From 1790 until 1870, patent applications had to also include a miniature model, less than 12 square inches in size, along with the idea. We wish the policy were still around, at least to weed out the more ridiculous ideas.
Today, tech companies are some of the worst offenders in patent application, filing crazy patents for any half-baked idea they can think up, without the slightest regard for whether an object can actually be made. That's not even going into patents for basic ideas like Page Up/Page Down keys. Questionable patents aside, the strict miniaturization policy might have finally given us an iPhone Nano.
The days of physical patents are over, but some are still collecting the rare miniature versions, including the roller skate and paper clip. They're pretty cool, especially if you're as big a paper clip fanatic as I am. [Wired]