Museum of Failure, Los Angeles: DeLorean cars, Trump board game, Google glasses - inventions that were epic disasters

There are lots of abject inventions in the museum that declares itself a "shrine to history's epic failures".

Who can forget the late John DeLorean's gull-winged DMC-12, immortalised as the time machine in the Back to the Future movies?

The four-times-married former General Motors executive was charged with attempting to traffic $US20 million worth of cocaine to save his motor company after an FBI sting operation at LA airport in 1982. Though he was later acquitted (police entrapment), neither his nor his car's reputation ever recovered.

Then there is the "Bic For Her" pen – in pink and purple colours – designed "to fit into a small hand". Timing is often everything, and it didn't go down well in 2011, some 50 years after the birth of Feminism.

Similarly, Harley Davidson's Cologne for Men enjoyed only a short shelf life (apparently most women aren't turned on by a scent of leather, sweat and motorcycle oil). As did Sony's Betamax (but which child today remembers the victor, JVC's VHS?)

However, the strangest thing about Hollywood's Museum of Failure – less than 25 metres away from the Dolby Theatre that hosts the Oscars each year – is that it's actually a success.

Some of the world's greatest companies are represented here. Ford had the Edsel. Hewlett-Packard (HP) had the TouchPad. Coca-Cola had its disastrous attempt to go for a sweeter-recipe New Coke in the 1980s to ward off the "Pepsi Challenge" from its arch rival.

But lest today's I-Gen teenagers think all such terrible commercial and scientific errors were made in the "dark ages" (ie before the internet and the mobile phone), let's focus on Apple and Google.

In August 2018, Apple became the first company in history to be "worth" $US1 trillion. Google's market capitalisation at the same time was a mere $US845 billion. 

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Failures, right?

That was certainly the view when Apple (in its interregnum between Steve Jobs) unveiled the Apple Newton in 1993.

Then-Apple CEO John Sculley launched the Newton as the world's first Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). It could take notes, remember contact details, send faxes (I-Gen readers, ask your parents!) and was in the forefront of hand-held computers. Its key feature was that it could fit into a suit pocket or a handbag.

It bombed, but you'll recognise many of those features in the device Jobs launched on June 29, 2007: the iPhone.

Too long in the past? Hands up those wearing Google glasses? Launched in 2013, the Google Glass was a portable computer designed as eyewear – allowing you to take photographs, read your emails and issue instructions by voice-activated commands.

It, too, was pilloried. But don't bet against wearing something similar in a decade's time and considering it part of modern life.

That's the point of the Museum of Failure.

For every exhibit that makes you laugh out loud in a "what-were-they-thinking" way – yes, Colgate toothpaste really did issue a range of frozen lasagnas – there are many others that were great ideas, just ahead of their time in terms of technology and market awareness.

The museum's founder, clinical psychologist Dr Samuel West, conceived the concept while researching the thin line between innovation and failure.

When his museum first opened, in Helsingborg, Sweden, he explained "the majority of innovation projects fail" and that his collection was intended to provide a "unique insight into the risky business of innovation".

Now that his much-expanded collection has moved to Hollywood, with travelling exhibitions around the world for the first time in 2018, it is reinforcing his central message: that most successful innovators have experienced the bitter taste of failure.

You'll love the bizarre exhibits. Kellogg's OJ's lasted less than a year, despite claiming a bowl would contain the same Vitamin C goodness of a glass of orange juice – especially if orange juice rather than milk was poured over the brightly coloured cereal!

Many mighty male (and a few female) innovators are here to be mocked.

None more so than the orange-haired guy who launched his Monopoly-like real estate game in 1989.

Launched the year after the book The Art of the Deal was published, Trump: The Game was a commercial disaster. . But it was re-released in 2004 (with the same photo, but a new catchphrase: I'm back and you're fired!).

Anyone heard of him since?

Steve Meacham was a guest of Hollywood Roosevelt.

TRIP NOTES

FLY

Qantas, United and several other airlines fly to Los Angeles daily from Australia's east coast.

STAY

Hollywood Roosevelt – scene of the first Oscar ceremony, and many Oscar after-parties. See: thehollywoodroosevelt.com

TOUR

Museum of Failure: failuremuseum.com

MORE

Traveller.com.au/los-angeles

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