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The Magic 8-Ball is a plastic eight-ball used for fortune-telling or seeking advice. It was first 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 large ball, then turns it over to reveal a written answer which appears on the surface.
The Magic 8-Ball.
|Inventor(s)||Albert C. Carter|
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 usageEdit
The Magic 8-Ball is an oversized and hollow plastic sphere resembling a black-and-white 8-ball. Inside, a cylindrical reservoir contains a white and plastic icosahedron floating in 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. After "asking" the ball a yes–no question, the user turns the ball so that the window faces up, setting in motion the liquid and die inside. When 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 which hinder the performance of the ball itself.
The 20 possible answers inside a standard Magic 8 Ball are:
Ten of the possible answers are affirmative (●), while five are non-committal (●) and five are negative (●).
In popular cultureEdit
- 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”, to 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, Mr. Kurtis responds using only the 20 possible answers available to a standard Magic 8-Ball. 
- 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.
- McNary, Dave (June 4, 2019). "Magic 8 Ball Movie in Development at Blumhouse, Mattel". Variety. Retrieved June 4, 2019.