useless inventions
December 29, 2002 4:45 AM   Subscribe

Industrialised society's fascination with useless invention: as a kid I used to love the work of Heath Robinson, inventor of (among others) a method of testing safety matches, the potato peeler, and an inoffensive method of weighing a lady friend. His American equivalent was the slightly more scientific Rube Goldberg. Occasional attempts of the patently useless to make the leap into the real world have been furthered considerably by the Japanese art of Chindogu, made popular by Kenji Kawakami, inventor of (among others) the Hay fever hat, the portable road crossing, and dusting shoes for cats. Maywa Denki seems to transcend earthy Chindogu with fish-based and musical (via sharpeworld) inventions.
posted by gravelshoes (4 comments total)
why say these inventions are useless? they function properly and give the result for what they were designed. i particularly loved the inoffensive method of ascertaining the weight of a lady friend, very clever.

these inventions satisfy the needs of its inventor, for that mere fact they are indeed valuable.
posted by trismegisto at 6:41 AM on December 29, 2002

I join in the loving of the inoffensive method of ascertaining the weight of a lady friend. That's adorable. The hay fever hat is a hoot, too, and there are days when I would have liked to have sported that chapeau. Heath Robinson's work strikes me as generally more charming and whimsical than Goldberg's (maybe it's just the drawings). Goldberg's website is very unsatisfactory, somehow - I've visited it a few times and had thought once or twice about doing a post on it, but there's just not enough content. You did good, gravelshoes.
posted by iconomy at 7:56 AM on December 29, 2002

Heath Robinson is a hero of mine, he illustrated the Professor Branestawm books, by Norman Hunter. What a superb combination of talents. I'll have to dig them out and read them again!
posted by chrid at 12:07 PM on December 29, 2002

You did good, gravelshoes.

Yes, indeed. I actually used to play and try to construct rube goldberg inventions as a child. Needless to say, they almost never worked out as planned.

The game MouseTrap operates on these sorts of the principles. The game itself is somewhat dull. We just used to love setting up and deploying the trap.
posted by Winterfell at 10:57 AM on December 30, 2002

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