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Top 10 useless inventions

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Alan H
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Top 10 useless inventions

#1 Post by Alan H » March 9th, 2008, 3:18 am

In today's Sunday Times:
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http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/b ... 5032534038
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Top 10 useless inventions
To inspire nominations for the Landfill Prize, here’s our list of the 19th and 20th centuries’ most unnecessary inventions
scream silencer

Scream silencer
John Naish

What’s the most useless, pointless, resource-wasting consumer gadget that you have seen, bought or been given in the past 12 months? That’s the question at the heart of the first annual Landfill prize, which has already attracted a host of nominations, including automatic cucumber peelers, hi-spec plug-in air fresheners and a £150 electric toothbrush.

Today’s consumer society has become astonishingly adept at inventing pointless, hopeless, resource-sucking gizmos, but let’s not pretend we have a monopoly on this. Since the Victorian era, some of humankind’s most creative brains have kept themselves busy creating answers for needs that didn’t exist and solutions that are more cumbersome than the problems they promised to tackle. To inspire nominations for the Landfill Prize, here’s our list of the 19th and 20th centurys’ most pathetic, unnecessary and patently daft inventions.

1. The combined plow and gun
Patent no 35600, issued 1862

Rather than turn your sword into a ploughshare, why not combine your plough with a medium-sized artillery piece? It’s bound to be so much more effective than shouting “get orf moi land” at errant ramblers. Or, as the American inventor claimed, “Its utility is unquestionable, especially when used in border localities, subject to savage feuds and guerrilla warfare. In times of danger may be used in the field, ready charged with its deadly missiles of ball or grape. The share serves to anchor it firmly in the ground and enables it to resist the recoil, while the hand levers furnish convenient means of giving it the proper direction.” Why don’t the perpetually bickering Archers have one?

2. Device for waking persons from sleep
Patent no 256265, issued 1882

Sometimes, an alarm clock just isn’t quite enough for rousing heavy sleepers to face the day. So why not hang an array of weights on a frame above the snoozer’s head and, with the help of clockwork machinery, drop them upon their head until they wake? “When they fall it will strike a light blow, sufficient to awaken the sleeper, but not heavy enough to cause pain,” assures the inventor. Surely it’s just bound to cause stubborn sleepers simply to pull the duvet over their heads.

3. Balloon propelled by eagles or vultures
Patent no 863087, issued 1887

First, catch your eagle or vulture. Then attach the large bird to a balloon cupola, point its beak in desired direction, then sit back, relax and enjoy the in-flight snacks and movie. There’s a kind of simple genius to this idea, but a few potential snags make themselves apparent. Yes, there will be protests by animal lovers, but perhaps more pertinent is the fact that large birds of prey or carrion are notoriously uncooperative in matters of providing predictable and directable propulsion. Oh, and won’t they peck holes in the balloon?

4. Method of preserving the dead
Patent no 748284, issued 1903

Having trouble finding a suitable memorial for your loved one? How about having them permanently encased in glass? Herkimer J. Karkowski, the New Yorker who devised this tidy and decorative form of body-disposal seems to have been rather less squeamish than the average mourner. He believed that bereaved people would love nothing more than seeing their departed hermetically encased within a block of transparent glass, and thus “maintained for an indefinite period in a perfect and lifelike condition”. If an entire glass-encased relative might take up too much parlour-space, Karkowski suggested just having their head done. An attractive adornment to any mantelpiece. Or a handy doorstop? Glazed looks all round.

5. Moustache and lip guards
Patent no GB191127119, issued 1912

Oh the Edwardians and their moustaches: the damned hairy things seemed to be ever getting in the way, catching fire or becoming unattractively damp and potentially infected. To prevent this last problem, Fritz Baudisch filed a British patent to stop beards and moustaches getting moistened while drinking. His gadget consisted simply of a protective antiseptic paper disk that could be adapted to be folded over the edge of any drinking-vessel. Then, of course, it got damp and filled the toper’s facial hair with papier mache. Drat.

6. Water-filled brassiere
Patent no US4734078, issued 1988

All the mental effort expended on the mid 20th-century’s most famous innovations – the First and Second World Wars – seems to have fixed many inventors’ wilder imaginations on the straightforward business of creating new killing machines, thus draining their eccentric energy for several decades. It is only in the 1980s that we see a true return to form, with the creation of impractical and useless gadgetry like this – a sort of Wonderbra meets Waterworld. The American Inventor, James Moreau, explains it best (if it can be explained): “A brassiere which surrounds the breasts with water, so that a buoyant force provides improved and independent support for each breast. A transparent version is suggested for those who wish to make a fashion statement.” Even Madonna seems to have passed on that latter suggestion.

7. Sound-muffler for covering the mouth
Patent no 4834212, issued 1989

It’s the invention that really makes you want to scream – but no one will hear you. Moira and Frank Figone a couple from Belmont, California, created this face-tube device to enable purchasers to “Yell or scream without disturbing others, allowing them to vent built-up anger and frustration.” In this fiendishly basic design, the interior of the flat-bottomed muffler tube is coated with sound-absorbing foam. But here’s the clever bit: a microphone can be included to pick up a some sound and activate a light display or meter, “giving the user immediate visual feedback as to the intensity of sound produced”. Because otherwise, you’d never know, eh?

8. A glove for courting
Patent application no GB2221607, issued 1990

In the world of invention, romance is never dead. Just complicated. Terry King’s innovation aimed to assist couples who wish to maintain precious palm-to-palm contact while holding hands on cold days. It’s a pair of gloves knitted together into a single glove with a common palm section, but two separate sets of fingers. Bless. However, if you and your lovey-dove find yourselves running blissfully together through a frosty meadow and encounter a tree, the result could be distinctly face-mushingly tragic if you run either side of the trunk. That’s at least one good reason why the courting glove doesn’t seem to have caught on.

9. Alarm-equipped fork
US patent 5,421,089, issued 1995

Are you a manic masticator or a superfast food shoveller? The cutlery creators Nicole Dubus and Springfield Susan have come up with the just answer for you: a fork with a built in timer and alarm. The timer’s circuitry is connected to the handle of the fork and buzzes or lights up after a preset time, ensuring that eaters leave sufficient space between forkfulls for chewing 32 healthy times before swallowing. A must for business lunches and candlelit dinners.

10. The trouser-cushion
UK patent application No GB2267208, 1993

You may need to sit down for this one. British inventor Michael Bayley decided to put an end to standing nightmares by creating portable seat that you wear on a waist-belt. OK, it’s a somewhat convoluted version of having a cushion with a loop that goes through your belt. “The seat cushion is pivotable between a stowed position and a seating position in which it hangs down so that you can sit on it,” says the patent application. I can see one possible practical use: musical chairs, though you may get beaten to death by indignant toddlers.

— The European patent office’s searchable patents database is at http://ep.espacenet.com/
— United States Patent and Trademark Office’s database is at http://www.uspto.gov/patft/index.html

© John Naish 2008. Enough: Breaking Free From the World of More (Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99), is published this week. It is available from Times BooksFirst for £15.29, p&p free: 0870 1608080 or visit timesonline.co.uk/booksfirst

[Captured: 09 March 2008 03:17:01]

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Let's hear about your useless inventions!
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Alan C.
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Re: Top 10 useless inventions

#2 Post by Alan C. » March 9th, 2008, 10:48 am

Tea bag squeezers :idea:
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Fia
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Re: Top 10 useless inventions

#3 Post by Fia » March 9th, 2008, 12:54 pm

Don't get me started, Alan H...the most recent one to get me spluttering is:

Mango splitters Image
- what's wrong with a good knife? And you never know which angle the stone is until you slice through the flesh.

And earmuffs were patented in 1887 - as we lose much heat through our heads, surely a warm hat is more practical? And looks far better.

Just know I'll be nodding furiously at this thread :)

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Oxfordrocks
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Re: Top 10 useless inventions

#4 Post by Oxfordrocks » March 9th, 2008, 1:09 pm

hello

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Oxfordrocks
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Re: Top 10 useless inventions

#5 Post by Oxfordrocks » March 9th, 2008, 1:18 pm

hello

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gcb01
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Re: Top 10 useless inventions

#6 Post by gcb01 » March 9th, 2008, 3:05 pm

the bible?
Regards

Campbell

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wizzy
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Re: Top 10 useless inventions

#7 Post by wizzy » March 9th, 2008, 5:59 pm

Fia wrote:
And earmuffs were patented in 1887 - as we lose much heat through our heads, surely a warm hat is more practical? And looks far better.
As a child I was quite fond of earmuffs and they did keep my ears warm. Though I do agree that hats look much better, which is the main reason I wouldn't wear earmuffs now.

Noggin
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Re: Top 10 useless inventions

#8 Post by Noggin » March 10th, 2008, 11:40 am

Image

Be the host with the most at your next dinner party by providing guests with this ingenious way of cooling food. (Only works with long stringy food.)


I trust nobody here is old-fashioned enough to still be using one of those horribly inconvient things known as knives to butter bread when you can be really cool and edgy with one of these.
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Maria Mac
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Re: Top 10 useless inventions

#9 Post by Maria Mac » March 10th, 2008, 12:04 pm

Image

:puzzled: WTF?

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Top 10 useless inventions

#10 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » March 10th, 2008, 12:30 pm

Alan C. wrote:Tea bag squeezers :idea:
But ... but ... I think teabag squeezers are very useful. They enable one to transfer a teabag from the pot or cup to the compost bin easily and painlessly without wasting tea or adding too much moisture to said compost bin. My 85-year-old mother has a pair and uses it several times a day.

___

Microsoft PowerPoint (see "PowerPoint is Evil", by Edward Tufte).

Image

Emma

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Re: Top 10 useless inventions

#11 Post by Maria Mac » March 10th, 2008, 12:56 pm

Noggin wrote: Be the host with the most at your next dinner party by providing guests with this ingenious way of cooling food. (Only works with long stringy food.)
Don't forget to provide them this very useful hair guard (works with all food)!

Image

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Lifelinking
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Re: Top 10 useless inventions

#12 Post by Lifelinking » March 10th, 2008, 12:58 pm

The Swiss army knife inspired



Ten in One Gardening Tool



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Re: Top 10 useless inventions

#13 Post by Firebrand » March 11th, 2008, 10:31 am

Image

:shock:

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Re: Top 10 useless inventions

#14 Post by Maria Mac » March 11th, 2008, 10:46 am

Emma W wrote: Microsoft PowerPoint (see "PowerPoint is Evil", by Edward Tufte).
Good one! :thumbsup:


I might buy my son one of these, though I'd prefer it with a sound muffler as well.

The Flatulence Deodorizer

Image

Filed in April 2000, the flatulence deodorizer "discloses a pad to be worn by a user for absorbing gas due to flatulence."

This drawing pretty much sums up the problem: You're at the airport, waiting for your luggage in your favorite "Z" jacket, when suddenly you find yourself emitting odors so foul they require stink lines to be properly illustrated.
Image
If you can get past the I'm-basically-wearing-a-weird-diaper-for-farts factor, this invention is actually a pretty good idea. Or it would be, we guess, if you're like the people in the testimonials on Flat-D.com. Those peoples' lives have been completely ruined by farts. A quick sampler:

"Your product has really helped me in the cramped space of my cockpit. I would sometimes notice the other guys using their mask to get some fresh oxygen ... When I feel the urge I usually quickly install it thru the back of my pants. Then I do not have to worry. It also does a nice job muffling the noise."

"On September 14th mom will be 78 years old, and that's why I'd like to take her to Hawaii ... I've traveled there twice, but she never has because of her flatulence problems."

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Re: Top 10 useless inventions

#15 Post by Nick » March 11th, 2008, 1:23 pm

Come to think of it.... chopsticks

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Re: Top 10 useless inventions

#16 Post by Jem » March 11th, 2008, 9:38 pm

Nick wrote:Come to think of it.... chopsticks
I agree!


And on a similar theme to the flatulence deodorizer:

Image

Horse Diaper
US Patent Issued In 1998

Cleaning up after a horse can be a real pain in the rear, so to speak. As the inventor tells us: "Frequent mucking-out of stables, horse-boxes and like shelters and the renewal of sawdust, etc., have in the past generally been necessary if the animal's accommodation is to be kept in reasonable condition. This can require copious labor of a tedious and unpleasant nature." His solution? Strap a big rubber diaper on your trusty steed! We call it a diaper, the inventor calls it an "Equidae Excrement Receptacle" (Equidae: any of a family of perissodactyl mammals consisting of the horses, asses, zebras, and extinct related animals). Either way, if you think mucking is unpleasant work, try cleaning your Equidae's diaper three times a day.

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Alan H
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Re: Top 10 useless inventions

#17 Post by Alan H » March 15th, 2008, 12:18 am

Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Lifelinking
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Re: Top 10 useless inventions

#18 Post by Lifelinking » March 15th, 2008, 10:18 am

An electromagnetic radiation sensing device (20) has an n x m array (22) of detecting elements (24) (where n and m are integers greater than unity). These elements (24) are symmetrically arranged about at least one axis, so as to form at least two sub-arrays (26,28). In response to illumination by electromagnetic radiation the sub-arrays (26,28) produce output signals which are substantially equivalent in magnitude and phase.
That's easy for you to say!
"Who thinks the law has anything to do with justice? It's what we have because we can't have justice."
William McIlvanney

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grammar king
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Re: Top 10 useless inventions

#19 Post by grammar king » March 16th, 2008, 11:56 am

Maria wrote:Image

:puzzled: WTF?

That takes me back! In our tech rooms at school they had this picture on the wall in a poster from the DfES (I think), with the caption"

"Got a better idea? Study D&T"

or something less clunky.

I like this:

Image

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