rejected inventions

More often than not we take the world around us for granted. We don’t think much about the things that form it.

So, when someone comes up with a weird idea, few people see the potential behind it. The normal response to that is “The world is already at the limit, we can’t make it even better”.

You’d be surprised to learn that this was the case for centuries. Some of the inventions that shaped the world as we know it were not taken up immediately. Here are 7 of them!


While Turbinia means little to the world of today, it brought up a major change back at the beginning of the 20th century.

The story of this ship is a stereotypical story about success. It didn’t start in a garage, but it was as close to it as it could.

The man behind it, Charles Algernon Parsons, designed a turbine boat from scratch. He had to learn naval engineering to do that. The company he hired to produce the invention never built a boat before, but their collective work helped rebuild the UK navy.

In 1897, the year it was shown to the world, the UK fleet was made up of sailing ships. Sure, they had small coal-powered engines, but they were used for maneuvers. The navy still used wind power for long-distance travel.

The speed of these ships depended upon the wind, with a moderate breeze generating 14 knots or 25 km/h. Turbinia’s top speed was 34 knots or 62 km/h.

As many other innovations, a completely coal-powered ship that worked on turbines, not sails, was not viewed well by the navy. How did it get its chance?

The inventor took out his creation to the Spithead Navy Review, a naval parade of a sort, where the Admiralty and members of the royal family gathered to look at their fleet. Parsons dashed past the sailing ships in Turbinia, impressing the attendants.

In a couple of years, the navy was building these ships en masse.


You can’t imagine the world without bicycles. Despite the fact that we’re still very much car-oriented, bikes are becoming more popular because of the cost and global warming concerns.

In the early days of the invention, few people thought bicycles were any good. At best, they were considered a funny thing weird people do. John Keats named them “nothing of the day”.

While they did go out of fashion for some time, the work on them never stopped. In the 1850s, a new type of bicycle was developed, and that construction stuck for good.

Light bulb

A lightbulb is so simple that you rarely think about it as an invention. In the century where people used to kill whales to light their flats with their fat, the lightbulb was a big thing.

So big that when Thomas Edison announced he’d be showing his new invention to the world, many scientists arrived at his lab in New Jersey to see it for themselves.

Still, some people were not thrilled to see it. Henry Morton, the first president of Stevens Institute of Technology, called it “a conspicuous failure”.

Alternating current

You probably don’t think too much of how you get the electricity, and you have to be a tech geek to know it’s the first part of the legendary AC/DC name.

Alternating current ended up being the predominant way we transport electricity, even though its inventor, Nikola Tesla, received little credit. His patent was bought by another man, and it was he who brought us the AC.

Who stood up against it? None other than Thomas Edison himself. The scientist was skeptical of Tesla’s idea and thought no one would ever use it.


Wired telephones are a thing of the past now. In the 1800s, transferring your speech across the city with a wire was a new idea.

The first invention of the telephone-like machine dates back to 1844, so Alexander Graham Bell was not the very first man to come up with the idea. Despite this, when he tried to sell his patent to Western Union, he was rejected. The executives didn’t think the telephones would sell.

After Bell created his own company, Western Union tried to copy his creation, but lost the legal battle and went out of business.

Personal computers

While in the 1950s a computer was something only a selected few had the privilege to work with, today, everyone works with a computer. Whether you’re a software engineer or a farmer, you need a computer to be productive in the workplace.

However, some people were not sure that computers would catch on. Even the people in the industry were skeptical. Ken Olson, the founder of a computer company, said that he could not imagine a reason one would want to own a computer.

If the industry followed the words of pundits, not the market demand, you would not be able to binge-watch Netflix or use an APA format generator.

Bubble Wrap

The history of bubble wrap is weird. The people who invented it wanted to create a textured wallpaper. While the feel of bubble wrap definitely matched the weird conceptions of the future people had back in the 60s, this failed.

But the creators didn’t stop. They tried to market this product as insulation. A strange decision as it was, it didn’t stop the success of the material.

The company that sold bubble wrap became successful when IBM started wrapping their products in it.


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