Our friends over at Treehugger.com are into Yo-Yos (and no, I don't mean of the cello-playing variety). Check out the interesting variety they've got going on with stories on yo-yos made from sustainable wood, another that powers an ice-cream maker, and my personal favorite (hint, hint, as the holiday's approach): a wireless yo-yo powered MP3 player, which they say takes only a dozen or so tosses to charge the thing up for continuous music play! Yes, yo-yos have come a long way.
Largely considered the second oldest toy in history (the first being a doll, of course), the yo-yo is thought to have originated in China. The first historical mention, however, dates from the year 500 B.C. where Greek children are said to have offered them up to the Gods for good luck.
Later, in the 16th century, hunters in the Philippines used yo-yo-like devices as weapons. Apparently they'd hide in trees and launch rocks from their long cords, drawing them back up in the discs when they missed their target!
An article over at Spintastics.com reports that later still, in the 18th century, in France, a VigÃ©e Le Brun painting "shows the 4 year-old, future King Louis XVII holding his l'emigrette. It was during this time of the French Revolution and the 'Reign of Terror,' that many of the French aristocracy were forced to flee to Paris, Germany and across other borders when their style of life was threatened by the peasant uprisings, taking their popular yo-yos made of glass and ivory with them. L'emigrette is a French term meaning to "˜leave the country.' Another nickname for the yo-yo at this time was de Coblenz, which was a city to which many French fled. These names reflect an important historical connection between the toy and the French Revolution."
These days, a state-of-the-art, forged-magnesium-alloy, ultralong-spinning Duncan yo-yo. can sell for as much as $400! Why the hefty price tag? Well, it's all about getting some "sleep"—that's what the pros call it when a yo-yo spins on the end of it's string. Traditionally, if you could get one to sleep for ten or twenty seconds, that was a big deal. In today's extreme world, technology allows yo-yo champions like Tim Redmond to put their yo-yos to sleep for a staggering 16 minutes and 17.18 seconds, the current world record. Something tells me if the Greeks had our technology, they'd have included a yo-yo competition in the original Olympic games.