The Jerk: Hapless Inventor as Hero

The Jerk, the classic 1979 Steve Martin comedy, is an inspiration for many people. And not just comedians, either. No, also to people short on brains but big on ideas.

That's because Navin R. Johnson, Martin's character, strikes it rich pretty much randomly after designing a way to keep people's glasses on their face. He ends up making millions off the device, moving into a mansion and hiring a butler and chambermaid, all while continually demonstrating a distinct lack of awareness and brains.

And isn't that the American dream in a nutshell? Anybody, no matter how borderline retarded, can strike it rich if they have a good enough idea. Sure, by the end of the movie Nevin is penniless, but hey, that's just Hollywood. Real Americans know that in real life he'd still be rich and would probably be running for congress. And that's the way it should be.

Gizmodo '79 is a week-long celebration of gadgets and geekdom 30 years ago, as the analog age gave way to the digital, and most of our favorite toys were just being born.