Tim Belford: Short Takes On Life
Tim Belford
Tim Belford
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Tim Belford is host of Quebec A.M. -- CBC Radio's popular English- language morning show (91.7 FM, 6-9, Mon.-Fri). He also is said to know a thing or three about wine.

Posted 04.18.07
Quebec City


Reality is in the mind of the inventor

I see there's a new television program coming up that's bound to be a winner.

Two thirty-something guys -- good looking hunks, aren't they all will be resurrecting inventions that failed miserably and trying to make them work.

I didn't realize what a great concept this was until I did a random check of lapsed patents.

These are inventions that were patented over the last hundred years and, for whatever reason, never quite made the grade so the inventor threw in the towel.

Take the "device for producing dimples," for example. This was the brainchild of M. Goetze and was registered may 19, 1896.

Now, I reckon the industrious Mr. Goetze probably got his start at the Marquis de Sade Manufacturing Co. The dimple producer resembles not so much a beauty aid as a device for extracting military secrets.

It consists of a handle, much like the one you find on a brace and bit, and two arms. One has a rounded end and is placed against the cheek. The other has a receptacle for the round end and goes inside the mouth.

Turn the handle and the two bits close together putting a dent, more or less permanent, in your cheek.

It probably also produced a howl of pain.

Another also-ran in the invention race was J.D. Boyles "saluting device" which came out March 10, 1896.

Mr. Boyle, obviously tired of continually doffing his hat to the ladies, invented a device that fit snuggly inside his bowler and lifted his hat automatically with a twitch of his forehead.

Unfortunately, it consisted of more gears than a fine Swiss watch and weighed a couple of pounds. Another failure.

The 1920s and 30s produced a couple of doozies as well.

On March 29, 1921 C.G. Purdy patented his "exercising device."

Picture on of those straps you attach to the door knob and stretch to strengthen your upper body or legs.

Only this one was held between your teeth and you stretched by pulling your head back and forth.

A special edition featured a gripping ring at either end with the ' S' ring in the middle so you and the little lady could get in shape together.

Then there was W. Paull's "cigarette ring" patented February 20, 1936.

Sort of a cigarette holder mounted on a large square ring with a clamp, it was obviously designed to keep you free of those unsightly nicotine stains.

It also allowed you to eat hors-d'oeuvres or drink a cocktail from the same hand while you happily puffed away.

On January 10, 1958 G. Spitzmesser thought he'd go one better than the simple pogo stick.

Spitzmesser, following in the footsteps of fellow countryman Karl Benz, added a gas-powered engine to the stick giving it more bounce to the ounce, or in this case, gallon.

It also gave off enough exhaust fumes to qualify as a one-man traffic jam.

One of my personal favorites is Ralph R. Pire's "pat on the back apparatus."

In what appears to be a vain attempt to give solace to losers at the Academy Awards, Pire came out with a shoulder-mounted device which, when pulled from the front, activated an arm like a goose-necked lamp with a hand attached to the end.

The hand then patted you on the back.

Well done. But it didn't catch on.

The best of all though was B.B. Oppenheimer's 1879 "fire escape."

This tricky life-saving device consisted of a strap on helmet attached by four cords to a mini parachute. The apparatus was complimented by a pair of six-inch thick, sponge-bottomed shoes.

Unfortunately the parachute and the first pair of Air Jordans didn't catch on. It is not recorded whether the chute didn't open fast enough or the shoes were insufficient for a two-story drop.

Anyway, as you can see there's plenty of fodder for yet another reality show. I can't wait.