The Super Soaker 50, the original water gun that rendered all others obsolete, has returned to mark the the toy’s 20th anniversary.
In 1989, an inventor named Lonnie Johnson created a new kind of squirt gun, packing a reservoir that could be pressurized, allowing a far vaster quantity of water to be shot with a much greater range. Before then, squirt guns involved little pumps that used the force of your finger to squirt water a few yards at best. The invention of the Super Soaker 50 made those squirters obsolete — the 50 meant that the Super Soaker could allegedly shoot fifty feet. (Though the new product claims only 35 feet.)
If you’ve followed the super soaker line for the last 20 years, you’ve watched it evolve from the original into, well, not the original. I’m not saying it’s gotten worse. In fact, arguably the new products offer functional improvements to the original. For instance, the Secret Strike Water Blaster has a rotating nozzle featuring different spray patterns, and even as a “secret” nozzle to hit your victims from an unexpected direction. In any case, it’s a natural part of the toy development process where the each season attempts to add to last year’s models. Sometimes this means feature creep and needless ornamentation.
So, seeing and playing around with the Super Soaker 50 is a welcome return to a classic. It has clean lines and no frills. It’s simple enough for my four-year-old daughter to play with, and she loves to chase her little brother around the yard spraying him. On a more intellectual level, it was cool to be able to explain to her how it worked. She wanted to know what the purpose of pumping the gun was, and why the water doesn’t come out unless you pump. Well, I explained, you pump to pressurize the reservoir. What does it mean to pressurize something? What’s a reservoir? We spent twenty minutes talking and experimenting. Don’t let anyone tell you a squirt gun isn’t educational!
I love how every kid since the invention of the first squirt gun has used his or her ammunition as a beverage.
(For further information, see iSoaker.com’s fascinating history of the Super Soaker.)