In a world of short lived inventions, today’s gizmos and trends become tomorrow’s relics; generally out of the blue, typically on purpose. Two hundred years of industrial society have modified the globe beyond perception. However, several radical technologies of the past are quite fleeting, reflecting dynamical social realities, production manoeuvrings, and cultural neuroses.

Here’s the list of 10 Short Lived Inventions That Changed The World


10. The Bathing Machine

bathing machine

Throughout England during the Industrial Revolution, the notion of planned leisure came true. The belief within the healthy properties of ocean air inspired the increase of the fashionable summer vacation but bathing became a perplexity within the face of rising Victorian primness.

The beaches were gender-segregated, bathing machines that quickly crowded England’s glamorous resorts to prevent intimacy among bathers of opposite sexes. These penned cabins allowed for turning into the conservative bathing suits of the day and will be wheeled into the surf, preventing unpleasant displays of naked flesh.

As far back as 1911, in one of the seaside towns of England, signs instructed, “No female should bath with any machine for more than eight-year except at intervals, the limits specified for females,” and “Dresses should stretch from the neck until the knees.” However, though this quirky gizmo, the beloved English seacoast holiday could not be experienced, the shower machine was a nostalgic throwback.

9. The Electric Telegraph


Few devices transformed the planet as quickly because of the electric telegraph. An encoded message was transmitted by the inventor Samuel F. B. Morse on 24th of May in 1844 to an amazing audience of Washington councillors, assembled for the demonstration. His assistant in Baltimore, 40 miles away, got the wired Bible text: “It shall be said of Jacob and Israel, What hath God wrought!”

The first immediate communication system in the world had been invented by Morse. He later believed, as a religious man, that the first message was “baptized by the name of its writer” by the American Telegraph, namely God. The telegraph was tandem to the railroad of America and stimulated the industrial revolution contributing, among other unintended results, to the demise of the famed Pony Express. But Morse ‘s groundbreaking technology was eclipsed by another breakthrough in 1876. The mobile era had come.

8. The Cylinder Phonograph


With the age of the telegraph came another innovation: the cylinder Phonograph, made-up by Thomas Edison in 1877. Edison was influenced by the telegraph’s repetitive feature and the innovative telephone sound transmission to create his new recording system. When Samuel Morse was baptizing “What God had wrought!” with his electric telegraph. “Edison was much less dramatic in his first message on his new machine: the inventor was apparently happy to hear his own nursery rhyme, ‘Mary had a little lamb.’

Edison’s phonograph, the first commercial device of its kind, documented a needle and diaphragm for paraffin paper cylinders. Pre-recorded cylinders, a crackly predecessor of today’s CD’s and MP4’s were soon available commercially. The paraffin cylinder was quickly replaced by robust, tin foil-clothed metal cylinders, which also gradually deteriorated, such that the coating was eventually replaced by hard wax.

The revolutionary invention was demonstrated at Edison Speaking Phonograph in 1878 and Edison made strong profits from the windfall (10,000 dollars manufacturing and sales right, plus 20% of the resulting profit). In a June 1878 column for a North American journal, he pictured a few future applications for the phonograph bubbling with imaginative ideas. He suggested that phonographs could also be used for dictating letters, creating audiobooks for the blind, compiling audio family scrapbooks, recording last messages from the dying, and even as an early form of telephone voicemail.

Edison quickly went on to other inventions, including his incandescent electric lamp, but many of these innovations were ahead of time. The Edison Company continued, however, to produce cylinder records until 1929, but became obsolete by phonograph records popularized in the early twentieth century by Columbia and Victor recorders.

7. Hydrogen Airships

Hydrogen Airship

Forget the planes. Gasbags were the flight’s future for most of the XX century; or rather, airworthy (controllable) propelled aircraft, full of the lightest, most abundant Earth product. In 1937, when Zeppelin Hindenburg, 800-foot, crashed in New Jersey and killed 36 people, transatlantic airships were at a fiery conclusion. While helium gas is a safer option, aircraft are too uncommon and expensive to fly away.

Curiously, at least for freight, hydrogen airships will see revival. A research paper from 2019 envisages new airships ten times bigger in the upper atmosphere than the Hindenburg cargoes. The mega-ships predicted will be unmanned drones made from advanced fire-resistant materials like carbon fibres. The benefits of that greenhouse gas will be fantastic, but it is not uncertain whether that audacious dream is going to flow.

6. Daguerreotype Photography

Daguerreotype photography

When it comes to technology, new is not necessarily better. The Daguerreotype invented by Louis Daguerre in 1839 is a case in point. Daguerre began his career as a talented painter, like Samuel Morse, but the passion for science and optics technology led him to go from studio to laboratory. There he invented the world’s first popular photographic process, which even in today’s digital photography remains unrivalled in key respects.

Every Daguerreotype was produced by using an iodine fume, a silver-plated copper sheet, then stabilized by saltwater or sodium thiosulfate. Every image was original, and in 1839 Daguerre’s studio was destroyed and the bulk of its records and numerous early pictures were exposed, remarkable in resolution (by comparison only modern high-quality imagery was blurred by magnification).

Today only around two dozen Daguerre photos, including landscape, portraits and still lives, remain documented. The Daguerreotype then began to lose ground in the middle of the 21st century in the negative wet-collodium process (invented in 1851, the time of the death of Daguerre). This new technology has created a cheaper, reproducible, lower quality, but the more realistic end product.

5. The Maxim Gun

short lived inventions

The awful boast of the British Empire described its greatest weapon of conquest, “Whatever happens, we have got/ The Maxim gun and they have not,”  American Hiram Maxim invented the world’s first machine gun for recycling in 1884, transforming the face of war. During the 1894 Battle of Omdurman, Future Prime Minister Winston Churchill showed his murderous strength. His small British force routed forty thousand Sudanese warriors with their heaps twisted down before the Maxim Gun’s fierce fire.

Around 10,000 Sudanese people were killed after five hours and only 20 British people were killed. Through the World War One, the Maxim Gun was the first major battle when opposing forces slaughtered themselves with automatic fire, although prone to jamming and gradually phased out by more powerful guns.

4. The Malling-Hansen Writing Ball

Malling Hansen

The manual typewriter is as outdated as the quill sheet, even if collected by enthusiasts. And the popularity of these clunking machines once enjoyed was difficult to picture. The first commercial model, invented in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1865, was the Malling-Hansen Writing Ball. Writing Ball was the MacBook Pro of its day, a novelty that resembled the mechanical hedgehog. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s biggest fan was, in 1881, the poor eyesight of which caused him to learn a more successful way of writing.

The man also penned an ode to Nietzsche ‘s device:

The Writing Ball is a thing like me: Made of iron yet easily twisted on journeys. Patience and tact are required in abundance. As well as fine fingers to use it.

3. VHS recording

VHS resording

Few developments for those of a certain age are as nostalgic as the 1970s Japanese VHS cassette tape. Like Edison’s phonograph, the VHS was a multi-purpose: it was circulated in a previously recorded or in white tapes that were intended to record the Dukes of Hazzard during the sister ceremony of graduation. The smart DVD reached American customers in 1997, but both formats coexisted for several years before mass production of VHS was abandoned.

In August 2005 the Washington Post announced that the VHS “died at the age of 29,” adding that there were already 94.7 million VCR players in US households. The first film released exclusively in DVD home video format was the Revenge of the Sith later this year. Interestingly, 2005 also released cultic horror film The Ring Two, which picked up the core premise of the original 2003 The Ring, which revolved around a haunted VHS tape.

2. The Calculator Watch

Calculator Watch

Nothing, like wearing a calculator watch, said back in the eighties that “it’s cool to be square.” Such gadgets have been available since the 1970s, which included wrist-mobile television and video games. Nevertheless, in 1983 Casio’s Databank series took them up to new heights. Marty McFly sported his Casio Databank CA53W Twincept back into the future (1985), which was granted legendary status two years later.

To the delight of Generation Xers, Casio’s Databank line is still created today. The calculator clock was more retro trendy than a practical tool, but it over lasted the short-lived DMC DeLorean sports car from another futuristic icon, Back into the Future. And for better or worse, today’s Fitbit mania, Google Smartwatches and the wearable technology were expected by the Casio Databank.

1. The Atomic Bomb

atomic bomb

“Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”: nuclear scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, witnessing the first atomic bomb test, July 16, 1945.

Historians are still arguing whether, at the end of World War Two, the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 was justifiable or just willfully destroyed. One frightening reality is, however: nuclear bombs killing about 200,000 people from Japan pale alongside mass destruction devices capable of killing millions in one flash.

The A-bomb scientists were among the first to warn about the much deadlier hydrogen or H-bomb from the American Manhattan Project. The physicist Arthur Compton also claimed in the letter of September 1945 that “he preferred war defeat to the victory achieved to be achieved at the cost of the massive human tragedy which would be caused by its determined use.”

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