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Q: When Was the Waterbed Invented?

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A: Although there are reports of ancient Persians snoozing on water-filled goatskin bags, the waterbed as we know it was born in San Francisco (where else?) in (when else?) the late 1960s. Originally called “the pleasure pit,” the waterbed prototype was a bean-bag-esque vinyl bladder that sat on the floor.

Popular with hippies and would-be ladies’ men, the bed truly broke into the mainstream when someone decided to add a bed frame. Of course, the puncture-proof liner also helped. By 1987, the beds had achieved full-fledged fad status, and they accounted for an astounding 22 percent of U.S. mattress sales. Unfortunately, poor quality control led to some decidedly un-groovy publicity, and the waterbed enthusiasm had completely drained by the early 1990s. So, where can you find waterbeds today? Well, you’d have to do some serious scouting. Today, the hydro-riffic beds constitute fewer than six percent of mattresses sold.

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  • D’oh

    Actually, the waterbed was invented in the Heinlein novel, Stranger in a Strange Land.

    It was originally conceived as a hospital bed, to cut down on bedsores, after Heinlein had one of his many lengthy hospital stays, and was used in the novel to cushion the effects of Earth gravity for the protagonist, who was born on Mars.

    Published in 1961, if memory serves, and the story has it that all Heinlein ever received was an early model waterbed, which he never assembled.

  • Mohjho

    I’m pretty sure I saw a waterbed in Disneyland’s World of Tomorrow around 1965 or so.

  • STM

    When was the waterbed invented?

    Around the same time as the mop

  • GetReal

    Who cares ? It is a piece of crap and people have moved on to better things. Hence the slump in the sales. To think we are using up cyber space to discuss this ! What’s next ? When was flossing invented ? Or when was the first time someone wiped their bottom ?

  • Dawn

    Um, GetReal, did some pee in your pumpkin pie, ‘cuz you need to lighten the hell up? They’re called factoids and they are interesting, unlike your comment which frankly sucked serious ass.

  • Matthew T. Sussman

    The great part about it is you can wet the bed and contend it sprung a leak.


  • tink

    LOL, Matthew! Sure does take the ‘wet dream’ to a different level, wouldn’t you say?

    Another great daily floss…thanks!

  • Unknown

    Haha, I thought it grew in sales due to Superman 2. Yeah I agree, it’s a stupid thing. There’s serious lack of proper back support. Because of all sorts of movements, you easily get disturbed when someone else leaves the bed to take a leak in middle of the night. Can’t believe everyone brought into the hype that it’s suppose to be good for you.

  • Doug

    The modern waterbed was created by Charles Hall in 1968, while he was a design student at San Francisco State University in California. Fellow SFSU students Paul Heckel and Evan Fawkes also contributed to the concept. Hall originally wanted to make an innovative chair. His first prototype was a vinyl bag with 300 pounds (136 kg) of cornstarch, but the result was uncomfortable. He next attempted to fill it with Jell-O, but this too was a failure. Ultimately, he abandoned working on a chair, and settled on perfecting a bed. He succeeded. However, because a waterbed is described in the novels Beyond This Horizon (1942), Double Star (1956), and Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) by Robert A. Heinlein, Hall was unable to obtain a patent on his creation. In 1980 Heinlein recalled in Expanded Universe that:

    “I designed the waterbed during years as a bed patient in the middle thirties; a pump to control water level, side supports to permit one to float rather than simply lying on a not very soft water filled mattress. Thermostatic control of temperature, safety interfaces to avoid all possibility of electric shock, waterproof box to make a leak no more important than a leaky hot water bottle rather than a domestic disaster, calculation of floor loads (important!), internal rubber mattress and lighting, reading, and eating arrangements–an attempt to design the perfect hospital bed by one who had spent too damn much time in hospital beds.”
    However, Heinlein made no attempt to build his invention.

  • bliffle

    I got a waterbed in about 1977 when my neighbor offered it to me for $5. Bladder, frame, heater and chemicals. Why not? I gave it a try and loved it! It eliminated the night sweats that had bothered me occasionally since I was a kid. Eliminated ALL nightmares, too. I threw it away about 10 yrs later when I moved, and the night sweats never returned. I think that the constant temp of the water stabilized the body temp and re-trained the medula oblongata. Or something like that. Anyway, it worked.

    A nurse once told me they were used in hospitals to ease the pain of burn victims.

  • tatortot_hellokitty

    what??? mine said it was invented by Neil Arnott-in san francisco. man i need true info!!!

  • tri-cycle

    well I hered it was invented by charles hall in 1968. the waterbed is awsome and i hope they go on forever. p.s I am speaking my mind so don’t erease this cause i will sue. the water bed I don’t now if it was invented in 1965 or 1968. you tell me.

  • PinkPanther

    I remember seeing a waterbed for the first time in 1969 in department store. I was mesmerized by it! The most awesome waterbed I have EVER had? My massive, 8 foot ROUND shaped waterbed completely hand-made out of solid Redwood! I spared no expense on Egyptian cotton sheets, 100% cotton matress pad, digital heater, purple velvet bumper pads and a gorgeous patchwork velvet round bedspread. The bed looks like something out of a Harem. I absoulutely will not part with it. It also makes a great conversation piece!

  • Julia

    I remember my waterbed as a child. We had it in the 80’s and loved them. I admit that I no long have one since it busted and I had to switch to a regular bed.