Friday, August 20th, 2010

Writing Prompt – Invent Something

August is National Inventor’s Month.

I wish I’d heard about that sooner. Just thinking about inventions makes my mind spark with ideas.

Here’s a photo of the insides of a robot built in 1960. Note the gun in his right hand. This robot’s sole purpose was to draw that gun and fire more quickly than a human. I like the fact that in 1960, the inventor took the time to pretty the thing up.

Pistol-Toting Robot

Interesting that the robot was a cowboy, but (I believe) cowboy TV shows were popular in the US in the 1960s. I’m assuming the inventor was American. There’s always been a certain level of coolness associated with cowboys, yet I think it’s incredibly stupid (irresponsible? dangerous?) to invent a robot for dueling. I’d much rather have a rifle-toting guard-robot walking the perimeter of my house. Or standing sentry at the front door.

This robot was popular enough that it made the cover of Life Magazine. I can’t find any data on whether or not it could  outshoot a human opponent, but the photo looks pretty convincing that it at least did what was intended: fire a pistol.

Pistol-Toting Robot

Ideas seldom change, but the execution often does. In 1960, the robot’s inventor took pains to make it look human. Attractive, but not really necessary. More than four decades later, inventors used the same idea, but gave over form to function. Check out these gun-toting “soldiers” from 2005. There’s nothing human about them, nothing attractive, nothing soft and warm:

Gun Toting Robots in 2005


Here’s Your Prompt: Invent something. Since we’re only doing this on paper, it doesn’t matter if you think the invention will work or not. We don’t care about the science – we’re only interested in the idea. Be outlandish. Be creative. Design something you’ve always wanted. Be certain to describe how it looks as well as what it does (are you building a 1960 model or a 2005 model?). How much does it cost to build? How long does it take? Does anyone help or is this a solitary invention?

Have you told anyone about your invention? Do they consider the idea crazy? Do they think you’re mad for even attempting such a thing?

You could write a newspaper story about this new invention (“just the facts”) or a feature article about the inventor: why did they create this new thing? How was it conceived? What did it take to build it? If you like to sketch, skip the narrative and draw a sales poster: a large picture of the invention with all the reasons why someone should buy: it will make your life easier by doing what?   It will make what job more efficient? It will save a person time or money (or aggravation, etc.) by doing … what?

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