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Dumb inventions
October 6, 2009 4:18 PM   Subscribe

LIFE magazine presents: 30 Dumb Inventions of the 1950s and 60s. via laughing squid.
posted by serazin (82 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think those illuminated tires are cool.
posted by headspace at 4:23 PM on October 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


31: one-image-per-click slideshow interfaces.
posted by darksasami at 4:24 PM on October 6, 2009 [25 favorites]


No mention of the reducing belt? Turn on a loud machine that magically jiggles a belt around your waist, apparently sanding away those unsightly pounds.

My mom had one of those well past the time when people should have known better. Of course, like all "exercise" equipment, it mostly was covered with laundry.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 4:27 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey, the laryngaphone is a cool idea! I don't know if it would/did work, but it's not as insane as some of the others. Definitely seems like it was invented to fulfill a real need, though it might have sounded odd - I suppose.
posted by Sova at 4:29 PM on October 6, 2009




Illuminated tyres too! I want to live in the 50s already.
posted by Sova at 4:31 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why is a rocket belt a dumb invention? Or a mini-television? And if I were to have a baby, I think that baby cage would look more and more attractive.
posted by darksasami at 4:32 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thirding the Illuminated Tires, those might not drive well but are SO COOL.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 4:33 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


That woman using the cigarette holder that lets you smoke a whole pack at once forgot to light one of her cigarettes. What an idiot!
posted by longsleeves at 4:36 PM on October 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


The best part of my day is looking at old advertisements in the journals I copy articles out of.
posted by sperose at 4:37 PM on October 6, 2009


Dumb inventions including a cigarette holder that will let me light up a whole pack at the same time?

Fucking awesome inventions, more like.

Also I wonder how many flies you can catch with honegar.
posted by genghis at 4:37 PM on October 6, 2009 [18 favorites]


Amazing.

I think one of the primary evils of the internet is that it channels zany notions into intangible communication. So, now, a certain kind of man ends up doing stuff like this instead of stuff like this.
posted by voronoi at 4:40 PM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


The machine gun that shoots around corners can only shoot to the left, which is appropriate because commies only come from the left.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 4:42 PM on October 6, 2009 [17 favorites]


You know, most of these inventions aren't dumb, they're just before their time. If Home Shopping Network had only been started a few decades earlier, all these things would have been given the chance they deserve.
posted by Sova at 4:43 PM on October 6, 2009


I dunno, The dog restrainer looks practical.
posted by lyam at 4:45 PM on October 6, 2009


Did one of you write this? I had no idea Life Magazine was so full of snark.
posted by iloveit at 4:46 PM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


The dog restrainer is my favorite! I want to make one for catching our pet bunnies.
posted by serazin at 4:46 PM on October 6, 2009


Illuminated tires. I saw them and was totally WHY DID I NEVER THINK OF THESE BEFORE?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:47 PM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


A curved barrel machine gun is actually perfect for house-to-house fighting, and is a pretty useful invention. The Germans had one, too.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:47 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey, the laryngaphone is a cool idea! I don't know if it would/did work, but it's not as insane as some of the others.

Yup (NASA), not just for Ender and Jane anymore.
posted by kid ichorous at 4:51 PM on October 6, 2009


If only Nintendo had seen this before they made this.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 4:57 PM on October 6, 2009


I guarantee if you put illuminated cars on your ride, people WILL be impressed. That shit was awesome.
posted by absalom at 4:57 PM on October 6, 2009


The dude in the full, 3-peice suit, leather shoes, and smoking a cigarette on his motorized surfboard is hilarious.
posted by delmoi at 5:00 PM on October 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Tire lights still exist
posted by dinty_moore at 5:01 PM on October 6, 2009


People were messing about with the around-corners-gun concept way before 1956 - for instance the germans had a curved barrel Sturmgewehr. The latest example would be this Israeli gun.
posted by Artw at 5:01 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]




motorized surfboard = jet ski.

Not a "dumb" invention, but one I sure want to use the curved machine gun on.

and yeah illuminated tires look pretty damned cool.
posted by edgeways at 5:04 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


TERRIFYING PHONE ANSWERING ROBOT: IT IS FOR YOU IT IS THE BOOK STORE YOUR BOOK IS IN

ME: *wets pants, faints *
posted by everichon at 5:06 PM on October 6, 2009 [25 favorites]


Srs, that motherfucker makes the Cybermen look like a Sanrio product.
posted by everichon at 5:07 PM on October 6, 2009


Life has finally joined the Internet Revolution. It's like Cracked, but more old-timey.

31: one-image-per-click slideshow interfaces.

Are you kidding? This is the only way to deliver slides. Have you seen people who try to speed through vacation slideshow by shoving two slides in each space? Projectors do not work this way.

Also: direct link to the Laughing Squid post in question. No more info, but for posterity or somesuch.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:07 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like to think that Hugo Gernsback would always wear these to editorial meetings.
posted by Artw at 5:09 PM on October 6, 2009


yeah, that's not tire lights, that's hubcap lights. Tire lights look cooler.
posted by edgeways at 5:09 PM on October 6, 2009


Wait, so the E-Meter was originally developed to determine whether tomatoes feel pain?
posted by box at 5:09 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, you see.. L. Ron was insane
posted by lyam at 5:15 PM on October 6, 2009 [10 favorites]


Insane LIKE A FOX.

$$$$$$$$$$$$
posted by Artw at 5:16 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Some of these nearly meet the "useless tool" criteria of chindogu:
http://www.chindogu.com/chindogu/tenents.html
posted by signalandnoise at 5:19 PM on October 6, 2009


TERRIFYING PHONE ANSWERING ROBOT: IT IS FOR YOU IT IS THE BOOK STORE YOUR BOOK IS IN

ME: *wets pants, faints *


TERRIFYING PHONE ANSWERING ROBOT: DO YOU HAVE STAIRS IN YOUR HOUSE?
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:26 PM on October 6, 2009 [11 favorites]


Yeah, tomatoes feel pain. On the other hand, they're a bunch of jerks.
posted by brundlefly at 5:29 PM on October 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


So much smoking-related stuff in there, too. Was tobacco a lot stronger in the '50s?
posted by box at 5:38 PM on October 6, 2009


tobacco?
posted by dirty lies at 6:04 PM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's awkward when Life makes jokes, it's like seeing your father rollerblading.
posted by Think_Long at 6:09 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


There appears to be a coiled wire coming from that tire. I think... I think it's plugged into the cigarette lighter.

Also, that baby cage is just a crow teaser, it is.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:17 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the phone-answering robot is stuff of nightmares. On the other hand, I am crushing hard on the girl on the right in the yodelmeter picture.
posted by Rangeboy at 6:19 PM on October 6, 2009


This has no obvious purposes.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:21 PM on October 6, 2009


I'm thinking the mini-tv and those too fucking kick-ass tires do not belong on that list. Whoever compiled this list should be flogged for putting Clive Sinclair in the same group as L. Ron Hubbard.
posted by MikeMc at 6:31 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ye gods. This one is an invention in the same sense that I invented a time machine out of a cardboard box at age 6.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:39 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


And yes, the illuminated tires kick much ass.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:39 PM on October 6, 2009


"Hey, the laryngaphone is a cool idea! I don't know if it would/did work, but it's not as insane as some of the others. Definitely seems like it was invented to fulfill a real need, though it might have sounded odd - I suppose."

Would be perfect on noisy factory floors.

And count me in on lighted tires being awesome. To bad they'd be picked up by the Fast and Furious crowd immediately.
posted by Mitheral at 6:49 PM on October 6, 2009


"I'm thinking the mini-tv and those too fucking kick-ass tires do not belong on that list. Whoever compiled this list should be flogged for putting Clive Sinclair in the same group as L. Ron Hubbard."

Ya there must be dozens of portable devices available right now advertised to be able to show movies/TV.
posted by Mitheral at 6:53 PM on October 6, 2009


But none of them analog OTA.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:04 PM on October 6, 2009


The men in suits standing precariously on motorized boards on water (Sea shoes and motorized surfboard) are just kind of amazing. I'm sure they fell in, but dry as they were in the picture, it's awesome.
posted by R a c h e l at 7:32 PM on October 6, 2009


And if I were to have a baby, I think that baby cage would look more and more attractive.

I'm quite sure it was invented by someone who never had a baby either.
posted by mazola at 8:27 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


TERRIFYING PHONE ANSWERING ROBOT instantly reminded me of these guys.
posted by zoinks at 8:33 PM on October 6, 2009


Wait, so the E-Meter was originally developed to determine whether tomatoes feel pain?

Yes. It was later adapted to figure out whether gullible people have money.

I love the picture. I can just imagine Hubbard in a press conference. "Yes, in order to take a pain reading we just stick these two giant clamps well inside the tomato..."
posted by Avelwood at 9:19 PM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


There are some pretty dubious entries on the list.

The machine gun with the curved barrel wasn't doomed because it was impractical (nor was it a new idea, as others have pointed out), it just didn't work that well—the barrels wore out very quickly. That's why modern attempts at the same thing use very short, straight barrels and pivot from further back. You can get away with a shorter barrel today due to advances in metallurgy and propellant technology that allow higher chamber pressures.

Similarly, the rocket belt was pretty awesome (hence why it got demonstrated for the President), it just consumed a ridiculous amount of fuel and didn't have much range. Wikipedia claims 20s flight time, with modern versions only getting around 30. The key engineering problem is trying to get enough thrust to move a human plus a reasonable amount of fuel, while also not incinerating the user. There are more energetic fuels available that would probably work better than hydrogen peroxide and nitrogen, but you'd crisp the pilot even in Nomex.

The 'Birdman Suit' may qualify as a bad invention by dint of killing its inventor, but the concept isn't that much different from modern wingsuits used by recreational parachutists, or this system developed for military use. Again, the problem was in poor execution—probably related to the limits of engineering at the time—not to the concept itself.

For some truly flawed inventions, I'd like to nominate: disposable paper clothing (especially disposable paper underwear), those annoying-yet-dangerous 'clacker' toys (maybe they were a 70s thing), and, of course, tetraethyl lead.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:31 PM on October 6, 2009


Better than Wikipedia is this article about tetraethyl lead from 2000.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:34 PM on October 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


I kind of dig the baby carrier. When you've spent all day carrying around a baby in a sling, the idea of sharing the load with someone is rather attractive.
posted by Go Banana at 9:40 PM on October 6, 2009


People who bought spinners would buy illuminated tires.
posted by pracowity at 9:56 PM on October 6, 2009


Why is a rocket belt a dumb invention?

Um, because it's a rocket, on a BELT. Mull that over for just a second.

Or a mini-television?

TSCS = Too small, couldn't see.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:02 PM on October 6, 2009


motorized surfboard.
posted by mexican at 10:04 PM on October 6, 2009


I hate Life.
posted by unmake at 10:17 PM on October 6, 2009


Illuminated tires: do want.
posted by zippy at 10:22 PM on October 6, 2009


A pair of artificial breasts with a built-in heartbeat, an invention from — where else? — Japan intended as a sleeping aid for very young children.

Excuse me?
posted by war wrath of wraith at 10:41 PM on October 6, 2009


When did Life magazine come back from the dead?
posted by dirigibleman at 10:47 PM on October 6, 2009


At first glance, I thought the bra cups were hats. That could come in handy though. When it rains, just reach into your shirt and grab your matching hats. One for you and one for a friend!
posted by Eclipsante at 11:02 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Please note the thickness of his glasses.

Sure, but also note the tiny fucking television. In 1966.

If anything of Sir Clive's deserves to be on this list, it's the C5 but before that he brought us little TVs, little pocket calculators and the ZX range of personal computers fer crying out loud.
posted by littleredspiders at 12:40 AM on October 7, 2009


I hate Life.

Don't jump!
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:17 AM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]




I dunno, The dog restrainer looks practical.
posted by lyam at 7:45 PM on October 6 [+] [!]


Yeah, if you store your dog on the top shelf of your pantry.
posted by Who_Am_I at 6:09 AM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nearly every day I ask myself: "Self, why don't you have a yodel meter?"

Also: that dog restrainer would be even better as a toddler restrainer. Especially if you could then lift them up and put them in the baby cage.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:15 AM on October 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sure, but also note the tiny fucking television. In 1966.

Yeah, seriously. Tiny TVs are fucking awesome.

As are lighted tires. If people are willing to spend thousands of dollars on spinners, you know they'd drop a couple more Gs for illuminated tires.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:15 AM on October 7, 2009


I think this is the best photograph I've ever seen. I sometimes get the impression the 20s were just as liberated and wacky the 60s were.
posted by salo at 6:39 AM on October 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


These are begging to be used with these.
posted by bDiddy at 6:53 AM on October 7, 2009


Mr. Cup Bra finds nothing amusing about cup bras.
posted by everichon at 7:33 AM on October 7, 2009


The Flying Platform is dumb?

Do these people not want to live in The Future? Fuck that! The Flying Platform is the Segway done more badass 50 years earlier.

And modern lighted tires could probably be done pretty easily using luminescent material/ dye/ paint and UV LEDs mounted in the wheel-well. Hell, maybe I'll mock it up and finally have found that stupid but fortune making idea I've been looking for.
posted by quin at 9:25 AM on October 7, 2009


Everything was better before it was worse, the future included.
posted by tommasz at 10:26 AM on October 7, 2009


Kadin2048: "[...]the concept isn't that much different from modern wingsuits used by recreational parachutists[...]"

I had never heard of those before. Awesome!
posted by JHarris at 2:32 PM on October 7, 2009


This material is really interesting. Shame about the totally unjustified smugness of presentation, which smothers a lot of the good stuff here. Ha ha, look at these suckers, who for some reason chose to be born before 1970! What were they thinking?
posted by stammer at 9:06 PM on October 7, 2009


The modern lighted tyres have already been "defended" here but...

modern miniature television

modern cup bra

... and number 29 totally looks like something I made in college for, er, "tobacco."
posted by porpoise at 9:29 PM on October 7, 2009


I am all in favor of taking cheap shots at the dumb stuff in the world. I probably spend entirely too much of my own time and attention doing so. But you know what? Breaking bad on Clive's glasses is just fucking wrong.
posted by majick at 5:12 AM on October 8, 2009


I think the mini tv was really smart. It showed that the big clunker tvs can go bye bye and here we are today always thinking smaller and smaller (and wanting smaller).

The baby holder was pre Baby Bjorn. Not so dumb.
posted by stormpooper at 7:08 AM on October 8, 2009


I refute the dumbness of the "external turkey roaster". My local hof brau still roasts both turkeys and ginormous slabs of beef under heat lamps in their window (as did other members of the now-defunct chain). Ron Popeil figured this out as well: rotisserie cooking meat is sexy. Show that dripping carcass off!
posted by Ogre Lawless at 3:11 PM on October 14, 2009


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