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11 of the Most Interesting Failed Inventions From the Past

Failed Inventions

Science and innovation go hand in hand in order to create marvels that would serve mankind. Innovative marvels were over time and every invention is directly proportional to progress. However, some of the creations that were invested in resulted in failure. The idea and the motive behind these inventions were well thought off, yet failed miserably upon execution. Several factors like design complexities and global market trends contributed to the process of obliteration. Let us take a look at 10 interesting inventions that failed to serve their purpose.

1. Cinerama movies

Cinerama in motion pictures involved three projectors of 35mm each were used for projecting images on a deeply curved screen subtending 146 degree arc. This was created to provide better visual experiences while watching the movie. Invented by Fred Waller of New York in 1952 to provide better visual experiences.

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Prior to Imax, Cinerama was introduced in the 1950s. In the film, “This is Cinerama” (1952) broadcaster Lowell Thomas, spoke about the history of art including painting on the Sistine Chapel and early movies. He believed that the idea shall serve as a new phase of global cinema. However, his prediction turned out to be untrue.

Motion pictures made using Cinerama, involved the projectors that were made to reveal one third of the image on a curved screen. This provided better visuals than the ones made with other media. Some of the prominent cinemas made through Cinerama are, “Search of paradise” (1957) and “Windjammer” (1958).

Unfortunately, there were issues with alignment and illumination which eventually led to the obliteration of Cinerama within a decade. The cost of broadcasting was higher than usual and most of the movie makers backed out from the process. (1, 2)

2. Personalized Kinetoscope

Thomas Edison introduced a motion picture projector in 1912 for non-commercial use. In it, a strip of film was passed between a lens and an electric bulb and the viewer had to use a peephole. There was a rotating wheel behind the peephole that acted as a shutter. This ultimately produced an effect of motion pictures and presented a momentary view of the films passing through the shutter.

Edison first movie machine, the Kinetoscope.

The Kinetoscope is another failed invention of Thomas Edison that offered immense potential utility. It was designed to view motion pictures without sound. On August 31st, 1897, the Kinetoscope was patented by Edison.

Most of the kinetoscopes had encountered severe burns due to the nitrate acid base of the films. One of Edison’s first moving pictures, “Fred Ott’s Sneeze” was popularly viewed using the Kinetoscope. The movies of the time were usually short since the audience could not keep up with the fluctuations for more than 10 minutes.

Edison filmed around 200 films at the Black Maria. Unfortunately, the kinetoscope’s demand deteriorated since it allowed only one person to view the picture. Projectors in movie halls dominated the market trends and soon, the Kinetoscope was obsolete. (1, 2)


3. Digital Audio tape

The digital audio tapes (DAT)  were first innovated in the mid 1980s by Sony and was a playback and signal recording medium. DATs resembled audio cassettes in appearance but the medium was digital rather than analog. If a digital source is copied without using the analog domain, DATs could produce impressive clones unlike other digital media.

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Digital Audio tape or DAT was a playback medium developed in the 1980s by the infamous company, Sony. It resembled a cassette player and its mechanism involved a rotating head in order to record data, similar to a video recorder. The tapes are 15 to 180 minutes in length. A 120 minutes tape was 60 meters long.

 As the name suggests, the recording was primarily digital unlike a compact analogy cassette but unlike regular cassettes, one can use one side of DAT. DATs were manufactured in two formats, R-DAT and S-DAT. It offered a wide range of benefits for both, commercial as well as personal use.

 The Recording Industry Association of America, lobbied against the use of DATs since it believed that it was being used to copy or plagiarize audio content from pre-recorded CDs and cassettes. Thus, to deal with the problem of piracy and other significant factors, the production of DATs was stopped. (1, 2)

4. DH 106 Comet

Introduced by De Havilland, a British Aircraft manufacturing company, the Comet was the first commercial Jet Airliner. Comet 1 prototype, introduced in 1949 became the first jet airliner for Mexicana airlines. It had an aerodynamically with four turbojet engines along with wing roots, a pressurized cabin and large windows. It provided a comfortable cabin and made a promising debut in 1952.

Comet 1 Prototype
Comet 1 prototype at Hatfield Aerodrome in October 1949. Image Credit :

The world’s first jet airliner, Comet, was introduced in 1959 by British airlines. It was designed to provide transportation facilities to Great Britain after the Second World War. It could carry around 40 passengers. The cruise altitude was up to 40,000 ft with a cabin pressure equal to 8,000 ft. Other commercial aircraft of the period like Douglas’ DC-6 could not match the superior performance and design of the aircraft, Comet.

 Unfortunately, a tragic event followed soon after it was ready to put into use. Two eminent crashes within a time period of 16 weeks, revealed a flaw in the technical design of the plane. Finally, when the design was rectified, it was too late and the aircraft market was dominated by other models like Douglas DC-8.

The Comet took its first flight on October 31st, 1959 to cover a notable distance from Mexico City and Los Angeles until 1970. It had undergone several changes before it was sold to the Museum of Flight in the early 1990s. (1, 2, 3)


5. Monowheel vehicles

It was invented by Dr. J.H. Purves in 1932 and was called Dynasphere. It was a single-wheeled and single track vehicle that allowed the driver to sit within the wheel or next to it and the wheel was supported by other smaller wheels. It was inspired by Vinci’s ancient sketch and had two models, a gas and an electric powered.

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Monowheel vehicles, no matter how absurd it might sound now, was a significant invention by Dr. J.H. Purves in the year 1932 in France. This motorized vehicle was named Dynasphere and could travel at the speed of approximately 25 MPH. The propelling force was determined by smaller wheels pressing against its rim. A gyroscope provides turning force to the vehicle while the outboard skid allows friction drag on either side of the vehicle.

The creator of the vehicle believed that monowheels were the most effective and driver-friendly innovation since it offered a number of benefits. However, his invention did not gain much popularity due to several factors like it could carry only one person at a time and the drivers complained about facing several structural and design issues.

Monowheels failed to appeal to the people but the design is being formatted even today. A renowned company in the Netherlands invented a monowheel vehicle called the Wheelsurf, inspired by Purves’ model. (1, 2)


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