Stuff We Can Never Have

One of my favourite TV shows these days is Dragon’s Den (also called Shark Tank in the US and originally called Manê no Tora -Money Tigers – in Japan where the original series began). 

If you’ve never seen it, the show stars four really rich people. Then a bunch of ordinary people come on and show off some stuff they’ve invented. If one or more of the rich people like the invention and think they could make a lot of money off it, they give the inventor some money in exchange for a percentage of the inventor’s company. 

The best part is seeing all the stuff people invent. The worst part is sitting through the same long introductions of the four really rich people. 

Anyway, I think something about that show speaks to the intrepid spirit of the human being. Here we are in the 21st century thinking we’re the cat’s ass with all the stuff we have, and along come these schmoes with completely new stuff that no one has ever thought of before. A lot of the stuff is just goofy, of course, but some of it’s really cool and has made its way into the market (with or without the help of the “dragons”). 

But that’s not what this post is about. If you want to see Dragon’s Den inventions, you’ll have to watch the show. Today, I wanted to laugh (and pine) a little at inventions from the olden days that never quite made it off the ground. 


Like the jet-pack, gosh-darnit! How many times have we all said – right here on this blog – “WHERE IS MY FRIGGIN’ JET PACK?”  This is an actual photo of an actual soldier wearing an actual Rocket Belt invention and saluting John F. Kennedy. They invented this thing in 1961 – why, oh why, are they still not available to the general public? 


So, okay maybe there were some design flaws in the jet-pack. What about this Flying Platform, invented in 1956? Look! It’s actually off the ground. And it’s big enough for the whole family and groceries. 


Or maybe even this is a Motorized Surfboard, invented in 1948 for people who might not want to fly. (Surfer dudes were pretty formal back then, eh?) 


Years later (1962) some guy improved on the motorized surfboard (Hard to believe, isn’t it?) and invented these Sea Shoes for when you wanted to walk to work, but wanted to avoid those pesky bridges. Wouldn’t it be funny if a speedboat came by right about now? Whoa! 


Who is this creepy guy? If you guessed L. Ron Hubbard, you’re right! Not only did he invent Scientology, but also this Hubbard E-Meter (electro-psychometer) that could do everything from measure pain in fruits and vegetables to help cure people of stuff like asthma, colitis, manic depression and homosexuality. They actually used this thing, in real life, for ages! 


This is a Finnish Portable Sauna invented in 1962. I always thought the Marx Brothers invented these. Didn’t they have one of these in every movie? First a fat society lady would be in it and then Groucho barges into the room and the fat society lady gasps and says something like “Whell! I never!” and then Groucho says something funny and waggles his eyebrows and then some more funny stuff happens and then in the end Groucho is in the portable sauna smoking a cigar. Good times! 


The Cup Bra, circa 1949. Yes! Bras without straps — of any sort! How do they support the girls, you ask? They don’t! That’s why even the inventor and his wife are looking really skeptical about the idea. 


Who comes up with this stuff? A Curved Barrel Machine Gun, so you can spray a whole room with a hail of bullets without ever having to see who you’ve killed. Is that cool or what? 


And speaking of cool, daddy-o, what’s cooler on a date than holding hands with your sweetie and sucking on the same cigarette? (Cigarette Holder Built for Two, 1955) 


And finally, my personal favourite, The Baby Cage – 1937. This was designed for  families who lived in crummy little apartments with no balconies in the middle of the city and found themselves saddled with a baby. Too lazy to take your kid to the park? Strap this cage into any convenient window and suspend the baby 12 stories in the air so he can jump and play. 


Here’s a view from outside. Doesn’t this kid look happy? Wait! I think that might be little John Wayne Gacy. Cute.


23 responses to “Stuff We Can Never Have

  1. Actually that jet pack thing is still around. All you need is a shitload of money to buy one and access to a lot of Hydrogen Peroxide. Oh yah you have to be able to get where ever you are looking to go in under 90 seconds. Then it runs out of fuel.

  2. I’d kind of like that window cage for my cat. He’d love to get out on the ledge 4 stories high but I can’t take the stress.

  3. I just wanna iPhone. Although, I could also do with one of those James Bond suits that drips perfectly dry in seconds after having scuba dived across the harbour. Great for crashing parties on exclusive yachts.

  4. Whatever happened to the future? Scholars for generations have pondered this profound question !

    Where’s my robot dog? Where’s my flying car!?

    Still…we do have those cool “Beam me up, Scotty” communicators now. And those automatic doors that open and shut whenever we walk by. But somehow they never seem to feel “futuristic”. Microwave ovens, velcro, digital cameras, as great as they are, never give us that “Say, kids…isn’t the future great?” feel.

    And fashion hasn’t held up its end of the deal, either! The entire Star Trek/Jetsons line of clothing never seemed to hit the runways during Fashion Week. On reflection, that is probably a good thing. Thinking of most people at the mall in form fitting Galaxy Quest outfits… probably just as well, I suppose.

    I’d settle for a 4os “retro-future” like in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. ( And, speaking of Angelina Jolie (nice segue, eh?), her combination Luftwaffe/SS-style uniform and eyepatch did nothing to improve my opinion of her “hotness”. By the way, did anyone else think that Tom Cruise as Colonel Stauffenberg in Valkyrie looked a bit too much like Fearless Leader from the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons?

    Hotsy-totsy Nazis aside, the outlook for “The Future” appears bleak… but only on a knee-jerk level. I think I like the “idea” of the future but the day-to-day practicality of having to oil the dog or hitting the ejector button when the new flying 4-door takes a sudden 5000-ft nose-dive lacks the “care-free” motif that is also part and parcel of the dream. “The Future” always looks like a snap. No worries. All problems solved by technology. Everyone walking (or flying around) with self-satisfied smirks.

    I want to love “The Future” but I only seem to sustain that love from a distance. “The Future” never seems to stand up under scrutiny. I am happiest when “The Future” is far away and I can’t quite see it.

    Kind of like Angelina Jolie.

  5. My father was always trying to make stuff up himself (mostly because he didn’t want to spend money on the real-deal). His ideas often included the use of fire, and once while he was using me as his assistant…ummmm…well, let’s just say, things didn’t end too well.

  6. Lebowski – See that’s just a toy then – not an actual jet-pack you can use for every day commuting.

    Dr. Monkey – I’m pretty sure some of that stuff you could make yourself – the cigarette holder for 2 – a few bendy straws; the baby cage – a dog cage with some good bungee cords attached; surfboard – add a little go cart motor to it; sea shoes – cut them out of some Styrofoam that came with your last big appliance purchase and add a couple of ski poles. We expect photos when you’re done.

    Linda – You’d probably have PETA on your doorstep throwing pies in your face or something.

    LGS – I bet those drip dry suits are really uncomfortable though. They’d have to be made of some weird unabsorbant material. And great news – iPhones really exisit!! But what I would suggest is getting an iPod touch and a regular cheap cell phone for calling. The touch has all the same features as the iPhone but at a fraction of the cost. Also I never liked the idea of having all your telecommunications/entertainment eggs in one basket. If it breaks you’ve got nothing.

    Daniel – Like I said before, you should really have your own blog, man! As for the future, I’m still incredibly excited by all this amazing technology. Every time I pop a DVD into the player I feel a bit giddy that I can watch movies in my own home. The internet makes me feel like I’m living on the Starship Enterprise. I shake my head in awe every time I use the microwave or watch my daughter accessing a street map of lower Botswana on her iPod touch. Or the shit they put in cars now? Come on. ON STAR, gps – I find all this almost unimaginably thrilling still.

    Skye – Ha ha. He sounds like fun (cheap, but fun) My dad was seriously into do-it-yourself too. Did he ever invent/create anything useful?

    Friar – They could still be in our future, maybe. I reckon eventually they’ll have to come up with a new way to power cars, right?

  7. Someone down the road from me has the cat cage out of a ground floor apartment window, and yes, I have even seen the cat sitting in the cage. Did it look content? I don’t know….how would you tell with a cat?
    Love this post!

  8. I always wanted one of those machines from Star Trek (or maybe the Jetsons, I can’t remember which) that look kind of like bread boxes — you press some buttons and the door slides up, revealing a plate full of food. It would be so useful on soccer practice or swimming lesson nights.

  9. @XUP

    I think hydrogen powered fuel-cell cars sound a lot more safe, than having millions of small nuclear reactors zooming on our highways at 70 mph.

  10. So, the baby cage is still making me laugh. I’ve seen these for birds and cats, but never imagined someone would put their kid in it. Too funny.

  11. Wow, I never realized how crazy people were in the old days..

    At least we’ve got that embarrassing part of humanity over with..

  12. People have such limited thinking about these things. Why when star trek has shown us the transporter would you want anything resembling a car or vehicle of any kind to travel. Just materialize where you wanted to be. No need for nuclear, hydrogen or anything else. Just matter turned to energy and then back to matter at destination.
    And don’t forget the transporter has already gone through a few upgrades from the old Captain Kirk times.

  13. Oh, how I love this!!!

    And the jet pack, it probably burnt the ass of whoever was using it. If that little problem was fixed, I’m buying.

  14. I want three of those baby cages! But adult-sized. For some co-workers. I won’t name names. I’ll look on eBay.
    I grew up on the shores of a lake in and one of my neighbours had those water walkers. And they sorta worked.. as long has you had the inner thigh strength to keep your legs from chicken-boning and the water was dead calm…

  15. Finola – A cat cage on the ground floor seems reasonable. A baby cage on the 12th floor not so much. Glad you enjoyed this crazy stuff!

    Alison – Yes! The Jetsons. I think the only equivalent we have is “take out” and/or “housekeeper/cook”.

    Friar – I have no idea. The environmental guys said hydrogen cars would blow up. That’s no fun.

    Christine – Thank goodness it never went into production, that’s all. I can’t imagine what the inventor was thinking. Maybe he’s never had kids.

    Glen – I know, eh? Old timey people were so darned wacky. People in the future will look back on us in awe for sure.

    Dave – I, for one, do NOT want to de-particle and re-particle all the time. It can’t be good for cells and organs and stuff. And what if you have to go shopping? Are your groceries going to de-particle with you? What if there’s a stiff wind and you wind up with fragments of celery in your brain by accident? Can you guarantee that won’t happen? Hmmm?

    Cedar – I don’t think they ever made too many of them – just a couple of prototypes and then the inventor was taken back to the nut house.

    Jazz – There are probably a lot of little problems like that with jet-packs – burning your ass and/or your feet; not being able to carry enough fuel to go very far; weather-related problems; traffic control; weight of the damn thing; having to stand up straight……

    Trashy – No way? They actually made these things? And they worked? Freaky.

  16. Oh sure doctor McCoy never liked it either but really it’s perfectly harmless.
    I guarantee no celery brain or any other mix ups.
    No airport security either cause here’s no plane to blow up. You’d thank me for that in a little while.

  17. Dave – I’m still not convinced. You can keep your celery brain scrambler. I’ll just keep walking…except in Toronto where they’re killing pedestrians by the barrelful.

    Julie – You’re welcome

  18. I would love to join in here but one of the Dragons from the UK version of Dragons Den used to be a client of mine. He was a smarmy grade A a%*hole and every time I see him on TV I want to kick the TV screen in. And that would be expensive, so I don’t watch it any more.