I’m not sure why, but the Eighties seemed to be a time when breaking the world domino toppling record became a bit of a mania, particularly among Japanese students as I recall.
I used to love watching these intricate displays on TV (I seem to recall Record Breakers showing the attempts quite regularly), marvelling at the sheer number of dominoes involved and the amazing effects that could be achieved. I remember one particular attempt at the record which recreated famous works of art such as the Mona Lisa using lots of coloured dominoes. Before toppling it looked like a big black rectangle, but afterwards the colours of the dominoes revealed the picture.
The sound of the dominoes falling over was also strangely soothing for some reason, with thousands of little clicky sounds merging to sound like a room full of tiny insects all applauding at once!
All this interest in domino toppling meant that before long the toy manufacturers realised that setting up a regular box of dominoes soon became boring because there weren’t enough in a set to do anything really interesting, so out came the Domino Rally sets. These packs usually consisted of several hundred dominoes and a couple of “set pieces”, larger plastic contraptions that did more interesting things like set off a rocket or flip a domino into the air.
Obstacles were also included such as flights of stairs and some shortcut sections which had several hinged dominoes on, so setting them up was just a case of flipping the dominoes upright and sitting the whole piece down.
Some of the early Domino Rally sets were a little disappointing though, as the dominoes included were quite lightweight and cheaply made. They often had a little raised edge on the standing surface which made them prone to falling over too easily, but later sets improved upon this design with better produced dominoes.
It seems though that domino toppling events are still taking place even now. Below is a video clip of some of the highlights of what I believe is the current world record, achieved by a group from the Netherlands. They managed to set up and topple more than 4 million dominoes which took more than two hours to topple – I have no idea how long they took to set up, must have been months! They’ve also included some of the clever picture layouts I mentioned above.