Friday, October 08, 2010

1,000 (bad) ideas

Tidying up my messy corner in the basement I unearthed one of my older "ideas books" in which I write down the random ideas that flit through my head quite frequently. Flicking through it I noticed that this book contained idea number 1,000 written on October 3, 2006. Most of these ideas never get implemented but they are fun to go back and read.


Idea 1,000 was In-ear headphones that automatically pause music when removed. The details mention using either a proximity detector to discover when the headphones are in the ear, or a strain gauge to detect the pressure of the ear canal.

The previous idea was Brake lights that show the severity of braking. The idea there was to replace the current 'high-level' brake lights in cars (that are typically a horizontal bar), with a triangle of lights. Under normal braking just the top, horizontal red bar would illuminate. Under heavy braking the triangle would illuminate warning drivers of an emergency situation (particularly useful on motorways at high-speed). Since the red triangle is a common warning symbol this would be instantly recognizable.

I've been filling these books since about 1992. By 2006 I'd had 1,000 (bad) ideas, which works out to about one every five days. Some of them I've implemented (such as l8tr), others I've seen implemented by other people: there's an amusing entry from 1995 about building a networked disk drive service that I wanted to call "I-Drive". The plan was to use FTP as the underlying protocol and make a drive (I:) appear in Windows 95. I: would actually be on the Internet and could be accessed by multiple machines.

The idea I'm most pleased with is my book, The Geek Atlas, because it was (fairly) original. No one else had written "Lonely Planet for Nerds". Overall, perhaps 10 of my 1,000 ideas look like they might be 'good ideas'.

Does anyone else generate ideas like this? And if so, what percentage turn out to be good?

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If you enjoyed this blog post, you might enjoy my travel book for people interested in science and technology: The Geek Atlas. Signed copies of The Geek Atlas are available.

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