If your Google search history includes things like “cost of Botox’ and “daily back pain,” then you’re old enough to remember The Clapper, that plug-in box of plastic that let you turn your lights, your VCR, or some other small electronic device on and off by clapping your hands. And of course you remember that inescapable jingle from the commercial, that whole “Clap on! Clap off! The Clapper!” thing.
But what you might not know is that The Clapper somehow still exists. As of this writing, the Joseph Enterprises website lists six versions of The Clapper, including a standard model, The Clapper Plus, three Star Wars Clappers, and one that inexplicably involves a plastic Bob Ross painting a blandscape.
When you inevitably place an order, don’t forget to add a couple of Chia Pets to your cart too. Joseph Pedott, a now-eightysomething marketing wizard, is responsible for bringing both the Chia Pet and the Clapper into our lives. According to How Stuff Works, in the mid-1980s, Pedott was looking for another as-seen-on-TV success that could follow the Chia Pet. He made a deal with a pair of Canadian inventors who’d created an audio activated on-off switch for electronics – but he later learned that the OG version had a tendency to fry its users’ television sets.
The device was eventually reworked by two other inventors, given the name The Smart Clapper, and it started appearing on store shelves (and in TV commercials) by 1987. Although it seems kind of silly in retrospect, author Charles Rice sees it as an important step toward the Alexa-ization of our homes.
“[T]he Clapper marks a critical threshold. It is the point at which we can distinguish the branching trajectory of ‘intelligence’ in objects,” he wrote in Extinct: A Compendium of Obsolete Objects. “In however primitive a way, The Clapper allowed us to feel as though we were communicating with objects. But the clap was a unidirectional command. Now Alexa and company talk back.”
Alexa never had a jingle though.
The Clapper makes an appearance in this week’s Twitch quiz. Check it out here:
Featured image courtesy of: Public Domain