Once upon a time, there were these things called Fax Machines. It was sort of like email, but for physical documents. Yes, it sounds very scifi, but the tech is quite ordinary. Everyone knows what a printer is. A fax machine is like a printer, but instead of printing out the paper at the same machine, it would send an encoded version of the document over a telephone wire to the recipient. It was actually a very quick and secure method for transferring documents from location to location. You could send anything, even newspapers. So they did. Until they didn’t.
We don’t know much about this device other than what’s mentioned in the bibliographic record from the Netherlands Nationaal Archief, which states that it is “Plastic face protection from snowstorms. Canada, Montreal, 1939.” The Dutch term for these contraptions is “Plastic sneeuwstormbeschermer.” There is something about living in a post-covid world that makes the Snowstorm Mask feel surreal in a way that isn’t describable. The plague mask shape is so strange, yet familiar, as if you saw it in a dream. It’s like looking into some alternate reality of what could have been. Surely the inventor thought the cone shape would give it an aerodynamic quality, but only if you’re facing into the wind. A sideways gust would blow it right off, and good riddance. Despite being clear plastic, your visibility would go to 0 as it quickly fogged from your breath.
This Revolver Camera Looks Like Something Out of a Spy Movie
The origins of the revolver camera are somewhat obscure. But records indicate that the device was created and photographed in 1938 in New York. The only known surviving images of the gun-camera now reside in the Nationaal Archief of the Netherlands. However, details surrounding the invention remain unclear. The revolver camera itself is a tiny camera that is affixed to the underside of the barrel and front of the trigger guard of a Colt .38 special revolver. When the trigger is pulled, the camera snaps a photo simultaneously with the gun firing. These black-and-white still images capture moments just prior to or following impact, leaving much to the imagination compared to today’s streaming video. There is no evidence that this gun was actually used. It’s just one of the many vintage inventions archived in Internet photo galleries.
This lawnmower would have come straight out of The Jetsons if only the Jetsons had a front lawn at all. The Simplicity Manufacturing Company built this futuristic machine, called the Wonderboy X-100, in 1957. Though not practical for everyday use, it was the flagship machine of Simplicity’s first offering of riding lawn mowers to the public. The mower was featured on the 1958 cover of Mechanix Illustrated and had a five-foot diameter plastic sphere that allowed the rider to sit on an air foam cushioned seat. The machine had an electric generating system to operate running lights, a radio telephone, air conditioning, and even a cooling system for a chilled drink on a hot day. Simplicity promoted it as a lawnmower, weed remover, fertilizer spreader, insecticide sprayer, snow plow, and equipment hauler.
Glow in the dark tires have a lot of advantages for a tire manufacturer, just not exactly the glow in the dark part. The Chemist William Larson invented Neothane in 1961, a polyurethane tire that could be poured into molds and baked in ovens. This process was much easier than traditional tires, and being translucent meant you could string lights on the inside to make them glow in the dark, light up the road, or even act as a turn signal. There were just a few issues. They performed badly on wet roads and tended to melt at high speeds.
The origin of “baby cages” can be traced back to Dr. Luther Emmett Holt’s 1884 book, The Care and Feeding of Children. In the book, Dr. Holt recommended fresh air for babies, as he believed it would purify the blood. While some parents simply placed their infants’ baskets near open windows, others hung chicken-wire cages to expose babies to fresh air. In 1922, the first commercial patent for a baby cage was filed by Emma Read of Spokane, Washington. Baby cages became popular in London in the 1930s, particularly among apartment dwellers without access to backyards. The popularity of baby cages declined in the second half of the 20th century, likely due to growing concerns for child safety. Even Eleanor Roosevelt, who knew little about baby care, used a baby cage until a neighbor threatened to report her to authorities.
One of the Top 10 reasons to go to Japan is the vending machines. They have vending machines for everything, from ice cream to women’s underwear. Such an idyllic paradise could have been ours. But alas, it is but a relic of that old 1950’s optimism. We, too, once had vending machines for everything, from books, to insurance, to suntan lotion. However, a series of social kerfuffles happened, so good by vending machines. Japan’s crime rate is much lower, compared to the United States. So having goods and assets just hanging out on random streets isn’t that big of a risk.
On January 12, 1950, engineer Ted Spence of the Los Angeles Brush Manufacturing Corp. demonstrated the “Hairline Brush.” This brush was specifically designed to fit the contours of a bald head and featured bristles for brushing hair, as well as a felt pad for gently massaging the scalp. A well groomed man needs to take care of his hair. Until he doesn’t. Then he has to make sure his chrome dome is all nice and shiny. Needing a brush and polisher is perfectly reasonable, but why on God’s good green earth did someone think they needed to put both onto a hooked handle? What if you wanted to polish the outside and not the inside, or not brush at all? What if your head was a different shape? Anormal brush and polisher is so much better. Whoever invented this had more missing than a few hair follicles.
You may have wondered to yourself, what was the point of those old duck-and-cover shorts from the 1950’s? Why hide under a desk when the bomb blast is going to kill you? The answer is that you just might be far away enough that it won’t, but flying debris still might. Perhaps the same idea was behind the economy bomb shelter. Though it looks to be sitting too far above ground for my taste. It may have worked fairly well, but does your family survive only to slowly die in a nuclear apocalypse? I’m not sure which is worse, frankly.
This is actually a pretty cool idea, kinda. You get to pear below the water level and see all there is to see in your local lake or river. The thing is, you probably don’t want to see everything down there. It tends to be a whole writhing mess of plant splooge, trash, and big ugly fish you never knew could exist. Really, it’s just better not knowing what is under the surface. Imagine taking it out into the deep ocean. Imagine just staring deep into that infinite abyss. An endless void of deep and nothingness, and what lurks beneath. This is one of those inventions that lasted the test of time. Clear bottom boats still exist today.
If you live in the United States, then you already know about our tipping culture. Our service industry workers are criminally underpaid, and it has fallen on the public to tip them in order to receive a living wage. But out of all the inventions on this list, this one seems the most shameful. There are some things you see and just ask yourself if there was some hilarious movie you missed. Would it provide the context for what you’re looking at? The questions keep coming. What would someone think if they saw a fake hand and box attached to some dude’s back asking for money? Would they oblige? Would they be too embarrassed to acknowledge it? Who could willingly wear this in public without shame? There are so many questions.
Also known as “seat sticks”, Monopod Seats are still a thing. You can buy them online right now, if you really want to. Both Walmart and Amazon sell them for around $40 to $50. In fact, it’s just down right shocking that they are never seen in the wild. Who knows, perhaps that’s just a false generalization. Maybe they’re actually everywhere: in people’s cars, people’s houses, people’s purses, waiting for that one brave soul to actually just whip one out and sit their butt down, but not really. You kinda casually lean on itâ¦or just bring a lawn chair the next time you need to stand in a long line.
It’s a powered fork that spins at the press of a button. That’s it. It might serve as a good gag gift for someone who always eats their spaghetti in a certain way, but it is in no way practical. Anyone who is too lazy to spin their own spaghetti is too lazy to replace the batteries on this thing when it dies. Even if it’s a good laugh, it’s one of those items that end up in a hardware drawer for 30 years. Funny enough, you can buy one of these today for around $30, if you want to waste your money.
During pre-war Germany in the 1930s, rocket-propelled vehicles inspired countless new inventions. These rocket-propelled vehicles included cars, airplanes, boats, motorcycles, and skates, both roller and ice. However, one of the most peculiar uses of rocket propulsion was on a bicycle. In 1931, German engineer Herr Richter created the Raketenrad, or rocket-bike, by attaching twelve black powder solid-fuel rockets to the rear of his bicycle. Richter then attempted to ride his creation down the Avus race track in Berlin, reportedly achieving a top speed of 55 miles per hour. Then he lost control and was thrown from the bike. Fortunately, Richter was not seriously hurt.
This just makes sense. You want to lay out in your backyard and get a tan? Don’t want to lay your head to one side and get an uneven tan on your face? 10-year-old Marne Smith had the right idea in 1964. Cut a hole in it. Masseuses do it. Why can’t you? This needs to be normalized. #cutAHoleInIt. Don’t think about damaging your property. Just buy a second one for when you want to tan your front. Find a partner to split the cost and to trade spots with. Treat yourself. You deserve it. Cut a hole in it. In fact, face-down chairs with holes still exist today, and you can buy them at Target.
Always new and always old, the jet pack is one of those inventions that never seems to go out of style. Some are powered by water pumps, and others are simply glorified leaf blowers. Very very few are crazy enough to actually try to strap something onto their backs that shoot fire. That fantasy is usually saved for the movies. The risk of car accidents and plane crashes are tragic enough. It’s often portrayed as living the dream of personal flight, but would we really want to live in a world where periodically some guy falls out of the sky and splatters himself on the pavement?
This dash-mounted coffee maker for the Volkswagen Beetle is incredibly rare, and sought after by vintage car collectors. It was called the “Hertella Auto Kaffeemachine“. The machine has no markings to indicate the correct voltage and no power switch. When plugged into the cigarette lighter, it heats up automatically, and it is unclear what kind of coffee it brews. Although it is expensive, the rarity of the Hertella Kaffeemachine makes it a unique and eye-catching accessory to install in a Beetle. This needs to be in every car. Sometimes you’re just running late or it’s just cold outside. Or you just want that amazing smell of ground coffee to sooth your mind as you grind through rush hour traffic. Every car seemingly still has a cigarette lighter. Replace them with coffee makers. Who cares if it’s a pain in the butt to clean.
We all have that friend who took Covid seriously. Very seriously. Some of the things that came out of the pandemic were just bizarre. A lot of people were pushed to their breaking point. In 1925, Hugo Gernsback must have been pushed beyond the point of sanity by something, because his anti distraction helmet is one of the most far out things you’ll see, like, ever. It blocked out 95% of all sound, and the field of vision was so narrow it was guaranteed you would not notice anyone walking by. Constantly checking your oxygen supply would defeat the purpose, though.
It’s like a safety cup, but for your tatas. Great idea, actually. These, however, were designed to protect women who were just beginning to work in industry during WWII. The company that invented it was Wilson Goggles. Yet, that was the company’s name, they called their product the SAF-T-BRA. It was designed to prevent certain occupational hazards around heavy machinery involving certain female anatomy. Certainly, it was a great idea, especially for someone who may not have been accustomed to mechanical hazards. They didn’t have sports bras back then, and some women are so well endowed, close calls are inevitable.
Charles Steinlauf’s creation, the “Goofybike,” is a two-story vehicle designed to carry the entire Steinlauf family. The inventor himself rides at the top, steering the contraption with a massive automobile steering wheel. Meanwhile, Mrs. Steinlauf operates a sewing machine from below. The couple’s son pedals from behind while their daughter rides on the handlebars in front. Thanks to the sewing machine’s projecting legs, the unusual vehicle remains stable when at rest and is prevented from tipping over. Just imagine: It’s a windy day, your thread is flying everywhere, the family has to dodge a distracted pedestrian, the bike jerks around and you bounce up and down with every crack in the road. God forbid the wife isn’t doing domestic work 24/7 and enjoys a family outing.
Malcolm Pickard, a teenager from 1960s England, created a device called the “Snogometer” to measure the voltage of passionate kisses. The device involved holding electrodes in each hand, with sound effects and a lighted scale showing the level of passion. Despite spending two pounds on electrical equipment and testing it on a couple, the device was deemed dangerous and left a coppery taste in users’ mouths. However, the Snogometer earned Pickard a brief stint of fame, receiving fan mail from all over the world and even recognition on the street. Ultimately, the invention did not go anywhere, but it remains a quirky relic of teenage ingenuity from the 1960s.
A Laryngaphone is a device designed to amplify the vibrations of someone’s throat who cannot speak in a normal fashion. It is a medical device that’s still in use today, but they are usually portable. Having a public in the form of a telephone is really unusual, though I suppose it does somewhat increase accessibility for the handicapped. The problem is that a lot of people likely tried using it as a regular phone. It also likely did not have a very pleasant sound quality. The person listening on the other end probably thought they were in a horror film.
We all want to be beautiful. And if there were inventions that promised to make us more beautiful than we were, we’d buy it in a heartbeat. Hence why the makeup industry makes billions of dollars. The dimple maker is not nearly as extreme as some of the other inventions on this list, as it’s just a cheek clamp. It was invented by Mrs. E. Isabella Gilbert in 1936. This product was denounced by the American Medical Association, as it didn’t actually give you dimples. It simply indented your face temporarily, before your skin eventually went back to normal. But it might give you cancer, though.
The cringe is strong with this one. Invented by Alois Merke. He promised that anyone who wore his “New Kind of Hat” for just 10 minutes a day would regrow their hair in just 30 days, guaranteed. You can trust him due to the thousands of cases of baldness he treated. Apparently there was no upfront cost. Just mail in a coupon, and only send the money if you are happy with the product. Perhaps it was just a gag, or perhaps a vintage style phishing scam. Falling for an identity theft scam will lose you more than just hair.
Don’t pretend that you didn’t already know this was invented in Japan. This thing is so bizarre. The Cat Mew Machineplugs into a wall outlet. Yet they claimed it capable of things that are darn near impossible for even a modern machine. They asserted that it can actually visually detect a mouse. It will then emit a cat’s meow and chase the mouse, even though there appears to be no clear method of locomotion. A modern cat robot made today that was actually capable of seeing a mouse, knowing what it was, and pursuing it effectively would be an absolute marvel. But for now, we will have to settle for real cats.
Smoking is an unhealthy habit, and this article is in no way encouraging the practice. However, this novelty cigarette case requires a second look. It keeps track of how many cigarettes you gave to a friend with a relatively simple mechanism. The case has two buttons, with the first opening the case. Then the second button opens the case AND ticks a counter over by one. Sure, there are many other ways to do the same thing, like a notepad or memory. But both require minimal effort. This is so tactile and effortless. Imagine a case like that today, but for chewing gum, instead!
Out of all the inventions on this list, this one might be the most pointless. Why? Just why? I can’t even. Imagine being so devoid of brain matter you can’t brush your own back with a normal back brush. They can’t do anything regarding their own body without a direct line of sight. Really? Then how do they even wipe themselves after using the bathroom?! Can’t scratch your own back? Well, good luck with this thing. It only requires perfectly aligning a pair of mirrors that jerk in all directions while you use it. The brush isn’t even angled properly. Just useless.
Actually not a terrible idea as far as inventions go. Seriously, just hear me out. First off, you have to wonder what exactly would convince a man to allow another man to be that close to his neck with a razor. One slip up, and that’s it. A robotic arm could be fine tuned to make only the smallest movements, and even to not move at all if the operator jerks too suddenly. In fact, they are being used today, but for robotic surgery, for precisely that reason. The only thing holding this back is that no real barber would have hoped to afford it.
Anyone who has ever experienced rain knows that even a normal umbrella is dubious when it’s so windy the water falls sideways. Someone either thought that people are so stupid that ads can sell anything, or worse. They actually believed it was a good product. What I actually want to believe is that Robert L. Stern, president of Zeus Corp, already knew this, and the 1956 Rainy Day Cigar Holder was only meant as a humorous novelty item. It would make an excellent gag gift for Chirstman or birthdays, even today. File this one under, “Could sell on Etsy, actually.”
File this one under “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” This briefcase had a pull-out bottom attached to a chain. In theory, a thief would steal it, only to pull the chain and send the contents flying. Forget having a firm grip, or a lock code that wasn’t “1234”. All it would take was for just one accidental discharge for you to just decide to use a normal briefcase. The genius behind this item was a man named John H. T. Rinfret. It was a product perfectly designed to make the short-sighted believe they’re actually playing the long game.
Nothing quite hits the right mix of misogyny and stupidity like the Feet Brush. Someone actually thought that walking on a soapy floor with less-than-solid footwear was a great idea. It was such a great idea, you didn’t even have to pay attention to what you were doing. You could do anything, like read a book! Imagine being engrossed in the latest entry in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, and a patch of extra soapy floor sends you flying backwards and snaps your neck. The truly concerning fact was that it wasn’t laughed out of the room.
“Now you can have that sensual no-bra look while wearing a bra,” read the ad for the Nipple Bra, the first (and last) women’s bra to have a built-in nipple. I’ll be honest, this just seems like the best of both worlds. It was made of nylon, and was even machine washable! $20 for the bra, and $15 for shipping. Apparently it was mail order only. A shame, really. Would have been a real head-turner for a window display. It is hard to imagine a more inappropriate item of dress, but it’s not unimaginable for it to see a comeback.