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"In WWII, they had a saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. I think the modern equivalent of that is that there are no jaded, bored people in the high-tech industry, in the land of really good hardcore geeks."
- Neal Stephenson
|Hidden in a top hat, this device cures staggering and reeling, for whatever reason.
This absolutely charming story begins with the musings of a hatter:
The idea of a gyro-hat did not come to
me all at once, as some great ideas come
to inventors. In fact I may say that
but for a most unpleasant circumstance
I might never have thought of gyro-hats at all, although I had for many years been
considering the possibility of utilizing the waste
space in the top of silk hats in some way or other.
As a practical hat dealer and lover of my kind,
it had always seemed to me a great economical
waste to have a large vacant space inside the upper
portion of top hats, or high hats, or "stovepipe"
hats, as they are variously called. When a shoe is
on, it is full of foot, and when a glove is on, it is
full of hand; but a top hat is not, and never can
be, full of head, until such a day as heads assume
a cylindrical shape, perfectly flat on top. And no
sensible man ever expects that day to come.
When his daughter meets a man who seems to stagger and reel as a drunken sailor, he sees his chance for an invention.
|Walsingham Gribbs looked at my wife, and then
"Very well," he said, "if what you wanted was
to have him drunk, I'll admit that he is about the
drunkest man I have ever seen. I only spoke as I
did in order that I might spare your feelings, for
most wives object to seeing their husbands stagger
and reel. I myself stagger and reel continually, and
I have never tasted intoxicating liquor in my life,
but I can share the feelings of one who staggers and
reels, or who has a relative that staggers and reels."
At this my wife said:
"Are you not Walsingham Gribbs? If you are I am
delighted to meet you, even in this unconventional
manner, for what brought us here will interest
She then told him of the gyro-hat I had invented,
and explained just why I had come to this place and,
had swallowed the strong brandy. I took no part
in this conversation, but Walsingham gladly agreed
to accompany us, and he put my gyro-hat on my
The result was indeed marvelous. Instantly the
vacuum pump began to work and the gyroscope to
revolve. My head, which had been lying on one
side, straightened up. The rubber sweat band gripped my head tightly with a slight pulling sensation.
Without assistance I arose from my chair and stood
erect. My brain was still confused, but I walked
as straight as a string direct to the door of the
restaurant, and stood holding it open while my wife passed out with the ever staggering Walsingham.
The gyroscope was revolving at the rate of three
thousand revolutions a minute, and the slight humming was hardly noticeable. I did not stagger and
I did not reel. When I reached Gramercy Park I
was full of glee. I had been walking on the edge
of the curb, but I now desired to climb atop of the
iron fence that surrounds the park, and walk on
the points of the pickets.
('An Experiment in Gyro-Hats' by Ellis Parker Butler)
My wife and Walsingham tried to dissuade me,
but I climbed to the top of the fence. I not only
walked on the points of the pickets easily, but I was
able to place the end of one toe on the point of one
picket, and thus balanced, wave the other leg in the
air. My wife and Walsingham Gribbs coaxed me
to come down to the level of the walk, but as I saw
no reason to do so, I flatly refused, and at last Walsingham reached up and took me by the hand and
Ordinarily a man that had imbibed a quantity of
brandy would have fallen to the street if pulled by
one hand while standing on the top of a row of
pickets, but I did not. When Walsingham pulled
my hand I inclined gently toward him until I was
at right angles to the picket fence, with my foot
still on top of the picket; and when he released my
hand I slowly swung upright again, without any
effort whatever on my part. I got down off that
fence when I was ready, and not before.
There could be no doubt whatever that I was
far more intoxicated than Walsingham Gribbs, and
all the way home I gave vent to tremendous bursts
of laughter over the idea that while Walsingham
thought he was seeing me safely home I walked as
straight and true as a general, and he staggered
and reeled except when he clung closely to my arm.
Many persons stopped and looked at us, and I
cannot wonder at it. For Walsingham is a young
man of most dignified countenance, and it must
have seemed strange to see a young man of such
sober mien reeling drunkenly, while a dignified and
steadily walking hatter laughed and shouted drunkenly. It was as if the two of us had been able to
afford but one spree, and had divided it in that way,
he taking the stagger and I taking the boisterousness.
My wife was much touched by the kind attentions of Walsingham, and when we reached home
she invited him in, and while I found a little harmless amusement in walking up the stair banisters
and sliding down them standing on my feet, which
I was enabled to do because of the steadying effect
of the gyro-hat, she took Walsingham into the
parlor and introduced him to Anne formally.
|Technovelgy from An Experiment in Gyro-Hats,
by Ellis Parker Butler.
Published by Amazing Stories in 1926
Additional resources -
Compare to the gyrocar from Two Boys in a Gyrocar the story of a New York to Paris motor race (1911) by Kenneth Brown, the tumblebug from The Roads Must Roll (1940) by Robert Heinlein, the Two-Wheeled Ground Car from First Lensman (1950) by E.E. 'Doc' Smith, the Gyro Two-Wheeled Truck from The Sign of the Tiger (1958) by Alan Nourse (w/Meyer), the Gyrocar (Gyro) from The Ring (1969) by Piers Anthony (w/R. Margroff) and the smart bike from Distraction (1998) by Bruce Sterling.
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