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Photos of scooters from the dot-com era prove nothing is new under the sun

Annie Wells/AP
Tech booms and scooters: causation or correlation?
By Simone Stolzoff
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Ask anyone who has been around the tech world long enough, and they’ll tell you that innovation is cyclical. Microsoft tried to sell smartwatches back in 2004. WebVan tried to build Instacart in 1999. Nintendo tried to make virtual reality gaming a thing back in 1995. But ask Richard Thalheimer, and he’ll tell you that the cycle of innovation has two wheels.

Thalheimer is the founder of The Sharper Image, the gadget store that brought scooter mania to the United States at the start of the 21st century. After spotting an aluminum scooter with rollerblade wheels at a Chinese toy fair in early 2000, he decided to negotiate an exclusive contract to import them to the US. By the end of the year, Razor Scooters from The Sharper Image had surpassed Tamagotchis and Barbie dolls as the most popular gift of the holiday season.

AP/Paul Sakuma
Thalheimer sees tech culture’s future in September 2000.

But scooters were never just a toy for kids. For as long as scooters have existed, adults have commuted on two wheels. “When historians recount New York’s summer of 2000, they will tell of plaster cows and of grown professionals on little chrome scooters,” The New York Times wrote in a 2000 piece for the Style section.

Now that scooters have re-entered the zeitgeist—with startups like Bird and Lime raising millions of dollars to bring electric scooter shares to a sidewalk near you—grown professionals are again mounting their two-wheeled chariots. Even Razor USA, the original scooter manufacturer, is launching its own scooter-share program later this summer.

“I guess everything old is new again,” Thalheimer told Quartz.

Check out some photos from the first scooter revolution below.

AP/Fabian Bimmer
Robert Bartz rides a Ciro Magic scooter at the Cebit computer fair in Hanover, Germany in 1999. Don’t you love it when your scooter matches your tie!
AP/Erik S. Lesser
Don’t mind me! Just a morning commute in the year 2000: Larry Singer, then the state of Georgia’s chief information officer, rides his electric scooter through downtown Atlanta.
AP/Mark Lennihan
Scooters: Making Google offices feel smaller one kick-push at a time.
Reuters/Mark Baker
Remember, scooting is not for the faint of heart. Whatever era you’re from, don’t forget to wear your helmet!

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