It’s about time, too. Sorry for the delay. Been toodling around my land of birth and staying as far from the computer as possible.
On 11 August I initiated the Dumbest & Most Frustrating Modern Invention contest, the winner to receive The Coffee Cup of the Stars! Today, the monumentally anticipated, sensational denouement!
Master of Ceremonies, may I have the honourable mentions, please? Those entries that hewed closest to the spirit of the contest. There was no Car Alarm entry, surprisingly, but there were some close competitors. Here they are in the order they were received.
(The links below take you to the original, in-full comment.)
X PC/MS — DOS and MS-Windows by Paul Murphy.
Windows, when it came out, copied Apple copying Xerox — but what is less well known is that people at UCB had Unix windowing systems running at about the same time and that products like SunView first, and NEWS later, provided solid multi-tasking windowing in the early 1980s — as functional, but more reliable, than Windows 2000/XP 20 years later.
Which is why sensible people prefer the penguin—Linux, that is.
X NO-FEE TV, i.e., Commercial Television by Michael Dowd.
How does one pay for NO FEE TV? By the willingness to subject oneself to the number, intrusiveness, and the often revolting content of the commercials.
The number of commercials on any given program continues to be raised to the maximum pain level and their content often reminds us of various bodily functions we would rather not think about.
That’s why God invented books, Michael.
X Industrial Wind Turbines by John B().
Even though five hundred foot abstract sculptures would look good anywhere, anytime, their use on grid is not improved nor made appropriate by the increase in “economies of scale”. Ten or a hundred or a thousand times worthless is that much more worthless (if scales of worthlessness is possible).
Electricity generated by torrents of hot air was naturally appealing to Congress.
X Cat Toys by Gary.
According to the 2015-2016 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, owners spend an average of $28/year on cat toys. With almost 43 million households having cats, that comes to over a billion dollars. You don’t have to be a cat-lover to realize these dumb inventions are really meant to attract the owner rather than the cat.
X Mission Statements by Joseph Moore.
Does a tiger have a mission statement? Turn tasty prey animals into baby tigers and tiger poop, while terrorizing everything in my territory? No, it does not! Because – follow this closely – it knows what it is doing! A mission statement is conclusive proof that the statemented unit does NOT know what it is doing.
My mission is to convert the world to the Third Way.
X Email by Jay Bhattacharya.
Lowering the real price of placing tasks, information, and solicitations of dubious value on the agenda of busy people was a good idea why exactly? Combine that with the crazy social norm that emails must be answered right away, and it is clear that emails are a step backward from the snail mail they displaced.
It’s tempting to award Jay the prize (recall the rules).
X Automated touch-tone response systems by K Buerck.
No other invention has wasted more time for businesses or consumers. Why do I have to “press 1 for English”, wait for response, listen to a list of 8 possible reasons I have called, then press 9 to hear the list again? It might have been spawned by the lack of qualified receptionists, but maybe we could start a 4 year degree program to train a few.
I suspect all paths lead to the same person.
X Self Checkout Systems by Dan W.
Good idea, bad implementation. The cause of failure is the system logic that weighs the customer’s purchase to detect theft. Invariably this check fails, the system balks and the Self Checkout System loses the “Self” adjective as a supervisor must intervene.
One of the many benefits of the minimum wage.
The Runners Up
And now for the court, the three entries, in order, that made the contest into a nail biter…
4 The Reality Show by Sander van der Wal.
The most pointless TV program in existence. Replace the Telly with a mirror and you can look at a complete idiot for free.
And have just the same frisson of delight, too.
3 Peer Review Process by Terry Colon.
Euphemism for the system of suppressing dissent in science. Science is now safely in the hands of the experts who became experts by not dissenting from previous experts. A perfect circle to produce perfectly circular science.
We’ll see what your fellow entrants have to say about that, Terry.
2 Air Blowing Hand Driers by James.
If you’ve pondered, perhaps like Dyson, “Does a 120 dB scream from a little metal box really dry my hands faster?” and managed to sell this product before any testing, congratulations! In addition, thanks to the energy ‘savings’ of needing 3 or 4 dozen passes, soon these devices will be highly regulated by the EPA. Remember, if you don’t leave the bathroom with a couple wet handprints on your clothes, then you aren’t saving the world.
And now we know why mother always told us to hold it until we got home.
And now the moment the entire Internet has been waiting for
May I have a drum roll, please…
Ladies and gentleman—and you, too, Sylvain—here is the…
WINNING ENTRY Human Resources by Wood.
So-called “Human Resources” is a non-human non-resource destructive spider that seeks our ultimate annihilation. It is the soul snatching nanny-state next door. Annihilation by protection: quite possibly the defining characteristic of all things modern. Flexing its smug muscle, human resources “protects” us from all forms of harassment and discrimination by institutionalizing modernist approved harassment and discrimination. Its highest goal is to ensure, for our happiness and well-being of course, that our daily work of filing papers and answering the phone is in reality just the set props of the most important point of our work: reifying Sesame Street. And as we reify, human resources extracts (by direct draft for convenience) a portion of the fleetingly tangible fruits of our labor to fund things that we “need” but are too dumb to find if left to our own devices. This taxation without representation it smilingly refers to as BENEFITS.
Wood won in a romp, which shouldn’t be too surprising since one of the impetuses of the contest was, as I said in its announcement, the execrable Comprehensive, Employee-Written Performance Review. I have suffered these in the past, and know people who now must go through them. Think: the system was designed and intended to hurl vast stretches of time into an empty black chasm. Reviews also encourage the bastardization of English by enforcing a pseudo-language prose style designed to say nothing using a maximum of words.
Congratulations, Wood! Here is what your prize will look like.