A small selection of vintage pieces of technology, some of which were precursors to more modern technological marvels and others of which were unique in the history of invention.
Manufactured in Germany in 1970, the NASEX-1 was the only attempt by Nordmende to enter what many European companies were hoping would be dubbed “The Smelly Seventies” (although, thanks to their various native languages this term only worked alliteratively in the United Kingdom and no companies there wanted to take part); technology that excited the nasal senses was anticipated to be the next big thing.
The NASEX-1 worked with special cassette cartridges to produce pleasing smells in a manner “composed” by scent artists. Unlike modern plug-ins that simply use perfumes, the cassettes for the Nordmende device contained electronic instructions for the machine so that it could manufacture the chemical smells internally. A combination of requiring eight 1.5V batteries, five key chemical capsules in the device, and cassettes to generate the odours made the NASEX-1 very expensive and it never achieved enough sales to warrant its continued manufacture past 1971.
The best-selling cassette for the Nordmende NASEX-1 was Mein Haus by Karlheinz Stockhausen, described as “a nasal exploration of my home in Kürten”. In it Karlheinz took the smeller through his garden, his kitchen, his library, and his sex dungeon in a series of distinct pieces.
Toshari M3/A “Tricorder”
It’s quite likely that you won’t have heard of the Tokyo-based Toshari company or its flagship 1981 invention, the M3/A, dubbed the “Tricorder” by those few people who used it, were Star Trek fans, and lived to tell the tale.
The M3/A was a handheld device designed to be used by medical professionals in quickly diagnosing a wide range of illnesses and diseases. The device had a clamshell form factor with a lower section containing scanning parameter selection through a cursor input system and an upper section containing a monochrome display and the scanning equipment itself.
Although the M3/A was only initially configured to identify two dozen common illnesses Toshari had designed the system to be upgradeable with swappable ROM chips in its base. That, however, was not the root cause of its swift demise in the marketplace. Because of a government-driven desire for technology of this type the normal testing processes were shortened somewhat, sadly with lethal consequences. The Toshari M3/A’s scanner used unshielded gamma rays to perform its numerous analyses and both users and patients alike soon succumbed to a number of side effects including, unfortunately, fatal Godzillaitis. It was only the M3/A’s superior abilities to detect that very same common Japanese illness that enabled the device to be withdrawn swiftly.
Toshari were unable to redesign the “tricorder” before debts from their development costs forced the company’s liquidation.
The X-Hale Electrocigarette Helmet
Predating the rise of the electronic cigarette by six decades the X-Hale Electrocigarette Helmet was the tobacco industry’s first foray into an actual redesign of its core product in order to assuage worries about the health problems associated with smoking.
The helmet was a glass enclosure with shoulder harness that was worn on the head. Like a helmet. The helmet included an aerial for the built-in AM radio and a filter mouthpiece into which X-Hale-modified cigarettes could be loaded. These altered cigarettes would then have their nicotine elements filtered inside the helmet and their tar and other toxic elements filtered outside during the inhalation and exhalation processes. By concentrating the nicotine inside the helmet the amount of the stimulant could be reduced benefitting the industry. By filtering out the more deadly components of its drugs the potential lifespan of addicts could be increased also benefitting the industry.
However, the X-Hale Electrocigarette Helmet suffered from a few flaws. Firstly, it was not easy to wear hats on them and this was the 1950s when hat-wearing was more-or-less mandatory. Secondly, the tobacco industry struggled to marry up its vision of cigarette-smoking as a social activity with a contraption that meant its users sounded like Daleks. Finally, the filtration units were not totally reliable and nearly a quarter of those sold developed a fault that led to a build up of flammable gases inside the glass shield. When teen starlet Rosie Jane Dawson’s acceptance speech at the Smokin’ 53′ awards ceremony was cut short due to a head combustion incident it marked the death knell for the X-Hale technology.