5 Inventions that got the boot.

  • Paddle boat
  • 'Cure' for partial paralysis
  • Custom bicycle and gun holder
  • The mysteries of the atom
  • Bathtub car
Date:18 July 2013 Tags:

Okay, so here at Popular Mechanics, we’re all about innovation and new ideas, but sometimes it seems as if people just didn’t think things through. We took a look at some old PM magazines, and chose a few of the worst ideas that (thankfully) never caught on.

1933: We can only assume that this invention didn’t change the world because it was far ahead of its time. The propeller on the paddle boat is connected to a side-mounted crank turned by the bather, who appears to be wearing the craft.

1947: Three times a day, we revealed, this unnamed patient in a London hospital was suspended by his chin in a bid to cure him of partial paralysis, reportedly brought about by displaced neck cartilage. Asked how he felt about being suspended 23 cm from the floor, the patient revealed that he felt “fine”. Our suggestion: don’t try this at home.

1947: This month’s “Hobbyists of the Month” feature showcased an assortment of truly weird bicycles, including one with square wheels (don’t ask) and another incorporating a treadle-powered sewing machine, including the operator. But first prize must go to this masterpiece, the brainchild of a Chicago man named Joe Steinlauf, who explained that he built it to accommodate part of his gun collection. Amazing.

1948: We found the caption for this image, illustrating an article on “the mysteries of the atom”, more than a little alarming. It reads: “Path of radioactive material, inhaled through mask, is plotted by gamma-ray counters directed at the chest, abdomen and legs of girl volunteer.” Er, can we presume full disclosure?

1960: Whereas most people are content to use their bathtubs in the conventional manner, Dutchman Jaap Swart decided his tub would make an excellent personal transporter. He duly cut a few holes, mounted a motorcycle engine, a chain-driven front wheel, headlamps and outrigger wheels – and off he went. The taps were left intact. Obviously.