Dumb Inventions: One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Treasure


Somebody unfroze the staff of Life magazine and had them compile this highly entertaining slideshow of dumb inventions from the mid 20th century. There are 30 contraptions in all, which range from the insane to the scary to the unrealistically niche. "Some technological advances . . . weren't exactly meant for the history books," write Life's editors. "Because they were stupid." And they're generally right, with a few glaring exceptions. We must respectfully beg to differ on the following selections, which seem to us less dumb than actually kind of awesome.

-Motorized Surfboard, 1948
If Hollywood inventor Joe Gilpin was wrong, we don't want to be right. There he is in a bowler hat and double-breasted suit, with a giant cigarette hanging from his mouth, aboard his mystery ship—and to him we say Ride, Captain, ride. At once classier and far more dangerous than a Ski-Doo, Gilpin's creation is the self-propelled flotation device of choice for the discerning gentleman. What more do you want from your recreational watercraft?

-Illuminated Tires, 1961
Hey, you, in the fuchsia Honda CRX with the subwoofer for a trunk. You might have the drifting down, but what's your ground-effects situation? Sure, that neon under the chassis is nice, but do your tires glow? Exactly.

-Flying Platform, 1956
Stupid? Really, Life? Will you feel that way when we're flying past you on our platform? While you're sitting in traffic? The perplexing part is that they apparently had these things back in 1956. Today you can do on a cell phone what it took a computer the size of an airplane hangar to do in 1956—but for some reason we haven't moved an inch in the flying-platform department. What happened? We should at the very least have hovering skateboards by now.

-Finnish Portable Sauna, 1962
Sit down. Make yourself comfortable. Anywhere. At a meeting, say something like, "Excuse me, do you mind if I strap on my sauna?" Relax, think about dumb inventions.

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