I’m sure many of you have thought of unique inventions or discoveries, did nothing to advance the idea beyond the daydream and prototype doodle stage, then, at some later date, lament someone else bringing “your” idea to the masses, making fist’s full of money and gaining world-wide prestige (e.g. The Snuggie Blanket, Supersymmetic M-theory and The Fart Machine…all originally my ideas!)
We generally keep our great ideas close to the vest, lest someone steal and run with them, ultimately reaping the wealth and glory that we, the originators, are entitled to—right? But, let’s face it, most of us really have no intention of taking out patents, mortgaging our houses and devoting a large chunk of our lives gambling on the marketability of our concept-only inventions, do we? No, the best most of us can expect are bragging rights to a handful of friends and acquaintances, upon seeing our inventions pop up on some late night infomercial: “you know, Betty, I thought about putting dusting slippers on cats long before this commercial came out.” And the worst part is, the reply we get, even from our closest friends and family members, is usually something like, “yeah, suuure you did.” It’s enough to take the wind out of your sails when even your mother doubts the sincerity of your claim to the idea for cat slipper dusters (and no, I don’t think I over-reacted when I cut my 88yo mom off from her stool softener for a week after she slighted me this way).
Anyway, here is your chance to preemptively strike any future doubters of inventions that you have no intention of developing past concept, but may be brought to market by someone else. If they doubt your claim of originality, you can reference this date-stamped thread to which you describe your invention. And who knows, maybe some venture capitalist doper will be so enthralled with your idea, he’ll back you in a start-up company.
I’ll get the ball rolling:
Invention: The Expanded Vocabulary Automobile Horn
Purpose: To bring a degree of civility back to the roadway; to decrease road rage; to decrease accidents/collisions
The standard car horn has a very limited “vocabulary”. The average duration honk is used in most circumstances, usually for the purpose of getting another driver’s attention to a potential, but imminent safety issue, or to express some type of inter-driver displeasure. I believe most of us, as recipient of this irritating, piercing honk, will interpret it as calling you, “JACKASS!”, or something similar in tone and meaning. The longer duration straight-armed honk ups the ante to yelling, “You Big Scum-Sucking JACKASS!.” Even the short duration, karate chop, staccato honk that one typically reserves for less threatening, non-irritated situations, even when executed well, often sounds like it’s saying, “Ass!” “Ass!” “Ass!”. Is it any wonder there’s so much road rage on our roadways when our automobiles can express nothing vocal-wise except low-brow name-calling?
Certainly, in this day and age, the automobile industry has the technology to cost effectively produce horns with an expanded, but standardized vocabulary. We must, of course, keep the current beep, because sometimes you really do need to call another driver a jackass. We simply need to add a few expressions to the repertoire. These could either be actual synthesized voices, or, better still in my opinion, a short series of musical “notes” that convey the intended message.
The most important additions are honks that translates as, “may I?” and the replies, “sure ‘nuff” or “sorry, no”. The most common use for this exchange would be when passing on the right on a multi-lane highway, with the intention of cutting ahead of the car on the left. We all hate it when someone cuts ahead of us on the highway, but would we mind nearly as much if they asked permission first? If, just ahead of me on the left, a driver flashed his turn signal and asked “may I”, I’d nearly always reply, “sure ‘nuff”, then fade back giving him room to cut in (of course, he’d better follow up with the little wave-of-thanks, or he gets a follow-up “JACKASS!”). To express this call and response musically instead of synthetically-voiced, I’d like to use the “do do da do do” from Shave and a Haircut as the “may I?” with the response, “do do” as the affirmative or a descending-pitch wa-waaaa trombone slide as the negative.
We could certainly add more expressions to the car horn vocabulary (“wolf whistle”/”no chance, loser”; “will you be leaving this parking spot anytime this week”/”not till I make you squirm a little longer, Mr. Parking Lot Stalker”; “Police Siren”/”I gave liberally to the Fraternal Order of Police this year, officer”…etc. ), but, in the interest of keeping the steering wheel horn buttons to a manageable few, I’m inclined to stick with those mentioned above.
Comments on my new horn? Investors? I may share one or two other million dollar ideas down-thread, but now it’s your turn. Bogart your inventions no longer, you’re not going to take them to market, so share them with us. We need a few laughs.