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Iconic Prototypes Answered

Over at Wired, there is a photo set of early prototypes of iconic products. Here is the story for everyone's favorite summer toy, the super soaker:

Lonnie Johnson was trying to build a better refrigerator, based on a low-cost heat pump that circulated water instead of Freon. But when one of his custom-machined brass nozzles blasted a stream of water across his bathroom, Johnson—by day an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory—realized he had the makings of something way more fun. A shotgun-style air pump and a series of check valves allowed for sniperlike range and accuracy with little exertion. Selling the idea to toy companies, though, was more of an effort. After seven years of frustration, Johnson scrapped his difficult-to-manufacture Plexiglas “pressure containment vessel” for an empty 2-liter soda bottle. It wasn’t slick, but it was easy to make. In 1990, the toy maker Larami brought the Power Drencher to store shelves; it sold roughly 2 million of them in the first year alone. Rebranded as the Super Soaker, the line has raked in sales of more than $200 million to date.



7 years ago

If they start making 2-liter bottles as flimsy as the new Daisani water bottles, you wont be able to make anything with them.

If you open a new Dasani while holding, normal squeeze pressure empties half the bottle...IF you can get the cap off, which they shrunk to half-height and made smooth on the edges so you cant even remove it.

i don't know. just because they are bendy doesn't mean they wouldn't resist useable pressures. and they could always be made into an island like that guy who plans to float his around the world..... (look it up if your interested.)

Wow that's awesome!
Good thing he persevered, He's probably rich right now.

i would say no. he sold the idea, remember? the toy company who bought it, they are rich.

I thought you'd get a share of what ever they earned?

thats if you sold a lisence to them... or signed a contract type deal. he litterally sold the ownership (and, so, the right to make and sell). same thing happend to the guy who invented the safety pin. funny story actually. the guy was in debt and his debtor said he'd forgive the debt if the guy could find a new use for a peice of wire or neddle or something. (and gave the idea to the debtor of course...) least, thats the way i remember it...

well, if the guy in debt had been smart enough to build the pin BEFORE he went into debt, he wouldn't have had this problem.

I actually heard that the super soaker name is discontinued.

Thanks for putting this up! I saw it yesterday over on the MAKE blog.