The Greatest Inventions of 2002 Reviewed

If you’re anything like me, you love end of year lists. Lists ranking movies, music, television, books, whatever. While dumb losers may complain about how these lists try to quantify things that are in fact unquantifiable, um… shut up. It’s fun. So, instead of ranking 2012 things, let’s reflect on one of the best lists of 2002 so that with the added benefit of perspective, we can look at what we knew about the world in the past. That list is Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2002. And it is terrible. I will use that mention of the list’s terribleness to segue into the…

Dog Translator


I don’t need to tell you that a dog translator is not a real product, do I? That dogs, as loving as they are, are not capable of complex thought. And yet, here we are. “How does it work?” you ask on the off chance that somehow there is some logic to this. Nope!

Samples of dog noises were collected, interpreted by animal behaviorists and stored in a doggie database. When your dog barks, the sound is beamed to the handheld and matched to the database.

So, basically, some dudes heard a dog make a yelp in a lab in Japan one time and were like, “that dog seems to be in the grip of unrelenting ennui,” and so when your dog makes a vaguely similar yelp, that message will appear on your dog phone thing. Also, there does not appear to be a message that says “Why are you pointing a Tamogatchi at me and waiting for me to bark. I’m not going to do it. Stop it. Stop it. Can I have some food now?”

GM Hy-Wire

Hoo boy, they missed the mark with this a little bit. The car of the future! It’s here, gang, the GM Hy-Wire. Take a look:


Forgetting the actual merits of hydrogen fuel cells, (to this day, the fuel of the future!) look at that monstrosity. It’s like a Hot Wheels, but not even the cool red one you wanted. What a disappointment.



You really can’t overstate what a glorious time the early 2000s were for stupid scooters. It seemed everyone had a Razor on which they could awkwardly jump, get 3 inches off the ground and then ask their friends if they saw how much air they got. The most hotly anticipated invention of 2001 wasn’t some Apple thing, no, it was Dean Kamen’s Project Ginger, which was going to revolutionize the way we lived! And then it turned out he had invented the Segway. Anyway, a year later, we were all still looking for the Scooter of all Scooters, and in stepped Trikke, disappointingly pronounced “trike,” not “tricky.”  Because what’s better than two wheels? Three wheels! Anyway, according to Time, “Trikkes are a surprise hit in Hollywood, where Jennifer Aniston, Timothy Hutton and David Spade have all been spotted riding on them.” Well, if it’s cool enough for David Spade, I’ll take seven!



Remember everything I said about the Trikke? It goes like, triple for whatever the Wheelman is. This has the added bonus of being the death trappiest death trap I’ve ever seen in my life.

Color Therapy Lamps

This is exactly what it sounds like, and with prices ranging from $1,300 to $1,700, it’s no surprise that its inventor Snow Lab Design’s website now looks like this:

Screen Shot 2012-12-20 at 11.54.46 AM

It’s pretty staggering how many of the best inventions of 2002 are the product of no longer existing companies (or more damningly, GM). But I doubt that has any reflection on the merits of these brilliant inventions.

Date Rape Drug Spotter

Not that this is a bad invention, but a coaster that you can use to test your drink for date rape drugs is the most Time Magazine invention possible in that it’s related to what at the time was a Frightening New Trend and uses an unnecessary amount of technology/chemistry to resolve a problem.

Burton AG Clone MD Jacket

Why would a snowboarding jacket be one of the best inventions of 2002. Because of this:

With the Burton AG Clone MD Jacket, you don’t have to choose. Designed for snowboarders, the jacket is made with a Sony Mini-Disc and digital music player sewn right into its fabric.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that this is the year after the iPod was released, so, um, yeah, a jacket that has a Walkman glued to it was not exactly at the forefront of technology.

This is a Sony MiniDisc, I think. Just imagine the comfort of having one of these attached to your arm!

This is a Sony MiniDisc, I think. Just imagine the comfort of having one of these attached to your arm!

Earth Simulator

In 1997 a team of Japanese engineers dared to imagine a computer so powerful that it could keep track of everything in the world at once — steaming rain forests in Bolivia, factories in Mexico belching smoke, the jet stream, the Gulf Stream, the works. What’s more, they dared to build it. On March 11, 2002, when they turned it on, the engineers did something no mere mortal had ever done before: they created the Earth.

Another thing this list is heavy on is hubristic Japanese projects. If someone made this thing in a movie, the square jawed guy who eventually defeated him would have some sort of quip about how to try to predict everything is to rob us of our choice, of our humanity as our cackling villain was pushed into some liquid hot magma. Again, I feel like fear/awe of Japan is really ebbing right now as their country is aging, all the technologies they’ve given us are worthless and they’re still weirdly big on fax machines.

Virtual Keyboard

Here’s how they work: a laser beam projects a glowing red outline of a keyboard on a desk or other flat surface. A sensor like those used in digital cameras monitors the reflection of an infrared light projected on the same spot. It can tell which “keys” you are trying to strike by the way that reflection changes.

I find it hard to imagine that even in the dark ages of 2002 people looked at that paragraph and thought, “Hmmm… that seems like a practical and useful way of communicating–I’ll just bring a weird Star Wars-style hologram projector with me everywhere I go–much better than typing, which I can do at a marginally slower rate than I can think.”

I should note that while most of these inventions were terrible, 2002’s list also included those Listerine breath strips and the Roomba, so, not a total loss.


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