How the Clapper Works

Clapper Origins

An electronic sound filter inside the Clapper is able to recognize your claps.
An electronic sound filter inside the Clapper is able to recognize your claps.
Ralf Nau/Getty Images

Originally dubbed "The Great American Turn-on," the predecessor to the Clapper was first conceived in a Toronto workshop by two Canadian inventors. The pair brought a prototype to advertising mogul Joseph Pedott.

Pedott was a tough customer. Founder of Joseph Enterprises Inc., he was a career marketing and advertising man. Whatever might be said about his grating and repetitive TV commercials, they sold products. "If you do something repetitive, you're doing a little brainwashing," Pedott once said in an interview [source: McMackin].

In the early 1980s, Pedott already had the Chia Pet under his belt, and he was on the lookout for his next big moneymaker. Only one out of every thousand products Pedott saw ever made it into distribution, but the Clapper was special; it was convenient, simple and, above all, patentable. Pedott sealed an agreement with the two inventors, and a Clapper ad campaign and assembly line was soon underway.

The only problem was that the device didn't work. The first Clapper buyers soon found themselves with blown-out television sets. Luckily, Pedott had insurance, but he still lost $60,000 in advertising for the defective product. Meanwhile, the two Canadians tried to make off with funds from Clapper investors. Pedott faced them down in a Canadian courtroom, and the two fathers of the Clapper were driven into bankruptcy.

The public's first look at the Clapper was a spectacular failure. Nevertheless, Pedott refused to give up on the clap-activated switch concept and hired a couple of engineers to redesign the device. Two years later, a functioning Clapper finally hit the market. A jingle was penned, a commercial was shot and American kitsch history was made.