The World's Weirdest Inventions

The Journal (Newcastle, England), August 3, 2006 | Go to article overview

The World's Weirdest Inventions


Byline: By Hannah Stephenson

Hannah Stephenson looks back at some of the strangest inventions.

Sir Clive Sinclair's latest invention, the A-bike, a fold-up contraption designed to transform city travel, has met with almost as much mixed reaction as his C5 did in 1985.

The C5 may have run out of steam quite early in its existence, and the latest A-bike has been described by critics as 'uncomfortable' and 'flimsy' ( but stranger things have caught on.

His is just one of a catalogue of odd and wacky inventions which have been created by the great and the good over the years ( some were instant hits and others disappeared without trace.

Critics may scoff at one or two of the creations to hit the marketplace in the last century, but some inventors have had the last laugh.

"When you've finished chuckling at the hat gun, the flying submarine and the automatic baby patter, remember that people laughed when Trevor Baylis came up with his idea for a clockwork radio ( for this apparently bizarre notion proved to be a godsend for tens of thousands of poor people around the world," says Tom Quinn, author of Science's Strangest Inventions.

And gadget collector Maurice Collins, whose two books Eccentric Contraptions and Ingenious Gadgets chart the progress of a wealth of weird and wonderful inventions, has his own favourites:

"The teapot, that when you press the lid delivers just one cup of tea, is a favourite ( it looks better and works more efficiently than many a modern tea or coffee pot.

"And I love the brass boot warmer that you can stand in with your boots frozen and it will thaw your footwear and your feet all at the same time."

No matter how wacky their ideas may seem, Maurice says inventors have our best interests at heart.

"Everybody who invents something tries to answer some sort of need or to make life easier for people," he says.

On this page are just some of the hit-and-miss inventions of the last few centuries.

* Science's Strangest Inventions, by Tom Quinn, is published by Robson Books at pounds 8.99. Eccentric Contraptions and Ingenious Gadgets, both by Maurice Collins, are published by David & Charles at pounds 9.99 each.

The brass boot warmer, with moulded inserts to stand in, promised to thaw your frozen footwear and your feet at the same time.

CAT SLIPPER DUSTERS

JAPAN may have brought us the Walkman, MP3s, DVD games and other hi-tech gadgets, but it's also produced its share of turkeys.

These include slippers for cats and dogs that double as floor dusters, and a small fan attached to chopsticks ( designed to cool the food between the bowl and the mouth.

MOTORISED ICE-CREAM TURNER

THE motorised ice-cream cone holder was patented in 1999 by an American who obviously didn't have obesity in mind. …

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