorpe. Ancient Inventions, ISBN 0-345-40102-6