A fine mode of transportation. (Tim Tomkinson)
Photo: Tim Tomkinson

A roller skate with soft, linearly arranged wheels offering fast, smooth glide. Inline skates existed as early as the 19th century, but they lacked shock-absorbing wheels and a means of stopping. The Rollerblade was born in 1979 when a 19-year-old Minnesota hockey player named Scott Olson modified an old pair of skates, adding softer wheels and a heel brake, to use as an off-season training tool. The sport was part of the first X Games, in 1995, and by 1997 it was a half-billion-dollar industry. And then—overtaken by skateboarding and the forces of cool—it wasn’t.

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