Thoroughbreds wear blinders to keep them focused on the race, so why shouldn't you do the same next time you sit down to work? That was the insight that came to inventor Hugo Gernsback nearly 100 years ago while he was looking for ways to block out distractions. Except instead of stopping at blinders, he proposed a full on helmet that covered the head and face completely save two little slits for the eyes. Gernsback called his invention "the Isolator" and, as Matt Novak reported in a post for the magazine Pacific Standard, the prototype suffered just one drawback: It was stuffy and quickly made the wearer drowsy. So, the plucky Gernsback added a vivifying oxygen tube and got down to work.
The Isolator never caught on, but at a time when balance balls are replacing chairs and you can buy a treadmill-equipped standing desk, maybe it's time to bring it back.
Image of the Isolator from the July 1925 edition of Science and Invention magazine.
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Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.
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Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.