Find all your DIY electronics in the MakerShed. 3D Printing, Kits, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Books & more!

Sany2856
[Editor's note - ThinkGeek resolved this issue perfectly and immediately, nicely done. Feel free to read the details below - pt] I received the new ThinkGeek catalog today, I really like them and their stuff – they’re one of the best geek culture curator shops online, as well as developing their own merchandise. That said – I was surprised to see ThinkGeek claiming they invented LED throwies (check out the image above) it’s from the catalog, page 22. It’s on the lower right hand side of the photo above, the little monkey light bulb thing that says “Invented at ThinkGeek”.

 Fv00U508Zpep27Tmes
LED throwies made their first appearance and were popularized and developed by the Graffiti Research Lab a division of the Eyebeam R&D OpenLab in February 2006 (Wikipedia page). It’s also in Make – Volume 06 – LED Throwies (Page 116).

The ThinkGeek online site it doesn’t say they “Invented at ThinkGeek” like the print catalog does (see 1st image on this post) – here’s what it does say.

B2C2 Led Magnetic Digital Graffiti

Times have changed since you got caught for doodling that cute girl’s name on your desk in elementary school. Now you can mark your territory in a non-permanent electronic fashion with the LED Magnetic Digital Graffiti. This set of 20 different LEDs each has a battery and a magnet attached. Pull the tab to activate, then toss them on any ferrous metal surface… they stick and glow brightly announcing to everyone in the vicinity that you were indeed there. But make sure you stick the LED Magnetic Digital Graffiti on stuff you own, or are able to remove them later… because gone are the days when you can post funny battery powered LED signs all over Boston and get away with it.

In 2008 I spotted this “LED “Art Object” Kit” and since 2006 there have been many uses of LED throwies in music videos to commercial merchandise, but this is the first time I’ve seen someone claim they invented them.

Maybe ThinkGeek added something like a pull tab, but that’s been there from the start too. I’m pretty sure the folks at GRL don’t care or don’t mind if someone sells these (it’s “open source”…) but I’d like to see ThinkGeek consider giving credit on the page somewhere and maybe reconsider the “Invented by ThinkGeek” claim. Lastly, I wonder if all the people who didn’t like when GRL made these will also be as vocal towards ThinkGeek or maybe they just didn’t like GRL. I’ve sent ThinkGeek an email and tweet’ed to them, I’ll post any comments they have here. I’ll continue to be a ThinkGeek customer too.

Update: 12/2/2009 9:45am ET – email reply! “Thank you for that link. I have forwarded the information to the product manager, and if the claim is founded, we will take appropriate action. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us. -Leah”

Updated: 12/2/2009 12:02pm ET – ThinkGeek does it up proper! Here’s what they said…

Our apologies to the original geniuses at Graffiti Research Lab behind
the LED throwie! The problem is we currently have only one “Invented by
ThinkGeek” badge for the products that we manufacture. So while we made
improvements in our LED Magnetic Digital Graffiti–like a special
battery housing, and manufacturing the set for a reasonable price–we
obviously we didn’t originate the concept.

The good news is the LED throwie page on our site never sported the
“Invented by ThinkGeek” logo, but unfortunately we can’t remove logos
from print materials that are already out in the mail. (Let us know if
anyone invents that.)

Again, sorry for the mixup, and thanks for making us think hard about
how we’ll use that logo! We’d never mean to take credit for such an
awesome idea where it wasn’t due.

ThinkGeek also updated the product page with links to GRL and Instructables. Perfect job – thanks ThinkGeek!

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


Related

Comments

  1. Chris says:

    It doesn’t say “Invented at Thinkgeek” anywhere. You seem to realize that when you say:

    ‘The ThinkGeek online site it doesn’t say they “Invented at ThinkGeek” though – here’s what it does say.’

    But then you say:
    “I’d like to see ThinkGeek consider giving credit on the page somewhere and maybe reconsider the “Invented by ThinkGeek” claim.”

    I’m not sure who’s more confused here, but I think it’s you. Thinkgeek isn’t making any claims of invention, they’re just selling a kit.

    1. Sam says:

      I missed it too, at first. It’s the monkey/lightbulb thing.

  2. Gareth says:

    Chris – If you look at the top photo (from their catalog), in the bottom right corner it says “invented by thinkgeek”.

    The author then points out that it doesn’t say that on the website, ie its only in the catalog.

    So the author is correct in what they are saying (although to be fair it is easy to miss the claim in the top photo, as it doesn’t really stand out).

  3. Phillip Torrone says:

    @chris – that is not correct. on page 22 in the printed catalog it says “invented at thinkgeek” please carefully review my post and look at the image on the post. it’s the little monkey lightbulb thing at the lower right hand side of the first image on the post.

    i point out that the print catalog says “invented by thinkgeek” but the online site does not say that. these are two different observations.

    lastly, it’s not a “kit” – they do not call it a kit and i would not call it a kit either.

  4. Inventorjack says:

    I’m not going to weigh in either way on who’s right/wrong here, but I do want to point out that the first picture on this page clearly says “Invented at Thinkgeek” in the lower right. That does make it seem that they’re claiming invention of the LED throwie.

  5. Chris says:

    Sorry phillip, you’re right. It does indeed say that and that is indeed an incredible claim by ThinkGeek! Apologies for my a$$hat comments above.

  6. Phillip Torrone says:

    @chris – no problem, all good :)

  7. Gareth Branwyn says:

    I think Brian Jepson bought some of their Throwies and they’re in a little housing(?) with an on/off switch(?) and some other “improvements.” Don’t remember the details, but maybe they got a little… er… confused internally ’cause they “invented” this particular version. I don’t remember the particulars. I’ll see if Brian can chime in (or anybody else who’s actually seen their version). But I agree with PT’s post. I love TG, but think claiming credit for this is tacky, at the least.

    1. Brian Jepson says:

      They do have a pull tab on them; it’s the same kind of clear plastic pull tab I’ve seen on a lot of electronics that come with batteries preinstalled.

      But the pull tab + throwie thing has been around for a long time; I’ve seen several variations on it.

      These aren’t too great, though. IIRC, there are three batteries in each one, many of the colors run down very quickly, and the batteries are not easy to replace. The batteries are the watch battery type; much smaller than the coin cells.

      As to whether they invented these, I suppose it depends on what you mean by “these”. They don’t look exactly like throwies; they have a little PCB, a little plastic housing for the batteries, and of course the pull tab. It’s definitely not a kit; they come fully assembled.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hopefully their intent was ‘Manufactured by ThinkGeek’ and not ‘Invented by ThinkGeek’. Probably the catalog designer was supposed to use a different graphic and forgot. It’s more likely an omission than deliberate intent.

  9. Jason says:

    I don’t know if ThinkGeek created them or not (probably not), but I have had a few of those tiny keychain LED lights for many years which I got at ThinkGeek (it looks like I ordered it in September of 2002 according to my order history). It is basically just an LED, coin cell battery, and simple casing (the switch just physically pushes one LED lead onto the battery). Add a magnet, and that’s not much different from a throwie. Perhaps they sold some with magnets in the past also, I haven’t payed much attention.
    If you are talking about the application (for art, graffiti, etc.) though, then they almost certainly weren’t the first in any respect.

  10. zeni says:

    I mean, who would claim to have invented “throwing toxic material in the streets” ?

  11. Tony says:

    I think these were interesting for about 1 picosecond. I really don’t understand how an LED with a battery and a magnet have become such a movement, or even symbolic of a movement. Perhaps it is the Pet Rock of the late 2000s.

    1. Inventorjack says:

      @Tony: You watch your mouth talking bad about pet rocks!
      ;)

  12. Anne says:

    I saw this in my catalog and was surprised by it too. Throwies were the first project I looked up at Instructables, and their post is dated Feb. 2006 (http://www.instructables.com/id/LED-Throwies/).

    Additionally, they credit Graffiti Research lab with inventing it and this video shows throwies that clearly didn’t come from ThinkGeek.

    I think this is probably a case of “commercialized by ThinkGeek” — which they don’t have a logo for, so they used the one they had.

    Which is, sadly, more corporate than opensource and therefore not thinking very geeky.

  13. Steve Carr says:

    personally, i would say it is a “seal of approval” fail. they put that little monkey on everything they don’t buy… like these throwies. issue here is if you ACTUALLY read the logo, you see they overstepped it’s bounds.

    i am guessing a few (polite) emails, will make them realize that “made by thinkgeek” is not the same as what their logo says. and you will probably not see it again.

    it is most likely just an oversight, by not realizing what is actually written on the logo.

  14. ungruntled says:

    After recieving a three-month runaround during the interview process at ThinkGeek, I swore off buying their products.
    I’ve never found anything in their catalog I wasn’t able to buy cheaper somewhere else; this is made harder by their general refusal to list any but their own names for a product in their catalog.
    This “invented by ThinkGeek” thing really doesn’t surprise me much at all.

  15. @thinkgeek says:

    Our apologies to the original geniuses at Graffiti Research Lab behind the LED throwie! The problem is we currently have only one “Invented by ThinkGeek” badge for the products that we manufacture. So while we made improvements in our LED Magnetic Digital Graffiti–like a special battery housing, and manufacturing the set for a reasonable price–we obviously we didn’t originate the concept.

    The good news is the LED throwie page on our site never sported the “Invented by ThinkGeek” logo, but unfortunately we can’t remove logos from print materials that are already out in the mail. (Let us know if anyone invents that.)

    Again, sorry for the mixup, and thanks for making us think hard about how we’ll use that logo! We’d never mean to take credit for such an awesome idea where it wasn’t due.

  16. Phillip Torrone says:

    @thinkgeek – thanks, you folks handled this perfectly!

  17. chris says:

    their prices are absurd.

    I just bought a visible green laser for $10 on ebay directly from China. How much in the latest Think Geek catalog? $70.00 not including shipping. There are plenty of other products they sort of claim their own but are really others designs.

  18. Forgot my sign-in says:

    While I appreciate the idea of tossing around colorful lights, does everyone retrieve all of their spent throwies to re-use?

    If not, that’s a bit of bad junk to wind up in the landfill for such a short bit of fun; we don’t need more mercury floating around.

    1. Phillip Torrone says:

      @Forgot my sign-in – it’s a good idea to pick up throwies after you’re done (i’ve only met makers that have) – that said, if everyone tossed LED throwies out all day everyday for years it likely still wouldn’t not make a blip on the total amount of mercury that is floating around. it really only comes from 2 places…

      power plants – coal is naturally contaminated with mercury, and when it is burned to generate electricity, mercury is released into the air through the smokestacks

      chemical manufacturing – ig mercury polluters also include older mercury chlorine plants, also called chlor-alkali plants. these plants use mercury to convert salt to chlorine gas and caustic soda (better known as lye), which is used in soaps and detergents, in plastics, and in the paper-making process

  19. Alan Parekh says:

    Good for them looking into it that quickly!