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Top 10 inventions that never were

Top 10 inventions that never were

In a recent interview with Stool Pigeon magazine, comics kingpin Alan Moore claimed that the high-tech gadgets we now take for granted make us superheroes. His rationale? Not so long ago only the likes of James Bond, Batman and Pilot of the Future Dan Dare would have such covetable kit.

It’s a nice theory. And we’d not normally argue with a) a bona-fide wizard who could curse us if he wanted to b) the genius behind V for Vendetta AND the Watchmen. But I’m afraid we’re not buying it.

So we've all got mobiles with processing power that put a lot laptops to shame. And the likes of the iPhone 4 and HTC Android smarties are indisputably great. Especially when you're using cooler than cool augmented reality functionality that puts the T-1000 to shame.

What's more you can’t deny that the internet has democratised information in exactly the way that early web evangelists hoped. Even if most of us seem to use it to join inane Facebook groups trying to prove empirically that a muffin is more popular than Cheryl Cole.

But the thing is…the thing is…well, here’s the thing: the future has actually turned out a bit 'meh'. At least it has compared to the one that Sci-Fi and the Space Race sold us. Where are the jetpacks, for a start? And shouldn’t we be holidaying on Mars by now supping smart drinks with replicants as space jazz burbles away in the background? It's 2010, for Christ's sake.

We’ve polled the office and come up with the innovations that would mean that the future had REALLY arrived. Here they are in time honoured, top tenular form:

1 Hoverboards

We’ve got Back to the Future II for this particular over-promise. The closest we’ve come to replicating Marty's neon graphic strewn, jet propelled skateboard is the work of one Nils Guadagnin (see the clip above). He's got the look down, that's for sure. And it even hovers. But only if you, erm, don't stand on it.

2 Sexy robots


Who hasn’t cooed over Winona Ryder as a gamine cyborg in Alien 3? And imagined doing freaky stuff to Zhona the replicant from Bladerunner? We have. And we’re only a little bit ashamed to admit it.

What do we have instead? Nokia’s clunky automaton lapdancer in the clip below:

I’ve got racier moves than that. And I’m a knock-kneed wallflower from Reading.

3 Teleporting

star trek transporter

We’re often told that travelling in expectation is better than arriving. Not so. Especially if you’re travelling back from say a four-day festival. Or if you’re struggling to get a cab particularly ruinous night out. With a teleporter you’d be on your sofa in a trice. And you could even set the co-ordinates for the kebab shop on the way home.

4 The mega metropolis

blade runner

Yes we know they’re meant to be dystopian and a warning of what’ll happen unless we change our ways. But just look at that acid rain sheeting down incessantly and imbuing all human exchanges with noirish cool. And then there’s the sleazy neon and brutalist super structures that make the Shard look like Centre Point. Who wouldn’t swap that for tedium of suburban London?

5 Ultraviolent sports & game shows


The blood, sweat, toil and tears of Rollerball and latter-day Roman games survivalism of The Running Man and Battle Royale set pulses racing a million times faster than the bore draws that marked the start of this World Cup. Obvs.

And consider this too: Our Lads trousered millions in wages and endorsement deals for their shocking World Cup showing. At least these future sportsmen are risking life and limb for their inflated pay packets.

6 Lightsabres


Obi Wan dubs his an “elegant weapon for a more civilised age”. So even "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" these were old news. Why then can’t the contemporary boffins working at the bleeding edge of tech get one to work?

We know that ownership would require some seismic lifestyle changes. Ever seen a Jedi who likes getting right on it with the sauce and bifters of a Friday? No you haven’t. That’s because you can’t be in tune with all living things if you’ve got a hangover. But that’s a sacrifice I’d be prepared to make.

7 Artificial intelligence that’s actually intelligent

Computer game opponents with a genuine sense of self-preservation are fairly impressive I suppose. As was Deep Blue giving grandmaster Bobby Fischer a beating on the chessboard way back when. But what about real-world artificial intelligence? Where’re the advances in that?

As my chum Matt Dyson recently lamented in a piece for Dazed and Confused, the closest we get to A.I in our everyday lives are self-service supermarket checkouts that talk to us. And all they do is tell us that “there’s an unexpected item in the bagging area”.

We want intelligent robots that ask us how our day was and cook our favourite dinners for us. And who know just how we like our eggs.

8 Cure for the common cold


Sneezing and wheezing and being able to do nothing about it is getting pretty old now.

We know that the fact that there are 200 different viruses that cause colds and this makes chancing on a cure or vaccine a Sisyphean task. But when you consider how many hundreds of millions sick days cost the worldwide economy, you’ve got to wonder why this hasn’t happened yet.

And that’s before you even factor in the riches that would accrue to say Pfizer if they hit on a treatment. They’d trump the takings to date of blockbuster drugs Viagra, Herceptin and Prozac put together.

9 3D games and proper virtual worlds


Fancy spending an afternoon in prohibition-era Chicago? Or maybe hanging out at the Court of Henry IV? Star Trek’s holodeck lets you do all this and more.

So fully realised are the worlds it creates that if you did spend a few hours you come be forgiven when your grasp of reality frayed at the edges and your in-game character bled into your real life. Which is more than can be said for Warcraft fans who marry meek seven stone sales managers under the impression that they look like their buff avatar Hordak The Berserker.

10 Houses of tomorrow

jetsons house

You know the sort of des res the Jetsons had? We want one. With travelators that transport you from room to room and hoovers that do your bidding. And maybe even a spindly manicuring robot for the missus. The fact that George's place looks like something modernists Frank Lloyd Wright and Oscar Niemeyer would come up with given an infinite budget doesn’t hurt either.

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