Whacky inventions: Help in the house

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 August, 2007, 12:00am

The Teasmade

How would you like to have a cup of delicious tea delivered to you personally the moment you wake up? Very few of us are rich enough to employ a servant to bring us tea in the morning, but back in the 1930s, we could probably have bought a Teasmade. The British electrical appliances company, Goblin, introduced the popular Teasmade to the market in 1934. The device was basically a kettle with a tube leading to a teapot. The water in the kettle was heated by an electric element switched on by an alarm clock. The kettle was positioned on a spring-loaded pad that tipped up and poured the water into the teapot when the water reached boiling point. And there you have it! There's nothing like a good cup of tea in the morning.

The WashDryIron

British university student, Oliver Blackwell, has come up with a device that is both whacky and brilliant. He has invented a machine that washes, dries and irons clothes. How amazing is that? Oliver's Washdryiron, looking a bit like a metal wardrobe, washes, dries and irons clothes in separate compartments. It can clean 16 items of laundry at the same time. Manufacturers have shown lots of interest in Oliver's invention and the 23-year-old student is hoping that a major company will take up his design. Good luck, Oliver! Your Washdryiron is something we all need.

The Itty Bitty Book Light

One night back in 1982, Noel Zeller was in bed with his wife, Adele, and an argument was about to break out. Noel wanted to leave the light on so he could read and Adele wanted the light off so she could go to sleep. Suddenly, Noel had a brainwave. If he and his wife were having a row about leaving the light on, thousands of other couples must be in the same situation. Noel had an idea about inventing a tiny lamp that would clip onto the back of a book and shine its light only onto the pages. So, the Itty Bitty Book Light was born. This brilliant device was an instant hit and is now a worldwide best-seller.

Jan Louw's Hair Cutter

Having your hair cut is easy. You just walk into a salon and pay someone to do the job for you. Not many people have the courage to cut their own hair, but in 1985, South African Jan Louw invented a machine to change all that. Louw's device was a do-it-yourself hair cutter. It looked a bit like a hairdryer and it was attached to the hose of an ordinary vacuum cleaner. When the vacuum was turned on, suction pulled the hair over the cutting blades and the lopped-off locks were sucked into the dust bag. Would you risk using Louw's D-I-Y hair-cutter? No? Neither would I.


Teflon was more of an accidental than whacky invention. Step one was in 1938, when an American chemist came across polytetrafluorethylene (or PTFE), a substance that can resist high temperatures and has low friction properties. But what could it be used for? A Frenchman, Marc Gregoire, answered that in 1954. Gregoire painted some PTFE onto his wife's kitchen pans to see if it would stop food from sticking. And it did! Two years later, Gregoire started up a new company to manufacture pans coated with PTFE and he renamed the impossible-to-pronounce coating, Teflon. Much easier to say than the original.