By Andrew Mitchell
Let me start off by saying I’m no Ben Franklin with his fancy kite and key or Thomas Edison with his 1,093 patents. I’ve never actually invented anything, except for a few nicknames that stuck, and wouldn’t know where to begin filing a patent application if I ever wanted to take one of my ideas to the next level.
That admitted, it’s fair to say that I’ve invented literally thousands of products over my life, usually at a time when I could use a little help with something but the exact thing I need doesn’t exist. I’m always envisioning better ways to do to things, refreshingly unburdened with any design or engineering credentials.
Sometimes, if I feel an idea has promise, I’ll write it down somewhere and file it away with all my other valuable scraps of paper, like unclaimed tax receipts from 1998 and the chord pattern to Pearl Jam’s Corduroy. One day I’ll get around to memorizing that song…
Now, with the advent of two new television shows where inventors can go to showcase their ideas — American Inventor on ABC and the far better Dragons’ Den on CBC — I’ve been inspired to blow the dust off my archives, roll up my sleeves, and patent one idea. The trouble is, which one do I patent?
(Disclaimer: Just by writing and publishing these ideas I’m afforded some copyright protection. As far as you know, all ideas presented are patent-pending, and any attempts to steal my ideas will result in swift legal action and a brick through your front window.)
Crowbars — A nuclear physicist I know has assured me this idea won’t work, but the basic idea is to change the way bike pedals are positioned. Instead of anchoring them directly the spindle of the bottom bracket, I would offset the slightly bent pedals on either side of the spindle to create crowbar-type leverage. For one thing, I think it would help my climbing when I come to a stop between pedal strokes, while allowing for the added leverage of a slightly longer pedal that doesn’t feel longer. For another, I think the design would allow you to put more power into your downstroke instead of pushing against the spindle when you’re at the top of the pedal rotation. Again, I’ve been presented with mathematical drawings depicting all the problems with this idea, but I choose to be optimistic.
Shapeless toilets — I hate cleaning, and despise cleaning the toilet. All those nooks and crannies around the back of the seat, those knobs that hold the toilet to the floor, reaching around the back to wipe up that grungy stuff you hope is just a water stain… Gross. My idea is to make toilets easier to clean by backing all the porcelain right back to the wall, and making the surfaces flat from the top of the bowl down to the floor. I’d also change the seat anchoring system so there are easy to clean gaps.