#131: Basic inkstink

Way back in the dotcom era, there were business plans aimed at making the web smell good. A series of inkjets (embedded perhaps in one’s computer) would be programmed to react to codes in a webpage and blast out scent at the unsuspecting surfer.

Today’s invention is an adaptation of that idea. Given that many existing inket cartridges have a chip on board that can regulate the amount dispensed precisely, I suggest creating a handbag-compatible scent ‘printer’. This would have an ipod-like interface and allow the user to dial up the amounts of each of, say, three or four scents in order to deliver a blended smell that would be unique to the individual.


If uniqueness were particularly important to the marketing process, each machine might be enabled to dispense only a certain subset of possible scent combinations, as authorised by the codes on a prepaid swipe card. Scent intensity might be automatically varied with the time of day, becoming ‘heavier’ for evening events.

A simpler approach might be to cannibalise existing inkjet technology on the desktop and allow it to fill a conventional spray bottle with the right proportions of material.

For the more desperate male customer, a range of pheromone extracts could of course be supplied. People might be allowed to swap or trade scentcodes and, on foming relatiionships, hybridise their individual smells.

#130: Storm in a plastic bag

The good news is that I seem to have overcome my obsession with catflap design. The bad news is that vacuum cleaners have taken their place in my daily ruminations.

In the ideological war between the bagged and the bagless, I’m a conscientious objector. The main reason for not having a bag has to be that it is replaced by a cyclone extractor which maintains suction (or double cyclone, if you want to be patent-picky). The downside here is that a big transparent box is required, in which the stray toenail clippings can gather.

Today’s invention is to make the dual cyclone a bagged vacuum cleaner. Instead of that big, heavy, transparent housing, simply use a circumferential clip which allows a small, clear plastic bag to be attached to hold the crud. This also serves to reuse all those ridiculous supermarket food bags that clog the kitchen, reduces the weight of the machine and still allows observation of the collected dirt (If you insist. Perhaps it’s an alternative entertainment for those people who continue to think TV is a good idea and whose spin dryers are on the blink).

Most importantly, this approach makes getting rid of domestic detritis much easier than fiddling with button-released containers that are always hard to re-seal -by allowing the bag to be slipped off the machine, nipped closed and dumped every time it’s used.

#129: Emergency calling credit

Parents can easily get hold of emergency-only phones, but try insisting that your fashion-conscious teenage offspring carry one. Danger-conscious parents, on the other hand, (sometimes maligned as “overprotective”) would all like a way to use their child’s existing mobile phone as a tool by which their scared, lost or soaking wet progeny can call home.

My problem has been that the credit on phones is not partitioned: it can easily be exhausted by chatting to a boyfriend for the required three hours.


Today’s invention is therefore to arrange that each phone plan incorporate a reserved calling credit partition, linked to a single emergency number. This will probably be charged at the ultra-ultra-premium-eltonjohn-diamonds-and-platinum rate, but at least it will never run out of calling credit.

#128: Locust vacuum

Locusts swarm, apparently, when they become so crowded together that the rate at which they brush each other’s back legs gets beyond a joke. When they then descend on some unsuspecting field in vast numbers, you can say goodbye to whatever crop was trying to grow there.

So the world now has locust control programmes which consist of spraying insecticides or fungal particles on them. This is probably not that good for the environment, even if the volumes of chemicals involved are small.


Today’s invention is to use vacuum cleaners to suck up the offending critters. No point using a bag cleaner of course, so I propose that a large cyclone device be designed, using eg oildrums and fitted at the bottom with a fan powered by a small diesel engine. This would have a large inlet and be cheap enough for every farm to have one fitted to a trailer so as to be manoeuvrable into position beneath a swarm.

The bugs would be sucked into it in large numbers, probably coating the inside gradually with a layer of their carcasses. The majority would be deposited in a hopper (sorry) enabling it to be converted conveniently to animal food or fertiliser. (I had an uncle who ate fried locust paste from a bucket whilst serving in the 8th Army and he said they tasted good -manna from heaven).

Does Dyson have a patent that covers pest control -and cookware, I wonder? ; )

#127: Charity swear box

It’s a major challenge sometimes for me not to utter the most extreme expletives. When I’ve tripped over the cat or received yet another insulting TV licence demand, or dropped paint on the carpet, or some IDIOT with a luckybag licence has just cut me up in traffic…etc, etc.

I’m not that keen on my children learning such terms (partly since there is always a danger of getting enigmatic enjoinders from the school banning the words ****, ****, **** and especially **** ).

Today’s invention is therefore a modern version of the old-fashioned swear box.

A microphone feeds into my ever-present laptop, which is running speech-to-text software. Every time it detects a banned word (I have a mercifully limited repertoire of these), it emits a very annoying noise (think Windows at startup) and automatically debits my PayPal account by £1, as a donation to UNICEF.

You could, of course, strip out the motherboard, soundcard, network card and microphone from a pc , stick them in a small box and sell it as a blasphemy sentry.

#126: Glovapron

Don’t ask why, but I’ve been searching lately for today’s invention: a pair of rubber gloves integrated into a rubber apron. It seems that no such product exists. I had thought that the military or the nuclear industry would need this thing, or even people working as drainage technicians, vets or in abbatoirs…but it seems they haven’t realised it yet.

Rather than have to worry about gunge penetrating between glove-end and sleeve-start, I’d like to be able to walk into a one-piece overall that would be sure to protect my clothes.


It seems to me perfectly possible to injection mould such an item, although the tooling would be tricky to perfect, even for an ultra-utility product where surface finish isn’t that important.  I suspect, though, that the preferred approach would be to bond existing gloves to rubber aprons with arms. There could still be three different hand sizes available, but the arms and wraparound apron would be deliberately loose-fitting to enable some ventilation.

As with all great products, after use -just hose it down.

#125: Tape-end detector

I’m still driven crazy by the occasional need to detect the end on a roll of sticky tape. This stuff is now so thin that I can’t seem even to feel where the end is using my fingertips, certainly not when I’ve got only 20 seconds in which to wrap that last minute present.

Today’s invention is to avoid using that toilet-roll cardboard material to wrap the tape around. Instead, I propose that all (transparent) sticky tape be sold wrapped around a clear plastic ring. When you need to find the end, simply hold it up to the light and look through both the tape and ring.


#124: News vendor

Although the signs are that every corner of the globe will soon be a wireless hotspot, I’m betting that a fair number of people will baulk at always carrying some kind of wireless appliance with them (some individuals will tire of perpetual accessibility, some will remain resolutely unnetworked).

For this section of humanity, I propose today’s invention: the wireless-networked, public-space printer.


This would be a coin or credit card-operated device, small and cheap enough to bolt to the wall of pretty much any public building or conveyance. Users could choose to buy a one-sheet hardcopy summary of up-to-the-second news, a local map or perhaps a children’s colouring/game sheet.

(Anyone carrying a USB compatible device, eg a camera rather than necessarily a laptop, could pay to simply plug-in and download a larger filefull of information and news images).

This would provide another avenue for selling focussed news journalism, rather than editorial pap, celeb goss and ads. Naturally the paper would be recyclable (perhaps usable as travel napkins before binning).

#123: Sock showcase

Socks are for most adults, a utility purchase: they aren’t on show when worn and therefore don’t self-advertise.

Today’s invention attempts to address the second class citizenship of socks in the world of high fashion.


Children have long been familiar with ‘jelly’ shoes, mostly as beach wear. I propose to create a range of similar, ultra simple clear shoes for adults and to sell, with each pair, six pairs of highly-priced, limited edition, ‘designer’ socks (think Swatch for feet).

With socks now highly visible, these would be a topic for conversation and a further opportunity for self expression (if people will wear Crocs, they will certainly go for this).

#122: Skylight wiper

One of the major problems with non-vertical windows of every sort is that any dirt which accumulates blocks the normal drainage channels which they incorporate. This frequently leads to a dam effect whereby rainwater is trapped and overflows the lip of the window -into the building itself.

These windows are usually on rooves or out of sight and the problem is not dealt with until water ingress has caused expensive damage.


Today’s invention is a simple device which will sweep dirt from an unattended window before this situation arises. I noticed, when driving my car in winter, that a substantial block of snow was spinning on the rear window: in the grip of a stable vortex (the real streamlines don’t resemble those in the brochure, it seems).

I propose to equip all skylight-type windows with a thin disc of translucent plastic (PTFE, with a small boss on the rear face perhaps would minimise friction).

Powered only by the wind, this would carry some small vanes on the outer surface and be constrained to spin across the face of the window, spitting dirty water off before any residual clag could be deposited.