7 inventions that failed miserably


Failed miserably seems a bit strong, especially when several like the early phonograph can be viewed as intermediate steps that both led to more refined products and helped him to promote himself to a wide audience. Others were arguably before their time like the consumer-grade movie projector.

To me, an example of failed miserably would be something that once into moderate use would come apart spectacularly, possibly hurting or killing the operator, or something that hurt or killed the inventor or those doing public demonstrations of it. It’d be like if hard disk drive platters started shattering en masse at 7200RPM, breaking through the drive’s enclosure and destroying the inside of the computer and possibly breaching the case and hurting the user, or if a popular automobile started having engine block failures leading to blown-apart crankcases.

I could even call the crash of the 1971 Dodge Challenger Indy 500 Pace Car into the photographer’s stand a miserable failure, as it not only crashed spectacularly, but crashed right into the crowd of people best suited to documenting the horror of it all.

A few inventions that didn’t quite work out? Not so much.

That seems more like spectacular failures than miserable failures to me. A miserable failure is one where someone spends a lot of time and effort inventing what he thinks will be the greatest new thing ever, and absolutely nobody is interested, or he discovers that a better and cheaper solution already existed and that everything he’s been working on for years is a total waste of time and energy.

That said, inventing is speculative, so failure is always an option. It’s not even necessarily the fault of the inventor, sometimes they’re just ahead of their time and the technology needed to make their invention practical has not been invented yet.

You see this a lot in patent trolling cases. Someone back in 1992 sees cell phones and thinks “it would be cool to do email on this, you could push the email out to the phones via out of band channels. Of course we would need some sort of data standard on the phones, so it won’t work now, but maybe some day. 15 years later a patent trolling firm that bought up the guy’s patent sues every smartphone manufacturers for sending email to phones, because they didn’t start doing it until it was practical.”


Another article that makes lack of perfection into a bad thing. I would love to have a video of the miserable fails of the author, Erica Hendry as she learned to ski. Or maybe she was too afraid of looking bad in front of others to even try.

That’s what most people do, and it’s what our educational system is great at - penalizing those who try and then FAIL (miserably!). Divergent thinkers like Edison will not always get it right and the bystanders who love to gloat will point out their ‘failures’, and even call them miserable.



i know tesla is the new coolness and all that, but i don’t see why edison should warrant yucks for these. i mean, he was clearly thinking about the future and trying things out – isn’t that what inventors do? not everything was a success, and he was cool with that. why can’t we be?

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