Awesome but Impractical/Real Life

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search


"A flashy feature that has limited usability for victory."

Subpages

Other Examples

  • "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 you 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.
  • Sharpening a pencil with a CNC Lathe.
  • Machine pistols(a small submachine gun, not to be confused with fully automatic pistols), like the Glock 18 or Ingram MAC series 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.
  • 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.
  • The Guns Akimbo style. Sure, you look badass pulling it off, but having a gun in either hand makes aiming and reloading impossible.
    • Sword and Gun also qualifies. While flashy, the sword isn't going to do you much good in real life than just using the gun, and your 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.
  • The Mateba Auto Revolver. 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 recocked the hammer of the revolver) and it looks super cool, but it also combines the drawbacks of both pistols(less durable and more prone to malfunction) and revolvers(smaller magazine capacity and difficult to conceal) into one extremely expensive package. And did we mention that if you wanted to stop without firing all 6 shots, there was no way to safely uncock the hammer? Needless to say, there were a lot of accidental discharges.
    • Likewise its predecessor, the Webley-Fosberry. It achieved some success as a competition gun, but it would jam if the mechanism got the least bit dirty or the shooter couldn't keep their arm perfectly stiff against its quite formidable recoil. The only advantage it had over a conventional semi-automatic pistol was that it was chambered in more powerful calibres than they could handle, but that advantage only lasted until weapons like the Parabellum P-08 and the Colt M1911 became commercially available.
  • 8-bit [dead link] Mario computer mice. They're nifty and look nice, but they're also large, clunky, and uncomfortable.
  • Butterfly knives or balisongs. Other than looking damn cool when they’re flipped, the knives are culturally significant in the Philippines where they were first made and they are steeped in tradition, with knifemaking techniques passed down from generation to generation of craftsman. Other than being illegal in a lot of other places, the downside is that they're relatively slow to open when compared to other utility knives, they are prone to wear and tear and inexperienced users run the risk of cutting or crushing their own fingers. But they look damn cool while being flipped
    • Not completely impractical. Balisongs are very compact knives with a covered blade that can be opened and closed with one hand (assuming you know how to do so). If you are in a situation where you need to cut things one handed a lot, they are much more useful then fixed blade knives (generally much larger and a higher potential for accidentally stabbing yourself when sheathed and unsheathed while distracted) or other utility knives, like Swiss Army knives (which need to be opened with two hands).
    • If all you're doing is flipping, then it's impractical. It's just like twirling a gun. Having said that, balisongs are no better or worse than any other gravity knife. They still look cool.
  • Some car fans--particularly those who own coupes and other economy-level cars--like to put, on their cars, what is known by detractors as "rice" (huge spoilers, neon lights, decals, big rims, etc.) that does absolutely nothing for a car's performance. Especially ironic when you consider that, on a front-wheel drive car, 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.
  • The Hummer. 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. It weighs three and a half tonnes--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. 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.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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.
  • "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.
  • Project Thor, aka "Rods From God". A platform in orbit firing kinetic-energy projectiles at targets on Earth. Sounds awesome, right? Well, not so much:
    • It takes about 15 minutes from firing to impact, but about 50 minutes (on average) to target.
    • Everyone would know exactly where a launch platform is at any instant, what it could possibly hit, when it fires, and once it fires determine very quickly what it's firing at.
    • Due to the plasma sheath that forms around a projectile entering the atmosphere, the projectile can't use sensors to retarget itself.
    • Finally, the dealkiller: the amount it would cost in money, energy and resources to put enough weapons platforms and projectiles in orbit to make Project Thor effective as a weapon system would buy more than enough existing and conventional weapon systems and launch platforms (which have more flexibility) to make project Thor utterly pointless to have, except when conventional weapons can be easily shot down or fooled by countermeasures.
    • Plus, isn't there a treaty that bans weapons in space?
      • Thor would be technically legal, as the treaties that cover weapons in space are pretty specific (Conventional Weapons Allowed. Weapons of Mass Destruction, including Nuclear, Chemical, or Biological, are not allowed). However, considering the potential impact of telephone pole sized tungsten rods (measured in kilotons), Thor definitely violates the spirit of such treaties. Thor has the potential to be the most powerful weapon system ever devised, from a purely destructive standpoint, that does not involve splitting atoms.
  • "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..."
  • 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, bonnets and the like from the past.
  • The Russian Tsar projects:
    • First up, the Tsar Bell. The original took 24 men to ring - and it was destroyed in fires and reforged even larger TWICE. The third incarnation took two attempts and three years to forge and ended up sitting in a pit for a century after it was damaged yet again.
    • The Tsar Cannon was never fired in war(not that it was meant to).
    • The Tsar Tank was an engineering failure.
    • The Tsar Bomb was so large that the bomber that delivered it had to have its bomb bay doors removed and so powerful that even at half the planned power(that is, the output was only fifty megatons) and with a parachute to delay its detonation the plane barely made it out of the blast zone. Like the Tsar Cannon, it was created for show.
  • 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 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.
  • 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. Unsurprisingly all 52 were scrapped within ten years of production.
    • 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.
  • Actual use of nuclear bombs in war. They make those wonderfully huge explosions, but can't be used anywhere near anything you want to capture, and the strategic advantage gained would probably not be worth the international stigma. (On the other hand, credible threats of using nuclear bombs can be quite useful.)
    • A novel compared the use of a tactical nuclear weapon in war as nothing more than a big cudgel. A tank division gets hit with a tactical warhead, most most of the tanks are intact (ground zero was a few miles away), even though the tank crews would die from radiation poisoning in a few hours. The commander immediately realized that they need to immediately prepare for battle. Only an idiot uses a nuke like this and doesn't follow up with a force to secure the area. Sure enough, they quickly spot an enemy tank division on the way.
    • Nukes are basically a revival of the concept of "feud"("if you kill my cousin I'll kill yours) as opposed to "war"("my state will beat up on your state and a lot of poor dudes will get killed along the way but that's not what I care about so much as beating on your state until I get the political result I want").
  • 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.
  • 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 DX 9 video card probably ended up replacing it quickly, not because it was too slow but because it was not a multicore CPU or DX 10 card.
      • This is the reason many gamers are switching to consoles like Xbox 360 and Play Station 3. Many games are now successfully ported to the consoles, and the specs of the console don't change, so you can be sure that the game you buy will play. On a PC, you may have an older game that won't work on a latest top-of-the-line system.
  • 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 brand new, straight, no bumps whatsoever road,they can't do anything else really. As this will demonstrate.
    • Supercars, by definition, are this. Take the Lamborghini Murcielago. It has over 600 horsepower, in a very lightweight frame, but is useless for anything but getting from point A to point B in a real hurry...on flat paved roads.
    • 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 at with a $1,000,000 price tag. Despite the fact that each one cost Bugatti (aka Volkswagon) $5,000,000 to make. 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 that's assuming you have the $20,000 tires. 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 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.
      • 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" in fear of possibly being involved in a collision or just simply incurring "wear and tear". (Thank Zeus for video game driving simulators.)
  • 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.
    • Convair X-6, a nuclear powered bomber that actually flew with a working nuclear reactor on board. Obsoleted by reliable ICBMs.
    • Tupolev Tu-119, the Soviet nuclear powered bomber. Also obsoleted by ICBMs.
  • 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.
  • '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.
  • In basketball, dunking is very popular as a show-off, but it still does not score as many points as long-distance 3-point shots. Plus, missing a dunk is extremely embarrassing.
    • The 3-point shot is arguably even worse, looks cool and nets an extra point but it's far, far easier to score nearer the basket for 2 points.
  • Many of the inventions of Nikola Tesla.
  • 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.
  • 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...).
  • This minivan.
  • 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.
  • Nazi Uniforms. Look great, not to come off as a Nazi, but 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..
      • Designed by Hugo Boss. No wonder they look good.
  • FLAC format. It's a lossless codec, meaning it compresses audio files without sacrificing quality. However, it only has a conversion ratio of 50-70% on average, as opposed to 20-40% (on average) for MP3 files, so it's widely impractical if you don't have a lot of disk space or aren't concerned about having pitch-perfect copies of your music. On top of that, most portable music players don't support FLAC.
    • There are a number of portable media players these days that support FLAC from companies like Archos, Creative, Cowon, and others, any company that doesn't have an interest in promoting a proprietary format (Apple and AAC, Microsoft and WMA).
    • However, FLAC is arguably a practical alternative to pre-printed audio CDs. For one thing, a removable disc (or memory chip, or external hard drive) full of CD-quality FLAC files takes up less shelf space than audio CDs containing the same audio would. And just like with audio CDs, you can convert FLAC files to MP3 (or any other lossy codec) for making a copy to use on a device (such as a portable player) that doesn't support FLAC or doesn't have enough storage space[1]. You can also use it to burn CD-R audio CDs with exactly the same audio quality as pre-printed audio CDs. And finally, it can be used for pay-to-download distribution of music, with the usual advantages over physical CDs sold in stores (no need for a either a distributor to get it to B&M stores or the cost and long wait time for mail-order, no need to dispose of unsold copies, no significant extra cost for keeping slow-selling records "in print").
    • On that note, "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 it's infancy.
    • 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's also the issue of Earth becoming uninhabitable for humans, which is becoming a rather pressing concern.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The machete slingshot.
  • The Dalek car. And it only sort of looks like a Dalek, anyway.
  • The Desert Eagle handgun. 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 clip size and too much power ensure its status as a toy for rich people, but not a practical weapon.
    • Just about any handgun with a caliber higher than .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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • You can construct a regular 65537-gon solely with compass and straightedge (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/65537-gon). But good luck keeping sufficient precision, and having a large enough piece of paper to begin with. And enough spare time also.
    • Johann Gustav Hermes was the first person to write a complete manuscript about how to construct it, and it took him ten freaking years to complete that.
    • And even if you succeed in constructing it, it will look pretty much like a circle - the edges are so close together (or, alternatively, the figure's diameter is so large) that You Cannot Grasp the True Form. Yeah... how useful.
  • The intensely focused interests of autistic people can range from this trope to Difficult but Awesome, depending on what the topic is, their communication skills and their surrounding. Some get a reputation as a genius while others have rather strange topics of interest and an environment that frequently misinterprets them as obsessive-compulsive disorder or other mental illness, because others can't see a sense in what they are doing.
  • USB thumb drives or memory cards with multiple partitions. Sure, there is software which lets you partition so-called "removable media", but for most applications this won't improve anything. On the other side, you will get the problem that many devices will not recognize all the partitions. For example, up to early versions of Windows 10, Windows NT would not recognize more than the first partition on removable media. Partitioned memory cards may even get detected as "damaged" by some cameras and mobile phones.
    • Live USB thumb drives (which carry a live operating system) and operating-system-on-the-go sticks (which house a fully functional OS) can be an exception to this.
  • Super-heavy elements - chemical elements with atomic numbers beyond 100. They don't occur in measurable quantities in nature, so you can only characterize them if you synthesize them first. To do this, you need particle accelerators where you smash two different types of atoms together, hoping that a few nuclei fuse into your desired element. You rarely get more than a couple of atoms of the superheavy element, and once they are synthesized most decay within minutes at best and less than a microsecond at worst (it depends on the exact isotope).
    • It is predicted that a few neutron-rich isotopes of elements around 110-114 have half-lives of many years (up to millennia) as a result of an "island of stability". There may be another such island centered around element 126, but this is more speculative. Even if these relatively stable isotopes exist, they are freaking hard to synthesize. Current particle physics is getting at its limits, as there are no known nuclear reactions which could produce them even half-way efficiently.
    • And if we ever succeed in producing macroscopic quantities of these elements, they will be extremely expensive - and probably extremely toxic as well due to their radioactivity and their highly unstable decay products.
  • In October 2020, researchers finally found a (near-)room temperature superconductor! The compound CSH8 conducts electricity without resistance at temperatures up to 15°C (or 59°F). There's just a tiny little problem: This superconducting material is only stable at pressures of 267 GPa, which is freaking almost three million times atmospheric pressure... So if you're living inside the core of Jupiter, you now have a nice material for electric cables.
    • You mean if you're living inside a huge diamond anvil cell that keeps a pressure equivalent to that in Jupiter's core. The temperatures inside the core of Jupiter are, as far as we know, way higher than 15°C.

Back to Awesome but Impractical
  1. and this lets you control the bitrate/quality of the resulting audio files, whereas with MP3 downloads you're either stuck with the bitrate of the files you downloaded or else you'll get a second generation of loss by transcoding