The Untold Truth Of The Clapper

"Clap on | *clap, clap* | clap off | *clap, clap* | Clap on, clap off, The Clapper!" 

That's right, folks. That catchy jingle had plenty of people bobbing their heads in the '80s while advertising technological device even more short-lived than '90s' zip drives (ask Google about those). We're dialing it back past dial-up, way back before voice command and Amazon's Alexa started storing every single thing it hears (thanks, Washington Post, for the heads up), and into the chintzy, analog realm of mail-order tech-of-the-week. So finish punching in that fax number, grab some Jiffy Pop, water your Chia Pet, take that Gremlins 2 tape out of your VCR, and settle into that butt-shaped imprint on the couch to hear the story of The Clapper.

It's a simple idea, really. Imagine grandma is in bed, and it's tough for her to roll out and turn off the light switch. Clap, clap! Provided she has two working hands and a rudimentary sense of rhythm, she can just clap that lamp off and on. And if grandma is scared of prowlers poking around the first floor bay window, and doesn't want to pay for a pricey security system, she can just switch The Clapper to away mode and the light will turn on at any noise, as this other Clapper YouTube ad shows us. Kind of nifty, right? So what's the story behind this now-defunct device?

The Clapper turns America on

Wait, what's that? It's not actually defunct? You can find one outside of a flea market featuring $0.50 novelty kitsch? Yep, ironically they can be found on a tech-forward retail site like Amazon. Doubly ironic is that, at its core, The Clapper is a very simple, audio-controlled switch. That's it; it's just an electric switch. The original Clapper, as How Stuff Works describes, was intended to be even more convenient than the remote control at a time when households grew to have about five-dozen remote controls each — the VCR, the living room TV, the bedroom TV, the stereo, the remote-controlled car, the garage door, etc. And what could be even more convenient than never having to fish the remote out of the sofa seat to flip on The Price is Right? You can plug in any device whatsoever into The Clapper. Clap, clap: on pops "Holiday" by Madonna.

The Clapper was actually developed by two Canadian inventors, who dubbed it "The Great American Turn On," and pitched it to gadget mogul and advertising guru Joseph Pedott (responsible for the aforementioned Chia Pet). It had a lot of finicky, technical problems at first, and its inventors and Pedott got embroiled in a lawsuit because the inventors tried to get additional investors even after Pedott got the rights to the product and started manufacturing it. The inventors lost and went bankrupt, and Pedott went on to iron out The Clapper's defects to transform it into a household name and now-icon of 80s tech lore.