Just like those one hit wonder pop songs, there are one hit wonder inventions that were revered with much success at the time, and either died a death immediately afterwards, or the inventor didn’t come out with anything else. There have been numerous inventions in the Information Technology industry that could create their own article, but I’m focusing on original items that we’ve heard of, and likely own! I frequently wonder what the inventors are doing now, having created their one hit wonder inventions.
This has to be one of those one hit wonder inventions that makes the most famous list, in addition to being on my original one hit wonder invention list. The Rubik’s cube was invented by a Hungarian architect, Erno Rubik, in 1974, but he did not intend to create a toy! His invention stemmed from a means of displaying a working model explaining three-dimensional geometry! The 'magic cube' (as it was first known) consists of nine colored squares on each side and can be arranged 43 quintillion ways. After being displayed at the Nuremberg Toy Fair in 1979, it became a huge hit and was licensed to the Ideal Toy Corp in 1980. Since then, it has sold 350 million units, making it the biggest-selling toy in the world.
What an invention these dolls were! I owned one as a youngster and remember it coming with its own birth certificate and interchangeable diapers and clothes. Xavier Roberts created this collection of dolls in 1978 and they became one of the most popular range of dolls during the 1980s. Numerous toy manufacturers produced them, from Coleco, Hasbro, Mattel to Toys “R” Us Kids. A cartoonist, Art Spiegelman, invented the evil “Garbage Pail Kids” trading cards in 1985, as a sort of spoof on the original Cabbage Patch Kids.
Dave Kapell was the mastermind behind magnetic pieces that people stick on their refrigerators, creating crazy sentences and wacky slogans! It started in 1993 when the aspiring musician sneezed over some cut up song lyrics, scattering the words all over his desk. He thought if he put magnets on his words and attached them to a baking tray, it would help keep them in place. Thus his idea was born and became marketable; Dave sold his products in big chain bookstores and gift shops alike in 1995, and twenty years on, he’s still selling them (with some different variations).
The concept of a waterbed is not really new, but as with most inventions, it’s all about timing and when a product hits the market. The waterbed became a ‘hot seller’ during the late 1960s, which was in part due to the sexual revolution occurring at that time. Nowadays, waterbeds aren’t as popular, but they still account for about 5% of the mattress market.
Everyone knows someone that owned or still owns a lava lamp (whether in college or after)! This is personally one of my favorite inventions. The concept of lava lamps was inspired by British inventor, Edward Craven, who got his idea while drinking in a London pub one evening. During his time in the pub, he spotted an oil and water bar light and wound up refining the design using an oil and wax mixture. It was this mixture that created colorful psychedelic blobs, when heated by a light bulb.
Advertising executive Gary Dahl invented these smooth rocks that were contained in a cardboard “pet carrier” and stuffed each box with hay and labeled it “Pet Rock”! A training manual was also included inside each cardboard box. Pet Rocks have sold millions since their inception in 1975.
If you’ve driven on a motorway in the UK or Hong Kong, you’ll know about this product! One of the greatest accident prevention inventors, Percy Shaw created the idea of cat’s eyes after being inspired by the eyes of a cat hitting his car’s headlamps in 1933. The devices reflect back the headlights of vehicles at night and were created in different colors: red cat’s eyes were developed for the hard shoulder of motorways, white for the center of roadways, and green for slip roads and junctions. The Solarities have slowly been replacing cat’s eyes since 2007 and this invention, invented by a former London fireman, only requires two hours of sunlight to keep them going for up to ten days.
While the majority of these inventions are toys, there are still some one-hit wonder inventions that became household items, like magnetic poetry and lava lamps! It just goes to show you that one simple idea sparked these inventions. Did any of these inventions surprise you?
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