The persistence of nonsensical inventions: The infuriating gadgets that refuse to die

Jun 11, 2023
Bad inventions. Source: Image supplied.

The very bedrock of modern civilisation is based on the idea that something must prove itself useful in order to take its place in society. That is how progress works, or is supposed to work?

Yet our world is stuffed to the gills with certifiably dopey inventions, appliances, gismos and innovations that have somehow refused to die, defying all common sense to become an infuriating part of our everyday lives.  

Take these, for instance:

Hand Dryers: Intended to save energy and replace paper towels, these dastardly fixtures in public restrooms only succeed in half-drying your hands before you either resort to paper towels or simply wipe your damp hands on your bottom.

Automatic Doors: Won’t open? Just take a step back then walk forward again. Still won’t open? Take two steps back and walk forward. Still nothing? Try three steps back and…there you go, champ. Easy as pie.

Voice Recognition Phone Menus:

“Please describe in a few words which council service you would like to speak with.”

“Noise complaints.”

“Did you say garbage disposal?”

“No. Noise complaints.” 

“Thank you. Putting you through to garbage disposal now.”  

Digital Watches: When they first appeared in the 1970s they were meant to be the harbingers of a new technological age that was going to make life easier for everybody. Instead, they were just annoying devices with tiny displays, incomprehensible menus and beeping alarms constantly going off in cinemas and during dental procedures. Yet they are still with us, usually seen on the wrists of parking officers, hipster parents and 14-year-old bank managers.

The Chatbot Assistant: You see these popping up in the bottom right corner of a lot of websites.

It asks: “How can I help?”

You tap: “Please put me through to customer service.”

Thirty seconds of computing time later.

“I’m sorry. Those keywords are not recognized. Do you have another way to phrase your question?”

“Customer service. Please!”

A minute later.

“I’m sorry. Those keywords…”

And so on and so on until infinity.

Leaf Blowers: Nothing destroys the suburban serenity of a Sunday afternoon as totally as the droning of these cacophonous monstrosities. Probably the most hated invention since the waffle iron.

The Waffle Iron: Who hasn’t had the pleasure of burning the roof of their mouth after biting into the thermal core of a toasted sandwich made with one of these infernal contraptions? But the real fun is scraping off all the congealed filling that oozes out the sides. Then cleaning it.

Touchless Electronic Toilet Paper Dispensers: If we needed a device to accurately measure just how lazy people have become, this is it. The surest indication yet that Humankind is now evolving in reverse.   

The Electric Toothbrush: Most people have one of these gathering dust in the back of a bathroom cabinet, purchased in the deluded belief they were going to improve their dental health by sticking a large vibrating stick into their mouth. Still, they’re great for removing grit and grime from tiles and taps.

Domestic Dishwashers: Sick of spending up to five minutes a day doing the dishes? Then get with the program and install one of these miraculous labour-saving devices that can do that chore for you in less than two hours. Never mind the noise or the energy cost or the wasted time, just think of the convenience.

The Fax Machine: They’ve never really made life much easier since the 1980s, yet these squealing widgets somehow survive in the modern workplace. Confidential communiques going to the wrong machine, unreadable letters and constant paper jams. Still, there’s nothing like calling someone only to have your eardrum assaulted by a series of loud electronic gargles because you’ve punched in the fax number by mistake.

Robot Vacuum Cleaners: Love your cat? Then get them this wonderful sensor-guided toy for them to wrestle with and ride around on. Think of all the funny videos you’ll be able to upload! Cost range: $500-$3000. Go on. What are you waiting for?

The Bread Maker: Hey. Why go to a bakery and buy bread made by professionals when you can turn your kitchen into a disaster zone with a machine that will waste your time and destroy your soul? A great way to spend a weekend.

Ice Makers: Filling an ice tray with water and putting it in the freezer is just too strenuous, so let one of these do the work for you. How did you live without one?

The Treadmill and The Home Exercise Bike: After three weeks of decreasingly vigorous use these items magically transform into the perfect place to dry out your towels and undergarments. That’s several thousand dollars well spent. Go on, congratulate yourself. Make some bread. 

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