1968. It was the year of the Tet Offensive; of Martin Luther King Jr.’s and Robert Kennedy’s assassinations; of the Democratic National Convention riots. It was also the first time humans had photographed the Earth from deep space. It was a year of great innovation and devastation. American values were in upheaval and the sexual revolution was well underway, calling into question outmoded sexual stereotypes. In the midst of all of this, an unlikely star was born.
You may not know it, but the “Cadillac of Vibrators” is actually an Hitachi product for a long-long time ago. The US Patent and Trademark Office lists the Hitachi Magic Wand’s first use in commerce as April 25th, 1968. In the 46 years since, this big, white hunk of plug-in plastic, which bears some resemblance to a bass drum mallet, has come to represent an awkward duality for many Americans. It’s marketed and sold as a personal massager in department stores and pharmacies, while also serving as a trusted masturbation aid.
In the near 50 years since its birth, technological advances have led to massive leaps in consumer technology, but the Magic Wand has remained largely unchanged. That is until last summer. Hitachi ditched the old, 1980s packaging, retooled the materials for a lighter, more durable product and switched out the circuit board. To the uninitiated, it looked just like mom’s old Magic Wand, with one notable exception: The Hitachi name was nowhere to be found. The Magic Wand occupies a special place in the history of both female sexuality and consumer electronics, but it’s neither the first device of its kind to be marketed as a personal massager, nor the first produced by a leader in the electronics industry. GE sold its own, as did Panasonic and Oster.
Wonder why they finally distanced themselves from it!?