Explosion-Proof Baby Incubator? Good Technology – Worst Product Name in History

Explosion-Proof Baby Incubator

Is it just me, or does this look more like an oven than a maternity ward incubator? Explosion Proof? Really?

I’m sure that in 1955 new parents were comforted by this technology. Anything that helps premature babies is a good idea, but a bright orange Explosion Proof bumper sticker on the front – as if the parents didn’t already have enough to worry about. The minute I saw it in the Cayuga Museum of History and Art in Auburn, New York, I knew it would be post fodder. Some photos are just too good to pass up.

Maternity Ward Incubator

In thinking about ideas and angles for this post I wanted to know more of the history, and of course, the internet provided what I needed. After reading and thinking about it a bit, I came to a couple of conclusions about technology.

First, I have fond memories of the past, but I’m not one of those nostalgic people pining to go back. As Billy Joel said: “Cause the good ole days weren’t always good.” I’ll take all the technological help I can get, thank you very much.

Incubator patent plan

And second, there isn’t a day that passes I don’t marvel at what an incredible resource the internet is. This drawing was part of the original patent application for the incubator which was submitted in 1955. The drawing in itself isn’t particularly interesting, but what is interesting is that someone took the time to upload it to the internet, and I found it. There’s lots of mind-warping rubbish online for sure, but what a fantastic resource. How on earth did we make it before internet technology?

As further proof that lots of new ideas are good ideas; these marvels were also invented in the 1950s: phone answering machine, super glue, power steering, video tape recorder, Mr. Potato Head, polio vaccine, Saran Wrap, non-stick pan, solar cell, microwave oven, velcro, Fender Broadcaster and Telecaster guitars, the Hula Hoop, and (for those that didn’t fall for the Hula Hoop fad), the pacemaker. The source for this list came from the internet of course.

Happy Trails,


Photo Credits:
6. Daderot via Wikimedia Commons
8. Courtesy of George Lerner, inventor
9. John Seb Barber via Wikimedia Commons

Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

55 thoughts

    1. It’s great to have a confirmation that these incubators were actually used Yvonne. Interestingly, Terri’s sister was premature and born in 1957, so she could have been in one of these. But one thing for sure, anyone who saw the Explosion Proof sticker would remember. ~James

  1. I am appreciating Yvonne’s comment above that she actually worked with these incubators! I will be thankful to have been a nurse a bit later on.
    James you never cease to surprise me with the creativity of your posts. Not sure how you came to write about explosion proof incubators but I am delighted you did. Most enjoyable read. 🙂
    On a very different note if we did a survey on who has turned on the snow effect on their blog my guess would be it is most often done by bloggers who are not shoveling the stuff. Just saying…

    1. Fair enough Sue, but today’s temp here is 64F, so the snow stays. Also, following this logic, your posts should have lots of photos of palm trees, beach sunsets, and rum drinks with little umbrellas. As to topics for posts, obviously we’re a travel blog, but as for me, basically it’s whatever tickles my fancy. I reckon if I have good art, a few interesting facts, a twist or two, and a bit of humor it will tickle someone else’s fantasy as well. I’m not sure it always works, but that’s the plan anyway. ~James

      1. James as you and Terri approach 5000 followers it is clear that whatever you are doing people love and that includes me. 🙂
        Just giving you a bit of a tease about the snow. We have the most wonderful above freezing temperatures and most of our snow has melted. I am very fond of palm trees and beaches and should WP develop some to come cascading over my blog I will definitely give it a try.
        Wishing you and Terri and warm and wonderful week.

  2. Hah! Can you see snow on my blog, Sue? I can’t, but others have mentioned it. You’re right, some of us have romantic memories of snow, none of which involves shovels, snow-tires, frozen noses …

  3. You pointed out some of the weirdest turns technology has taken leading up to the present. While some inventions were considered dumb or useless in their time, some of them proved to be quite the rage eventually including but not limited to answering machines and personal computers.

    It would be fun to see what silly inventions beyond those already mentioned you and your readers might come up with. While the motorized surfboard caught my eye, my favorite was the Fast-Draw Robot. One might naturally question the notion of giving a robot a gun, but making it quick on the draw is just seems irresponsible.

    Ho ho – Merry Christmas! – Mike

    1. I listened to a Freakonomics podcast on Bitcoin. They had an interesting segment where they read quotes from all sorts of well known experts that said the internet was a passing fad, and would lead nowhere. Lots of people think that Bitcoin is going to be a world-changer and will be the first true virtual currency. If you have an interest in this sort of stuff, you might want to download it and give it a listen. As for robots with guns, I’m not sure that I’d trust a iRobot Roomba to clean my floors, but it sounds like a great idea. BTW, are you guys all settled in? ~James

      1. James, Florence and I have been in our new apartment in Bellingham for a month now. We love the peace and quiet and we have views of mountains and water. And the best part is my grandson has already slept over twice since we got here. Life is GOOD! 🙂 – Mike

      2. James, Florence and I have been in our new apartment in Bellingham for a month now. We love the peace and quiet and we have views of mountains and water. And the best part is my grandson has already slept over twice since we got here. Life is GOOD! 🙂 – Mike

    1. I wonder if Google is dealing libraries a death blow. Most serious academics hold that online research isn’t real research, and some of that idea may be true. But I’m with you Marie, Google is my go-to search engine, and I rarely use anything else. ~James

    1. I agree Laura, and the fun bit is that you never know what you’ll stumble into. There’s lots of BS out there for sure, but having instant access to so much information is one of the most empowering things that’s happened in my life. ~James

    1. Thanks Rusha. If you haven’t had the chance, click the link at the bottom of the post. If you’re like me, you’re of the generation that will appreciate the walk down memory lane. ~James

  4. That incubator is scary. How did parent not lose it? Nice to be reminded of the new and awesome (weird) inventions of yesteryear. Still, it was progress, wasn’t it. Fabulous post!

    I have snow on my screen, but I didn’t turn it on. I wonder if it automatically began to snow because I had turned it on way back when?

    1. The funny thing about the name is that I can’t believe the inventors (not marketing types for sure) didn’t get the message of how scary this name sounded; particularly to already frightened parents. BTW, the snow is a preference setting that’s buried somewhere in your WP preferences. It’s a click button that you can turn on or off. Your’s is obviously turned on. ~James

      1. I am turned on but didn’t do it this year. I wonder if the snow didn’t come on automatically because I switched it on the first year this feature was offered.

        Scientists and inventors weren’t too imaginative and maybe Marketing didn’t know any better.

    1. I’m not sure what the explosion business is about Chris, except maybe it relates to the presence of oxygen. It would take a spark, and who knows where that would come from. ~James

  5. I also love museums and old things but am very happy to be alive here and now with all the wonderful technology and ability to keep in touch with friends and family all over the world. As a child I hung around museums and libraries instead of playgrounds. (I know, I was a weird child) I never saw an incubator like the one shown but I remember seeing an iron lung and it totally freaked me out!

    1. Seeing your success as a writer Darlene, I’d say that your time at libraries and museums was well spent. I’d forgotten about iron lungs. There’s another gadget that looks like it has some explosive potential as well. ~James

    1. I think that I’ve seen photos of modern incubators that have holes cut in the sides with gloves reaching to the inside for nursing staff as well as parents to be able to touch the babies. Maybe some of the nurse-readers can provide a bit more info on this. ~James

      1. The newer ones do have those arm holes that allow for physical contact. That is very important for the new born – the physical contact.
        Leslie (R.N.)

    1. I’m not sure how modern incubators are controlled Curt, but I love it that this one has a red light, green light, heavy duty power cord, and temperature dial. And how about that Gerber baby inside? ~James

      1. I don’t think I would let them put any baby of mine into that kind of contraption, Gerber Bay or not. 🙂 It looks far too much like a microwave, James.

    1. In those days they seemed to be more concerned about results than touchy-feely niceties. Remember the bomb drills and crawling under your desk? Yeah, like that was going to help. ~James

  6. As a probable survivor of said “explosion-proof” incubator (aka microwave oven), I am left with a wonderfully full life and a penchant for startling easily. I researched this and found that preemies who spent any significant amount of time in the oxygen-charged atmosphere of these incubators are prone to startling easily. As my loving family can attest, my reactions are totally out of proportion to cause. I’ve thrown drinks on the ceiling, stepped off of a ladder, –from the top step, snapped the stem from a wine glass and walked into windows–when startled. All this to say, it saved my life, developed my lungs and allowed me to go home 6 weeks after my birthday — roughly Valentines Day, 1958. Straight into the arms of my adoring big sister, Terri. But after seeing this thing, it’s no wonder I didn’t grow hair for 18 months! Nothing subtle about this piece of over-engineering!
    Ellen Terri and James’ sister

    1. Ellen, once again you’ve posted an A-1 comment on our post. Not only is it germane, it’s very funny and the only input we’ve received from someone who’s actually been in an incubator. You may have read the comments from a few of our nurse readers, and now, thanks to you we have the whole story. I didn’t know about preemies being easily frightened, but it makes perfect sense. After a few weeks in an incubator, the noise of normal life must sound like pandemonium. Terri asked me to remind you of the bookmark/snake at the bookstore. Thanks for the wonderful comment. You’re welcome here any time. Love, James

  7. There are things on the list that were invented in the 50s that surprised me … microwave ovens, saran wrap, velcro … I guess it just took a very looooong time to reach my end of the world in Northern Ontario.
    A very fun post!

    1. Thanks Joanne. I was really surprised that velcro had been around since the 50s. It seems like it’s used everywhere today, but that seems to be a relatively recent thing. Where was it hiding all those years? ~James

      1. I guess there is the original invention stage then there’s the commercialization stage while people wrap their heads around the concept and potential uses.
        As you said, now it’s everywhere and such an ‘obvious’ thing.

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. Luckily medical technology has moved on, and modern incubators aren’t nearly so scary. But this one wins the scary prize. ~James

    1. Spooky huh Shelley? I’m sure the science was effective and appreciated, but the marketing department must have been a couple of engineers. No disrespect to engineers mind you, but jeez, what a name. Happy Holidays. ~James

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