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Yesterday's Failed Ideas Are Today's Great Inventions

A look back at when today's technologies were way ahead of their time

1 min read

Randi Klett is the Photo Director at IEEE Spectrum.

Photos: Left, Hulton Archive/Getty Images; Right, Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images
Pedal-powered stilts were a whim back in 1930; today, mechanical legs from the Japanese company Cyberdyne help disabled or elderly people walk.

When a new idea comes along, people often don’t know what to make of it. That's why so many inventions begin as light diversions and reach the development stage only much later, when applications finally suggest themselves. In this view, though necessity is still the mother of invention, whimsy is just as assuredly its father.

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