When I was about 7 or 8 I had a friend who happened to have a younger sister of toddler age. One day whilst playing over at his house, his sister came in clutching her “The Farmer Says” toy. I had never seen one before but something about it just piqued my interest enough that I couldn’t resist having a go with it, despite being well out of the intended age range of it.
It consisted of a circular piece of plastic that had pictures of different animals running around it. In the centre of the toy there was a plastic arrow with a picture of a farmer on it. You turned the arrow to point at a particular animal, let’s say the cow, then pulled a string on the side which caused the arrow to spin around like mad and for the toy to utter the words “The cow says… Moo!”.
Somehow this toy mesmerised me. Perhaps it was the hypnotic spin of the arrow, or more likely just the crackly pronunciation of the recorded voice, but I sat there twisting the arrow and pulling the string until I had heard everything the farmer had to say, much to the annoyance of my mate who probably wanted to go off and play with toy cars or something with me.
A little on the history of this toy then to finish off. The first version was released in 1965 by Mattel and the sounds were stored on a little plastic disc, a bit like an old vinyl record. It has undergone surprisingly few revisions over time, with the first major change being replacing the pull string with a lever in the late Eighties. This change occured after a little girl was blinded by the string snapping and flicking into her eye.
The modern version appears to have more sounds to choose from now, as the ring with the animals on it is now a hinged piece of plastic which can be flipped over like the pages of a book. Apparently the exact same animal sounds are still used in it, although they are now digitised onto a computer chip rather than etched into a plastic disc.