I think we have all had times when we couldn’t seem to concentrate on our work. Or maybe you had a child who couldn’t concentrate on their homework. Well, in 1925, an inventor named Hugo Gernsback, a Luxembourgish-American inventor, writer, editor, and magazine publisher, invented a helmet to make sure a person focused on their work. It was called the Isolator, and it was…well, bizarre. Gernsback was often known as “The Father Of Science Fiction,” and one look at his invention can tell you why that might be. The Isolator was a wooden helmet that blocked out sound and vision in order to help the wearer focus on whatever task was at hand. Gernsback claimed that the helmet blocked out sound by up to 95%, and the tiny glass spy-hole ensured that no amount of movement nearby could be seen, so that the wearer was not distracted. This would eliminate all outside distractions, and barely give enough room for the wearer to see the work in front of them, and nothing else.
While it might have been a great device to help the wearer focus, it looked more like some kind of medieval torture device. The front of the device had an oxygen tube that was attached to a bottle of oxygen, so it was impossible to eat and study too. So, with no sound, no food, no way to play video games, the modern child would have no choice but to focus on homework. Now, I don’t know if the device could be locked in place…only to be removed when the work at hand was done, but if that is the case, I would think the wearer would get right to the task, so that the device could come off sooner. Just think of how much studying a college student could accomplish. Of course, my guess would be that even a person who was not claustrophobic before wearing the Isolator, would be claustrophobic after wearing it…not to mention a little paranoid, and leery of the person who made them wear the Isolator in the first place.
The Isolator never really caught on, and I think anyone can see why that might be, but I guess it might have been a good idea, had it not been so archaic and confining. Of course, that was only part of the problem. The wearer also looked ridiculous, and while they could be anonymously ridiculous looking in some places, it didn’t work that way at the office or in study hall, where everyone knew who was in the office or class. And, of course, it would be really creepy sitting next to someone who was wearing the Isolator. I think we will have to chalk this one up to a good idea gone crazy.
As we start football season, I recalled a picture that I had seen among my mom’s old family pictures. It was a football practice session most likely at a local school. That reminded me of something I had read a while back about the changes in football gear over the years. As we all know, football can be a dangerous game. Sometimes, the players are hurt slightly and sometimes, quite badly. Unfortunately, it was those injuries that have founded the need for better protection, and therefore, better gear. When American football appeared on college campuses in the 1870’s little was known about the brain damage that could occur from some of the impacts that are a natural part of the game.
In those early years, head protection was rarely worn. As far back as the 1900’s, they had the “head harness” which was a soft leather version of today’s helmet, but it was mainly to protect the ears. I suppose it did, but it also made it difficult to hear, so not many players wore them. Newer versions of the helmet appeared as the years went by, featuring holes for the ears, so they could hear the plays and movement around them. They were made out of plastic, and featured a suspension system to keep the helmet from sitting directly on the player’s head. This also provided a little bit of cushion for their head. Of course, we now know that those older versions did not provide enough protection from concussion, and the newer versions probably don’t do enough either, but they are much better than their predecessors.
In the early years, players were subjected to ridicule for putting padding in all the necessary areas that we now know need protection. It was treated as…well, wimpy back then. Now plastic is a part of shoulder pads and pants. It isn’t a perfect solution, but the key here is to keep the players in the game, if possible, because we all know that one of the best things about fall is football…to some people anyway.
When Barry was a little kid, he liked to ride motorcycles. Like a lot of boys, the ability to drive…even if it is only on dirt…makes them feel like men. So, if given the chance, they will ride the motorcycle or four wheeler. And if their dad is into bikes, the boys are even more likely to want to ride one. These days there are tracks with cool jumps for the kids and lots of ways to make it a family outing, but back then, Barry rode around the dirt roads north of Casper, where his grandparents lived.
Barry thought anything that had to do with motorcycles was cool back then. In fact, he would sit on the parked bike, just to be on the bike. But, riding was the most fun, of course. Barry was always a kid who liked tractors, motorcycles, four wheelers, and even riding lawn mowers. Anything that was mechanical, so it made sense that he would want to ride non-stop.
What was really kind of cute though was that when he got his helmet, he didn’t want to take it off. I think that kid would have slept in it if he could have. Every time you saw him, he had that helmet on. He wore it in the house, and out to play, and of course, riding. It’s a natural thing for a kid to do. It always seemed to Barry that he was having to wait on others to ride, and that was a bummer. He always felt like he had to fight for his turn to ride.
These days Barry is all grown up and has his own toys. He doesn’t have to ask permission now. He can get out there on his riding lawn mower and ride to his hearts content. Boys never really outgrow their toys, the toys just get bigger and more expensive, right? Well Barry, now you can have any toy you want…as long as you want to pay for it, so enjoy. I don’t think anyone will fight you over this one. Happy unbirthday Barry!!