British inventor Thomas Maldwyn Lewis and his partners apparently had some expertise in conveyor-belt technology. So they cast about for novel ways to apply this knowledge. What they came up with was the "mechanized restaurant". Their idea was to put diners on a conveyor belt and move them past serving stations. From their 1948 patent:
In accordance with our invention, the customers are provided with seats and if desired footrests moving in a continuous manner along with a table or like surface, the different courses being placed upon the table at definite positions in the travel of the table so that when the traverse of any particular seat is completed, the occupant has completed his meal and may move to a seat in a lounge or the like to rest and/or to finish his meal with a coffee or the like which may be supplied just before the said traverse is completed.
The inventors argued that this mechanization of the dining experience would "expedite the delivery of meals and enable more meals to be served with the use of a given floor area than is at present possible."
That may be true, but I doubt many restaurant owners would want to invest the money to build one of these, just for the sake of potentially serving a few more meals.
Not to mention the problem of slow eaters. I'm imagining a crowd of diners standing at the end of the conveyor belt, plates in hand, trying to finish their meals.
This post seemed appropriate for Valentine's Day, since it's about an engineer's attempt to use machine logic to improve the "ambiguities of the woman/man relationship".
James F. Hollander was a patent attorney with a degree in electrical engineering. In the late 1970s he invented and patented what he called the "Human Relationship Simulator". It consisted of a box with various dials.
Even after reading his patent, and an article about his invention, I'm not exactly sure how the thing operated. From what I can gather, if a couple were having an argument, or needed to make a decision (such as where to go for dinner), they could both adjust dials on the Simulator, and it would give them an answer. And measure the intensity of their feelings.
Here's more info from a 1977 article in the Asbury Park Press:
Taking a hypothetical issue, such as a man and woman deciding whether or not to go out to dinner, information is fed into the panels. One represents the man; the other, the woman.
Each subject uses dials that represent four areas — compliance with society, attention to own desire, social pressure and personal inclination. The personal inclination and social pressure gauges are intricately detailed to show adamant 'yes' or 'no' responses, or degrees such as strong preference, or very much or some.
Attention to desire is measured in readings of low, medium and high, as is compliance with society.
As the subjects feed this information into the panels, other gauges measure tension, feelings, guilt or pride, emotional independence, like and dislike, and influence, based on each decision.
The machine does the thinking, lights a decision of 'yes' or 'no' and tells the subjects their emotional responses....
In a marriage situation, Hollander said the device could show the individuals why something is going wrong in the relationship if arguments are portrayed and feelings defined.
"I wanted to pick out the ambiguities of the woman/man relationship," he pointed out.
Asbury Park Press - Aug 29, 1977
If that doesn't seem entirely clear, then here's a sample from Hollander's patent:
The decision voltage output of the man-simulator is connected to the threshold detector of the woman-simulator via a sense port. Similarly, the woman-simulator has a decision voltage output port connected to a sense port and input to the level threshold detector of the man-simulator. A switch interrupts each output so that the effect of relationship can be shown. By adjustment and interpretation of the dial settings and decision indications, paradoxes and problems in man-woman relationships are demonstrated.
Before there was Alexa or Google Voice, there was the Butler In a Box. It was invented in the early 1980s by Gus Searcy, a professional magician, with help from Franz Kavan, a computer programmer. In response to voice commands it could control connected household devices. So, it could operate the lights, turn on the heat, make a phone call, etc.
About 9000 of them were reportedly sold. But at around $1500, the gadget was too expensive. Plus, the voice recognition was somewhat buggy. By the early 1990s they were off the market, but there's still some of them for sale on eBay.
In 2005, John Paul Castro of Santa Monica, CA was granted a patent (No. 6,840,665) for what he called the "Balance Watch". From his patent:
A balance watch, a combination of two watches, one measuring hours, the other measuring minutes and/or seconds. Each watch is worn on a separate wrist simultaneously.
Based on the quality of the artwork in his patent, it's apparent he chose not to splurge and hire a professional illustrator.
As far as I know, the balance watch never made it to market. But it would seem easy enough to make your own. Get two identical watches. Remove the minute hand from one, and the hour hand from the other. Then wear them simultaneously on opposite wrists.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.