August 13, 2006 Vaporware is software or hardware which is announced but fails to materialise. The term implies unwarranted optimism … that development is too early to support responsible statements about its completion date or even feasibility. The rocket belt is perhaps then, the world’s longest gestation vapourware, first entering the public consciousness in the 1920s through the newspaper-syndicated Buck Rogers scifi comic strip, and first attempted by the German Army during WWII as the Himmelsturmer (Skystormer). The first working rocket belt was built by Bell for the U.S. Army in the 1950s. It created mainstream awareness in the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball and raised expectations of consumer versions when it was used in the opening ceremony of the 1984 Olympics. But 50 years after the Bell Rocket Belt was built, only a handful of people have flown a rocketbelt, only one commercial version is available (at US$250,000) and only two companies (here and here) have successfully commercialised demonstrations. All that might change soon as a number of people have rocket belts under development and next month (September 23-24), there’s to be a Rocketbelt Convention at Niagara Aerospace Museum in New York which is to be attended by all the major players in the fledgling industry. Organised by Peter Gijsberts, the head of the Airwalker Society and curator of the most comprehensive and up-to-date rocketbelt information website, the RocketBelt Convention is compulsory attendance for all would-be Buck Rogers.
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