In the late 15th century, Karel Grod, a German inventor, created some of the first wind-up toys, including a metal fly and a mechanical eagle. In 1509, Leonardo da Vinci created a wind-up lion as a greeting for Louis XII in Italy. Wind-up toys were at first for only royalty, and were more elaborate, with complex systems of gears and springs. In support of his theory that all animals are complex machines, René Descartes may have attempted to build some automata. According to legend, a life-sized wind-up human girl was discovered in his luggage aboard a ship in which he was traveling to Sweden, and was thrown overboard by order of the ship's Captain.
After the larger, elaborate wind-up machine art declined in interest, wind-up toys were created cheaply in large numbers by the 1800s. Wind-up machines became known as wind-up toys, and were designed in different forms to move around.
European toy makers created and mass-produced the first tin windup toys during the late 1880s. Over the next 60 to 70 years, more manufacturers created more intricate designs. The trend stopped with the introduction of the small and inexpensive Alkaline battery in the 1960s, which allowed motors to run without a wind up mechanism. Over the next 20 years, wind up toys lost popularity.
Plastic Wind-ups started in 1977 when the Japanese company Tomy made a walking Robot (Rascal Robot). Tomy's ability to build small precise plastic gears and parts allowed them to reduce the size of the gearbox (housing the spring drive).
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