Useless Tech
Elaborate Mechanism Works and Works to Do Nothing Well (Feb, 1954)

Elaborate Mechanism Works and Works to Do Nothing Well

We all know someone who works harder doing nothing than most of us work doing something, but we can’t possibly know anything that works harder at nothing than a machine built by a California hobbyist. The machine has over 700 working parts that rotate, twist, oscillate and reciprocate—all for no purpose except movement. It is the brainstorm of Lawrence Wahlstrom, a landscape artist, who calls it a flying-saucer detector. The machine not only accomplishes nothing, it is never completed—it has been under construction seven years. Each year Wahlstrom adds 50 or more moving parts to it so it can do nothing more efficiently!


So, basically they are saying that long term weather prediction methodology is so bad that randomly guessing works better?

While day-to-day weather forecasting enjoys reasonable accuracy, meteorologists have still to work out a basis for long-range prophecies. Nevertheless, Dr. C. F. Marvin, head of the U. S. Weather Bureau, is experimenting with a “scientific guesser.” Small balls are marked for a certain kind of weather. The balls are thoroughly mixed and poured into troughs. Their sequence, depending solely upon laws of chance, has proved strikingly similar to actual weather records.

Tiny Grand Piano Can Be Played with a Toothpick (Dec, 1940)

Tiny Grand Piano Can Be Played with a Toothpick

FOUR craftsmen took six months to build a two-inch-square working model of a Steinway grand piano, illustrated at right. Played with a toothpick, it has thirty-six ivory keys and is strung like a full-size instrument. With other objects in the photo —miniature enamel furniture, and a dancing girl’s toe bell from Bombay, India, displayed on a finger —it forms part of a private collection of 28,500 curios from fifty-four countries exhibited recently in San Francisco.

Corridor Traffic Light (Jan, 1948)

If the instruments are so delicate, why doesn’t she use a cart instead of carrying them all piled up like that. Plus the traffic light doesn’t do you a whole lot of good if you can’t see it because, uh, you’re carrrying a pile of delicate instruments.

Corridor Traffic Light
Wartime’s proximity fuse is regulating hallway traffic at General Electric’s Schenectady research laboratory. Above, the girl at left has been “picked up” by a microwave transmitting-receiving unit (A), operating traffic light (B). The girl at right, carrying delicate instruments, is warned by a red light that the corridor is not clear.

Cigarette Case Keeps Account of Smokes Given to Friends (Sep, 1940)

Cheap bastard.

Cigarette Case Keeps Account of Smokes Given to Friends
A novel cigarette case keeps tabs on the cigarettes your friends “borrow.” When you want a smoke yourself, press one button to open the case. But when an acquaintance “bums” a cigarette, press a second button. This not only opens the case but operates a counter built into the case.

Robot Messenger Displays Person-to-Person Notes In Public (Aug, 1935)

In the mid ’30s everything was a robot.

Robot Messenger Displays Person-to-Person Notes In Public
TO AID persons who wish to make or cancel appointments or inform friends of their whereabouts, a robot message carrier has been introduced in London, England.
Known as the “notificator,” the new machine is installed in streets, stores, railroad stations or other public places where individuals may leave messages for friends.
The user walks up on a small platform in front of the machine, writes a brief message on a continuous strip of paper and drops a coin in the slot. The inscription moves up behind a glass panel where it remains in public view for at least two hours so that the person for whom it is intended may have sufficient time to observe the note at the appointed place. The machine is similar in appearance to a candy-vending device.

Breathing Balloon for Big Breasts (Sep, 1949)

Or I guess I should say “developing your form”. You know, if that’s what you want.

Breathing Balloon
will develop your form, if that’s what you want. It’ll also train you to breathe deeply by measuring your lung capacity by means of the shut-off valve. Moore’s, 14548 Forrer Ave., Detroit, Michigan.



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Inflatable Shorts (Aug, 1971)

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Soldiers Wear Camouflage (Jul, 1939)

That is some pretty amazing camouflage there. Why, I almost mistook them for trees. Trees with binoculars and handguns….

Soldiers Wear Camouflage
The men in the above picture are not inhavitants of Mars. They are only British soldiers, wearing camouflage in their helmets during a mimic battle.