“While the human body has never been equalled [in]all-around master engineering, a number of glaring weaknesses do exist in man’s basic equipment,” stated a Mechanix Illustrated article from August 1956, which enlisted experts to suggest upgrades.
I’m not sure how serious this is, but it certainly reflects the design mentality of 50 years ago: If something doesn’t work right, it must be lacking features. Here are the most unexpected add-ons recommended by industrial designers, anthropologists, engineers and biologists:
• Folding ears, something like the old-fashioned ear trumpet, to catch low-pitched sounds
• Hooks on heads for strap-hangers on trains who wanted to read the papers
• A device resembling a giant clamshell can protect internal organs and be opened easily for surgical purposes
• 20 teeth would be an improvement over the present 32, according to dentists
• A long snout to do away with the nose’s confusing air flow and related sinus troubles
• Detachable arms so that you can sleep in comfort
• An extra pair of hands coming out of ears to hold hats in high winds
• Antennae concealed in the head that could pick up sound waves, lights and shadows
• A protective covering for the eye, containing substances which would screen out harsh ultra violet rays
• A small food storage compartment like the camel’s
• Built-in pockets, such as kangaroos have
• The spine as a solid column, to greatly increase load-carrying capacity and protect vital nerves
Only this last one comes with an admitted downside: “Man would not be able to twist and turn as he does now but the semi-flexibility of the cylinder would allow enough bending for every ordinary purpose.” Meanwhile, the only one from the list that may actually be a product soon — the UV protective eye-covering — was a suggestion “meant frankly for fun”.
In the intervening years, sometime between the Don Drapers and the Gordon Gekkos, the finger stopped being pointed at our inherent form, and was redirected at how we treat it. Not surprisingly, only one of the experts consulted has any real legacy at all, and he — design god Raymond Loewy — is most famous for artefacts like a locomotive engine (the S-1) and a packet of cigarettes (Lucky Strike). Besides, I’m pretty sure Loewy was joking when he suggested the hat hands. [Modern Mechanix via Secondhand Smoke]