Throughout history, the human mind has constantly been searching for new inventions to make our lives easier, more comfortable and more enjoyable. There have been some great inventions which have ticked all those boxes – the television, the motor car, even the cell phone – but for every great invention, there will be another that hasn’t quite hit the mark.
Some of these failed inventions are so bizarre that you can’t help but wonder what was going on through the inventor’s mind when he came up with it. There are other inventions, however, that do seek to try and resolve a very real issue or were designed for a very niche function, but there just wasn’t the market to make them financially viable.
Finally, there is a whole different category of useless inventions – those that actually manage to solve one problem by creating a new one – and which usually ends up putting someone or something in danger.
The following is a list of the 15 most useless inventions ever, but it is by no means comprehensive, and there are some terrible ones which didn’t quite make the cut. Diet water, for example, didn’t quite make the list; not because it isn’t a useless invention, but because it was actually surprisingly successful thanks to a clever marketing campaign by the manufacturer.
Which one is your favorite? (Or should that be least favorite…)
15. The Subway Chin Rest
Do you like to snooze on your subway or train ride home from work? Does it annoy you when you can’t get a seat, and therefore have to force yourself to stay awake for the whole journey home? Well, now you can use the subway chin rest, an adaptable pole with a padded chin holder, which you can use to keep yourself propped up while you doze on your feet – or maybe just to give your tired neck a rest after it’s worked hard all day holding up your head. And of course, none of your fellow commuters are going to give you anything but jealous looks when you whip this bad boy out on the subway home.
14. The Plow Gun
Showing that the modern world doesn’t have a monopoly on useless inventions, the intriguing plow gun was created back in 1826. As the name suggests, this is a device you can use to plow your fields, but the handle comes with its own built-in gun. I can only imagine that the farmer behind this had problems with pests on his land, and didn’t want to carry a separate gun to see them off his land while plowing. Whatever the reason, anything with an in-built gun is not only a useless invention, but also an inherently dangerous one.
13. The Pizza Fork
This invention is, I believe, the ultimate example of modern man’s laziness. The person who invented the pizza fork – a standard fork with a small pizza cutter embedded in the bottom of the handle – had obviously become so tired of using both a knife and fork to eat his pizza, that he decided to create a piece of cutlery that would carry out the same function, without needing to use that annoying second hand. Of course, this is an especially useless invention, as most normal people eat pizza with their fingers anyway!
12. The Remote-Control Headband
At least this useless invention has a go at solving one of the great problems of modern life- never being able to find the right remote control when you need it. However, I think adding Velcro patches to all your devices, and sticking them to a John McEnroe-style headband, is going too far. Aside, from the inelegance of such a solution, what happens when the person wearing the headband leaves the room and others want to change the channel? While I agree that this is a problem that needs solving, this definitely isn’t the solution.
11. Phone Fingers
This is another useless invention that at least has a stab at solving a modern-day dilemma. Anyone who owns a smartphone will have noticed that after a few swipes, their once shiny screen is covered in greasy fingerprint marks. Well, worry no longer. Now you can wear an ugly piece of molded rubber while you’re out and about, and using your Smartphone. There will be no more greasy fingerprints. Unfortunately, the instructions for this useless invention don’t tell you how you’re supposed to explain that one of your fingers is sheathed in rubber when you meet someone new and have to shake their hand.
10. The Dog Sack
This invention isn’t just useless, but is also bordering on cruel. Designed for the car-proud yet loving dog owner, the dog sack attaches to the outside of your vehicle’s door by a couple of metal hooks, allowing your pooch to travel “safely” on car journeys with just its head poking out. This allows animal owners to take their beloved pet with them everywhere they go, but without having to worry about getting dog hair on their upholstery, or being stuck with wet dog smell after a rainy day.
9. The Toilet Paper Hat
Some of the most impressively useless inventions comes from Japan, and in the case of the toilet paper hat, they have really outdone themselves. Again, the name gives a lot away about this invention- a toilet roll holder which sits comfortably on your head, allowing you to pull down sheets as and when you need them, presumably to wipe your nose. Great for unexpected sneezes, terrible for any conceivable social situation you might find yourself in.
8. The Butter Stick
I suspect this might have been thought up by the same person who invented the pizza fork. After all, both inventions suggest an irresistible urge to remove all knives from the entire eating process. The butter stick is designed like a tube of lip balm. You simply twist to pull up more butter, and apply the spread directly to your bread or toast. According to the inventors, the butter stick is great for “travel” but I’m not sure I’d want to carry it around in my suitcase or purse. Plus, there is always the risk that you might mistake the butter stick for your lip balm.
7. The Steering Wheel Desk Tray
Another invention which is not just useless, but patently dangerous. Unlike the dog sack, which merely puts the life of a treasured family pet at risk, this particular invention, which attaches to the base of your steering wheel for your drinks, snacks and even laptop computers, puts the lives of yourself, your passengers and all other road users in danger. Of course, it is actually designed to be used when the car isn’t being driven, but sadly we cannot trust that consumers won’t carry on using it – and their laptops – once the vehicle is in motion.
6. The Motorized Ice Cream Cone
Half the fun of enjoying an ice cream cone on a hot summer’s day is the constant battle with the sun to stop the melting ice cream running down the side of your cone, and onto your fingers. This particular invention helps take care of that onerous task for you. The motorized cone rotates so you don’t have to keep spinning it in your hands, allowing you to easily lick all sides of the ice cream before it melts. In fact, you don’t even have to lick – just stick out your tongue and let the motor do all the hard work for you.
5. The Shoe Umbrella
Unsurprisingly, this is another Japanese creation – tiny umbrellas attached to the toe of your best shoes to stop them, and your feet, from getting wet. Never mind that shoes will often get most wet from stepping in puddles – which are below the feet and therefore below the umbrellas – or that you will look ridiculous wearing these in the street. Well, as you know by now, that kind of criticism has never stopped the Japanese inventors before.
4. The DVD Rewinder
Sadly, this genius piece of useless inventing is no longer available, as the company behind the product stopped making them in 2009. I can only imagine that these were created at the time when people were first making the switch from video cassettes to DVDs – after all, rewinding video cassettes was a major hassle, and automatic VHS rewinders were actually quite popular in many homes. The problem with the DVD rewinder, as we all know today, is that DVDs simply don’t need rewinding. A useless invention, but a genius marketing move.
3. The Toilet Reader
Now, the really sad thing about this useless invention, is that there will be plenty of people reading this article who think it is a really good idea. It is a simple device which you fit to each wall of your smallest room; from one side, you pull a canvas sheet which you then affix to the opposite wall, creating a kind of fabric desk and newspaper holder for you to use while otherwise engaged. For those who are genuinely interested, you may want to know that the toilet reader is designed to fit both tabloid and broadsheet newspapers – or that women may want to use it to help them put on their make-up. Is this the ultimate example of multi-tasking?
2. Prosthetic Dog Testicles
Should you feel particularly guilty about having your pet neutered – or maybe you want to make up for giving him a traumatic car ride in the dog sack – then you could always invest in a pair of silicone dog testicles. These implants, similar to those used in human breasts, will give your dog back a little of his dignity – but you will lose all yours when you go into the vets’ surgery room to ask for the procedure to be carried out. Especially when you and the vet hear that this particular useless invention even has a catchy little name – neuticles.
1. The Ear Dryer
This really is the perfect gift for the man – or woman – who has everything. It is a kind of hair dryer for your ears – a handy little device which blows warm air through a nozzle and into your ear canal after your morning shower or after going for a swim. Such innovation comes at a rather high cost, however. Additionally, before you use this device, you should make sure you read the small print first, which advises users to dry their ears with a towel before using the device. Well, do you really need it?
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