From “Smell-O-Vision” to a motorized pogo stick and an edible smartphone case, this romp through Patent Office records is a hilarious tribute to misapplied ingenuity.
“The world is bursting with ideas,” Rhatigan observes. “Unfortunately, not all of these ideas are good.” In support, he digs up dozens of unlikely proposals—some of which, like Henry Ford’s early Quadricycle and Thomas Edison’s Talking Doll, were harbingers of truly world-changing innovations. Most, though, like the Reid Flying Submarine, 19th-century rocking bathtubs, a suggestive party-game version of cup-and-ball played at waist level and the aforementioned movie theater “Smell-O-Vision” (and a competing technology, “AromaRama”) never got off the ground due to obvious design flaws, expense or just inadequate marketing. Still, all were concocted in a spirit of enterprise, and by way of a hat tip, the author names nearly all of their inventors, renowned or otherwise. Owsley’s cartoon visualizations of selected inventions in action join original patent drawings and occasional photos to provide comical commentary as much as to clarify physical and functional details.
Casual browsers will come away mightily amused; would-be inventors will find here fresh inspiration, as well as encouragement to give their own wildest ideas a try. (resource list, subject and inventor indexes) (Nonfiction. 10-13)