The Motorized Scooter of 1959 Was Cool as Hell

Gif: Chicago Film Archive

Electric scooters are all the rage here in the 21st century, with companies like Lime, Bird, and even Uber dumping them in cities around the world. But our generation obviously didn’t invent the motorized scooter. If you needed any evidence, just check out this film from the Chicago Film Archives showing off the “skooter” of 1959.

There’s not a lot of information about this incredible short movie, but we know it was shot at the Illinois Institute of Technology and is part of the Chicago Film Archives’ Frank Koza Collection of newsreels.

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There’s no audio to accompany the 16mm film, but we can probably assume the man riding the scooter built it himself. That’s typically how short newsreels of this era worked and this wasn’t some mass-produced item that you could buy in any store at the time. If he was a student or faculty at the Institute, it would make sense that he could whip up something like this.

Whoever he was, it just looks very cool in motion, even if it’s a bit dangerous.

The scooter has no handlebars, presumably because it was intended to be something that you could fold up and carry into your office or classroom. Our scooter-hero pulls the contraption out of a carrying case before assembling it.

The man can be seen screwing in a rod that allows the rider to balance, even though it doesn’t have a very safe way of holding on. If you stopped suddenly, it seems like you could easily be impaled.

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We don’t get a good look at the motor, but it appears to have four wheels, two in the back and two in the front.

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Again, it doesn’t look like the safest contraption on the block. I mean, look at this thing. If he hit a pebble in the road, that dude would turn into a human kebab pretty quickly. Metal as hell, I say.

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As he rides into the building, we can see that it begins to smoke.

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Some people who are reading this might say, “That’s not cool. That guy looks like a dork.” And people who say that would, of course, be wrong. And boring. And dumb. This guy is cool as hell.

Personalized small-motor scooter technology has obviously been a dream of the future for some time. It even predates 1959 since people were imagining inventions like this well over 100 years ago.

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Whatever you think of dockless scooters today, which now litter city streets all over the world, I think we can all agree that the scooter of 1959 was much cooler. Especially since you constantly ran the risk of getting impaled. That’s much more fun than getting hit by a car. The past really did have better ideas for the future.

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About the author

Matt Novak

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog