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NEW ZUBE TUBE COULD BECOME NEXT HULA-HOOP

SHARE NEW ZUBE TUBE COULD BECOME NEXT HULA-HOOP

There's not much to the Zube Tube, the Ultimate Cosmic Sound Machine. But then, there wasn't much to the Hula-Hoop, either.

The 39-inch-long brightly colored cardboard tube can produce sounds from "Star Wars" battles and MTV-style echoes to Gregorian chants, whale songs and the ocean's roar."The number of noises you want to make are as infinite as your imagination," said Judy A. Walls, senior vice president of Ritam International, Ltd., a toy company in the southeastern Iowa town of Fairfield.

"There's no batteries, no electricity," she said. "I think everybody is just `electroniced' out."

Inside the 23/4-inch diameter tube is a spring that acts as an acoustic coil. The spring is connected at each end by custom-made plastic cups. A hole on the side of the tube allows a child's - or an adult's - finger to reach in and pluck the spring, which produces the myriad sounds.

A person can also speak into the hole, as well as either end of the tube, to produce even more sounds.

"We feel it's going to be the next Hula-Hoop. In its first 18 months, they sold something like 100 million Hula-Hoops," Walls said. "We plan on doing the same thing. I think three years is realistic."

Some 200,000 Zube Tubes have been sold since it was marketed in mid-September, she said. The suggested retail price is $9.95.

Toy and gift companies in Finland, Switzerland, Germany, France, England and Canada have inquired about the tube.

Sandy Watsey, Ritam executive vice president, said that while in London, a group of company officials went to Harrod's to tape a video using the department store's Zube Tube display. However, they ended up filming an empty display because the store was sold out, she said.

"They say over there that the Zube Tube is more popular than Nintendo," Watsey said.

The concept of the Zube Tube was developed by Bob Deissler, who was studying physics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

"I was playing with a slinky and it happened to touch a Styrofoam cup," said Deissler, who was visiting the 10-year-old toy company this week.

Intrigued by the sound, Deissler experimented with a different type of spring about a year later.

"It worked really great. That's when I really decided to pursue it," he said.