If necessity is the mother of invention, a bad economy is invention’s annoying, but motivating brother-in-law. During the Great Depression, all kinds of important things were invented including the electric shaver, penicillin, and Monopoly. The 1930s also spawned the first laundromat, baby food, and nylon stockings. The car radio came out during the Depression, and so did photocopiers and radar. And let’s not forget one of the greatest inventions of all time: the chocolate chip cookie, also a child of the Depression.
Since so many people were out of work with plenty of time on their hands in the Depression, they could devote those non-working hours to dreaming of ways to make life better for others which they hoped would make a fortune for themselves.
Today’s economic conditions are similarly ripe to bear the organic fruit of people’s imagination. Maybe we won’t come up with anything as great as the first roll-on deodorant or the non-leaking ballpoint pen, but I predict historians will look back at the end of the first decade of the 21st Century as a time of some very creative inventions.
Apparently, a lot of people are trying to make that prediction come true. According to its executive director, Patrick Raymond, membership in the United Inventors Association has grown 20 percent in the last six months. Attendance at the Silicon Valley Inventors Alliance meetings has doubled lately.
People all over the country are sitting at their kitchen tables or pacing about their backyards, trying to think of “the next big thing.” Some of them have probably enlisted their kids in this effort. They’re saying things to their children like, “Sit down and tell me what kids your age would want. We can change your diaper later.” Similarly, when a spouse asks, “Why don’t you look for a job?” it may be answered, “Are you crazy? I don’t have the time. I have to think of a great invention before everybody else does.”
Thomas Edison had 1,093-patented inventions. How hard can it be to think of one? I’ll prove it to you. Here are some things that I think would make great inventions, and I’m offering the ideas to you, free of charge. All you have to do is work out a few minor details:
Viag-bowow: A sex drug and/or gadget that not only gets you in the mood, but also walks your dog while you’re enjoying yourselves.
Caller ID Switcherooni: This device is for people who want to call their old boyfriend or girlfriend and then hang up once they hear his or her voice. (You know who you are). Nobody wants their old love to find out their identity by seeing their phone number on their Caller ID. The Caller ID Switcherooni doesn’t show your phone number; it shows the number of that good looking, but shallow, person who stole your love many years ago. And that’s who gets questioned by the police for stalking.
Wait No More: An alarm clock that also automatically wakes up all the other people in your car pool so you won’t have to wait for anybody.
The Food Predictor: This looks like a meat thermometer. You stick it in your food, and it will tell you if the FDA is going to declare what you’re about to eat unhealthy in the next five years.
Instant Porn: A device for your computer when you’re at work. So you won’t get caught by your boss, it quickly changes your computer to a porn site from a job search site.
Grand Canyon: This enables you to talk to the pilot from your seat and tell him about what you’re reading whenever you feel like interrupting his trip.
Mirrored Dessert Plates: These plates show more of your chubby face as you eat, so you’ll know when to stop.
You see how easy it is to think of inventions? Now, you try. Oh, I almost forgot. I have an idea for an invention for use after the economy recovers and people go back to investing the same way they used to. I call it the Yes It Can Machine: every time you look at your stocks and are about to put even more money in the market, you’ll hear a recording that says, “Yes, it can happen again.”
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from “Sesame Street” to “Family Ties” to “Home Improvement” to “Frasier.” He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his Web site at lloydgarver.com and his podcasts on iTunes.