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The Magic 8-Ball.
|Inventor(s)||Albert C. Carter|
The Magic 8-Ball is a plastic sphere, made to look like an eight-ball, that is used for fortune-telling or seeking advice. It was invented in 1950 by Albert C. Carter and Abe Bookman and is currently manufactured by Mattel. The user asks a yes–no question to the ball and then turns it over to reveal an answer in a window on the ball.
The functional component of the Magic 8-Ball was invented by Albert C. Carter, inspired by a spirit writing device used by his mother Mary, a Cincinnati clairvoyant. When Carter approached store owner Max Levinson about stocking the device, Levinson called in his brother-in-law Abe Bookman, a graduate of Ohio Mechanics Institute. In 1944, Carter filed for a patent for the cylindrical device, assigning it in 1946 to Bookman, Levinson and another partner in what came to be Alabe Crafts, Inc. (Albert and Abe for short). Alabe marketed and sold the cylinder as The Syco-Slate. Carter died sometime before the patent was granted in 1948. Bookman made improvements to The Syco-Slate, and in 1948 it was encased in an iridescent crystal ball. Though unsuccessful, the revamped product caught the attention of Chicago's Brunswick Billiards, who in 1950 commissioned Alabe Crafts to make a version in the form of a traditional black-and-white 8-ball, which was possibly inspired by a gag in the 1940 Three Stooges short film You Nazty Spy!.
Design and usage
The Magic 8-Ball is a hollow plastic sphere resembling a black-and-white 8-ball. Its standard size is larger than an ordinary pool ball, but it has been made in various sizes. Inside the ball, a cylindrical reservoir contains a white plastic icosahedron die floating in approximately 100mL of alcohol dyed dark blue. Each of the die's 20 faces has an affirmative, negative or non-committal statement printed in raised letters. These messages are read through a window on the ball's bottom.
To use the ball, it must be held with the window initially facing down to allow the die to float within the cylinder. After asking the ball a yes–no question, the user then turns the ball so that the window faces up. The die floats to the top, and one face presses against the window; the raised letters displace the blue liquid to reveal the message as white letters on a blue background. Although most users shake the ball before turning it upright, the instructions warn against doing so to avoid white bubbles.
While the Magic 8 Ball has undergone very few changes, an addition in 1975 by new owners, Ideal Toy Company, fixed the bubble problem. Their patented "Bubble Free Die Agitator," an inverted funnel, rerouted the air trapped inside. The solution has been utilized ever since.
The 20 possible answers inside a standard Magic 8 Ball are:
10 of the possible answers are affirmative (●), 5 are non-committal (●), and 5 are negative (●).
In popular culture
- A Magic 8-Ball was continually present on Rob Petrie's office desk in the 1961–1966 sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show.
- A customized Magic 8-Ball was a central device in the game show Peer Pressure, which used the ball to reveal the categories each contestant would play.
- A Magic 8-Ball was featured in the 1995 Disney–Pixar film Toy Story, in which the film's main protagonist, Sheriff Woody, asks the 8-Ball if Andy will pick him as the one toy he gets to take to Pizza Planet instead of Buzz Lightyear. As the answer floats to the top, it replies "Don't count on it", after which Woody throws the ball in frustration.
- In June 2019, Mattel Films announced that a feature-length film based on the toy was being produced by Blumhouse Productions with director Jeff Wadlow and writers Jillian Jacobs and Chris Roach.
- In November 2019, Ian Chillag interviewed a Magic 8-Ball (played by Bill Kurtis) for the Radiotopia podcast Everything is Alive. During this interview, Kurtis responds using only the 20 possible answers available to a standard Magic 8-Ball.
- The Simpsons episode "Bart's Friend Falls in Love" features a Magic 8-Ball. When Bart asks the 8-Ball "Will Milhouse and I be friends at the end of the day?" the answer says "My reply is no". Later in the episode, Bart ends up in a fight with Milhouse and hits him with the ball. The 8-Ball shatters and Bart quips "I bet the 8-Ball didn't see that one coming!"
- In the animated television series The Venture Bros. features a character named the Manic 8-Ball who is a direct reference to the novelty toy as well as the Marvel superhero, 8-Ball. He is an almost completely featureless man save for the answer window in his chest, the die inside of which copies answers from the real toy though some are specific to Manic 8-Ball himself.
- Coopee, Todd. "Magic 8 Ball from Alabe Crafts (1946)". ToyTales.ca.
- Walsh, Tim. (2004). The Playmakers: Amazing Origins of Timeless Toys, pp. 94–5. Keys Publishing, Sarasota. ISBN 0-9646973-4-3.
- Minichiello, Mia (2015). "The Great Dictator (film)". Salem Press Encyclopedia. Salem Press.
- "Today I Found Out". Today I Found Out.
- McNary, Dave (June 4, 2019). "Magic 8 Ball Movie in Development at Blumhouse, Mattel". Variety. Retrieved June 4, 2019.
- U.S. Patent 2,452,730—Liquid Filled Dice Agitator ca. 1944
- U.S. Patent 3,119,621—Liquid filled die agitator containing a die having raised indicia on the facets thereof, 1962
- U.S. Patent 3,168,315—Amusement Device ca. 1961