5 Of Modern History's Dumbest Inventions (Came From One Guy)
You may be familiar with Hugo Gernsback, the futurist inventor, and namesake of the Hugo Awards. What you may not be familiar with are some of his, err ... more far-fetched inventions and predictions that never made it to the assembly line. Here's a collection of his more interesting ideas that leave us wondering what life would have been like in a more Gernsbackian timeline ...
The Lampifier - The Entire Living Room In One Lamp
Move over unitaskers. Make way for the greatest multipurpose lighting/entertainment/appliance/furniture/storage and pet apparatus of the 20th century. The Lampifier is a Swiss army knife when it comes to home decor. It might be cheating to include this beauty on the list because it's actually 12 products in one. The stunning three bulb lamp not only illuminates your room but six transparent photos of you and your family. Nestled next on this futuristic Christmas tree is an AM/FM radio, flanked by a small candy bowl platter, orbiting around the central lamp post.
If candy doesn't sound filling enough for you, the subsequent level contains a pleasant three-foot table for you to eat your meals at. And if you enjoy more of a, uh, liquid dinner, fear not, for your evening nightcap and morning hangover is not far out of reach. The Lampifier comes with two bottles of your favorite hooch built into it. Your choice of liquor is also accompanied by six glasses if you were so inclined to share (or are the specific kind of alcoholic that needs a new glass each round). You'll also find a small table holding a telephone. The phone itself is included with the purchase of the Lampifier, making it the only smartphone that serves you liquor (until they make the iPhone XXX).
The very bottom of the Lampifier is an umbrella stand built into a flower pot. The flowers are then watered by the run-off from your umbrella, though it's rather incredulous to believe that it rains enough for the flowers to be satiated year-round. Though we suppose it could also catch any spilled soda water from mixing your six cocktails. The stand has space for four umbrellas and comes with a matching his-and-hers pair. To top it all off -- the umbrella stand also houses a sterling silver ashtray and a three-tiered magazine rack.
If the amount of freebies this product includes isn't already overwhelming, what really takes the cake is that the Lampifier is topped with a canary cage and a live bird. Slap some wheels on the bottom of this baby, and you have the single most versatile home furnishing that anyone has ever conceived of.
Aerial Assault Law Enforcement - Turning Cops Into Cartoon Characters
In a strange concept that looks like it would be used by the metalbenders of The Legend of Korra's Republic City Police -- Hugo Gernsback envisioned a new way of putting an end to those pesky gangsters of the 1930s.
Step aside highway patrol and make way for the newest sheriffs: the air patrol. These specialized men and women would be equipped with state of the art aeroplanes to chase down the getaway cars that are too fast and slippery for the earthbound police force of yesteryear. Being up in the skies gives these officers a strong advantage, and by that, I mean a strong vantage. Being able to watch the roads with a birds-eye view would allow for the long arms of the law to keep track of and pursue even the most evasive of getaway drivers.
But that's not all folks! As soon as our boys in blue lock eyes on their target, a gondola housed within the belly of this aviary beast will be lowered down by strong reinforced cables to lay those criminal scum to waste. The gondola would be bulletproof and have heavy machine guns mounted to both the front and the bottom of the airborne metal chassis. No Tommy gun or smooth steering can help these vile mobsters slip away.
Thankfully this idea was never seriously attempted. Could you imagine where we'd be in our era of continued police militarization if we equip law enforcement with machine gun mounted flying bobsleds?
The Plaslatic Expanso Bag - The Bag Of Tomorrow
Ladies, have you ever wanted a bag that could carry all of your essentials, shopping, and one small child? Well, look no further than the Plaslatic Expanso Bag! This beautiful behemoth with the fashion styling of a Glad ForceFlex trash bag is made out of the most revolutionary material: plaslatic. Half plastic and half elastic; this bag can expand up to 10 times its original size, hold up to 50 lbs, and snap back without any warping.
Plaslatic was just far too ahead of the times. It would be another 12 years before spandex was discovered, and even then, spandex can only stretch up to 100% of its volume, not the 1000% that Hugo envisioned. If only our timeline were defined by designer purses that looked like something you fished out from under your sink. Oh, wait ... didn't that happen three years ago when Balenciaga created that $2,145 designer version of an IKEA bag? I guess Hugo wasn't too far from his mark as far as aesthetics go.
The Hypnobioscope - Learning Without The Having To Learn Part
School is such a drag. Who else has dozed off, sleeping face down on the open pages of their textbook, hoping that maybe some of that densely written information might be sucked through your forehead and transferred neatly into your neocortex? Well, Gernsback probably did too.
Gernsback imagined an idea that has been since reiterated over and over again in pop fiction: the Hypnobioscope. This invention would transmit words straight into the waiting brains of the sleeping subjects. The learners would wear a headband full of metal plates while they slept. Thin wires would run out of it and into a machine, where an operator would insert black film covered in mysterious wavy white lines, containing all the information you'd want to know.
Now, this is one of those inventions that I wish the scientific community had been successful in creating. Could you imagine? My 18 years of education could have been achieved in less than half the time, and hopefully, half as expensive. Actually ... the scientific community probably has already created this one, but they'll never release it because all of the knowledge that these PhDs have worked so hard to earn could be ours after just one good night of sleep. That probably wouldn't be a good call as far as job security goes.
The Isolator - The Helmet Of Solitude
Ever have that one coworker who just won't shut up about their weekend plans? Or perhaps get distracted by your homebound kids' constant screaming in your new work from home lifestyle? Maybe it's the blaring sound of constant traffic floating in from your open apartment window? Well, if struggling to breathe sounds better than struggling to focus, our boy Hugo has the invention just for you.
The product boasts a perfectly airtight and soundproof container for your head, so not a single obnoxious whisper, car horn, or fire alarm can penetrate your concentration. While you might think that impending suffocation is actually a far better choice than being forced to finish your paperwork -- Hugo doesn't let you off that easily. The helmet itself is equipped with an oxygen tank to fuel your body with the necessary atmospheric components that this chamber so professionally blocks out.
It is interesting to note, though, that you would probably only be able to use this device for about 10 minutes at a time, given that a full-sized scuba tank will give you about 45-60 minutes of breathable air, and the provided oxygen tank looks about the size of a small fire extinguisher you'd keep under the sink. Perhaps this device is less about helping you concentrate and more about turning your assignments into an exciting timed game, where the prize for quickly finishing your work is getting to live.
The fashion of this invention is, in itself, iconic. The helmet looks like it could be a piece of early model power armor from the Fallout games, or maybe Tony Stark's Mark I Iron Man armor. That may be part of the gimmick, though. I'm sure anyone who showed up to work wearing this piece of, err, marvelous apparel would definitely be left alone by friendly coworkers and not invited to the after-work happy hour.
While this is definitely not the most cringe or even outright deadly idea pitched by Hugo Gernsback -- it's definitely the most useless. I mean ... if you want a soundproof workspace so bad, why soundproof your face? Just soundproof your office. Hey, it's probably cheaper than having to pay to refill your oxygen tanks every day just to get some simple peace and quiet.
Top image: Science and Invention, Everyday Science and Mechanics