The 60 Worst Inventions of All Time

Ideas that didn't quite hit the mark.
Michael Michael (179)
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What do spam emails, DDT, land mines, and a Twinkle Tush have in common? They were all ideas with good intentions that turned out to either really bad or really pointless!

Not all inventions benefited humankind! Some, in fact, were harmful to the progress of the human species. While others...well...other inventions will just leave you scratching your head. What's the point of the pillow with a hoodie attached? Or the baby cage that hangs outside of an apartment window? Well, we don't know. But this sure was a fun list to make, and we're hoping it will be just as fun to read about all of these bad inventions and ideas.

Here are the 60 worst inventions ever!

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DDT advertisement

DDT (or Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) was first made in 1874 by the Austrian chemist Othmar Zeidler and later synthesized into an insecticide by Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Müller in 1939, who even won a Noble Prize for its invention. It was seen as a miracle solution to just about any pest and was widely used throughout the 1940s and 50s in the United States in the Agricultural and Pest Control industries.

When evidence emerged that DDT may cause cancer, it was banned in the United States for agricultural use in 1976. It has a worldwide ban since 2004 but is still used in certain third-world countries to fight against Malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases.

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Spray-on hair infomercial

We're not talking about the kinds of spray-on, bald spot removers that cover up small spots. In the early 1990s, men actually thought you could reverse balding by spraying on "hair." For 39.99 (plus shipping, handling, and fees), you could get a one-month supply of this stuff! The craze didn't last long, however. It turns out that the fake spray-on hair looked worst than just staying bald.

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Leaded gasoline station
Pinterest

Leaded gasoline (or petrol) was developed by Thomas Midgley, Jr. , an American chemist, who added the tetraethyl lead (TEL) additive to gasoline. Midgley added the TEL to the gasoline in order to overcome engine knock while testing internal combustion engines at Stanford in 1921. Standard Oil (now Exxon) immediately formed a company to mass-produce the new oil.

Though the effects of lead poisoning were well known in the early 20th century, leaded gasoline wasn't phased out in the US until 1984. It was officially banned by the WHO in 2004. Still, it is estimated that 7 million tons of lead were released into the atmosphere from gasoline in the United States alone.

(Midgely, Jr. is responsible for another item on our list, freon.)

Crinoline comic

Crinoline was a kind of under-structure worn by women in the 18th-19th centuries to push out and puff up their skirts. Crinoline is sometimes referred to as a hoop skirt. Crinoline structures were sometimes made out of steel, making walking with them an extremely taxing prospect. As the image portrays, the crinoline was seen as a walking prison for women. But let's be honest. Women in the Victorian era faced a lot of fashion pains.

Nintendo Virtual Boy
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The Nintendo Virtual Boy is a rudimentary portable 3D gaming device. It used "stereoscopic" 3D graphics, rendered mostly red, for basic games like tennis and golf. Players wore and looked through a head-mount and used the controller to play the games.

In 1995, Nintendo essentially gave up on producing the Virtual Boy and pushed it onto the market to start working on the N64. It was pretty much an immediate failure and became one of the worst-selling consoles in history.

ab belt on man
Pinterest

Dreamed of having a six-pack without ever having to do any kind of actual ab work? Who hasn't! And we're sorry to break the bad news to you, but you'll have to keep dreaming...for now. Ab belts became popular in the 90s and remain marketed even today, even while research shows that wearing an ab belt has no actual muscular benefit. In fact, the FTC filed lawsuits against companies that were making false claims about the ab belts.

Agent orange
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Agent Orange is an herbicide and defoliant chemical developed by the United States Army in the 1940s. The idea was that the agent could be sprayed on bushes and trees to destroy the cover that could be used by insurgents in heavily foliated areas.

It became infamous, however, when used by the US in Vietnam in the 1960s. Agent Orange later showed to have adverse health effects, not only for the Vietnamese insurgents but for the soldiers who handled it, as well. It caused birth defects, deformities, and other serious health conditions.

micrsoft bob
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Released in March 1995, Microsoft Bob was a program intended to be a more user-friendly interface for navigating Microsoft's operating systems, Windows 3.1X and Windows 95. Essentially it turned a user's desktop background into a room of the house, with clickable books and objects that corresponded to operations. There was also Rover, a cartoon dog who provided directions via speech bubbles.

It's one of Microsoft's biggest failures. Melinda Gates, who spearheaded the project, acknowledged that the program actually required more operating power than could currently be achieved by computers running Windows 95. So that meant that Bob was essentially useless. It was discontinued before the release of Windows 95, although Rover the dog appeared again from time to time.

hydrogenated oils
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You may know hydrogenated oils as trans fats or saturated fats, which research in the early 2000s showed to be extremely difficult for the human body to fully digest and a cause for some cancers. Hydrogenated oils took the form of popular vegetable oils and butter substitutes that had less fat and calories than traditional oil. It should be noted that trans fats are actually partially hydrogenated oils and have been banned by the FDA.

Parachute jacket invention
Wikimedia Commons (Edited)

This is one of those inventions that became ultimately tragic for the inventor. Frantz Reichelt spent his life working on a jacket that aviators could wear that could turn into a parachute, should the aviator need to eject. He tested early versions on dummies and was successful. Unfortunately, those versions couldn't be worn.

In 1912, he commissioned the Paris government to test his latest design by jumping from the Eiffel Tower, and they finally allowed it—thinking he was testing a dummy. But he soon announced that he would test it himself by jumping. Though they tried to dissuade him, he jumped anyway—tragically to his death.

Freon cans
Pinterest

Thomas Midgley, Jr. strikes again! In the late 1920s, General Motors formed a team to help synthesize CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) to make safer refrigerants. Freon was born. Freon is a refrigerant that cooled indoor air; though, it's now used as a catch-all term for any fluorocarbon refrigerant.

CFCs were shown to severely deplete the ozone in the Earth's atmosphere and were banned internationally in 1987, under the Montreal Protocol.

Rejuvenique electric face mask
Pinterest

Why go all the way to the spa for a facial? You can strap this scary-looking thing on your face and get a facial right at home! The Rejuvenique supposedly sends electrical impulses to select areas of a face, in order to "rejuvenate" your face. There were only two problems: It didn't work; and, it looks more like something you'd wear on Halloween. Also, do you really want a flimsy electronic device sending electricity into your face? Think about it.

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New Coke
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In 1985, Coca-Cola introduced "New Coke," which was a newly formulated recipe with a new taste. Coca-Cola has been losing business to diet drinks and non-cola beverages. In an effort to compete with new rival, Pepsi, Coca-Cola attempted something new.

New Coke never became popular, selling much worse than regular Coke. Coca-Cola renamed it to Coke II and brought back the original Coke, as well. It was finally discontinued in 2004.

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Clippy
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The Clippy hate is real. You could be composing a letter to someone, and up would pop Clippy asking you if you needed any help. Clippy was intended to be a helpful user assistant for Microsoft's Office products, like Word. Even Microsoft acknowledged how disliked Clippy was, however, and eventually removed him from Windows XP. Does anyone miss Clippy? No.

Watch the video:

plastic bags
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Recently banned in New York City and other major cities, plastic bags were used for years by grocery stores and other retail outlets. They were cheap to produce, so seemed like the perfect bag to offer customers for their goods. They were developed in the 1950s by Swedish engineer, Sten Gustaf Thulin.

The problem is that non-compostable plastic bags can take more than 1000 years to decompose. Given that the landfills are already filling up, the plastic bags pose a real issue given how many were being thrown away. So movements arose, encouraging people to bring reusable bags to stores with them.

Dog sack for cars running boards
Pinterest

It's hard to really know where to begin with this idea. It's basically the equivalent of putting your dog in a sack and strapping them to the car. We're assuming that an owner who buys this really doesn't like dog hair getting on their seats. But, yes, this thing was indeed patented, sold, and (we're assuming) used in the 1940s.

Asbestos Fibers
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Although asbestos in some form has been available for more than 4,000 years, contemporary asbestos didn't see widespread mining and use until the 20th century. Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate fiber used as an electrical insulator in building materials throughout the middle part of the 20th century.

During the 1970s and even today, research shows that people who breathed in asbestos dust from the fibers often develop health issues later in life. It's for that reason that asbestos is rarely used anymore in the US; though, it still sees some use in developing countries.

cat in a wig
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For when you want your cat to...not look a cat? Yeah, we have no idea what the appeal of these wigs made specifically for cats might be, but there's someone out there who must use these. And no, these aren't just for Halloween.

smell o vision poster

If this sounds like a childhood dream you once had, where you could actually smell the scent of flowers in a field, a forest, or even a wet, city street in a movie—then you're not that far. Smell-o-vision was a technique of broadcasting scents to an audience in movie theater based on what was happening on screen. It was invented by Hans Laube in 1955 and only used once for the film, Scent of Mystery broadcast in Chicago.

The idea ultimately failed because the cost of outfitting theaters was too costly, and audiences were unlikely to pay much more for the experience. We're also imagining some unpleasant scents would be something you wouldn't want when watching a film. Think Walking Dead...yeah.

Atom Bomb in desert
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The atom bomb (or atomic bomb) is a nuclear bomb capable of great destruction. It creates a huge amount of energy via fission (fission bomb) or from both fission and fusion reactions (thermonuclear bomb). It has been used twice, both times by the United States against Japan in World War II. Robert Oppenheimer, “father of the atomic bomb,” is noted as leading the team of US scientists responsible for producing the weapon.

It's hard to imagine a more destructive invention. Some estimates put the death toll from the two instances of the bomb at nearly 225,000 lives. That's not counting the loss of life that was not instantaneous.

three honegar bottles
Pinterest

Honegar is a mixture of apple cider vinegar and honey. Mixtures of this kind have been around since ancient times and are prized for their medicinal properties. The term Honegar comes from D. C. Jarvis, who popularized (somewhat) the drink. So why is it on this list? Well...have you ever tasted this stuff?

Hoodie Pillow
Pinterest

Ever wondered why you couldn't combine your two favorite things in the world: wearing hoodies and soft pillows? No? We haven't either. And we're not really sure what the point is for this. Why would you want a hoodie specifically when you're trying to lay on the pillow? And how does having it make for a night of better sleep, then say just a face mask? So many questions!

Puff n Fluff Dog dryer
Pinterest

No more waiting around for your dog to dry. Now, you can wrap your dog in this plastic tarp, stick a blow dryer in the intake tube, and dry your dog moderately faster! Think we're kidding with this one? Nope. While this isn't on the market anymore, it did make a brief and hilarious entrance around 2015. And because this was invented by a third-grader, we're willing to give her credit for turning this idea into something that sold.

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Red dye candies recalled no 2
Twitter

Also known as Amaranth dye, Red No 2 is a synthetically derived dye, made either from tar coal or petroleum. It was used throughout the middle of the 20th century globally and was prized for its distinctive red color. Soviet studies emerged in the early 1970s, linking the dye with cancer. It was later banned in many countries, including the US in 1976. It's still used, however, in the United Kingdom where it's known for giving Glacé cherries their distinctive, red color.

Shake-weight
Pinterest

The idea behind the shake weight was that you would grip the handle of the dumbbell and shake the attached weights back and forth on the rubber springs. Does it work? Yes and no. If you shake these things long enough, then you'll certainly be burning calories and working your grip strength. But beyond that, they don't deliver as advertised.

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Baby cage invention
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If you lived in a city during the 1920s, then you were likely to have this wire cage marketed to you as a tool to provide your baby with some fresh air and sunshine. The cage would be suspended outside of the window of an apartment with a soft bed placed on the bottom. While it never became very popular in the US (for hopefully obvious reasons), it did remain popular in London until the mid-20th century, when it was outlawed.

Chips made with olestra
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Hailed as a miracle food additive in the late 1990s, Olestra was a fat substitute that added no calories to foods. And it performed well in taste tests, too! Sound too good to be true? Yup. It was. You might remember Olestra from Lay's WOW brand chips, but they were short-lived. Research came out showing that Olestra wreaked havoc with people's gastrointestinal systems and caused loose stools. So, while it's not officially banned, companies must list those side effects if they use it—and the side effects aren't very appetizing.

Grass flip flops
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If you love walking barefoot in the grass, then we encourage you to get outside and do some of that. However, we don't recommend buying flip-flops to simulate the experience of walking in the grass, h. Most users of these claimed that the effect of the grass wore out in just a couple of days, and they were left with green flip-flops.

Ham Dogger
Pinterest

The Ham Dogger shapes your hamburger meat into a 1/4 lb hotdog. Can't you just shape it into a hotdog yourself? Sure. But that's what useless kitchen gadgets do best. They make something that's simple, extremely complicated! Ever try a Ham Dogger? You can still buy these.

CD
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In the early 2000s, Sony and other record companies began selling their music CDS with some "copy-proof" protection to help fight against CD duplication. The problem with their design, however, was how easy it was to get around. All people had to do was draw a line around the area of the CD with the copy-protection with a small felt-tip marker to override the protection.

1980 Ford Pinto Advertisement
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According to most car enthusiasts, the Ford Pinto is the worst car ever made, and it makes its way onto our list for that reason. It was a Ford model from 1971 - 1980. What makes it the worst is that it was known to catch on fire when involved in rear-end collisions. Controversy arose around whether Ford knew this potential issue, while still releasing subsequent models. Since then, the auto industry has been careful about issuing recalls for known issues.

Twirling spaghetti fork
Pinterest

The spaghetti fork twirls when you press a button, making it, so you don't have to twirl the fork yourself. We're wondering how many of these spaghetti forks are in the back of kitchen drawers. It's the kind of product that gets gifted because someone really likes pasta. And, comparing it to others on the list, it's not the worst idea in the world—but it's definitely in the top 60!

Hydrogen blimp disaster
Pinterest

Blimps (Airships or Zeppelins) can still be seen flying above sports stadiums, but all of those blimps run on Helium gas now. In fact, hydrogen really hasn't been used as a gas in blimps since the 1930s. The problem with hydrogen is that it's far too flammable to be a safe gas for airships. There were many disasters involving hydrogen blimps before they were no longer used—the most famous disaster was the Hindenburg disaster of 1937.

Anti Eating Mask
Twitter

If you really can't stop those late-night cravings, then strap on this face cage and throw away the key. (Don't throw away the key.) The idea behind this patented design is that you could allow someone else to open the mask, keeping it locked to prevent yourself from eating. This does not seem like a healthy dieting solution.

head on extra strength
Pinterest

The good folks at HeadOn had one simple idea: if you can apply something directly to a muscle to relieve the pain, why can't you apply something directly to your head? The brain is a muscle, right?! Here's the thing...it didn't work. It became more of a meme, even though some people did claim the stuff worked.

mizar flying car
Pinterest

No more waiting in traffic! Behold the Mizar Flying Car—the Ford Pinto turned into an airplane. All kidding aside, this was actually a fairly novel idea from Advanced Vehicle Engineers (AVE) of California, who intended this to function as an aircraft, but start and stop like a car. The major difficulty they faced was the weight of the car, and even with the Ford Pinto being light for the time it caused problems. A crash during testing in 1973 ensured that this would never make it to production.

bottlecap tripod
Pinterest

There are plenty of DIY designs out there to turn a plastic (or glass) bottle into a tripod for a mobile camera. That sounds like a great idea, right?! The problem is that our mobile phones have gotten quite heavy over the years, so they're likely to fall over as you try to capture a shot with the bottle. And we wouldn't want to risk the life of an expensive phone on this.

iphone fingers
Pinterest

We can totally see how this idea came to be! Someone saw the smudges on their phone screen and thought: "I wish there was something that would prevent this!" Unfortunately, the Australian company that invented this around 2010 did not anticipate how annoying it would be to keep putting these things on your finger.

Twinkle Tush
Pinterest

Humans are a funny species, aren't we? I mean, that's what cats must be saying about us when we buy a necklace meant to cover up their butts with a pleasing-to-the-eye gem. Behold the Twinkle Tush! If you really had a weird thing about having to see a cat butt from time to time, then this was just the product for you!

fire alarm trap invention
Pinterest

It's definitely annoying when someone sets off the fire alarm needlessly as a prank, and it turns out that it was just as annoying in 1938. Here's what would happen if you set off the fire alarm: your hand would literally get stuck in it and could not be released until a policeman or fireman arrived. Okay, so what's the problem? Well, in the event of a real fire, whoever set the alarm off would not be able to leave. Yup.

potato chip grabber
Pinterest

These were made in Japan with the purpose of keeping your fingers clean while you ate potato chips and other snacks. There was a button on the side that you could push to squeeze the fingers together to grab the chip. It's an art, they say, to grab a chip without breaking it. But, honestly, this product makes us feel not so bad about some greasy fingers.

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Chork
Pinterest

Legend has it that the Chork has its roots in an ancient Buddhist monastery, where a monk invented it as a means of uniting the East and West. (We made that up.) And we're not really sure about the origins of the Chork, we're just thankful that we aren't getting these as opposed to traditional chopsticks with our Chinese-food takeout.

The baby mop
Pinterest

Is your baby not pulling their weight around the house? Then strap a mop to them, so they can clean as they crawl. That's essentially the idea behind the very real Baby Mop onesie. The onesie is outfitted with a mop surface to shine and clean the floor as the baby crawls around. We question how sanitary this is for a baby, but that's just us.

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land mine graphic
Pinterest

Both the Roman and Chinese empires made use of devices hidden in the ground to disable enemy targets around the 15th century. Since then and with the invention of gunpowder and other explosives, land mines have only become deadlier. Many modern land mines are used as Anti-tank and vehicle devices, but many also are meant to disable ground troops.

The problem with the land mine, aside from being deadly, is that once it's been placed in the ground it needs to be removed safely—so that a civilian will not detonate it. Millions of dollars get spent each year trying to clear areas of land mines, and there are campaigns to eradicate their use altogether.

spam email graphic
Pinterest

Spam, which gets its name from a Monty Python sketch, is the repetitive and inane junk email we all received for years on a daily basis. Gary Thuerk is credited as having sent the first email spam in 1978 to 600 people. Spam email works by gathering masses of email addresses and sending out marketing messages nonstop. They are definitely one of the most annoying things about checking email because even modern spam filters sometimes make mistakes.

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cigarettes on diner table
Pinterest

While tobacco has been around for centuries, the modern-day cylindrical cigarette wasn't made until the early 19th century. They took a while to catch on, and they really weren't widely popular until the mid-20th century.

We're not going to make this an anti-smoking campaign. There's enough marketing out there that explains the hazards of smoking cigarettes. They've begun to decline in use since the 1970s.

Styrofoam
Pinterest

What most people call Styrofoam is actually Polystyrene foam. True Styrofoam is light blue in color and used in building insulation. Polystyrene foam is the stuff used to make packing peanuts and protect furniture during shipping. It is a lightweight form of plastic that is produced in huge quantities each year. Like most plastics, styrofoam takes forever to break down and when burned it released at least 50 toxic chemicals into the air. There are movements to reduce our usage of this material.

Autotune system
Pinterest

Can't sing, but want to be a pop star? No worries! Most pop stars today record with a program that helps correct their pitch referred to as "Auto-tune." Auto-tune was originally developed to helped recording companies fix slightly off-key recordings, so they wouldn't have to lose the whole thing. Today, however, auto-tune is used in just about every vocal recording released. It's created an almost electronic-sounding voice that just won't seem to go away!

cuecat mouse
Pinterest

The CueCat (or :CueCat) released in 2000 as a kind of QR scanner of the time. The CueCat read a specialized barcode, which then automatically opened a webpage on the internet. It was a form of automated keystroking. The company that led the invention, the now-defunct Digital Convergence Corporation, actually gave these away for free to anyone who used the internet in 2000. They banked on their system being utilized by every media company and website. And it was used a little...briefly.

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tanning beds
Pinterest

Tanning beds began in the 1970s as a novel way of achieving a tan in a small amount of time. The problem with tanning beds is that they emit ultraviolet radiation onto the skin in order to achieve the effect (much like a full day at the beach). We now know just how harmful that UV radiation can be for us, leading in some cases to skin cancer. A good invention, on the other hand, is sun lotion, which reduces the amount of UV radiation we receive when in the sun.

Comfort wipe system
Pinterest

Just because we've done something the same way for hundreds of years, doesn't mean we have to keep on doing it that way. That was the idea, at least, behind this novel approach to wiping your fanny. The Fanwer Comfort Wipe extends the reach of your arm, so you don't have to touch the toilet paper with your hand when you wipe. We're not sure we even want to say much more about this device. We'll leave it there.

Wearable Sleeping bag
Pinterest

It's like strapping a bed to your body while you hike! Sound good? No? Yeah, we definitely understand the idea of sleeping in a cozy warm outfit like this, but we're not sure about hiking with this thing. Unless you're hiking in some really cold weather, you're going to get warm...very warm wearing this thing on your body all day.

R2 fish school training
Pinterest

Having a fish as a pet used to be a cosmetic decision for a room. Not any more! Now, you can "train" your fish to do some cool tricks and start earning his/her keep as your pet. Think it's not possible to train a fish? You're right actually, but that doesn't stop some companies from marketing an all-in-one training kit for your fish tank.

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Burned galaxy note 7
Pinterest

Released in 2016, the Galaxy Note 7 from Samsung was a pretty advanced Android-based tablet for its time. Unfortunately, it caught on fire. Yup. The batteries would overheat, causing the components to catch fire and the screen to crack. Samsung recalled the tablet quickly after they learned of the defect and issued refurbished editions of the Galaxy Note 7 that no longer function as mobile devices. These are still banned from use on airplanes.

Hoverboard on fire
Pinterest

While not exactly like the hoverboards featured in Back to the Future, the hoverboards released around 2014-2015 did offer a pretty cool new way to move around. They became widely popular with kids, who could be seen hoverboarding down sidewalks in neighborhoods everywhere. Reports starting coming in, however, of the hoverboards catching on fire. When these reports escalated, even Amazon pulled all hoverboards from being sold on their website. Looks like we'll have to wait a while longer for the future.

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Segway on grass
Pinterest

When the Segway was first revealed in 2001, many thought it would completely revolutionize the way we moved about the world. Who needs to walk when you can Segway?! The Segway was apparently fall-proof, though we still remember the infamous tumble of former President Bush on one of these. Why didn't it catch on? A combination of its high-price tag and lackluster safety history led to its halt in production in June of 2000.

Smile Scanning software
Pinterest

This sounds like something out of a dystopian SciFi novel, but it's real. One Japanese rail company has been having its employees scan their smiles before they report to work each. The employee is then given a rating and some advice on improving their smile.

Pop Up Ads
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What we call pop-up ads originated in the late 1990s on the web hosting service, Tripod.com. Ethan Zuckerman claims that he created the first pop-up ads in response to consumer complaints about sexual ads appearing on webpages. Today, we're still finding new and innovative ways to circumvent these annoying ads. Most web browsers, like Chrome, have pop-up blockers that can be enabled and disabled. This will sometimes block necessary pop-ups, however!

venetian blind sunglasses
Pinterest

Shutter shades or Venetian blind sunglasses were first popularized in the early 1980s and could be seen on some music icons and even wrestlers like Macho Man Randy Savage. Then, they faded away, or at least most people hoped they would have faded away. In 2007, however, Kayne West reintroduced the shutter shades in his music video, "Stronger."

usb pet rock
Pinterest

The original Pet Rock was a toy introduced in 1975 by Gary Dahl. And don't us wrong. They were good rocks—very smooth. But at a price tag of $4 in 1975, it's hard to believe that millions of people bought one; though, it did come with a 30-page book on how to take care of the rock.

Today, you can of course by a pet rock with a USB hookup or even a Bluetooth-enabled rock. Is there some small part of you that wants one? Well, that's marketing!

Blockchain’s strengths have a flip side.
Odin Odin (57)
0

Blockchain has become a buzzword during the last decade, a term that for many is just so much technobabble.