7 Things You Never Knew About The Selfie Stick

Photo: SIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images.
A couple years ago, we had just started uttering the word "selfie" to describe photos we take of ourselves. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, a device cropped up to make taking those often-narcissistic images even easier: The selfie stick.

Overnight, selfie sticks started popping up everywhere. While the tool was helpful for some and an annoyance to many others around them, its immense popularity drove it from "most loved" to "most hated" to (sometimes) "banned" in a matter of months. What happened to drive the selfie stick out of popular culture? And how did it even get there in the first place?

Turns out, the selfie stick isn't quite as new of an idea as you may think it is. Here's the fascinating lowdown on the meteoric rise and fall of the selfie stick.
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Image: Courtesy U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.
1980s: The Selfie Stick’s Beginnings
The selfie stick existed long before anyone had even coined the term “selfie.” Hiroshi Ueda, a photographer working for the Minolta camera company, developed the “extender stick” while on vacation in Europe. An extendable stick with a tripod mount, he designed it to be used with a small camera. The contraption even had a built-in camera, so you could see what you were taking a picture of (remember, these were the days before touchscreens and LCD screens on cameras). The idea was borne after Ueda asked a child in Paris to take a photograph of himself and his family and the child ran away with the camera.

Ueda patented the idea in 1983, but it never really gained much traction. Women, in particular, were embarrassed to use the device, the picture quality didn’t end up being very good, and it never sold well. And so the first selfie stick slipped away into obscurity.
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Photo: Courtesy Quik Pod.
2004: Wayne Fromm Invents The Quik Pod
The idea of sitting your camera on a stick — other than a stationary tripod mount — was largely forgotten until Wayne Fromm revisited the idea in the early 2000s. (In the interim, cameras' timer features often sufficed if you wanted a shot of the whole family together.) Like Ueda before him, Fromm thought of the idea while on a trip to Europe, after getting tired of asking strangers to take pictures for his family. Fromm came up with the idea for the Quik Pod, a telescopic monopod/tripod that's still on sale today. While traction was slow, Fromm's incarnation is what we largely have to thank for today's selfie stick craze.
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Photo: Courtesy Mpow.
June 2014: One Of Time’s Best Inventions Of 2014
2014 was the year the selfie. Selfies, and their hardware counterpart the selfie stick, became a cultural mainstay alongside Taylor Swift and Snapchat. The device made it onto Time’s list of 25 best inventions of the year. At the start of 2015, the New York Times wrote about the growing phenomenon of selfies, selfie sticks, and self-focused social media sharing apps. You couldn't turn left without running into someone saying cheese! into a phone on a stick.
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Photo: Courtesy Disney.
June 2015: Disney Bans Selfie Sticks At Its Theme Parks
If you were hoping to grab a great selfie stick-selfie of yourself and Snow White when you go visit Disneyland this fall, you’re SOL. Disney banned selfie sticks in June. Employees are checking for them in bag checks, and if you try to carry one into the theme park, you can either leave it at the entrance to pick up when you leave, or...just don’t bring it in the first place. Disney allowed them for a while (they could be used in the park, just not on rides) but people kept using them on rides anyway. That, dear friends, is a safety hazard that caused rides to shut down temporarily.

Earlier in 2015, music festivals such as Coachella and Lollapalooza banned the selfie-aiding device, as well as a variety of sporting events like Wimbledon, soccer games, and professional cycling races.

It would seem that not paying attention to your surroundings, combined with a very large object, was creating a safety liability for a growing number of events and organizations.
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Photo: Courtesy Six Flags.
July 2015: Six Flags Bans Selfie Sticks
Unsurprisingly, again with guest safety in mind, Six Flags followed Disney's example and also banned selfie sticks this summer. “We strive to provide the safest possible environment in our parks and these devices pose a safety risk to guests and employees,” Katy Enrique, Six Flags Great America communication manager, told NBC Chicago in a statement. Apple also banned selfie sticks at its developer conference this summer.
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Photo: Courtesy CamKix.
September 2015: Selfie Deaths
Alright, things have gotten really out of hand. As of last month, more people died from selfies this year than shark attacks: The count is 12 deaths versus only eight. People have taken their cell phones (and selfie sticks) into dangerous situations like the Running of the Bulls, and in front of oncoming trains. Whether you’re using a selfie stick or not, please, use good judgment when you’re setting up yourself up for a shot. The people on this boat should all be wearing life vests, for instance (we kid, kind of).
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Photo: Courtesy LG.
October 2015: A Phone You Don’t Need A Selfie Stick For
With selfie sticks banned everywhere except your own living room, how are we supposed to capture ourselves properly at only arm's-length? LG decided to solve the growing selfie stick dilemma itself. The company's new V10 smartphone houses two front facing cameras: Both 5-megapixels, one is “normal” while the other is a wide-angle camera that grabs more of what’s around you — giving the effect that the phone is being held further from your face than it actually is. Now you can grab a group shot without the need of a selfie stick (theoretically).
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Photo: SIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images.
Still A Cultural Mainstay
Will we continue to see selfie sticks around? Probably — they were one of the most popular Christmas gifts of 2014, after all, and they serve a purpose. But if software can compensate for the shortness of our arms, like with the V10 smartphone, we could see less of a need for them. And that's good news, because it's really awkward to fit a selfie stick in a purse.
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