As we enter the August heat, it’s worth remembering some of the patents that have made summers more bearable through the years, for kids and adults alike. Below are three that stand out from my lifetime—unfortunately, the oft-cited on IPWatchdog and now-popular Bunch O’ Balloons toy was well after my time.
Let us know in the comments which inventions made your summers cooler.
The Slip’n Slide
In 1960, Robert Carrier applied for a patent on the “Aquatic Play Equipment” that would eventually be marketed by Wham-O as the Slip’n Slide. Brutal but exhilarating, the Slip’n Slide was inspired by the then apparently common practice of “body planing” in shallow water and mud, according to Carrier’s patent application. His device was meant to improve upon this sport and make it safer—although the toy was still recalled in 1993 due to a risk of spinal cord injuries. Potential paralysis aside, this was the quintessential suburban summer activity of the 1990s.
The Super Soaker
With 80-plus patents and more pending on a range of technologies, from toys to thermo-electric converters, Lonnie Johnson has been inventing all of his life. When I interviewed him for the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation two years ago, Johnson said that he began inventing toys because he couldn’t get anyone interested in more complex technologies. His first invention to make it to market was the Jammin’ Jet, in 1987, although the idea for the Super Soaker came first. By 1992, the Super Soaker was the number one selling toy in the world. Today, Johnson has turned from toys to inventions such as the Johnson Thermo-Electrochemical Converter, which won the Popular Mechanics’ 2008 Breakthrough Award. He also is head of Johnson Research and Development and runs programs aimed at attracting underrepresented youth to STEM fields.
The Snow Cone Maker
I was endlessly jealous of friends who had a personal snow cone machine. They didn’t even taste that good, it was just fun to make them. While they had been around for a while before he patented the machine, Samuel Bert’s invention made snow cones a household name. This Snoopy Sno-Cone Maker is the one I remember best.
For more summer-focused patents over the years, see the following articles: