These days, it seems like patents are being handed out like candy on Halloween — more than 260,000 patents were granted in the United States during fiscal year 2007 alone.
From the development of the television to the rise of the Internet, some of the most influential devices of the past century have managed to identify specific societal needs and fill the gaps that lie just beyond the realm of human possibility.
But while a few inventions actually succeeded in changing the course of human events, let's just say that hundreds of thousands of others didn't even come close.
For every good invention, thousands of others manage to slip past the patent office's proverbial golden gates, winding up in various states of production and distribution before anyone thought to question the practicality of their design.
It is for these inventions — the worst of the worst — that this list has been compiled.
In no specific order, here are the Top 10 Worst Inventions of the past century — plus two more that might not be so dumb:
1. The Detachable Dog Sack
Enjoy a drive with man's best friend, but hate the hair he leaves behind? Then the detachable dog sack is for you. Now your pet can ride outside the car in a pouch attached with rubber-padded hooks to the open window of your vehicle. Because, let's face it, who needs safety when you have a sack? Click here for more.
2. The Cat Wig
It's pretty difficult to decorate a cat, but with a kitty wig, it's easy! Click here for more.
3. iPhone Fingers
Ranging from small to extra large, one Austrian company offers only the best in latex digital protection to keep your iPhone smudge-free. Click here for more.
4. The Pedal-Powered Wheelchair
For those who can't stand ... but can still pedal. Click here for more.
5. The Inflatable Dartboard
Completely collapsible, the inflatable dartboard could — amazingly — be stuffed into a space the size of a small cup. Great for use in tight spaces and for those looking for a quick, single-player, single-hit game. There's no need to worry, though — it comes complete with a "puncture repair kit" in case anything should go wrong. Click here for more.
6. iFlyz Portable Media Player Airline Holder
Bag of peanuts? $3.50. Toilet entrance fee? Pending. Hands-free iPhone viewing device ready to use even in the "stowed and locked position?" Priceless (i.e., $29.95 with shipping). Click here for more.
7. Battery-Powered Battery Charger
Motorola's P970 was Zen-like in its simplicity — a rechargeable battery that recharged your cell phone's battery via a mini USB port. Too bad it's no longer on the Motorola Web site. Click here for more.
8. Method for Collision Recognition With a Pedestrian
After a hit-and-run accident, it might be nice to be able to know whether you hit a person or a traffic cone — not that there's a difference or anything. Click here for more.
9. Anti-Eating Face Mask
Essentially a metal cage that attaches to your face to prevent those of us lacking any self-control from ingesting solid foods, the Anti-Eating Face Mask is pretty straightforward, but there must be easier ways of losing that extra winter weight. Click here for more.
10. The Prankster Fire Alarm Trap
Coming straight out of the February 1938 issue of Modern Mechanix magazine, the prankster-proof fire alarm traps the hand of any offender in a metal handcuff until the fire brigade arrives to release him. Perfect for fake fires, but in the event of a real blaze, you're taking one for the team. Click here for more.
Then there's two more that sound stupid at first, but turn out to be not so dumb:
1. The Helicopter Ejection Seat
Vertical propulsion and spinning overhead propellers: probably not the best method to escape death. And yet the currently operating Kamov Ka-50 Russian attack helicopter does have just that. Its secret? Before the pilot ejects, explosive charges blow off all six twin rotor blades so he can soar through their airspace without being decapitated. Theoretically, at least. Click here for more.
2. The Zero-Gravity Space Pen
You've probably heard the old story: NASA scientists spent millions developing and creating a pen that would write in upside down and in zero gravity. When faced with the same problem, the Russians just used a pencil.
Supposedly a testament to simplicity, the story is completely false.
In actuality, the Zero Gravity Pen was developed by American industrialist and pen manufacturer Paul C. Fisher and was marketed as the only pen that could write in space, underwater, on wet and greasy paper and at any angle.
Both NASA and the Russian space program eventually adopted the pen, due to the danger that broken pencil tips posed in zero gravity. NASA in no way funded the development of this perhaps not-so-useless invention. Click here for more.