John Houghtaling may have gotten rich off the idea of a vibrating bed, but he didn’t invent the concept. According to The New York Times, vibrating beds have been around for centuries. The earliest ones ran on manpower; servants would literally rock the bed. The Industrial Revolution delivered alternate, and presumably less humiliating, sources of energy. By the 1950s, vibrating beds ran on electricity, and Houghtaling was working as a salesman for a company that sold such beds when he decided to go into business for himself.
What Houghtaling invented was a system that separated the motor driving the vibration from the bed itself. The units he sold before Magic Fingers had a box spring with a vibrator permanently built in. They were hard to move, cost a lot, and were prone to breakdowns. Houghtaling’s innovation having a detachable motor made for a much lighter machine that provided a more pleasant and even rocking sensation than older models.