Today have noise-canceling headphones (they are worth it,) today, but no contraption that promises to “isolate” us during our workday quite like this 1925 invention.
Developed by Hugo Gernsback, editor of Science and Invention magazine, and an early science fiction writer, this device is a helmet that obscures your vision to only see one line of text at a time, eliminates all outside noise and pumps your headspace full of oxygen so you can just focus and get your work done.
It’s mostly a rather horrifying curiosity, but there is some element in this that is appealing. We’re constantly trying to find out how to make us focus, how to eliminate distractions. We want to work more efficiently, and we want to feel better doing it. We load up on caffeine, we take naps, we take walks, some of us take “smart drugs,” we change our diet, we make rules and lists, we change our environment, all to varying degrees of success. But what if we could just put ourselves into a restrictive costume that turns us into a deaf fire hazard that can barely see? Added bonus is that if a stranger encounters you, they’ll probably get too freaked out to interrupt you from your important work.