Seen in: Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle, Spider-Man and Donald Duck comics.
Impact on real life: The invention of electronic surveillance, and the Taser--the cornerstones of the modern police state.
How wonderful would life be if the awe-inspiring technology of comic books existed in real life? Web-shooters, repulsor beams and badger-firing railgun (hey, the comics we draw at work still count); truly it would be a technological utopia. Unfortunately, inventor Jack Love (a dude who shares his name with a special you order at the bunny ranch) read a Spider-Man comic in 1977 and seized on the absolute worst tech available.
No, worse than Hypno-Hustler.
Rather than inventing wrist-mounted web-slingers and being known as Judge Love: Emperor of the Nerds Forever, he seized on the fact that the story featured a character being tracked via a wrist transmitter. Love thus set about inventing the first personal electronic monitors. Love contacted a computer salesman who built his prototype, and in 1983, electronic surveillance was born. And the police state threw a tasteful party in celebration; attendance was mandatory and jubilation was absolutely not tolerated.
THIS IS FUN. I AM HAVING FUN.
In fact, they wouldn't party that solemnly and severely until the early 90s when the first useable Taser came out. Inspired by the book Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle which came out in 1911, John H. Cover developed an early prototype of the scrotum's worst enemy since the invention of the foot. Even its name comes from the book--Taser being an acronym of Tom A. Swift's Electric Rifle.
A man named Rick Smith eventually tracked Cover down and introduced the idea of using compressed air to launch the darts, rather than the original gunpowder and the modern Taser was born. And we never thought we'd say this--being almost weekly victims of Tasing by virtue of our exceedingly poor strip club etiquette and alcohol tolerance--but thank God for it.
OK, we owe it a couple of "thank you's."
While the world is undoubtedly a scarier place with the Taser in it, at least it's not fired with the speed of an actual bullet. Because the only thing worse than taking 50,000 volts to the Ol' Mean Bean Machine is getting shot there first, and then getting twin lightning bolts as a follow-up.
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For other times people have pulled their plans from the silver screen, check out 5 Real Bank Heists Ripped Right Out of the Movies and 7 Bullshit Police Myths Everyone Believes (Thanks to Movies).
And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 2.8.2010) Brockway reenacting the William Tell act.
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