Inventor of the Mundane YKTTW Discussion

Inventor of the Mundane
Where a character's wealth or noteriety stems from inventing an everyday object.
(permanent link) added: 2011-05-03 09:20:01 sponsor: ElaineRose (last reply: 2011-05-10 20:24:43)

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Sometimes the plot needs a character to be very wealthy without ever actually doing anything or being particularly clever. When such a thing is needed, the character will be credited with inventing something very simple, useful, and everyday. Note that the character is not inventing cold fusion or something very complex, but rather something like, say, velcro.

In other cases, the character is shown to be someone who isn't necessarily a great scientist, but clever and practical minded. Perhaps the character won't get famous or wealthy off of the invention, but their product at least will be a household name.

Compare with Weekend Inventor when inventing is a hobby rather than a lucrative living. See also Bungling Inventor and Mr. Fixit. If the inventor was an ancestor, then it is Royalties Heir. In a number of cases this also doubles as a Shout-Out or a Namesake Gag.


  • Patrick Dempsey was portrayed as one in the movie Made Of Honor. He invented that cardboard thing that goes around the coffee cup that keeps your hand from getting burned--named in the movie as the "Coffee Collar." Patrick Dempsey got ten cents whenever one was used.
  • In Garden State, one of Zach Braff's friends invented "silent velcro" and became a multi-millionaire. He now spends his time driving golf-carts around his mansion.
  • Inverted in Romy And Michele's High School Reunion, Michele claims she invented Post-Its (it's a lie to impress her old high school people).
  • The Social Network features the Real Life story of Mark Zukerberg and the invention of Facebook.
  • In Johnny and the Bomb, Wobbler is left in the past, unable to return to his time due to a paradox. While taking The Slow Path, he uses his knowledge of the present to "invent" fast food restaurants.
  • In Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery during a group therapy session Dr. Evil mentions that his father claimed to have invented the question mark (among many other, equally strange declarations).
  • In Men In Black the MIB owned the patents to some 'out of town' inventions. Among them, velcro.
  • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Scotty hands the chemical makeup for Transparent Aluminum (which will be extremely mundane in the Star Trek canon, but isn't in 1980s America) to an engineer.
    Mc Coy: Scotty, you're tampering with the future!
    Scotty: How do you know he didn't invent it?
  • The movie Flash Of Genius is a movie Based on a True Story about Robert Kearns and the invention of the intermittent windshield wiper.
  • In the movie Office Space, the character Tom Smykowski uses the settlement from a car accident to fund the invention of his "Jump to Conclusions" mat ("Have a problem? Just take out the mat and jump to a conclusion!"). In universe, it was wildly successful.

  • The father from Holes spent the entire novel trying to invent the perfect odor-eater. He finally succeeded not only at inventing it, but marketing as well.
  • Good Omens has a list of people who invented things that, once they were invented, became so ubiquitous no-one remembered they ever needed inventing. They all have names like Device or Gadget.
  • One Daniel Pinkwater featured a protagonist taking a summer job working for his uncle, who had invented the things they put on the end of shoelaces ("aglets", according to The Other Wiki, but carefully not given a name in the novel).

Live-Action TV

Web Original
  • Mentioned as a gag in the Legendary Frog toon where Kerrigan decides to become an inventor and make millions. She says to her boyfriend "Remember John from next door? John Velcro?"

Western Animation
  • Time Squad had plenty of these making appearances. Whether they actually got around to inventing their mundane inventions was completely subject to plot convenience.

Real Life
  • Inverted with Al Gore, who did not actually invent the internet. Though apparently, strictly speaking, Al Gore never claimed to have invented the internet.
  • This troper's grandfather was one of the original inventors of air hockey.
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