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7 Inventors Who Regretted Their Inventions

What do Labradoodles, Mother’s Day, and emoticons have in common? Their creators rue the day they thought them up.

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Connect the future, Shanghai, China
Qi Yang/Getty Images

Some ideas are better left as ideas

Have you ever thought up something and then later decided it wasn’t your best idea? So have these people—the only difference is, millions of people have either used or been affected by the products of their thoughts. Oops! Scroll through to find out who wishes they could take back what they made. And while you’re at it, check out these 19 inventions that have changed the world in the last decade.

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Ethan Zuckerman, creator of the pop-up ad

When one of his advertising clients, a major car company, freaked out after their ad appeared on a page celebrating … well, a certain kind of sex we can’t mention here, Ethan Zuckerman came up with a way to get ads in front of the eyeballs of consumers without seeming to be associated with the content on the page. Thus, he wrote in an essay for The Atlantic, “We ended up creating one of the most hated tools in the advertiser’s toolkit: The pop-up ad. I’m sorry. Our intentions were good.” Find out the most famous invention from your home state.

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Wally Conron, creator of the Labradoodle

In the 1980’s, Wally Conron, the puppy-breeding manager for the Royal Guide Dog Association of Australia, was tasked with creating a non-shedding guide dog for a blind woman whose husband was allergic to dogs. The result was a cross between a Golden Labrador Retriever and a Standard Poodle called a Labradoodle, now the most sought-after hybrid dog in the world. You’d think Conron would be happy, right? Wrong. Everyone’s now now trying to create their own hybrid breeds: Goldendoodles (Golden Retriever/Poodle), Schnoodles (Miniature Schnauzer/Poodle), Cavoodless (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel/Poodle), Roodles (Rottweiller/Poodle), Yorkiepoos (Yorkshire Terrier/Poodle), Shihpoos (Shih Tzu/Poodle) … The result, according to Psychology Today? The poodle crosses suffer various ailments: Problems with their eyes, hips, elbows, even epilepsy. “I opened a Pandora’s box, that’s what I did,” Conron told Psychology Today. “So many people are just breeding for the money. So many of these dogs have physical problems, and a lot of them are just crazy.” These are the most popular dog breeds in the country.

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Anna Jarvis, creator of Mother’s Day

To her dying day, Anna Jarvis couldn’t stand Mother’s Day. It had nothing to do with her feelings for her mother, whom she adored. After all, that’s why she came up with the idea of having a day devoted to mothers everywhere. Jarvis was even excited when the first day was celebrated on May 10, 1908. She didn’t attend the first event, held in the Grafton, West Virginia church where her mother taught Sunday School. But she did send 500 white carnations in her honor. What turned her off was how quickly the day became commercialized. Mental Floss says she was so put off that she dubbed the florist, greeting card, and confectionery industries “charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers, and termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest and truest movements and celebrations.”

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John Sylvan, creator of the K-Cup

It seems everyone has a Keurig coffee maker, right? “I don’t have one,” John Sylvan told The Atlantic. “They’re kind of expensive to use. Plus it’s not like drip coffee is tough to make.” You’d think that Sylvan would have all the money and time in the world. After all, he’s the guy who invented the Keurig K-Cups, those ubiquitous single-serve plastic coffee pods. But what really puts him off his creation is that the pods aren’t recyclable or biodegradable, so there are literally tons filling up landfills. “I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it,” he admits. But, lo! Good news for Mr. Sylvan: Keurig now offers varieties of pods that are recyclable, although some argue that even these are hard to recycle. Check out these foods you had no idea were invented by accident.

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ak 4 rifle in boy's hands

Mikhail Kalashnikov, creator of the AK-47

During World War II, Russian firepower could not keep up with that of Germany’s. So Mikhail Kalashnikov, who served in a tank unit during the beginning of the war and had already invented improvements for tanks, set about building a rifle to compete against the Nazis. His automatic weapon proved durable, lightweight, and extremely popular. Too popular, as far as he was concerned, as it became a favorite of terrorists and warlords the world over. He told The Guardian, “I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work—for example a lawn mower.”

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Scott Fahlman, creator of the emoticon

Emoticons, emojis, “stickers” … that’s how many of us communicate with the outside world. Why use words when we can use cute pictures? Who would have a problem with that? Scott Fahlman, that’s who. The computer science professor created emoticons as joke markers to let someone know the email or text sender is kidding. But things have changed. “Sometimes I feel like Dr. Frankenstein,” he complained to the Wall Street Journal. “My creature started as benign but it’s gone places I don’t approve of.” :-( Learn about some amazing everyday objects you didn’t know were invented by kids.

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Albert Einstein, whose theories helped create the atomic bomb

Einstein’s famous equation E=mc2 was the roadmap scientists needed to build the atomic bomb. And, assuming that the Nazis were well on their way to building their own A-Bomb, he was glad to help, even writing a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt in 1939 urging him to pursue the bomb. But the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki horrified Einstein. In 1947, he lamented to Newsweek that if he had “known that the Germans would not succeed in developing an atomic bomb, I would have done nothing.” Next, check out some more of the most ironic inventions ever.

Andy Simmons
Andy is a longtime editor at Reader’s Digest, where he’s edited and reported on national interest, dramas and humor. He is the author of Now That’s Funny! featuring his most popular, funniest writings on all things America, some exclusive and all-new, some taken from the award-winning pages of Reader’s Digest. He also wrote That Reminds Me of a Joke ..., a collection of gags and hilarious true stories taken from the news. In a past life, Andy graduated from Kenyon College and was an editor at National Lampoon Magazine.