Innovative Products from the Past That Never Were – Part 2

By milo on Jul 26, 2010 | 39 Comments

A few weeks ago, we showed you some products and inventions that our ambitious (yet often mislead) forefathers believed would soon be part of our everyday lives. The world of yesterday is full of so many botched predictions and forgotten innovations that we couldn’t help but share eight more favorites with you. So come with us into the world of the future—as told by the minds of the past. Complete with the obligatory lasers, hover-technology and holograms, these inventions have sadly yet to make their way into our lifetime.

Personal Hoverboards


Every ’90s kid who watched Back To The Future 2 (and probably most adults, too) dreamed of soaring around their  neighborhood on their own flying hoverboard. Then came the “making of” documentary where director Rober Zemeckis jokingly claimed that hoverboards were real life devices that floated on the earth’s natural magnetic energy. The video went on to say that the boards had been around for years, but that worried parent groups had succeeded in keeping them off shelves. Needless to say, gullible children and adolescents everywhere were intensely excited, and then utterly disappointed, when they realized it was all just a joke.

Football Jet Packs


The 1981 future predictions book, School, Work and Play (World of Tomorrow), featured a two page spread on the football games of the future. Wouldn’t you know it—football 2.0 was said to be held in outer-space arenas where players could compete in zero gravity conditions using personal jet packs strapped to their backs. Think Harry Potter but without the broomsticks. “The players zoom through the air, powered by small motors in their backpacks,” explains the book with confidence. “Laser lines mark out the field.” Laser lines? What happened to good old fashioned white paint on fresh grass? As of 2010, that’s still what football is for most of us.

The Grasshopper Golf Cart


The Grasshopper golf cart was a wonder of technology that would have put every caddy on the course out of a job—if it were ever invented that is. This device was depicted in a 1961 edition of Closer Than We Think, and was intended to be operated by a remote control that the golfer could use to summon the cart no matter where he or she was on the course. As described, the Grasshopper was supposed to run off of a high powered air cushion hovering system so that the grass course could be protected from all but foot traffic and track marks would be completely eliminated. The other reason, of course, is because everything in the future is supposed to hover—it just makes it more fun that way.

The Train Boat


A set of German postcards created around 1900 made some pretty bizarre predictions about what we might spend our money on in the year 2000. Travel by amphibious train was one such imaginative prediction, supposedly allowing passengers to cross significant bodies of water by locomotive.

The strangest thing about this prediction is that there is absolutely no explanation of how the train would react in deep water conditions. If it sits upon the track like a normal train, how does it survive underwater? If it floats off the track and travels like a ship to the other side, how does it align with the track again when it reaches shore? And, unfortunately for many modern day mass commuters who might wish to ditch their cars in favor of train/boat travel, we would never come to find out. Although if you are craving some land/sea travel, you can always check out one of the many duck tours available throughout the country.

The Weather Machine


The weather machine is an oft-predicted, never-invented device that would allow governments to bend weather conditions to their will by simply aiming the machine at the sky. A May 1954 issue of  Collier’s Weekly describes a scene in which the weather control devices hooked up to an aircraft could be used to stop the formation of a dangerous tornado: “A weather station in southeast Texas spots a threatening cloud formation moving toward [the device] on its radar screen; the shape of the cloud indicates a tornado may be building up. An urgent warning is sent to Weather Control Headquarters. Back comes an order for aircraft to dissipate the cloud. And less than an hour after the incipient tornado was first sighted, the aircraft radios back: Mission accomplished. The storm was broken up; there was no loss of life, no property damage.”

Weather control has been a popular prediction over the years because such power would mean that mankind can completely control and overcome the elements. However, as can be seen by the many natural disasters that have occurred over the past few years, such a weather machine has never been invented—for better or for worse.

Water Balloons/Shoes


Despite the viral marketing attempts by Hi-Tec shoes, which claim that you can run across water with the exact right shoes and enough practice, water walking is still pretty impossible—at least for an extended period of time—no matter what shoe you have on. This is in contrast to the prediction made on the face of a German postcard in 1900, which depicted people in their Sunday best taking a leisurely stroll across a quiet pond. Supported on the surface of the water by a balloon and a pair of pontoon-like shoes, walking across water appears to be easy and effortless for these  wearers—at least until a wave comes by and soaks your favorite pair of church-going trousers. Note also the horse-drawn carriage calmly floating by in the background, as though the equine would be completely comfortable with the idea of being hoisted into the air by a balloon and dangled over a body of water.

Space Coveralls


Appearing in a 1960 edition of the Chicago Tribune’s famous future-prediction column Closer Than We Think, space coveralls were thought to be the future of the space suit. These roomy suits were supposed to come equipped with protective coating that shielded the wearer from toxic elements and damaging sun rays. Harkening back to the gentlemanly days of old, rocket canes would be clutched by the astronaut and provide the necessary propulsion to navigate around open space. As a safety precaution, the article stated that the coveralls would come with a solid metal plate inside so that astronauts drifting away from their ship could be pulled back in by the magnetic force.

The Holographic Gaming Computer


In 1981, writer Neil Ardley published a book entitled Tomorrow’s Home, which made some bold predictions about the products we would one day have in our homes. The holographic gaming computer was one such invention but, sadly, it never came to be—though it looks like it would be a ton of fun if it had actually been invented. The article claims that the device would summon other gamers from around the world (much like the popular Xbox Live) and everyone would be able to play the games together on a holographic, 3-D image that projected upwards from the system.

Unfortunately for all of you hackers, the device was said to be able to detect cheating and alert the other players of the offending gamer. If it had actually been invented, you might have had to say goodbye to no-clipping codes and the infamous “god mode.” Does that make you glad that it never was?


38 Comments on “Innovative Products from the Past That Never Were – Part 2”
  1. sciguyaj says:

    I still want the hover board! Who knows, we’ve still got 5 years before we can say BTF was wrong! Come on Mattel, let’s get on this!

  2. I personally like the Hoverboards. Should wait and see who will build them.

  3. Ryan says:

    Umm, the holographic video game did happen. It was made by Sega in the 1990′s, and there were few games. One was called Time Traveler, and I remember another fighting game.

  4. aashin says:

    great information

  5. Truthseeker says:

    The technology for hoverboards definitely exists – the only obstacle is the price to produce them.

    Holograms also exist, even holograms you can touch.

  6. Milo says:

    @ryan and @truthseeked – thanks for pointing that out! although a few games were developed, it by no means became a popular gaming option as was originally predicted.

  7. robweber says:

    while some of these do come from books or pictures predicting what future products might look like – the hover board really doesn’t. While Back to the Future 2 does have Marty traveling to the future and using one, it doesn’t really count as a prediction just because it is in a movie.

  8. shabicht says:

    No Palm Foleo!?!

  9. Shogun213 says:

    Soylent Green?

  10. H8DiggLibs says:

    Wasn’t BTF set in 2010?

  11. jezsik says:

    I’m still kinda disappointed about "Space 1999" and "2001."

  12. 101melody says:

    A train boat?!

    Sounds like something Homer Simpson would invent!

  13. GelfTheElf says:

    Umm.. there was a hologram 3d game. It was called Time Traveler.

  14. SpoolUp says:

    I played hologram games in 1991 (Anyone remember the Sega Time Travler Game?)

  15. perrym says:

    The Train Boat looks badass

  16. palehorse864 says:

    **Ender’s game spoilers.**

    The image of the holographic computer is kind of how I pictured part of the final scenes of Ender’s Game. I’ve heard some people lump it in with virtual reality, but it seemed to be more akin to the sort of holographic table in that picture.

  17. jdames1980 says:

    The 3DS is the first step towards the holographic gaming device.

  18. hydroplane says:

    Crapnabbit these hipsters with their top hats and handlebar mustaches riding their oversized watermill unicycles allover like they own the river.

  19. bigteebo says:

    Atari had a prototype before that.

  20. I was going to point that out… Sadly that game was far too complicated for my feeble, toddler mind.

  21. Nope. They always set it to be 30 years from 1985, whichever direction they went. Though I can understand the confusion. Doc Brown did say at one point that he’d want to go about 25 years into the future, but he really ended up going to 2015.

  22. Thank you for mentioning this. I got an instant rush of nostalgia watching that video.

  23. cannone says:

    Water Balloon Shoes? Nike needs to step their game up airmax’s are not cutting it.

  24. insanebrain says:

    I want my flying car that was promised in the ’40-’50

  25. That wasn’t technically a hologram. They just used a curved mirror to make it look like the 2D images from the computer screen were floating in space.

  26. picalo says:

    a weather machine is possible and has been done. even the united states news corps have reported on scientists being able to make clouds and even make said made clouds rain…thats control over nature and is a type of machine that controls weather.

    nazi-germani had a machine that was never used that could create earthquakes by sending a heavy charge into a fault line.

  27. depro9 says:

    HAARP can influence weather it can also trigger earthquakes & set off volcanoes. Nikola Tesla FTW!

  28. smoger says:

    in my childhood, many many quarters were spent on this. and i probably never made it past the 2nd level. laserdisc games are the cheapest of the cheap.

  29. Rodskii says:

    If the hover board was invented, it would also allow you mingle on water in your sunday’s best, but only if you have power.

  30. falconear says:

    Everyone knows that Destro perfected the weather dominator way back in the 80s.

    That said, where’s my effin hoverboard!?

  31. ILoveNerds says:

    Ah man! I want a personnal hover board soooooooo bad!!!!! I’d wait in line all night for that ….. lol

  32. antdude says:

    BTF? You missed a T!

  33. waldo686 says:

    Hey McFly, you bozo. Those things don’t work on water unless you’ve got Power!

  34. marvin says:

    Maybe we need to wait another 100 years. Can I still wait?

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One Trackback on “Innovative Products from the Past That Never Were – Part 2”
  1. [...] Daily Bark reminded me why I grew up to be so cynical and bitter in their blast from the past article on the hover board scam perpetuated by Rober Zemeckis This entry was posted in Uncategorized. [...]

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