#88: Phone-up tone-up

I try pretty hard never to print anything onto paper. You can’t do a keyword search on your filing cabinet; the whole paper thing is so last-century. As for the much touted roll-up, electronic plastic paper, I don’t buy it -at least not ’til it’s as cheap as the ordinary, pulpy cellulose stuff (It had also better be biodegradable or we’ll be up to our armpits in digital chip papers).

Anyway, when I’m forced to liaise with the outside world by means of ‘printing things out,’ the toner cartridge in my never-say-die HP printer usually requires to be extracted, hammered and intricately reinserted within the bowels of the machine. This seems to have the desired effect of redistributing the toner particles more evenly.


Today’s invention is a device which can be bolted onto each new toner cartridge, in the form of a dirt-cheap mobile phone (where would I be without these devices?). When my computer decides that’s it’s going to print something, it automatically makes a call to the phone (in silent, vibrate mode), which gives the toner enough of a jolt to make the resulting document legible.

This will then allow me to spend a happy hour or two, wrestling to remove the fragments of the document from the jaws of the disgruntled printer. Which is probably why laser printers cost as much as they do.

#24: Low-cost head-up display

LED studded wands which, when waved back and forth, display eg the time have been around for a number of years (They are the ones that take advantage of the persistence of vision and seem to project an image in thin air).

I suggest making some practical use of these by attaching one to a windscreen wiper -which would generate the required movement. Ideally, the wipers could be manually offset from the screen to allow the display to continue working, even in dry weather.

This could be wired to an onboard GPS system to indicate the speed of the vehicle (57MPH -SLOW DOWN) or to highlight the location of eg a parking space or a particular feature in the street scene ahead.

#18: Multimedials

Medals have always interested me, both as beautiful objects and because of what they represent. They act primarily as part of the extended phenotype, providing women with increased information about the reproductive fitness of their wearers.

Medals also make a promise to young men that bravery in battle will make them more attractive. As a means of celebrating that bravery, whilst also combatting war, today’s invention is the multimedial: a minor variant on the clamshell mobile phone. These can be worn just as medals currently are, but with each able to show images on an electronic display when worn in the open position.


Soldiers these days commonly carry small moviecameras with them. I suggest they be equipped with a multimedial and if decorated, the footage they shot at the time should be played on the display of the device at subsequent ceremonies and occasions. This would provide members of the public with an insight into what war is really like, without its heroes having to talk about their activities.

Another major advantage of this idea is that the chestfuls of clamshells adorning our monarchs would be conspicuously, yet eloquently, quiet.

#16: Reshredder

To transform a one-cut office paper shredder into its more expensive two-cut cousin, I suggest a reshredder insert that allows the output from a one-chop machine to be caught and fed, at right angles, into the same machine again.

This could be achieved by use of a plastic hopper costing only a few pence.


#15: Flatpack flap

If you’ve ever found yourself standing in the rain with a collection of flat-pack boxes just too much the wrong shape to get into your car (or perhaps even into Elvis’ car), here’s a suggestion you might like to make to the Ikea’s of this world. Or you could just knuckle under and pay them £80+ to deliver your chipboard….

The store should provide, alongside each cardboard box full of furniture components in the collection shed, an identical cardboard box containing nothing (in fact many of each of these spare boxes could be stored flat, adjacent to the goods themselves and at almost no extra cost).


These empty boxes could be unflattened and carried with ease to your vehicle where you could then undertake a small experiment to see if the antique formica effect fitted kitchen you are about to buy will actually be coming home with you that evening. Even items which are not normally boxed, eg armchairs, could have a rough pop-up cardboard facsimile made for this purpose (or you could just take that home and sit on it, I guess).

This idea also saves our warehouse chums the costs and hassle associated with the ‘immediate returns’ department (who have to cater to people who made it as far as the rainstorm outside only to discover their Shogun Landcruiser inadequately proportioned).

#6: Vertical access shopping trolley

A shopping trolley (or basket) which contains a fold-out step and allows small people to reach stuff they can’t get to on supermarket shelves (I’m constantly being asked by people to get them a packet of high-altitude cornflakes).

This would enable more stock to be accessible and make better use of expensive floor space. It might also allow extra pricing differentials/incentives: “Reach up for lower prices.”

If insurance companies stymie this, because they won’t allow shoppers to take on the dangerous task of climbing a step, then maybe some kind of vertical ‘magazine’ can be arranged, whereby products are fed in at the top and customers extract them at the bottom, automatically making available the next item. This would have the added advantage that products could be delivered to the shop in such feeder tubes…and the tubes themselves could announce to the stock control system when a tube was empty. In addition, the current danger of getting a glass jar of mayonnaise on the head would be eliminated.

#5: Stereo vision device for use on theme park rides

The central idea is that by enhancing stereo depth perception for users of these rides, their experience will be significantly intensified at very low additional cost.

Mobile phones now commonly incorporate cameraphones. Two such devices may be mounted on a spectacle frame with lenses positioned so as to roughly double the normal interocular distance. This has the effect of providing an intensified, 3-D view and a correspondingly heightened experience for thrillseeking ride customers.


The spectacle frames might be made available in different or customisable colours, for example. Obviously a similar system might be designed using only prisms, but the use of mobile phones adds value to a purchase which has already been made and makes further use of universally loved and trusted technology. People will, we believe, regard this reuse as ‘cool.’

It may even be possible for a wearer to record their 3-D visual experience for playback (with sound) once the ride is over (assuming synchronisation can be achieved during replay).

Sunglasses manufacturers such as Oakley have already begun to develop all sorts of oddly-shaped, wrap-around glasses embodying electronics.

#4: An end to ironing

Long, long ago I used to iron clothing and so this idea seemed like a winner.

Imagine a shirt which is a flat sheet with a single zip (or the like) running around the outer edge The sheet could have its edge zipped up to form a 3-D shirt.


For ironing purposes, a single press could deal with 100s of the damn things at a time -no more staring at the tv across the ironing board for hours waiting for the appearance of a good programme.