Cautionary Tales – The Hero Who Rode His Segway Off A Cliff

17th February, 2023

Steve Jobs called ‘IT’ “the most amazing piece of technology since the PC”. According to Jeff Bezos ‘IT’ was not only “revolutionary”, but also infinitely commercial. IT was a fiendishly clever and massively hyped invention. But in the end ‘IT’ — also known as the Segway — crashed and burned.

What makes an invention useful and valuable? Jimi Heselden’s pragmatic brainchild the Concertainer might hold the answers. First used to shore up the collapsing walls of a canal, it ultimately solved problems that Jimi had never imagined.

Cautionary Tales is written by me, Tim Harford, with Andrew Wright. It is produced by Alice Fiennes, with support from Edith Rousselot.

The sound design and original music is the work of Pascal Wyse. Julia Barton edited the scripts.

Thanks to the team at Pushkin Industries, including Jacob Weisberg, Ryan Dilley, Heather Fain, Jon Schnaars, Carly Migliori, Eric Sandler, Emily Rostek, Royston Beserve, Nicole Morano, Daniella Lakhan and Maya Koenig.

If you have questions for our Listener Q&A episodes please send them to Or, you can leave a voice note at 914- 984 – 7650 (US number, so international rates may apply). Please be aware that we may use your question on the show.

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Further Reading

Reinventing the Wheel: A Story of Genius, Innovation, and Grand Ambition, Steve Kemper, HarperCollins, 2005

This Is Going to Change the World, Dan Kois, Slate, 1 August 2021

Reinventing the Wheel, John Heilemann, Time, 2 December 2001

Obituaries for and news stories about Jimi Heselden in the Independent, the Guardian, the BBC, the Yorkshire Post, and the Yorkshire Evening Post.

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