Category Archives: technology

Inventions in Everything: A Knockout Solution for Unruly Airline Passengers

Commercial airliners were full of danger for passengers in the 1970s. And not just because of the thick clouds of cigarette smoke emitted from the smoking sections of airliner cabins. Hijacking aircraft became a frequent occurrence as well.

So frequent, in fact, the portmanteau "skyjacking" came into common usage and passengers could buy special insurance in the event their flight was unlawfully commandeered.

Necessity is, as they say, the mother of invention, and the serious necessity of dealing with skyjackers inspired inventor Jack Jensen to invent a solution to the problem. That invention, the Airplane Hijacking Injector, was awarded U.S. Patent 3,841,328 on 15 October 1974.

As you'll see from the patent's abstract describing the invention's purpose and novel application of technology, inventor Jack Jensen wasn't one to mess around:

Passenger disabling apparatus mounted in and under an airplane seat and remotely actuated by a pilot or a crew member for disabling an airplane hijacker. The disabling apparatus comprises a solenoid actuated seat belt buckle lock in combination with an infalable seat back and hypodermic injection apparatus arranged for driving the needle of a hypodermic syringe through the seat cushion into the passenger to instantly sedate or kill the passenger.

Jensen's patent features a sequence of figures that visually tells the story of how the invention works to incapacitate the ultimate unruly airline passenger, which we've animated.

Animation: U.S. Patent 3,841,328 Figures 1-3

We can only imagine what the well-dressed prospective skyjacker's last thoughts might have been as they suddenly discovered they were locked into their seat while being jabbed in their rear-ends by a sharp, sturdy needle and knocked out before having their upper bodies pushed about like a rag doll as they were either sedated or killed.

Since Jenson's invention was patented, skyjacking has become much less common, but the need for airline crew members to address unruly passengers remains. How long might it be before the airplane hijacking injector is repurposed to solve today's growing problem with unruly passengers?

From the Inventions in Everything Archives

This is the second patent whose illustrations the IIE team has animated because of the visual story they tell. Oddly enough, like this patent, it also deals with arresting nefarious people engaged in a specific mode of transport:

Inventions in Everything: A Pat on the Back

You know how it is. You've worked hard and you've gotten something done, but as happens all too often, there's no one around to appreciate your achievement. Not your friends, not your co-workers, and definitely not your boss. Wouldn't it be nice to feel like you were getting some well deserved recognition?

Wouldn't it be nice to get a pat on the back?

Inventor Ralph Piro thought so, and thus, the Pat on the Back Apparatus he conceived came into a world where recognition was needed but not available, earning the award of U.S. Patent 4,608,967 on 2 September 1986.

We can only speculate if Piro's celebration of the event resembled Figure 1 from the patent:

U.S. Patent 4,608,967 Figure 1

To be sure, Piro has genuine empathy for those seeking recognition, which is revealed in the following portions from the background of the invention, in which he draws upon lessons from psychology.

This invention relates to an apparatus which is useful for providing a self-administered pat-on-the-back or a congratulatory gesture....

The present invention is relatively simple to assemble and operate and may be utilized by either a child or adult. One such usage is as an amusement or entertainment device which may be enjoyed either alone or in the presence of a group of persons. In this regard, the present invention is particularly suitable as a humorous gift to an employee or family member or as a party favor.

On the other hand, the device of the present invention may also be utilized to impart significant psychological benefits to the user. In this connection, it is well known in the art and practice of self-administered positive reinforcement activity that various techniques can be successfully employed to extol the virtues of one's actions and thoughts. For example, it has been reported that many wealthy and successful individuals engage in conversations with themselves, that is, they talk to themselves. Such an activity is understandable in view of the often small populace of self-motiviated individuals and in view of the large volume of self-defeatist conversation known to emanate from those of low self esteem. Another type of this activity is that of using mirrors to add visual impact and impression to that of the above mentioned voice feedback techniques.

Recent developments in psychological development techniques point to the need to have an abundance of behavior modification techniques available for the individual who seeks to reach more of the potential which scientists, spiritual leaders, and personal observation teach is attainable. Historically, much of the material available to the individual has been in the form of written material which must be read or studied as part of a course of self-improvement. More recently such technical advances as recorded media has made available voice and visual recordings in which one may engage in the development of a positive mental attitude (PMA). Such PMA materials have been widely received by large sectors of the populace and are credited with improved success in arenas of personal human involvement such as sales, supervision, teaching and leadership.

As mentioned above, in providing for positive reinforcement with prior methods several techniques have been utilized. Most frequently, one who is in need of congratulations or encouragement often tells friends or work associates of his or her feelings and solicits a needed-pat-on-the-back. In the absence of other persons or of persons either friendly or sensitive to one's needs the individual must resort to raising their arm and hand high into the air overhead and bending the arm at the elbow to allow the hand to gently strike the upper portion of the back. This places one in a somewhat uncomfortable posture and additionally lacks the placement of a pat in the most desired middle portion of the back.

Because these methods rely on others which may be psychologically hostile or on a rather contorted physical position it is desirable to have available a more favorable means for providing a pat-on-the-back.

Piro is right to recognize the potential for the psychologically hostile to act against the needs of those needing recognition. Our search of Amazon to find if products inspired by his invention were available turned up an example of that hostility in the form of a series of novelty T-shirts. There were no back-patting apparatuses to be found anywhere on the online retailer's site.

But not all hope is lost. Some tinkerers have stepped into the gap left in the marketplace to build their own device for patting themselves on the back, as demonstrated by the following video:

The question for us all is in whose world would we rather live? That of novelty T-shirts or that of Ralph Piro?

From the Inventions in Everything Archives

This isn't the first time the IIE team featured a patented invention whose purpose was entirely self-congratulatory for their inventor. There is one other:

Inventions in Everything: Counting Your Eggs Before They’re Hatched

They say you should never count your chickens before they're hatched, but what if you're in the business of selling eggs?

In the days before modern poultry surveillance technology, working out how many eggs your chickens were laying could be a time consuming affair. But in 1964, Swedish inventor Hans Eugen Birch-Iensen came up with an innovative solution, which led to his filing patents in several countries. In the United States, Birch-Iensen was awarded U.S. Patent 3,123,044 for his invention of a special harness that egg-laying hens could wear that incorporates an egg counter for recording the laying of each egg, as soon as it is laid.

Figure 1 of the patent illustrates Birch-Iensen's concept:

U.S. Patent 3,123,044 Figure 1

Sadly, the egg-counting chicken harness never really caught on. While it might make sense for the egg farmer raising a handful of chickens in their back yard, it wouldn't make sense for a modern poultry egg producing facility. The amount of labor needed to dress up hundreds, if not thousands of hens in egg-counting harnesses would be very cost prohibitive.

But that doesn't mean you can't get a harness for your pet chicken! There are many available at Amazon, just not any that will count eggs as they might be laid....

Amazon - Chicken Harnesses

From the Inventions in Everything Archives

The IIE team has previously covered the following related inventions:

Abraham Lincoln, Patented Inventor

We're on the cusp of the Presidents Day holiday weekend in the U.S. While the nation's airwaves are once again full of advertisements for car and mattress sales, which is how American businesses have come to celebrate the event, the Inventions in Everything team is going to take a different route and celebrate the inventiveness of past U.S. Presidents.

As it happens, there's only one American President to whom a U.S. patent has ever been issued for something they invented. Abraham Lincoln was issued U.S. Patent 6,469 for his 1849 invention of a manner for Buoying Vessels Over Shoals. Here's the U.S. patent equivalent of Lincoln's later Gettysburg Address:

To all whom it may concern:

Be it known that I, Abraham Lincoln, of Springfield, in the County of Sangamon, in the State of Illinois, have invented a new and improved manner of combining adjustable buoyant air chambers with a steamboat or other vessel for the purpose of enabling their draght of water to be readily lessened to enable them to pass over bars, or through shallow water without discharging their cargoes; and I do hereby declare the following the be a full, clear, and exact description thereof, reference being had to the accompanying drawings making a part of this specification.

Here are the accompanying drawings:

U.S. Patent 6,469 Figures 1, 2, and 3

Better still, there's a physical model of Lincoln's patented invention on display at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History:

Smithsonian Institution: Physical Model of U.S. Patent 6,469

In 2013, Charles Kuralt narrated a 48-minute video segment celebrating Lincoln's patented invention on CBS News' Sunday Morning broadcast. His slow-paced, anachronistic style works well in bringing the story of Lincoln's pre-Civil War era invention for an America that traveled by river to life, where we do recommend clicking through to view it.

From the Inventions in Everything Archives

There aren't any other inventions by those who became U.S. Presidents, but the IIE team has previously covered the following seaworthy inventions:

Inventions in Everything: A Five-in-One Kitchen Multitasker

Kitchen gadgets. If there's one thing all the members of the IIE team have learned over the years, it's that we each have far too many gadgets in our kitchens that only do one thing.

It's no wonder then that the opportunity to combine individual kitchen gadgets into multitaskers to cut down on kitchen clutter presents such an opportunity to inventors. Today's featured patented invention happens to be the earliest device we've found that integrates five separate gadgets into one kitchen multitasker. It's just not any of the five gadgets any of the IIE team would ever have guessed would be combined and officially documented via a U.S. patent!

Meet the subject of the invention for which Canadian electrician Robert Martin Gardiner was assigned U.S. Patent 586,025 in 1897: the Combined Grocer's Package, Grater, Slicer, and Mouse and Fly Trap.

U.S. Patent 586,025 Figures 1 through 5

Each of these figures corresponds to one of the invention's proposed uses, which we've excerpted from the text of the patent:

  • Figure 1: A grocer's package or box with feet attached to one end.
  • Figure 2: A similar figure, with the opposite side constructed as a grater.
  • Figure 3: The same constructed as a slicer.
  • Figure 4: The same as a mouse-trap.
  • Figure 5: The body with vertical feet at one end, preparatory to using it as a fly-trap.

In concept, Gardiner's innovation is to retask a "grocer's package" (or rather, a sheet metal can) for other uses after its primary purpose of holding its original contents has been completed. That's something that becomes a lot more significant when you realize the invention is the result of pre-20th century brainstorming for how to recycle a can. Which becomes more impressive when you realize the concept of brainstorming itself didn't exist as we know it until 1941!

This is the kind of invention the IIE team loves to discover, because there's a lot more in it than what the inventors themselves often realize!

From the Inventions in Everything Archives

The IIE team has previously covered the following inventions for things you might find, whether today or someday, in your kitchen: