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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, Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Getty Images; Right, Okan Metin/iStockphoto
Wintertime tanning under UV light was tried in the 1940s but remained very rare for many years after that. Now tanning is a huge commercial business, with tens of thousands of often-compulsive customers.

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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