Plucked from Obscurity: Upside-Down Reliability

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research, now in all-pdf form. Get a subscription now for only $25 a year!

Inventive, yet under-publicized devices
by Marina Tsipis, Improbable Research staff

U.S. patent #4565370 was granted on January 21, 1986 to Tony Christianson for a “foot holding device for hanging upside down.”

Mr. Christianson’s patent makes pointed reference to earlier, roughly similar inventions—especially to one by R.M. Martin, who was granted U.S. patent number 3,380,447 on April 30, 1968 for an “ankle device for supporting an individual in an inverted position” in a manner “which is comfortable and safe.”

Mr. Christianson lists several aspects of the Martin invention that, to him, seem sub-optimal. He goes on to say, perhaps with a hint of pride, that:

Another problem associated with Martin’s device is the possibility that an extended or pointed foot can slip out of the device and thereby drop the user.... The present invention solves all the problems presented by [the Martin device].

(Thanks to Perri T. Unger for bringing the Christianson patent to our attention.)

Details of the Martin patent. In the inventor’s words: “ FIG. 1 is a front view illustrating an individual being supported in an inverted position by the ankle devices which are secured to the individual; FIG. 2 is a front perspective view of the ankle device secured to an individual, the broken lines indicating the configuration of the posterior jaw member.”

Details of the Christianson device. Christianson writes that it “includes an elongated, wide flexible web which is looped so that the two ends thereof overlap, together with holding means for removable attachment of the device to a structural member and a connector extending through the overlapping ends of the web and engaging the holding means.”


This article is republished with permission from the January-February 2010 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift! Visit their website for more research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK.

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