Great Expectations, Tiny Impact: 12 World-Changing Inventions That Flopped

By Krystal Brown

Inventions come about constantly and each inventor believes they are about to change the world as we know it. Some of these inventions do manage to gain some traction, but ultimately, many end up failing. 

Moving Sidewalks

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Moving sidewalks were originally invented in the 1870s but first began operating in the 1890s. It was originally meant to change transportation as we know it, speeding up the way we walk to places and relieving foot traffic in crowded cities. For many years, different versions of these walkways cropped up before eventually settling into smaller versions located in airports or train stations. Once meant to change transportation, moving walkways now simply help you move around in airports. 


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Hoverboards are another invention that was meant to revolutionize transportation. Hoverboards are segways without handles and shift based on how you move your weight. The popularity of hoverboards spiked in 2014 as people everywhere were using them to get around. After many injuries and malfunctions, hundreds of thousands of units were recalled, leading to the invention dying off.  

Global Wireless Power

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Global Wireless Power, also known as the World Wireless System, was a system invented in the 1900s by Nikola Tesla. His invention was meant to change the way telecommunications and the transmission of energy occurred. He claimed these transfers could happen without the use of any wires through his invention. The project was eventually abandoned due to lack of funding, never to be completed. 


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Zeppelins are an airship invented in the 1900s. These rigid airships are flown with the use of gasses lifting the ship and keeping it inflated. These ships were used for the transportation of both goods and passengers. Zeppelins peaked in popularity during the 1930s but were ultimately abandoned after the Hindenburg disaster. The Hindenburg airship carrying passengers caught fire as it attempted to dock, killing dozens and injuring many more. 

Bluetooth Headsets

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Bluetooth headsets were all the rage in the early 2000s. They were small earpieces designed for one ear that made taking phone calls hands-free. They had no other purpose than this and were meant to change communication and be a more efficient way to call. However, this didn’t last long. The earpieces were expensive and didn’t change much. Eventually, devices like Airpods took over this function with extra features making Bluetooth headsets obsolete. 

Car Phones

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Car phones were phones designed for your car in the 1940s and used well into the 1980s. Because of how big and bulky phones were, taking calls on the go was impossible. Car phones changed that and made taking calls easier than ever. However, they were heavy, expensive, and difficult to use. Eventually, the invention of the mobile phone made specific phones for cars unnecessary and they faded out. 


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Pagers were a communication device invented in the 1950s and used well into the late 1990s. These devices receive messages and display them on the screen for quick easy messaging. They changed communication to make it faster and easier, especially in emergency services. However, the invention of cell phones and text messaging made pagers less useful. They are still used by many emergency services, but they have mostly disappeared from public use. 

3D Movies

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3D movies were invented for a small capacity in 1915 but gained traction through the 80s and 90s before peaking in popularity in the early 2000s. These films use light and special glasses to create the illusion of the movie being three-dimensional. This revolutionized films, making them more exciting and interactive for audiences. Eventually, their popularity began to die out as audiences cared about them less and less before they faded out almost entirely. 

Ogle’s Carburetor

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Ogle’s carburetor was invented by Thomas Ogle in the 1970s. He claimed it would revolutionize cars as it would allow them to run on gasoline vapors, resulting in cars that reach up to 200 miles per gallon. Before conclusive tests could be done, Ogle died taking all of his research with him which has not been replicated since. Many speculate about the circumstances surrounding his death and if it has something to do with his invention, but nothing has ever been confirmed. 

Palladium Cigarettes

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Palladium cigarettes were known as a safer version of cigarettes.  Research started in the 1950s found a way to make cigarettes safer and reduce their adverse health effects through the burning of the palladium. Eventually, in 1978, they were ready for launch when the project was ultimately canceled due to alleged threats from tobacco companies against this company. 


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The cloudbuster was invented in the early 1950s by psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich. It was designed to be able to control rain by focusing clouds on one specific area and influencing the atmosphere. His tests seemed to be successful, but the experiment was brought to a halt after being found guilty of contempt of court by the FDA. The FDA destroyed all his machines and research and it has not been replicated since. 

Leaded Gasoline

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Leaded gasoline is gasoline with lead added that was invented in the 1920s. The lead was found to help engine compression and thus improve car performance as well as its fuel economy. It was seen as an invention that changed the way cars run, but it ultimately faded out rather quickly. Adverse effects of lead were discovered after many studies were conducted. Lead poisoning made gas companies give up on this invention for the safety of society.