WHATS THE POINT? Looking back at some of the worst inventions to go public

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SEGWAY: Up there with the worst inventions

Are these the world’s worst inventions?

New Year is a time for fresh starts but some bright ideas turn out to be just plain dim   

  1.       The Comfort Wipe

    COMFORT WIPE: What is its purpose

Toilet paper had worked fine for more than 100 years when TeleBrands launched the Comfort Wipe, targeted at those spooked by touching soiled paper. The clean tissue

attached itself to a wand that added up to 18 inches of reach, and a release button took care of the rest.  Trials brought no flush of success and the idea went down the pan.

  1.       Rubber Fingers

The Marigolds of the SMS texting world … or prophylactics for digits?  Despite coming in pink or black … in small, medium or large … Lex’s latex Phone Fingers for people who are picky about fingerprint smears on their phones never really took off.

  1.    Clippy

‘It looks like you’re writing a letter. Would you like help?’ No question wound up Microsoft Office users quite like this annoying animated virtual paper clip that appeared as soon as you typed the word Dear. Complaints from harassed users about Clippy’s refusal to keep

ANNOYING: Microsoft’s paper clip gif

a low profile saw him clipped from later versions.


  1.       The Auto Loo

New York City was over the moon with the unveiling of its first automatic pay toilet in 2008. Patrons paid 25 cents for 15 minutes of privacy in the pre-programmed privy but when time was up, the doors slid open regardless, revealing any number of full moons in broad daylight and catching half of NYC with its pants down.

  1.       The Parachute Jacket

It’s not rocket science to guess where this is going … Designed in 1912 by Franz Reichelt, the wearable safety garment received a high-profile unveiling by its German inventor who jumped off the Eiffel Tower in one. It didn’t deploy. Reichelt died.

  1.       Hair in a Can

The fine powder spray for covering up bald spots was marketed by prolific US inventor

HAIR IN A CAN: Cure for baldness?

Ronald Popeil. It enjoyed similar success to his Smokeless Ashtray, which was dead in the


water after the almost pan-European public smoking ban.

  1.  Smell-o-Vision

Mike Todd Jr. (son of the famous producer) funded the ill-fated Smell-o-Vision which piped scent into cinemas at pivotal moments in the movie. It was used only once, in the 1960 film Scent of Mystery, produced by none other than Mike Todd Jr. Both the idea and the film stunk.

  1.       The Segway

The vehicle of choice for lazy tourists and security guards was hyped by its inventor, Dean Kamen, as ‘a personal transportation revolution’. But many countries and US states banned it from pavements and, despite expensive gyroscopes to prevent it from tipping over, George W. Bush found a way!  

  1.     Venetian Blind Sunglasses

Trendy in the Eighties, slatted sunglasses enjoyed a brief revival when Kanye West sported them in his 2007 music video, Stronger, introducing a new generation of wannabes to a completely pointless accessory.

SUNGLASSES: Made popular by Kanye West
  1.   Plastic Bags

They kicked brown paper bags into touch in the late 1970s and saved millions of trees. It’s only in hindsight that we know the consequences of a million single-use bags being handed out every minute across the globe. That’s 150 bags a year for every person on earth, and counting…

Belinda Beckett (Columnist)

Belinda Beckett is a qualified journalist and freelance writer based in the Campo de Gibraltar, specialising in travel & lifestyle features and humour columns.

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