Ugly Prototypes

As promised in my previous blog post, I’ve put together a collection of ugly prototypes before they were refined into beautiful and functional final products. It’s easy to lose motivation when working on building hardware products, so hopefully this blog post can serve as a reminder that all products have humble beginnings.


First off, we have the Super Soaker PVC Pipe prototype built by the inventor Lonnie Johnson. He was trying to build a better refrigerator using his custom brass nozzles but when the nozzles blasted a stream of water across his bathroom, he realized that he had just accidentally invented a powerful toy weapon.



This “Video Computer System” prototype was built in three months with $500 in 1976 (about $2,000 today) and was capable of real-time video processing while running multiple games. Atari later used this technology in the Atari 2600.




Google’s Glass prototypes deserve a blog post of their own. Proof of concept hacks ranged everywhere from strapping cellphones to goggles to shining a mini projector directly into the wearer’s eyes. I’m not completely sure they’ve completed prototyping since Google Glass hasn’t caught on yet.



Oculus literally built duct tape prototypes. However, their product development timeline (found here) is pretty impressive considering the challenges virtual reality hardware startups have to overcome. They went from a cardboard prototype to a developer kit in a little under two years.


Finally, we have the Apple AirPods. I tried to stick to putting photos of prototype on the left and finished products on the right for this blog post but I couldn’t figure out which one was which for the AirPods.



But in all honesty, I am a huge fan of Apple’s products, and as I’ve spent more and more time developing hardware prototypes I’ve garnered tremendous respect for companies that manage to build great products. If you’re currently working on building a prototype (hardware or software), I hope this inspired you to quit worrying too much about having a refined prototype before putting it in the hands of users so that you can get that critical feedback. Keep hacking!

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