The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 5 (August 1, 1939)
Adventures in Invention
Man himself is an invention. Sometimes we are tempted to believe him an invention of the devil; at others merely a masticatory mechanism; and then we get glimpses of a finer function which seems to suggest some useful purpose in the engine-house of creation.
Being an invention himself it is not unnatural that he should be bitten by the bug.
Necessity may be the mother of Invention, but Inquisitiveness is the father. If altruists are the salt of the earth, inventors are the pepper. It is they who have pepped up progress until it has jibbed and kicked them.
From the time man was patented, inventors have pushed their noses into the unexplored potentialities of Gadgetry, and have wrested therefrom the secrets of Unlikelihood.
Inventors do not invent because they ache to improve man's lot, but because they are the victims of insensate ingenuity which manifests itself in gad-getry or bankruptcy, or both. For the path of progress is strewn with the financial bones of inventors whose ingenuity has not been capable of extending from horse-power to horse sense. Which explains why the inventors of the most successful inventions are not always the most successful inventors.
Invention and Intervention.
Some of the most involved inventions have returned their creators less than the cost of headache powders, while many of the gadgets anyone could have thought of, but didn't, have promoted their creators from porridge to peerage. It is said that the man who put the permanent wave into hair-pins died most expensively, murmuring the words of the song: “I love the silver in my mother's hair,” whilst the pioneer of celluloid did a fade-out with no box-office returns. But you can't keep a good inventor down—even when he blows himself up.
Many inventions are quite good, but do the right thing at the wrong time, as proved by the inventor who knocked at the gate of Heaven one morning.
“What's your profession?” asked Peter.
“I'm an inventor,” replied the new arrival.
“What did you invent?” queried Peter.
“I invented a new explosive,” replied the applicant.
“Was it a success?” asked Peter.
“Success? Well—I'm here, aren't I?” said the inventor.
Ever since his early youth
When he cut his pristine tooth,
It was clearly evident
Little Willie would invent.
Noseyness, 'twas very plain,
Influenced the infant's brain.
Willie, from an early date,
Hastened to investigate
In a spirit of aplomb
Every strange phenomenon.
As he grew, his natural bent,
Led to wild experiment,
Such as how the soup would taste Mixed with father's shaving paste.
Whether gas is Willie-proof.
Solved by blowing off the roof.
Later, as ambition grew,
Willie wrecked the bathroom, too.
Willie, in his thirteenth year,
Proving an explosive flair,
Made a rocket, half in play,
On the eve of Guy Fawkes day.
When he set it off—adieu!—
Little Willie went up, too.
Of all inventors the home inventor is the most disastrous. He is the terror of his wife and his insurance company. The labour-saving devices he invents usually rear up and smite him and his. Whenever his wife detects him contemplating any part of the house with the brooding look inventors always wear, she packs up and goes home to mother for the duration of the attack.
I knew some people who bought a house from an inventor and who were forced to apply for a “stay of aspirations,” or a “nolle nilly nolle,” or something equally expensive, in order to escape the consequences.
When they pulled out the bath plug, a metal towel arm flew out of the wall and hit them below the belt. When they poked the fire, a jet of coal squirted down the chimney accompanied by a load of soot. The milkman became tangled in a burglar alarm, and sued for damages on account of the iron ball which fell on him out of a trapdoor in the verandah ceiling. The first time the telephone rang, the patent call-recorder sent the electric stove up in a sheet of flame. The automatic shoe-scraper ran amuck and bit off the new owner's big toe. The wife fell through a trap-door into the garage below. The gaseconomiser back-fired and sent the meter through the roof. Finally, when the patent fire extinguisher set the house alight, they decided that the flame of genius was too incendiary.
Scope for Genius.
There is a sharp difference of opinion as to the most useful invention ever invented. Some hand it to the wheel; others favour the bottle. Certainly both have served to make the world go round. It is to be hoped that the invention of the gun will not make it go flat. Apropos of invention:—
Twinkle, twinkle little 'plane
How I wonder what we gain,
Up above the world so high
Dropping terror from the sky