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Awesome But Impractical: Real Life
"A flashy feature that has limited usability for victory."

  • Theoretically, anti-matter would be an incredible fuel, with every gram allowing for prodigious amounts of energy - making possible things such as far-space travel, or tiny powerplants that could energize entire countries. Only problem is, anti-matter is astronomically expensive (62 trillion dollars per gram) and slow to produce (to the point we've only ever managed to make a few hundred atoms), very complex to contain (a momentary containment failure of a significant quantity could result in explosions such as the human race has never yet seen) and has bad shelf life (varying from a few seconds to a few minutes).
  • In the tennis world in 2007, an exhibition match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal called Battle Of The Surfaces was held. Federer vs. Nadal on a half-grass, half-clay court. So awesome. So impractical.
  • "I Am Rich," an iPhone application that costs $1,000 and has two purposes: 1. Show a glowing red gem on your screen and 2. Show a secret mantra of some sort when you click the "i" icon in the lower right corner. In other words: a near-useless app that costs more than the iPhone itself that many people just buy to prove they are rich enough to spend $1000 on a crappy application and not care. (It's called "I Am Rich", is it not?).
    • The Power Star Gadget in Mario Party Advance is a very similar case. It's the most expensive thing in the shop, and it doesn't do anything but float there and sparkle.
  • The iPhone 4's antenna, which is that stainless steel banding built into the casing of the device, was described as "really cool engineering" by Steve Jobs, which it is. However, the iPhone's primary purpose is lost once you try to hold it.
  • This project. A group of engineers decide that the best way to prevent malaria in developing nations is to kill mosquitoes...with lasers.
  • Most martial art styles you see in the movies is this trope. You see all those cool backflips, dodging moves, the likes that Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee know? Think they'd do that on the street? And how they're so good at improvising moves that look cool and are pretty deadly? Well, if you attacked them in Real Life, the improvisations would be limited to "using whatever they got in their hands to get away from you" and they wouldn't be cartwheeling or back-flipping to attack you—that's all choreographed for the silver screen. Granted, when you get up pretty high, you do learn some stuff that looks pretty flashy and could really really hurt, but in the street? The most applicable stuff is the stuff you learn during the early ranks. Most of the basis of those later techniques is to show that yes, you can do it, but also that you have self-control to not injure your partner severely. If you hurt your partner, then they are not going to want to work with you again. Some examples from Shaolin Kenpo:
    • Defensive Maneuver Eleven. During the course of that, you redirect a punch, knock them down, break your attacker's legs three times, knee them in the spine, and leave them face-down on the floor after kidney-shotting them. Good luck doing that one in real life.
    • Another offensive technique merely involves grabbing the top of a person's arm while they punch, slapping their ears, and then kneeing them in the face. You'll notice the technique begins with what is effectively catching a punch.
    • Even Bruce Lee once commented that a person who has trained for a year in boxing and a year in wrestling could beat any eastern martial artist in a no-holds-barred fight.
    • Kicking, it's all "fun" and might even be deadly if done right. But once your opponent manages to grab your leg, you're pretty much screwed.
  • Sharpening a pencil with a CNC Lathe.
  • Machine pistols - that is, full-auto pistols or pistol-sized submachineguns, like the Glock 18 or Ingram MAC series respectively - when it comes to anything other than suppressive fire. They are all sorts of badass, except that everything after the first round is not likely to be on the paper at more than a couple of yards, and they take a great deal of proficiency to master; you may as well just get really good with a standard pistol. At a cyclic rate of 1200+ RPM, your pistol-sized magazine is going to disappear in less than a second. The last problem can be solved by using longer magazines, or, yes, in a pistol (!), single-hub or dual-hub drum mags. But there's little sense in lugging around such an ungainly lump of metal when a submachinegun will do the same job better and with less hassle.
  • It's generally agreed among gun enthusiasts that, for self-defense and law enforcement purposes, anything more powerful than a .357 Magnum is essentially overkill if you're not built like an Action Hero... unless you expect to be attacked by bears.
  • Dual Wielding in general:
    • The Guns Akimbo style. Sure, you look badass pulling it off, but having a gun in either hand makes aiming and reloading impossible.
    • But it is possible in real-life, but somehow only Cowboy Action Shooters (Modern-day TheGunslingers) are the experts on this. It seems they're the only ones who actually trained their whole lives in dual-wielding.[1]
    • Dual-wielding swords may look awesome, but historically speaking, there has been no warrior culture that EVER did this. Xiaolin monks used dual-wielding as a performance show, and samurais carries two but only use one. This is due to the fact that two swords are not only unwieldy, but is also harder to maneuver in the close-quarter battlefield, not to mention that it is inferior to the shield as a defensive weapon. If you want to dual wield melee weapons, stick to Kali sticks.
    • Sword and Gun. While flashy, the sword isn't going to do you much good in real life over just using the gun, and you're limited to firing the gun with just one hand which makes aiming difficult (although not nearly as bad as the above, since you can still actually use the iron sights), and can't easily be reloaded. This whole style may originate from the early 20th century , where this was not impractical because of the time needed to reload a pistol (upwards of thirty seconds) and the prevalence of close-quarters combat. In fact, pistols were often considered a secondary weapon in contrast to swords; it was acceptable for officers to go into battle without a firearm, but unthinkable for them to be without a sword. This is why US Army cavalry holsters from the horse cavalry days were left-handed: the sword was held in the right hand and the gun in the left. Nowadays, however...
  • Iaijutsu Practitioner... if only you can actually USE it in the battlefield. Trying to kill a man with one stroke needs VERY close proximity.
  • The Mateba Model 6 Unica, known to most people as the "Autorevolver". It's a revolver that cycles like a semi-auto, removing the need for a heavy trigger pull like on most double-action wheelguns (the recoil of firing the gun recocks the hammer and rotates the cylinder). It looks super cool, but it combines the drawbacks of both semiautos (less durable and more prone to malfunction) and revolvers (smaller magazine capacity and difficult to reload) into one rare and extremely expensive package. And did we mention that if you want to stop without firing all 6 shots there's no way to safely uncock the hammer?
    • Cocking the gun semiauto-style is possible (for show, as otherwise you'd prepare the first shot by simply arming the hammer), but as the carriage lacks grippy surfaces you can only do it by... pushing on the barrel.
    • The Model 6 Unica was also available as the Grifone, with a lengthened barrel, hand rest and stock, effectively turning it into a carbine. Or rather, adding to the aforementioned series of drawbacks those of a rifle-length firearm. The Grifone was available in .454 Casull too, which is a ridiculously powerful round that's overkill in pretty much any conceivably practical scenario. And in those scenarios where it's not overkill (ie big game hunting), there are still plenty of better and/or less expensive options.
  • Every "novelty" mouse ever made. Car-shaped mice might look good if you're using them in a showroom or something, but they're all an ergonomic disaster.
    • 8-bit Mario computer mice. They're nifty and look nice, but they're also large, clunky, and uncomfortable.
    • The World of Warcraft gaming mouse (gaming mice in general, really). Two conventional buttons, a scroll wheel that also serves as a button, two more buttons outboard of the main two buttons, another two buttons inward from the main buttons (to each side of the scroll wheel), a button handward of the scroll wheel, five more buttons on the left face, under the thumb, and a final button under the right little finger (or right ring if you have large hands). That's right. 14 controls under one hand. By way of comparison, an X-box or PS/2 style controller has 15 controls under two hands.
    • Apple ended up making this mistake with the Apple USB Mouse M4848, commonly referred to as the "hockey puck" due to its circular design, while considered stylish, proved to be incredibly uncomfortable after prolonged use and quickly became hated by users. The company finally discontinued it after two years.
  • Some car fans - particularly those who own coupes and other economy-level cars - like to add what is known by detractors as rice: flashy-looking extra bits that make the car look like it's seriously fast, but that are usually ill-researched and badly designed, so they only end up messing up the aerodynamics and making the car go slower. And that's when the ricing is only aesthetic; when it's applied to the mechanics (modified springs, pop-off valves, aftermarket exhausts, dry-charge NOS...) all sorts of bad things can happen.
    • Spoilers on a front-wheel drive car are particularly stupid - getting enough downforce to activate the spoiler would actually reduce performance by pulling the drive axle off the ground.
    • Large rims and low tyres also detract from a car's performance by reducing the amount of traction (due to harder tyre compounds) and torque (remember physics? Small gears turning large gears means higher speed but less torque) applied to the road surface. In other words, your car might look nice (for a certain definition of the word) but it's not going to go faster, and it's certainly going to have a lot of trouble going around simple corners.
    • Which boils down to having to spend thousands of dollars on suspension upgrades or be prepared to spend a similar amount (if not more) on suspension repairs, because most cars aren't designed to handle 20in+ rims. Add to this that some rims cost less than said work done needed to have them, rendering them highly impractical, while mileage varies on whether or not the rims look good enough on that car to make it all worth it.
  • Supercars in police forces. Americans have Shelby GT 500, Chevy Corvettes, big engines and "police package" chassis mods, Germans have Brabus Rockets, Mercedes-Benz AMGs and Porsche 911s, Italians had a Lamborghini LP560,the Dutch had an entire fleet of Porsche 911 throughout the 1970s and 1980s, modern Romanian traffic police has BMWs, a leased Mitsubishi Evo and a goddamn Lotus Evora. The most basic legal logic tells a traffic offender is to be simply recorded and mailed home the fine, while a true criminal (drug mule, prison fugitive, mob boss) is to be dealt with by far more efficient means than chasing him or her on the highway. They run on the Rule of Cool, they are meant to intimidate, to show State power, in practice they do little work beside innocuous patrol (though some, especially in the US are used as highway interceptors to catch fast cars).
    • One practical use for the supercars, particularly all-wheel-drive ones, is rushing organs for transplant from donor to recipient when having them in the same facility or using aircraft isn't practical, which is not as infrequent as you'd think.
    • On the other hand, in some American states this occurs for an interesting ... economic reason. In at least one state, if there is a major drug related arrest, the drug dealer's belongings can be confiscated and when this includes vehicles, the vehicles are distributed among the various state agencies. This has resulted in things like a Corvette Stingray in state trooper colors!
  • Sports cars in general are this if you don't live near a closed track, as they are often designed for performance, but have to sacrifice safety and conveniences as a result, often have weak fuel efficiency (sports cars with single-digit miles per gallon are not unheard of), and last but not least, many jurisdictions make it illegal to drive at the speeds that sports cars are designed for, rendering the high performance useless. Oh, your tuned-up supercar can go over 300 kilometers per hour? Have fun finding a road with a speed limit of at least 300 km/h.
  • The Hummer H1. Yes, it's practically a brick on wheels. Yes, it's got some kickass chrome trim and lots of bolts sticking out all over the place. Yes, it's got a turbo engine. Yes, it looks like it'll survive a direct hit by a nuclear warhead. NO, it's not a practical car, for oh so many reasons. It costs over $100,000 new. It weighs three and a half tonnes, around 7,000 pounds—more than a standard Nissan Patrol or Toyota Land Cruiser—without the latter's V8 Diesel engine. The lack of said diesel engine gives it a fuel economy figure of roughly 60 feet per litre, and it comes standard with Profile tyres that are more-or-less useless for off-road. Plus, the windows on the doors are way too small to see clearly out of, resulting in many blindspots which does not help the fact that it has the turning circle of an ocean liner. It is also incredibly cramped inside, as the transmission is set high up into the body, meaning it takes up a large amount of cabin space. Despite being absolutely legendary off-road, it actually sucks on-road, being really slow and wide. Oh, and you know those big tow hooks hanging down at the front? They're not actually attached to anything. They're part of the front bumper bar. Good luck trying to tow anything heavy with them, as it will just rip off the bumper.
    • The H2 and H3 that replaced it are more practical, but only marginally so. They're still huge, expensive and fuel-inefficient. And don't even look as badass as the H1, so you could even say it's the worst of both worlds: still impractical but not as awesome.
  • In general, concept cars are this by definition. Meant to be a demonstration of a proof of concept with no real intent to be put into mass production. A good example is the BMW GINA, the fabric car. Realizing that the frame is the part of the car that provides safety and structural integrity, designers replaced much of the traditional metal skin of the automobile with a plastic-coated spandex with a network of hydraulics beneath it, enabling the driver to change the car's actual shape at will. Unfortunately the problems with this design are kind of obvious: spandex is nowhere near as durable as metal. A road hazard which would cause a superficial dent in a metal skin would cause a disastrous rip in spandex, rendering the car undriveable.
  • Nearly all "collectible" "fantasy" type knives and swords are this. Lots of wicked-looking pointy bits, but you're at least as likely to injure yourself if you try to use them in combat, either from the excess pointy bits on the weapons or from the brittleness of the cheap steel used to make them (a particular problem is they often have only flimsy "rat-tail" tang keeping the blade attached to the grip). Case in point: Shark knife.
  • Klein steins are also cool but not very practical.
  • Exotic pets, or just numbers of ordinary ones, were used to show off the owner's wealth and easy life. The most common ones were big cats, monkeys, bears, elephants, and non-native birds, but anything that took their fancy was fair game. Royalty and nobility were also known for herds of horses, when even one horse was a sign that the owner was well above everyone else.
    • Domesticated servals. They embody the best character features of the cat and the dog, they're fast and agile and in general great fun to have around. They're also extremely expensive to buy, require rather more food and open spaces than your average cat, and need very caring and committed owners.
  • Dog breeds that are extreme distortions of the original model, such as bulldogs with such big heads and narrow pelvises that they can't give birth naturally; their puppies always have to be delivered by Caesarean.
    • Or pugs, which will self-destruct (that is, grow infections and illness, quite possibly leading to death) if not cared for very scrupolously.
    • Cat breeders are doing the same genetic damage to several breeds. Purebred Persians have breathing problems, eye problems, and are more likely to have stillbirths. The original breed type is still around (usually called Traditional Persian or Doll-Face Persian), but cat shows won't let them compete because they don't have the malformed skull that has become breed-standard.
  • "Designer-dog" breeds are rapidly becoming this as well. At first it was just to create suitable pets for unlucky dog-lovers who wanted a pet but were allergic; now it's become a depressing trend to see which breed names sound cutest when mashed together.
  • "Cutting-edge-of-fashion" designer outfits that might look "fabulous" at the exclusive show in Milan, but would be extremely impractical (if not awkward or dangerous) to wear anywhere else. A morning talk show host once did a short on this, where she wore a runway piece to the supermarket to gauge people's reactions, which mostly ranged from "WTF?" to "The jacket is kinda cute but..."
    • Just as important, they can't be mass-produced due to reliance on sewing techniques that machines can't replicate and fabrics which are just as experimental and unlikely to ever be woven or knitted in real quantity. Theoretically the outfits seen at fashion shows are designed with several waves of simplifications already in mind, down to what will be showing up three years later in a Target bargain bin; this is part of the reason haute couture lines are so expensive to put out.
  • For that matter, a lot of fancy clothes in general. Try wearing a gown and stiletto heels to do...well, anything productive. To say nothing of corsets, hoop skirts and the like from the past.
  • The Russian "Tsar" projects. After Tsar Bell and Tsar Cannon, it has become sort of Russian joke to call "tsar-something" anything impressive-looking, but unusable. Most examples are on the Military page.
    • First up, the Tsar Bell. The 18-tonne original was cast at the turn of the 17th century, took 24 men to ring and was never lifted to its intended belfry. It was destroyed in fires and explosion during the Times of Trouble several years later. In 1654 it was recast larger, was never placed to the belfry (cracked by the same explosion the tower wouldn't hold its weight) and again was destroyed in fire in 1701. The 200-tonne third incarnation took two attempts and three years to forge, and yet again was damaged by the fire of 1737, while still in the mould. This time it got heated from flaming debris then was doused with water and cracked. It spent a century sitting it a pit, then was lifted and put on display. It also doubled as a janitorial storage shed for a while.
      • On a side note: when Napoleon Bonaparte took Moscow, he wanted to transport the bell to France as a trophy, but couldn't lift it out of the pit.
  • Speaking of Russia, Soviet 12,000hp diesel locomotives. Yep, twelve thousand horsepower in what counted as one single locomotive. First of all, it's worth mentioning that the Soviet railroads weren't like most American railroads, they didn't think, "We need more power on this train, let's add another one or three locomotives," they were more like Union Pacific in the 1940s and 1950s—"We need only one locomotive on any train, it just has to have enough power." On the other hand, they often increased the power of their locomotives by building multiple-section locomotives which were like American A-A sets (think a pair of F-units running back to back). When the BAM (Baikal-Amur Mainline) came, they thought they'd need diesels with as much as 12,000hp for the expected heavy freight trains. So in 1983 they took the 3TE10M (which already was a 2TE10 aka Self-Propelled Earthquake with a third cabless section for another 3,000hp) and added yet another middle section. Sounds like the EMD FT demonstrator #103, but these monsters were designed to always run in a set of four as opposed to two sets of two, and each section had more than twice the horsepower of one FT section. 25 of these plus one experimental 4TE130 had been made when the Soviets realized that there actually was no need for locomotives that powerful on the BAM—it was a one-track line, and the sidings weren't long enough for trains that would require nearly that much power.
    • One year after the first 4TE10S was made, the Soviets managed to put 6,000hp into one single, one-section, one-engine diesel locomotive, the TE136long before the EMD SD90MAC operated with an actual 6,000hp. Although only two of these were built at that time, it was considered awesome to have a two-section version of this, and there were expectations that some 40% of all Soviet trains would run behind 12,000hp two-section locomotives in a few years. In the late 80s, they inflated it to the 2TE126 which was so insanely heavy originally that they had to add two idlers to each section, and in 1990 the 2TE136 followed. Only one of each series were built. Needless to say that the end of the Soviet Union also brought an end to the (proposed) need for such powerful locomotives. It didn't help that these two prototypes were built and remained in the Ukraine as opposed to Russia.
    • The Soviet AA20 was awesome and impractical for one and the same reason: it was a 14-coupled steam locomotive. The basic idea was to build a powerful locomotive with lots of tractive effort while still keeping axle loads at bay. While most other countries would have built an articulated locomotive, the Soviet Union opted for seven axles with 14 drivers in one frame. However, just about nothing on this machine was halfway right. It ruined tracks, destroyed every switch it ran through and derailed pretty much whenever it moved. It was powerful, yes, but it was so powerful that it kept ripping couplers apart, and it used up more steam than the boiler could produce. It somehow managed to travel to Moscow, but aside from some test runs, it wasn't used otherwise and stored after only a few months. In Stalin's Soviet Union, nobody dared call it a failure (which it was all right), so it wasn't scrapped until 25 years later. The AA 20 remained the only 14-coupled locomotive ever built.
    • The Swedes seem to have built a somewhat more practical awesome locomotive for hauling ore from Kiruna to Narvik. The Dm3, a 1D+D+D1 articulated electrical locomotive delivers 7600kW (just a tick over 10000hp) and hauls 5200 tons.
    • Romanian Class 47 locomotives are single-unit electric locomotives with continuous 6600kW (almost 9000hp) of power, designed to take on trains loaded with 3000-3600 tonnes on mountain lines. However, more and more of them are used for 7-car passenger trains, and most of the older 5100kW versions of the locomotives are brought to Class 47 standards during refurbishment and geared to 160 km/h for passenger work. Which is an 100% impractical and inefficient use of an awesome machine.
      • The Germans built their Class 103 single-unit electric locomotives with continuous 7400kW (one-hour peak power output of 7700kW / 10,400 hp). Despite being designed to haul 5-car passenger trains at 200 km/h (125 mph) these machines actually survived pulling 14-car trains at the same speed for 30 years. Still, their replacements, Class 101 were limited to 6400 kW.
  • American railroads had such stuff, too. Check out the Pennsylvania Railroad FF1. A massive electric locomotive built in 1917 when the world had only just begun to run electric trains. In these times, 4,000hp were a lot. In Big Liz's case, too much. The original plans were to have her haul freight trains over the Alleghenies. This didn't work out because she was so powerful that she regularly ripped couplers apart. Okay, so she was useless at pulling trains, so she was used on banking services, i.e. pushing trains up mountain ranges. Didn't work out either because she pushed so hard that cars often tipped over in curves. Since she could only run at two possible speeds, the highest of which (20.8mph) was still extremely slow, she couldn't even be used anywhere else.
    • The Budd Metroliner. An EMU designed by and for the Pennsylvania Railroad to run top-notch high-speed services in the Northeast Corridor. Its maximum speed was beyond 160mph. Not that the Pennsy had any stretch of track that would have allowed for anything close to that speed.
    • This seems to be a consistent problem for the Pennsylvania Railroad because they built the 4-4-4-4 T1. Intended to be a powerful steam alternative to diesel locomotives as steam was dying, the T1 was powerful, fast, and apparently some people thought its streamlined design looked cool. Unfortunately it was also a maintenance nightmare, ate coal like nobody's business, and was prone to wheelslip, although in 2008, Historical Society Magazine proved that was caused by failure to properly train engineers transitioning to the T1 because of its higher power, who used excessive throttle and thus caused the wheelslip. Unsurprisingly all 52 were scrapped within ten years of production.
    • Their predecessor, the sole 6-4-4-6 S1 No. 6100, was both more awesome and more impractical. It was the most powerful express steam locomotive ever built, but it carried only 40% of its weight on two mechanically independent sets of four driving wheels each. These were overwhelmed by the sheer power of the boiler which made wheelslip almost inevitable at any speed below 50mph, and once one set of drivers slipped, its cylinders would use up all steam so that the other drivers were unable to pull the locomotive forward. A Pacific would start up the same train weight more easily with the fraction of the S1's horsepower. Even worse was the fact that it was impossible to detect wheelspin on this locomotive before any serious damage occurred. It was also the unofficially fastest steam locomotive ever with claimed top speeds of 150mph, but anything above 120mph was illegal anyway, and the Milwaukee Road ran that speed with a mere 4-6-4 Hudson.
    • Triplexes. You think Big Boy was powerful? Think twice and look at these behemoths on 24 driving wheels each. So how can the tractive effort of a locomotive be increased? More drivers. How can the tractive effort of an already articulated locomotive be increased by some 50%? Add a third set of driving wheels with another two cylinders. Put them under the tender if there is no space anywhere else. Sounds insanely awesome, but these things were too overpowered to work properly. The boiler simply didn't generate enough steam for two high-pressure and four low-pressure cylinders, probably because only half of the steam was blown out through the main chimney (the rear cylinders let their steam out through a pipe mounted on top of the tender), and the boiler draught left a lot to be desired. To cut a long story short, while the initial tractive effort was impressive, these locomotives were useless beyond walking speed. Their eventual fate was to be split up into normal-size steam engines, similar to the Soviet multi-diesels above.
    • Streamlined express engines, especially the 1930s-type steam engines, are fast and pretty, but they are expensive to manufacture, often require specialized crews, and cannot be used on any train except the express. But World War II sapped resources and maintenance (preference went to engines that can pull heavy freight trains like the Big Boy), and once peace was restored, the more reliable diesels took over, giving the streamlined steam engines very short lives compared to their humbler cousins pulling freight trains.
    • German streamlined steam locomotives not only looked cool but actually saved some fuel. The main reason was because the streamlining wasn't just a show application but a shroud wrapped around the entire locomotive from the top of the boiler almost down to the rails. However, the fully-enclosed running gear lacked ventilation and was prone to overheating, and maintaining it through the small hatches on the sides was difficult. The class 05 had its skirts cut out eventually (unlike the class 61 tank locomotives), and the classes 01.10, 03.10 and especially the humongous 06 (which was impractical due to its sheer size as well) were built with cut-back streamlining. Almost all of them had their streamlining removed after World War II; only one 03.10 survived in Poland with large parts of its original shroud. 61 002 kept its streamlining through the 1950s but was hardly used in regular service and converted into the more reasonably streamlined tender locomotive 18 201 in 1961; 18 201 is the fastest operational steam locomotive today.
    • The 2-6-6-6 Allegheny-class steam engines of the Chesapeake and Ohio could produce 7000 horsepower on average, but they weighed more than the Big Boy, and the 40-ton axle weight left the monsters restricted to only the heaviest lines.
    • Speaking of Chesapeake & Ohio, their steam turbine-electrics existed for less than three years between construction and scrapping. They were among several attempts at basically building electric locomotives with coal power plants on board, and one of the few attempts with a streamlining. In the case of these longest express steam locomotives ever built, the modular construction promised to make repairs easier than on conventional steamers. Unfortunately, they were so complicated that it took a lot longer to find any faults in the first place. And when the heavy express trains they were supposed to haul never came into existence, C&O had no other choice than to get rid of them again.
  • Buying arcade boards and machines, especially when a home port of the game in question exists.
  • The Most Useless Machine Ever, a device whose sole purpose, once turned on, is to turn itself off.
    • Needless to say, it spawned a race to design machines that are even more awesome while retaining the utter uselessness of the original. Cue the advanced edition...
  • Rube Goldberg Devices.
  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel's final project, the SS Great Eastern. Being five times larger than the biggest ship that came before it, and remaining the biggest ship in history for 40 years, it was certainly pretty awesome. But 'practical' is not the word to use when such an insanely expensive ship, which has capacity for 4000 passengers, carries just over forty on its maiden voyage.
  • Dream PCs, often with thousands of dollars' of processors, graphics cards, and liquid cooling system, and have the specs that could conquer any game currently on the market.
    • The practical problem with expensive hardware is that you get next-gen performance on current-gen hardware. Your rig will become outdated long before it becomes underpowered. Anyone who bought a top end single core CPU or DX9 video card probably ended up replacing it quickly, not because it was too slow but because it was not a multicore CPU or DX10 card. This has become less of an issue in more recent years; five year old computers can still regularly play games, whereas back in the 1990s and early 2000s that was unthinkable. The biggest problem tends to be that you end up overpaying for the extra performance beyond a certain point.
      • Emulation solves that problem in general however, as a matter of fact a PC can emulate any platform to run virtually anything within the PC's resource capability (including console games, which are developed and tested in a PC to start with) provided they have the necessary detail that has to be emulated (and naturally console makers make it a point to safeguard their console platform from it).
  • The point of super cars. They look pretty, they're loud, they have a lot of horsepower and can travel pretty darn fast... on a straight road with no bumps whatsoever. Otherwise, well...
    • Exemplified by the Bugatti Veyron. Designed to be the fastest "production" car ever designed, it can go 252 miles an hour. Assuming you can find a straight road long enough to let you do so (you can't, except on test tracks). And assuming you don't run out of gas (it will go through the entire tank in 12 minutes) or have an catastrophic blowout (the tires will let go after fifteen minutes when they're brand new at top speed). It's also a production car in a very limited sense: only ten were made, and sold with a $1,000,000 price tag. Despite the fact that each one cost Bugatti (aka Volkswagen) $5,000,000 to make (I don't think they have the best accountants). And when the world speed record for production cars was broken by another car, Bugatti responded with the Veyron Supersport, which can reach speeds of 269 miles an hour, but the tires will give out even faster if you do somehow manage to reach that speed, and they're $20,000 a pop. Suffice to say, the Veyron is an amazing amalgamation of technical and engineering genius, but not at all practical for anyone. Due to an engineering oversight, the gears are not even suited to that kind of power. In a lot of them the gears broke down after just over 12.000 miles. Although, if you have the money to buy a car worth a million, you probably don't have that many problems with overhauling the car every once in a while.
      • The SSC Ultimate Aero Twin Turbo, the car that unseated the Veyron as the world's fastest production car (then was unseated yet again by the Veyron Super Sport) has 1,183 horsepower. Unfortunately it is rear wheel drive, meaning all that power and torque is applied only to the rear, resulting in a car that fishtails in corners at the slightest blip of the throttle. There's a reason the Veyron is all-wheel drive.
      • Also, some supercars (e.g. Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari Enzo) are only built with the steering wheel on the left hand side (LHD) unlike most other vehicles, which are built in both configurations. This can make driving the vehicle in a country which uses the opposite standard very difficult.
      • To add insult to injury, some countries don't allow registration of vehicles which have opposite steering columns or impose severe usage restrictions. In Australia for example, the steering wheel must be located on the right hand side (RHD) for registration on public roads, unless the vehicle is over 15-30 years old depending on what state you are in. So unless you plan on doing a lot of track days or paying thousands of dollars to convert it to RHD (surprisingly, both of which many people still do), the car will sit in a garage for years before it can even be used on public roads. Even worse are countries such as Singapore, which do not allow the import or registration of LHD vehicles to any citizen at all.
      • Also, due to the impractically high price of the super cars, it is likely to fall victim to being too awesome to drive, due to fear of being involved in a collision or simply incurring wear and tear with use. (Thank Zeus for video game driving simulators.) A notorious case of this fear being realized is Stefan Erikssen's red Ferrari Enzo (he owned two! the other was black), which was wrecked in Malibu - a theory on the incident was that the car was doing 200mph when it hit a 1 inch bump at an angle, which would have caused the driver to lose control if he wasn't hanging on tight.
    • In a discussion about Ferraris and this trope on the TV show Castle, the titular millionaire mystery writer points out that no matter how cool they look and how fast they can go, such cars are ultimately no faster than any other car on the street when they're stuck in rush-hour traffic.
  • Small nuclear powered vehicles. They could last very long periods of time without any refueling and would emit no carbon dioxide, but every crash or accident would be a potential radiological emergency. It is safer and cheaper to use a stationary reactor to make synthetic gasoline or hydrogen, then use that to power a car or a plane.
    • Ford Nucleon, a nuclear powered car. Over 5000 miles between refuelings, but imagine the mess that would result if you let notorious speeders drive it.
  • Concorde. Supersonic airliner which was cutting-edge at its time and many considered it to be the future of commercial flight. The problem was that it guzzled huge amounts of fuel and its aerodynamic body had very limited passenger space, which meant carrying small number of people at high cost, so no wonder Concordes went out of service by 2000's. And there are very few airports that serve as Concorde terminals; you'll ever see a Concorde, let alone fly in one, if you're making a trans-Atlantic flight. Famously, a NASA engineer once said that "putting a man on the moon was easy compared with getting Concorde to work".
    • Besides, the Concorde has been retired for quite a while now, and supersonic airliners are unlikely to return. Going past the sound barrier is too inefficient for civilian flight, period. Also, these days, if you need a meeting with your partners in NY, just set up a webcam. It wasn't retired because it was too fast - in the digital age, it was too slow.
    • Part of what helped kill it was also the US government over-regulating to prevent it getting into their airspace (farmers even argued that the sonic boom would knock over their cows). Why did they do this? Because they were spiteful at the failure of their own project, the Boeing 2707, which would have been even more Awesome, but Impractical, at Mach 3. Of course, that big crash couldn't have helped, either.
      • Those same rules apply to American military jets, of course. Amongst various noise complaints, sonic booms can also shatter windows if done at low enough altitudes, as once infamously happened during a flyover at an Air Force Academy graduation. Noise problems aside, most planes capable of supersonic flight tend to lose all semblance of fuel economy at those speeds, making that capability an example in and of itself except for some specific circumstances.
    • The Soviet Union was so impressed with the Concorde that they STOLE information that was related to the aircraft and used it to develop and create the Tupolev Tu-144 which was their own knockoff of the real deal. Needless to say, it was a spectacular failure that was wracked by many unresolved problems such as inefficiency and poor quality materials and components. One can't help but wonder if this was an ill omen for the Concorde's future.
  • 'Lightscribe' is a technology that allows you to 'print' high quality labels onto optical disks such as CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays. The process doesn't require paper, ink, or anything else beyond a special type of drive that costs only a couple of bucks more than a regular drive and special disks that cost only a tiny bit more than regular disks. After you've burned your data, you flip the disk over in your drive and 'burn' the label that you've designed in an easy-to-use labelling program; after a few minutes, a high-quality, high DPI label is embedded into the 'label side' of the disk surface. Unfortunately, it takes about 15 minutes to 'burn' a Lightscribe label, and it takes multiple repeated 'burns' to get an image of satisfactory contrast. You might have a Lightscribe capable drive and not ever know it, because simple permanent markers are just faster.
    • Similarly, they also make "printable" (matte white upper side) CDs and DVDs for use in certain printers. Just don't put them in a high-speed drive, as the rotation speed can sling the ink off of the disk, gumming up the drive.
  • It's difficult to say whether or not basketball (mostly the NBA) subverts or plays this trope straight with slam dunks. Many NBA players will not hesitate to perform a flashy dunk if they have the chance, mostly on fast breaks. The 360s, reverse dunks, and windmills look a hell of a lot cooler than standard dunks, but they're still worth the same amount of points... and the fancy dunks have a higher chance of missing. However, some people are of the belief that performing flashy dunks can spark a home crowd (or deflate an opposing crowd), thus giving the team more momentum than a normal dunk would.
    • The defensive equivalent of a flashy dunk in this regard is blocking the shot so hard that you hit it out of bounds. Sure, you look like a badass in the process of stopping the team from scoring, but in most cases, having touched the ball last, you let the other side retain possession of the ball. A more practical technique would be to try to tip the ball softly toward a teammate and gain possession (that's not gonna make SportsCenter, though). Bill Russell, one of the greatest defenders and shot-blockers (if not THE greatest) in NBA history, has gone on record many times as saying that blocking shots out of bounds, unless absolutely necessary, is a basketball sin.
    • This trope also applies with passing in basketball. Some players are simply incapable of making a routine chest pass (Jason Williams, formerly of the Sacramento Kings, was benched during fourth quarters because of this - after retiring from the NBA, he now plays a lot of exhibition matches, which give him a lot more room to try fancy passes) at all, and would rather risk a turnover by doing a flashy behind-the-back pass.
  • Any form of giant robot in general. The very fact that these mechs have legs makes them easy to disable: just break the legs and they're useless. If there are going to be any giant robot warmachines in the real world, they will have less vulnerable means of standing upright, like tank treads - as in the case of Guntank. For now.
  • The Chinese Vehicle Straddling Bus, admit it; that thing looks all kinds of awesome. The idea, presumably, is to create a bus that is more convenient than its lane hogging brother. What they have actually done is invent a bus that if it accidentally swerves, to even the smallest degree, it will cause a three car pile-up - a prospect even more frightening when you add the prospect of many tons of bus landing on your head. Its doors are 9 feet above ground, entailing a complete refit of every bus stop on its route. Oh, and don't think this is just some crazy concept vehicle - the Chinese are fully planning to not only bring this thing into full service by 2011, but also sell it to America.
    • It's actually a tram and it runs on rails. Still, this vehicle will be unable to get through busy traffic any faster than a regular motorcycle because there might be a car on the rails. It may also have slight issues with bridges and overhead power lines. In the end, it is impractical in cities and unnecessary between cities. Maybe Chinese cities are different?
  • Gambling for money can be perceived as this because it is possible to win a lot of money, but hardly practical considering all commercial gambling is designed with something else in mind.
    • Card counters, rounders, folks who teach games, and professional poker players all beg to differ. Note that most such things are perfectly legal. MIT's famous team, inspiration for the fictional film 21 and a few more accurate books and documentaries, documented earnings near $170 USD per hour. Adjusted from 1982 dollars to 2012, that is nearly $380 USD per hour.
  • Cashmere sweaters. Very warm, soft, and comfortable, but you can't put them in the washing machine; if you don't take them to a dry-cleaner they'll be ruined. They're also rather itchy.
  • Memorizing pi to a large number of decimal places. Just 42 digits is accurate enough to calculate the circumference of the sun given its diameter to within the width of a proton.
  • Ramune bottles may look cool... but you can't close them again after opening them, which is pretty impractical for a soda. They add a lot to the cost. There are aluminum ramune bottles (which are awesome and not impractical) where the drink itself costs much less per unit of volume.
  • This Cracked article lays it down in the first entry; ask a kid about fighting sometime, and he'll tell you that 90% of a fight is being able to generate enough raw hell-yeah to make your opponent shit his pants with the force of a cannon.
  • Any modern technology when it was in its early stages. The ENIAC, arguably the first digital computer, took up a room. The first cell phone weighed 80 pounds (36 kg). The first modern cars from around a century ago were not only unreliable, but there weren't that many roads to drive them on. And before that the first trains were just as bad (cinders from the steam engines starting fires, later on the wood burning stove in a wooden framed car being a fire hazard (and wooden framed cars are no protection in a crash), the rails (which were metal straps on top of wood) impaling people through the floor of the carriages, horribly slow by modern standards, etc...).
  • Any and all turbine-powered road vehicles intended for civilian use.
    • Those that use turboshafts (such as the Y2K motorcycle or this minivan) have massive turbo-lag issues, guzzle fuel at a prodigious rate and are eye-wateringly expensive. And while they generate a lot of raw horsepower, internal-combustion vehicles built for high performance can almost always do the same or even better at a vastly inferior price.
    • Those that use turbofans or turbojets (such as this jet Beetle) run into the basic problem that relying on pure thrust is not very efficient on road vehicles. They eventually get to rather prodigious speeds, but acceleration tends to be slow and the noise extreme, and this is on top of the same problems turboshaft-powered vehicles suffer. The result is certainly very exciting, but very unlikely to do better than a vehicle with a powerful tuned internal-combustion engine in it.
  • Esoteric programming languages. For example, brainfuck has only 8 commands yet is Turing-complete, and compilers for it are ridiculously small. There is also LOLCODE, where many commands are replaced with internet memes. However, these languages are really not practical for any serious programming.
    • Some of them are designed for hypercomputers, which means that it's physically impossible to build a computer that can run them in this universe.
  • Nazi Uniforms. You don't have to be a Nazi to admit they looked good - designed by Hugo Boss, after all - but they were uncomfortable, stiff, and got really really hot.
    • Dress uniforms weren't supposed to do anything but look good. The Wermacht standard uniforms were a much different story. This is why all ground troops (Heer, Luftwaffe field division and Waffen SS) had the same grey-green field uniform with branch-specific insignia.
    • And while the dress uniforms were unpleasantly hot, the winter standard uniforms were not nearly warm enough for places like the Russian Front.
  • "DVD quality" audio, which is spec'd at 24-bits per sample at rate of 192KHz. Compared to the CD which is 16-bits per sample at a rate of 44.1KHz. If you compared the audio signal of DVD quality vs. CD quality audio, DVD quality would look very much like a nice sine wave (see this image). Unfortunately, most people can't tell the difference and the few that do probably have to seriously focus. Not to mention DVD audio takes up roughly 6.5 times the space compared to CD audio.
  • The Manned Space Program. There is nothing that manned mission can do that can't be accomplished by an ummanned vehicle for a fraction of the cost.
    • Shame that our AI programming at this point is in its infancy.
      • That's the whole point; computers can't improvise nearly as effectively as humans can (bar Cleverbot)
    • An unmanned vehicle can't start a colony or test the effects of space on a human body, though.
      • It could however, measure the environmental conditions that we could possibly recreate on Earth. But we'd just use lab rats first.
    • There might be a limit as to what an unmanned craft can do, since the delay between here and anywhere beyond the moon is minutes at best. For example, at best, if we were to have a communication satellite near the sun for craps and laughs, it would take somewhere around 16-20 minutes to get a response. So if we do send something up there, it would only be built for specific tasks and hope that nothing goes wrong or "needs an update". But since we're only concerned about our immediate neighbors, this is not so much a real concern, yet.
  • This Japanese bike storing machine may qualify; it's neat and saves some surface space, but it only stores or produces one bike at a time (making it inconvenient whenever several people want to get or store bikes all at once), it only works for bikes that fit certain specifications, and it also inevitably requires power and maintenance...all unlike, say, a metal bar.
    • On the other hand consider as well that to Japan, free space on the surface is a very rare commodity on urban areas if there is any at all. The device similar to their car storage carousel is designed partially to help mitigate the fact that there is simply no room left in Japan cities for storage of the transportation vehicle in the normal manner. The option left are to dig down but having a full sized underground storage area like an underground parking lot also takes a lot of space underground (and that's also in shortage) so it becomes imperative to them to minimize the space consumed at all cost.
  • When ever an environmental change happens that disrupts an ecosystem, the big, awesome animals almost always die out first. The reason why is that they tend to need more food and water.
  • King Mongkut of Siam once tried to send a herd of elephants to American President James Buchanan to aid in transportation and as beasts of burden. By the time the letter ended up in America, Lincoln was the president, and he obviously (but politely) turned it down on the grounds that American climate is not suitable for elephants, and that steam engines would do the job better anyways.
    • That's the reason of the "white elephant" term. In Thai culture white elephants are perceived as very auspicious symbols, and gifting a noble with a white elephant was one of the highest honors a king could've bestowed him with. At the same time elephants were very expensive to feed and care for, and being a King's gift it was impossible to use it as a normal working elephant to earn its own support. Thus it was a constant drain on a noble's finances, so several white elephants too many can easily bankrupt less prosperous ones. But despite all this, turning down a King's gift was not only impossible but unthinkable. So, as rumor goes, the Siamese kings sometimes used them as a hint or outright punishment for the too troublesome and/or ambitious courtiers.
  • All manner of cooking implements. Mostly marketed on the idea of "How AWESOME would it be to make (insert popular restaurant food or drink item here) in your OWN HOME?!" Five months later you will have only used it once or twice after you got it, promise to use it again at a party and forget about it being there until the next time you clean out the cabinet under the sink. That and quite a few of them do not work as advertised anyway.
    • The Bialetti Mukka, intended to make a nice foamy cappuccino without the expense and complication of an electric espresso machine equipped with a milk frother. Instead it makes an excessively foamy white coffee that tastes rather differently than a true cappuccino. Which might not actually be unpleasant, depending on your tastes, but the Mukka is also fiddly to prepare, harder to clean than an ordinary moka pot and rather temperamental as the valve design is imperfect: occasionally it provides insufficient pressure for no apparent reason, resulting in an unsatisfactory brew.
  • There are a lot of truly beautiful clothes out there for children and babies. A surprisingly large percentage of them are not machine-washable.
    • Same goes for the dresses and gowns many starlets wear on the Red Carpet. They tend to be beautiful, but they cost an inordinate amount of money for something she's only going to wear once. Notable pop star Lady Gaga seems to be parodying this, as some of her outfits are really out there (the meatdress, anyone?) but, as her first performance on Saturday Night Live shows, she has some difficulty sitting in them to play the piano.
  • This is what the Japanese "art" of chindogu is all about. Essentially, chindogu are makeshift inventions that seem ideal for solving common problems but are so impractical, create so many new problems, or are just plain embarrassing to use that they're almost entirely useless. One such example is the Butterstick, which is butter in a glue stick form. It allows you to put butter on food without dirtying a knife, but it doesn't work well with soft food such as bread, or small items such as peas. It is practical when serving corn on the cob, though.
  • The machete slingshot.
  • The Dalek car.
  • The Desert Eagle handgun, especially in .50AE chambering. Awesome looks, awesome power, awesome boom, loved and used by every action hero ever, kills bad guys like nothing else. The concept doesn't translate well in reality though: excessively heavy and bulky, unmanageable recoil, expensive ammunition, small magazine size and too much power ensure its status as a toy for rich people, but not a practical weapon. Deagles chambered in smaller calibers like .357 are marginally more practical, offering less recoil and a slightly bigger magazine capacity, but are still oversized and heavier than almost any revolver with the same chambering.
    • Just about any handgun with more power than a .357 magnum is this trope in spades. The only logical purpose they could have is to kill big game, like moose, bears or any of the Big 5. However, these handguns are still outclassed in every regard by the high-caliber rifles hunters have been using for decades.
    • All types of handguns, even Olympic target pistols, are woefully inaccurate at long range. A rifleman can be trained in a few weeks (and hundreds of rounds fired) to hit an apple beyond 100 yards. To get the same performance from a handgun at 25 yards it takes years of training. So the gigantic .50 caliber round of the Desert Eagle may be awesome at a few yards if the bear charges you, but nothing else.
  • Vinyl records, at least in modern times. They generally have better sound quality than digital files, and there's just something inherently cool about them, but they're large, inconvenient, and ripping them to play on your MP3 player or game console requires somehow hooking up the turntable output to your computer's analog input, or having a special vinyl-to-mp3 turntables.
    • Except the better sound of vinyl records is caused by the one particular technique which is regrettably abused in the modern CD mastering: a dynamic range equalization. It artificially pulls up the volume of the quieter sounds and muffles the louder ones, often across the entire spectrum, so that the overall record might be more even in intensity.note  Unfortunately, the overindulgence may (and, sadly, too often, does) lead to the record becoming an unlistenable mess, with every detail drowning in an impenetrable wall of sound. Vinyl records have much lower dynamic range than CDs, and don't lend itself to this technique: in a too loud sound the needle will be simply thrown out of the groove. That's why the records usually aren't equalized for the vinyl medium, which leads to the crispier, more detailed sound.
    • However, the other thing about CDs is that they are pre-equalised - they come with a defined bass and treble level whatever you play them on. On a vinyl record, you are amplifying an unequalised signal yourself, so you can adjust the bass and treble settings before it reaches the speakers. The warmth of a vinyl record is usually caused by low level hum that is endemic to the analog medium, that's why digital recordings often sound 'cold' by comparison.
      • The whole 'needle jumping out of the groove' thing is somewhat of a myth, as modern vinyl uses 180 gram records which have deeper grooves and can take higher volumes. Many recent examples have used almost exactly the same mastering as the CD, sometimes taken directly from the CDs (in the case of bootlegs).
      • Of course one further thing is that when pre-equalizing CDs, the mastering engineers often make questionable choices, such as cutting out the bass to make the music sound 'brighter'. Many audiophiles like vinyl precisely because they have more control over how it sounds.
  • Lots of clothing would come under this, such as extremely high heels that in many situations are crippling, but still popular for aesthetic reasons. Also exceptionally tight and restricting clothing, and clothes worn for fetish reasons that can be impossible to move in.
  • The Roman Toga; the definite status symbol in Ancient Rome and made you look like a refined Patrician. But they were heavy, inconvenient, a hassle to walk around in, extremely uncomfortable in the hot Roman Summer, and more or less completely disabled the use of the wearer's left arm. They had to impose a law forcing senators to wear them in meetings because they were so widely hated.
    • It isn't really surprising: the toga was basically a rectangular woolen sheet about a meter wide and 6 meters long, wrapped around the body several times. Of course it was heavy and stifling: the classical toga was a thing that differentiated a quiritus, or a free Roman citizen, who was expected to devote himself to politics, from a slave, whose purpose in life was to work, and who therefore wore a light tunic.
  • Dubai seems to be the epitome of the high tech, ultramodern city with its numerous flashy skyscrapers and ambitious building projects. However, the city itself lacks critical infrastructure that is taken for granted in literally any other industrial nation, such as a centralized sewer system. Though the city has adequate treatment facilities to process all of the waste it generates, the problem is actually transporting the waste to said facilities. With no pipes or sewers, the majority of the city's waste is carried by tanker truck, which can lead to long queues that can force a drive to wait at least 24 hours. It's not uncommon for tanker truck drivers to simply dump their waste wherever they can rather than wait.
  • Many modern skyscrapers are a perfect example of this, particularly the kind that were built or started during the relatively recent property bubble of 2002-2008. Examples like the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (in the UAE) or the towers in Mecca were an example of what can happen when a few megalomaniac oil barons with access to Western resources (architects, engineers, and credit not locally available in the Middle East) build things for their own egos, but completely forget about cost and practicality. The result was more fuel a property bubble that helped puncture the world economy, depress growth rates in those countries, and may have indirectly sparked the Arab Spring. Mostly empty skyscrapers may look cool from a distance, but economically, they are a gargantuan waste of resources. It gets even worse when one considers the opportunity cost.
    • Which is compounded by the fact that the Burj Khalifa is not not even connected to a sewer due to Dubai's lack of a centralized sewer system. All of the waste the building generates is stored in a massive septic tank which has to be regularly emptied by entire convoys of tanker trucks, which have to physically carry all the waste to the nearest treatment plant.
    • When a "megaproject" looks like it has been grafted onto a much poorer or smaller community that looks like it cannot support such a project, it generally is an example of this trope, like a giant hotel in North Korea, or Romania's oversize Palace of the Parliament.
    • Speaking of which: the North Korean "Ryugyong" hotel, also known as the "Hotel of Doom", is a massive, modern-looking palace that was to be the "tallest hotel in the world", had it actually been completed before someone else's hotel had snatched that title. It suffered numerous halts in construction, and was later deemed unfit for use and built so badly as to be structurally unsound - with things like concrete spontaneously breaking apart and crooked lift shafts. North Korea ran out of money before completing it, with some sources reporting the hotel costing the country 2% of its entire GDP during the years it was being built. It sat unused and decaying for years, and even now that a telecom group has been fixing what parts of it can be fixed and seems to actually, really be on the verge of opening it, only small parts of it will ever be used, as the rest is beyond repair.
    • It's been "completed", though it has yet to open. Parts of it are unusable.
    • This is a situation that is Older Than Dirt. Most of the most fabulous of the Ancient Wonders were built to satisfy the egos of the local rulers or city authorities. They were unrivaled architectural achievements that attracted the envy of all while simultaneously being incredibly expensive and of very little practical use. Particularly in Ancient Egypt, where it was not uncommon for a Pharaoh's monument building to leave the nation bankrupt. The Pyramids of Giza are a prime example. While an architectural marvel and a crowning achievement for the human species, at the end of the day they are still horrendously over-elaborate mausoleums and nothing more.
  • The Reliant Robin was an entirely plastic three wheeled car from the 70's. It was very light weight, it was legally a motorcycle it's origin nation of the U.K. (meaning a Reliant owner had to pay less on taxes and didn't need a drivers license), and was very popular in the Northern parts of Britain. Problem was, the single wheel was in the front, meaning the thing was VERY unstable.
    • For those not keen on clicking links, the driver of the RR rolls over onto the car's side within the first ten seconds of the video.
  • The Energia rocket, developed in the late 1970s-1980s in the Soviet Union, turned out to be this. The most powerful launch system ever built,and intended to be entirely reusable in its second incarnation, it actually worked—but it was too powerful for the projects (chief among them Buran, the Soviet space shuttle, and eventually a lunar expedition) that eventually proved to be realistic. You see, The Great Politics Mess-Up happened just as the system was reaching its full capacity, and The New Russia didn't have the funds to run it. As it later turned out, the project was so ambitious that even the US would have had a hard time finding funding. Naturally (and sadly), the project was cancelled.
  • Certain synthesizer patches, specifically ones that provide very unmusical effects like engine noises. Sure, they're fun to play around with, but no musician would seriously consider using them in his/her work.
  • These ketchup-squirting robots.
  • Alcubierre drives, physically viable idea for FTL travel, it's basically a warp drive; it's only inanely expensive, requires an absurd amount of fuel, and has the added benefit of creating a large black hole at the area it's turned on every time it's used. Oh, and the area it moves reaches preposterously high temperatures in transit.
    • The other problem is that it'd require more energy than the entire mass of the universe converted into energy all at once to turn one on...Plus you can't steer while it's active, and you can't turn it off easily.
      • Actually, it seems the power requirements aren't nearly immense. The other two points still stand, as does one other point that came up in a critique of Alcubierre's original theory: The bubble on its own doesn't provide any motive power. So even if we get an Alcubierre drive up and running, we still have the issue of moving it!
  • TV sets with 4k resolution. 4k is basically twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of HDTV, and is regularly used in digital cinema. So it's a TV with the resolution of a movie theater! The first such models are 84" diagonal, and start at about $20k. While there already are a handful of 4k videos posted on YouTube, nothing is currently broadcast at this resolution, and won't be without another major upgrade to TV equipment. It is doubtful that such an expense would ever be justified, as most people don't seem to really notice a difference between the 1080p resolution of Blu-ray and upconverted DVD.
    • But if that's not enough for you, try the format-after-next 8k UHDTV (ultra high-definition television) resolution. Yes, that doubles the x and y resolution of 4k. At 7680x4320, that approaches the resolution of friggin' IMAX film! And don't even get started with the associated audio format of 22.2 surround sound (exactly what it says on the tin — 22 speakers and 2 subwoofers.) Just a little overkill for watching the news, no?.
    • And, as of 2013, games are starting to be developed with 4k resolution. While it gives PC elitists bragging rights over the PS 4 and X-Box One not supporting it, the market saturation needed for it to be anything more than a talking point does not yet exist for the above reasons.
  • The Bosozoku style of vehicle modification. Whether the end results are classifiable as "awesome" is open to debate, but they are certainly flashy, creative and attention-grabbing. They're also horribly troublesome to drive, aerodynamically disastrous and in general unfeasible to use as anything other than show pieces.
  • It is possible to turn a can of sweetened condensed milk into a substance similar to caramel by boiling an unopened can in water for 3 hours. However, when one considers the gas or electric cost of running a stove for 3 hours (even if it's a wood stove, you still need constant fuel), plus the water needed, plus the cost of a can of sweetened condensed milk (which isn't even available in many countries), it is far FAR cheaper to either buy a jar of caramel, or to make it properly with melted brown sugar and butter.
    • Granted, if you don't mind waiting longer, you can do this with a crock pot (removing the label first), and once done the finished product has a frankly absurd refrigeration life. A single can lasts for months, and can even be stored in the original can without complications.
    • Thankfully, this special, creamy type of caramel (often called "dulce de leche") can now be found in many grocery stores.
    • You can also boil an unopened can of sweetened milk inside a pressure cooker. Takes around 30 to 45 minutes and it's just as good as the original.
  • Ikarus 293 double articulated bus. While it had a high passenger count, it was too long, slow, and problems with turning making it unable to take corners in Budapest. Only one prototype was made. Later it was sold to Teheran after replacing the engine to a stronger one.
  • Certain vintage electromechanical keyboard instruments, such as the Hammond organ and the Mellotron. They sound great, but their intricate mechanisms make them a nightmare to take on tour, as many Progressive Rock bands found out. This is why many keyboardists wanting retro sounds use sampled versions on modern digital synths or software synthesizers, which stand up to the rigors of touring much better, with physical instruments largely relegated to studio work. The original analog synths, such as the Minimoog, are also temperamental, often going out of tune easily. Lots of musicians prefer digital recreations for the same reason.
  • LaserDisc. Sure, it had better quality than VHS, but the discs were expensive and most rental stores didn't stock them, while they had shelves and shelves of VHS tapes. Plus, the discs were huge, the size of an LP. Watching a full-length movie required flipping discs. The format was limited to deep-pocketed film buffs and industrial uses, though it was popular in Japan. DVDs came along in the late '90s and offered all of the advantages of LaserDisc, including advanced picture and sound while being relatively cheap and the size of a Compact Disc.
    • Same goes double for CED, AKA RCA SelectaVision. Never heard of it? It was actually an analog video disc similar to an LP, only using a magnetic pickup instead of a needle. The disks were permanently encased in sheaths reminiscent of a 3.5 inch floppy the size of an LP jacket and tended to wear out quickly... like after the second viewing. Not a big success.
  • 1080p video. With great resolution comes great bandwidth requirements. No broadcasters currently use 1080p, opting for 1080i or 720p instead. 1080p is mostly relegated to satellite pay per view movies, Blu-ray and streaming video. Even streaming falls into this problem. Like to watch lots of 1080p movies and TV shows on Netflix? Hope you don't have any bandwidth caps, especially in America, Canada and Australia!
    • If you want to watch a 1080p video on an iPhone, the first (and currently only) one that has a screen resolution high enough to display it without fudging things is the 6 Plus. Four years ago a flatscreen LCD computer moniter capable of that resolution was a 27" monitor which cost several hundred dollars, and you also needed an extremely expensive graphics card.
  • Necomimi ears are cat ears that move in response to your forehead muscles, and while they look cute, they'll run you at least 100 USD. They can also, as a promotional video shows, completely ruin a pokerface should you wear one while playing cards.
  • Back during the Cold War and the Space Race the USA got the Saturn V rocket working, and the USSR wanted something better. Enter the N1, a massive five-stage rocket intended for launching space stations and other large cargo. It was properly huge and employed the novel concept of a cluster of smaller engines instead of the traditional four or five big ones. This gave it a significantly higher thrust than its American counterpart... in theory. In practice the higher thrust didn't actually give it a better lifting capacity, and the engine cluster required complicated plumbing that was never able to withstand the forces and vibration of launch without exploding the whole damn thing to bits. The second launch crashed back on the pad and caused one of the most powerful non-nuclear explosions ever recorded; though that probably qualifies as awesome in the traditional sense of the word, it wasn't exactly what the Soviet engineers had in mind.
  • In the world of NERF and NERF knock-offs, NERF shotguns. On one hand, shotguns are awesome. On the other hand, they shoot two standard shots, when most guns can hold 3-12 times that many, before reloading. And the kinds that use shells, like the Buzz Bee Double Shot, look really cool but take forever to reset the shells. This doesn't include other blasters that are primed in shotgun fashion such as the Alpha Trooper and Rampage, Shotguns Are Just Better in that case.
    • The NERF Sledgefire, a new addition in the ZombieStrike line, uses three-dart shells that eject when the breech is opened. Cool, but it can only hold up to 4 at a time, and only comes with 3 since a fourth one makes reloading even more cumbersome. Refilling the shells take about as much time each as swapping out a clip from an N-Strike blaster.
    • In terms of cost, the NERF Cam ECS-12, a neat integration of a camera and blaster in one but at somewhere around $80 with a camera around 0.3 MP and 20 FPS, it's cheaper just to strap a GoPro to a Stryfe or use your iPhone attached to a blaster by an official holder.
  • The Dvorak keyboard layout. It's supposed to be more efficient than the standard QWERTY keyboard and cut down on repetitive motion strain (unproven). Also every major operating system supports it in software. Unfortunately the typical Dvorak keyboard runs well over $100 and no IT department will appreciate you gluing new letters onto your keyboard.
    • Many keyboards have pop-off/pop-on keycaps, so you could move them around, reversibly. Or learn to touch-type in Dvorak and don't even look at the keys. These both require going under the hood and remapping the keyboard, of course. (Some people's skin gradually wears the lettering off computer keys, so they can touch-type, replace keyboards regularly, or glue on new labels.)
    • Additionally, note that the Dvorak keyboard is based on a myth; its creators believed that the QWERTY keyboard was created to slow down typists. This, at least, is well-documented as being untrue. (The arrangement has to do with the exact mechanics of the inside of a typewriter and the way certain bars tended to jam when struck together, not with any deliberate attempt to slow down typists.)
    • The major problem is that you have to completely re-learn touch typing. While switching may lead to faster typing in the long run (as mentioned, there's no hard evidence either way), it will definitely slow you down in the short term. It also makes it incredibly inconvenient to use anyone else's computer (or a public computer) and, conversely, inconvenient for anyone else to use yours.
  • Some animals end up getting stuck with this as part of their evolutionary adaptation, with the best example being the extinct saber toothed cat. A muscular big cat with elongated banana-sized teeth jutting out of its front jaw must have been the ultimate badass right? Well...evidence has shown that those impressive canines were less fearsome than they appear. While it did help in killing large animals, said animals had to be held still by the cat's prodigious strength to prevent their delicate teeth from breaking from the strain of struggling prey, unlike the teeth of today's big cats which are more durable.
  • Fountain pens. They look cool and require less pressure to write with, but also need to be held at a very specific and uncomfortable angle or else the result is a mess of missing ink, on top of being expensive. It's for these reasons that the far-more-convenient ballpoint pen has replaced the fountain pen in modern ages.
  • Parkour. Sure, it's cool to make all those backflips and land on your feet just to keep running, but the training, agility and stamina required are prohibitive for most people.
  • Lots of gourmet cooking techniques and dishes qualify.
  • Antarctic Press released a series of books on how to draw manga in the early 2000s. One installment focused on swords and pointed out that the ridiculously-designed fantasy swords with wild blades, skulls and encrusted jewels was only good for mantelpiece displays, would only work well as a weapon of VERY last resort, would probably hurt you more than the target and you'd just end up trying to copy the Sword of Omens, anyway..
  • The concept of a Space Elevator sounds cool: Bringing materials and people up to orbital altitudes without needing fuel-burning rockets. However, many issues prevent the concept from working in practice, the threat of meteors and satellites colliding with the elevator cable being an obvious concern.
  • The "ripped look" bodybuilders have while on-stage during competitions looks awesome, but the bodybuilder is actually very low on body fat and might even be dehydrated.

Western AnimationAwesome, but ImpracticalMilitary

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