- STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images, Ricardo Funari/Brazil Photos/LightRocket via Getty Images
- The year is now 2020.
- Just over 100 years ago, some predicted that flying cars and traveling to the moon would be regular parts of people’s daily routines.
- Yet it still takes several minutes to toast bread.
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We’ve landed men on the Moon, eradicated diseases with vaccines, and shrunk computers into handheld devices.
But still, some basics of life don’t measure up to how useful or exciting they were once hailed to be.
From toasters to flying cars, here are 12 inventions that still fall flat.
The first pop-up toaster was invented in 1919, patented in 1921, and has since become an essential part of any kitchen available in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
Nearly 100 years later, toast-seekers still face the surprisingly tricky task of achieving an evenly toasted piece of bread that pops up the exact color of your liking. Any home or online retailer has a wide range of price points that can confuse consumers debating on whether a pricier toaster means perfection decades after the appliance came on the scene.
Examples of public bathrooms trying to strike the right balance between sustainable cleanliness and accessibility vary widely throughout the world.
Those in need of a bathroom stop in cities like New York might resort to a Starbucks or McDonald’s for free toilet use, while cities in Europe often charge a small fee for public bathrooms in airports and stations.
Kiosks and small booths containing single-stall public bathrooms have taken off in various cities as easy stops for tourists who are out and about, but maintenance that keeps the bathroom from becoming disgusting or dangerous is an ongoing question.
Water faucets are a common target for innovation, most recently with Moen proposing a voice-controlled take on a spout that would dispense a precise amount of water without a touch.
Though automatic faucets are often used to prevent water waste in public restrooms, low-quality sensors often leave users with awkward timing and no control of the water temperature, sometimes leaving you reeling from unexpectedly hot water, or waving your hands under the faucet while nothing happens.
The automatic sliding door was first invented in 1954, but H.G. Wells wrote about the futuristic installations nearly 60 years earlier.
The reality is decidedly less thrilling. The sliding door has become popular in a wide variety of public places for an easy entrance that allows for large flows of people. But more often than not, people run into the glass, get stuck, or awkwardly dance with the sensors.
Disposable coffee cups
Coffee cups have become a hot topic of debate with more people trying to decrease waste in their everyday lives, but that doesn’t mean there’s a clear solution.
Though they have a place in people’s daily routines across the world, the convenient receptacles can still be disappointingly flimsy, causing spills or burns from hot coffee.
The versions meant to hold iced coffee and the reusable models are just as challenging, creating a near-constant search for consumers and vendors for the perfect combination of less waste and more easily accessible liquid in one convenient cup.
Straws are also at the heart of the sustainability debate, as the traditional plastic ones are increasingly being traded in restaurants and cafes for alternative materials, usually made of paper.
Despite the well-intentioned inventions looking to harm fewer sea creatures, some have been quick to reject paper straws as flimsy and disappointing. Some vendors have experimented with other samples made from unexpected materials like bamboo and pasta.
Though bras have ancient origins in a wide variety of early body-binding techniques, the modern market for lingerie and intimate apparel has continued to grow as vendors continually promise consumers a more comfortable, more attractive take.
Theories abound on how to find the elusive perfect size and shape bra for every body, and brands have capitalized on new trends to keep bra wearers adding to their underwear inventory.
But overall, they’re still largely uncomfortable, expensive, and don’t fit very well.
- Russell Cheyne/Reuters
Heels were popular accessories for male and female royalty as far back as the 16th Century. They can elevate any outfit by forcing wearers to stand a little straighter and, some say, increase their level of attractiveness.
But they’re often painful and daunting, creating a never-ending search for pairs that mix comfort and style. And balms and pads are often still necessary to make steep heels more bearable.
- Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images
A flying version of perhaps the most-used form of transportation has been forecasted as a sign of the far future for the last century, but inventors and vendors have struggled to come up with a sustainable model that’s ready for production.
Current models would run well over a cool $1 million, making them unrealistic for most drivers at the moment, but some inventors have held true to the prediction they will become a new norm in the coming years, so “The Jetsons” might not be just a disappointing far-off fantasy for long.
The Segway was initially hailed after its reveal in 2001 as a revolutionary invention that would transform the way people traveled to work and throughout cities.
However, the Segway has since become more identifiable with mall cops and fleets of city tours as its confusing and bulky construction made it difficult for commuters to adopt into their everyday lives.
Google Glass and other smart headsets
- Google+ / Google Glass
The tech giant first announced Google Glass in April 2012 as a seamless solution to bring technology closer to the user. Within a year, skydivers and Diane von Furstenberg models at New York Fashion Week wore the devices as marketing stunts.
Despite the company’s enthusiasm, the futuristic accessories didn’t evolve beyond being mocked as a goofy invention that never caught fire in consumer wearables, particularly compared to sleeker accessories like the Apple Watch or FitBit fitness trackers that became popular later.
Window air conditioning units
- Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Though around 60% of American households have central air, city dwellers in apartment buildings often don’t enjoy that luxury, making the market for window air conditioning expected to rocket up to $53 billion this year.
Though the small and often costly units are meant to serve a straightforward purpose, there’s plenty of room for improvement among traditional retailers and startups making countless different units to suit unpredictable needs for each apartment.
But today, when summer rolls around and brings stuffy heat to cities, window A/C units are still loud, clunky, and not that powerful.