There’s a Samuel Beckett quote (from a novel, actually) that’s been “meme-ified” in recent years: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." "Fail better” could be the official inventor’s mantra, because there are a shocking number of stupid inventions by famous inventors throughout history. Even stone-cold geniuses such as Thomas Edison “failed better” over and over, even after inventing game-changing innovations such as the phonograph.
The worst inventions by great inventors are silly, terrifying, disgusting, and wildly impractical. But none of them were the last inventions by great inventors, which says a lot. The great minds behind these ridiculous gadgets kept on learning and kept on failing, leading to some pretty incredible, ground-breaking innovation. Read on to see how even great minds are capable of utter crap from time to time.
Do yourself a favor and just listen to this thing. What a nightmare. Thomas Edison made a lot of wonderful, game-changing inventions and innovations over the years - the longer-lasting light bulb, the phonograph, the motion picture camera - but around 1890, he made this abomination.
The actual doll wasn’t his invention (they were imported from Germany), but the gadgetry required to make it squawk - a tiny phonograph - was all his. The technology just wasn’t there, and the few cursed consumers that actual bought this thing knew it. They complained about how frail the doll was, and how its head would spin independent of its body (kidding!). Edison yanked them from stores after just one month.
Dean Kamen is best known for inventing the Segway, that dorky scooter-thing that Will Arnett’s character Gob rides around on in Arrested Development. As silly at that thing is, it’s got nothing on an insane device - now FDA-approved! - that literally sucks food out of your guts before it is digested. It’s called the AspireAssist, “an external pump that dumps part of the stomach contents into the toilet” thanks to a “tube that goes from the inside of the stomach to a port on the outside of the abdomen.”
Doctors that actually like this thing say it’s effective for the extremely obese. Critics say it could cause “dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, vitamin and mineral deficiencies” and it’s “a grotesque weight-loss apparatus that might as well have been lifted straight from the body horror of David Cronenberg’s imagination.”
Nikola Tesla, best known for his innovations in electricity, once claimed he made a steam-powered machine that could cause earthquakes. Tesla's electro-mechanical oscillator, legend has it, caused a small earthquake in New York City (!) in 1898. Or at least that’s the story that Tesla told at his 79th birthday party, according to his biographer. In reality, there’s no way the device could have ever done that (the Mythbusters even busted it!), and it was surpassed by technological advancements in steam turbines.
The vibrations it put out did, reportedly, have a laxative effect on people, so there’s that...
This one was super-painful for Nintendo fanboys in the 1990s: the Virtual Boy, a 3-D gaming console that caused eye strain, neck aches, and cost $500 in 1995. Everything about the system was disappointing: the red-and-black graphics, the sucky games, the lack of multiplayer options, etc. The games actually had an option to pause automatically every 15-30 minutes so you could rest your eyes. That’s lame. You had to play it sitting down at a table leaning forward. That’s lame.
There’s no doubt about it: the company that revolutionized at-home video games in the mid-‘80s failed big time with the Virtual Boy... but then the massively popular Nintendo 64 made everyone kind of forget about it.