Luke Nicoli continues his regular darts blog at www.harrowsdarts.com, with part two of a chronological look at dart evolution and the game’s various accessories…
The 1980s sparked a technological revolution, where home computers topped every youngster’s Christmas wish list, and phones went mobile to become a must-have accessory for every Filofax-holding ‘Yuppie’.
Indeed, technology had started to envelope every aspect of modern life including the darts fraternity; with Harrows re-branding to become known as Harrows Darts Technology as advances were made, both in terms of quality of product and number of lines produced.
“The 1980s was the decade when things really started to take off from our perspective,” recalls Harrows Sales Director Robert Pringle. “We initially traded under Harrows: with a sub heading of ‘Pure Dartsmanship’, tapping into what old-school players might regard as the ‘traditional way’, but we realised as the world was getting more sophisticated, we needed to create a more modern image, so we rebranded to Harrows; with the sub heading of ‘Darts Technology’.
“Computers were now coming into play and basic computer-aided design was now being utilised. Initially we contracted out most of our design but by the end of the decade we had established our own in-house graphics team.”
The Harrows design team would also have a new variation of darts to contend with by the early 1990s – soft tip electronic darts. It proved to be extremely popular in the Far East, continental Europe and North America, opening up entirely new markets and ones that flourish to this day.
“Soft tip was very good because it brought in lots of new players who had never played traditional darts in their lives. They were therefore more open minded with regards to what a dart should look like,” Robert adds. “It also brought in a younger player demographic and gender mix. Traditionally, the mix is 90/10 male to female in steel tip, whereas soft tip became 60/40. We found that, certainly with the 17-20 female age group in Asia, darts had also become a lifestyle. The players would have several sets, all colour coded, which opened up lots of commercial opportunities for us.”
Soft tip boards were sensitive in their early incarnations but strides were quickly made to ensure the darts did not damage the electronics of the board. The Nineties also witnessed a change to the tradition bristle dartboard, with its round wire dividers, which caused a lot of bounce-outs, being superceded by more technical wiring systems. Certainly for the bigger televised events, knife wire dividers embedded in the surface of the board, became the order of the day, and a big seller for Harrows.
“With the new board, the scoring areas had increased by 25-30 per cent and the chances of a bounce-out dramatically reduced,” adds Robert. “If you look on YouTube at the early 1980s tournaments, there could be up to three bounce-outs in one game, whereas now it’s a talking point if it happens just once. The scoring averages went up as a result, which is why you can’t compare Eric Bristow in the 1980s to the scores achieved today. We now see higher scoring and more continuity of play, which can only be a good thing.”
With the Bristow prototype parallel dart still the default setting for every dart produced, there was certainly a change in barrel design as we turned into the new millennium. Traditionally, a billet of tungsten was machined, with cuts added, but the boundaries were now being pushed further.
“As we moved from the late 90s into the early 2000s, we started producing barrels that were second-operation coated, which gave players a non slip grip. The craving for colours and fashion, that we had seen in soft-tip darts, also transcended to steel tip. We found that if you titanium nitride coated a barrel black you could recut it, to reverse the silver out that was beneath. We then started to utilise other titanium nitride coatings in gold, copper and various other crazy colours. They became a very cool addition to our product line and certainly appealed to the younger generation of player.”
Read more from Luke on the history of Harrows – Feathers and Cane to Titanium and Tungsten
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