Gadgets
December 24, 2005 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Top 50 gadgets of the past 50 years.
posted by bobbyelliott (41 comments total)
 
It looks like they started running out of ideas around 30.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 10:00 AM on December 24, 2005


Doubless the 'ineffable quality we called the "cool factor."' heavily contributed the iPod's 2nd place rating.
posted by scheptech at 10:02 AM on December 24, 2005


No Trimline phone? Posers.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:04 AM on December 24, 2005


How can you call a CD or VHS Player a gadget? The portable ones without a doubt, but the component ones themselves aren't really "gadgets" any more than photocopiers or LCD screens.
posted by parallax7d at 10:28 AM on December 24, 2005


If the magic eight ball isn't a gadget, I don't know what is.
posted by furtive at 10:38 AM on December 24, 2005


yeah, gotta say the touchtone phone was pretty cool when we got one in 1974...
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:38 AM on December 24, 2005


Recent memory has certainly skewed the iPod higher than it probably ought to be. I actually agree with a lot of these, but the freakin' RAZR at #13? And I can't believe the original Mac is left out- not really a gadget, but they do list quite a few computers. Or the Powerbook, for that matter- hello, first "cool" laptop? All the Apple love might be a bit much for PC World's corporate masters, tho :)

I might add the original Leatherman (or is it older than that?). Maybe wireless networking, though it'd be hard to pinpoint a specific product. LCD screens?
posted by mkultra at 10:58 AM on December 24, 2005


Doubless the 'ineffable quality we called the "cool factor."' heavily contributed to the Motorola Razr being on the damn list at all, that pretty but dysfunctional & overpriced piece of garbage...but the iPod is wonderfully functional, and kinda selling the bejesus out of any other music players.
posted by tula at 11:01 AM on December 24, 2005


....spread over 8 web pages. I immediately went to the so-called printable version.
posted by neuron at 11:16 AM on December 24, 2005


Seems like an astonishing percentage of the "Coolest gadgets in the last 50 years" have shown up in the last 5. I'm guessing the authors are all under 30. Cordless telephone? Fax machine? Hello?
posted by foozleface at 11:21 AM on December 24, 2005


Did I miss out on the electric razor? Because, man, those were big in the Seventies.
posted by maxsparber at 11:25 AM on December 24, 2005


This list felt dumb.
posted by ryanhealy at 11:33 AM on December 24, 2005


jesus, this list is polluted by current fads. THE ROOMBA?! are you fucking kidding me? check again in 40 years and tell me if anyone even remembers those turds. the RAZR?! wheee! let's just list whatever our pocket inventory and call it the best gadgets of the past 50 years! yay!
posted by shmegegge at 11:33 AM on December 24, 2005


Yeah, where is the cordless phone and the fax machine? What about color TV?
posted by Carbolic at 11:49 AM on December 24, 2005


Bah. PS2 in there makes me retch. Hell i'd put the Dreamcast VMU over that overhyped pile of cack anyday.

(I have a feeling i'm going over the top here)

Also the Stylophone should have been in there somewhere.
posted by aqueousdan at 11:50 AM on December 24, 2005


I agree with shmegegge. That the Treo got anywhere close to this list is ridiculous. That overrated piece of shit doesn't even perform the most basic phone functions well (not loud enough, impossible to dial efficiently).
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 11:57 AM on December 24, 2005


The list is way too skewed to the last couple years. I'm also surprised to see a major magazine's website sporting laughable layouts because someone couldn't get the img src align tags to work right (expand your browser beyond 900px on this page).
posted by mathowie at 12:12 PM on December 24, 2005


My father just got a Razr. There is a high level of amusement/entertainment in it, but mostly it involves watching Dad figure out how to work it.

(Also, this list is....not that great.)
posted by kalimac at 12:24 PM on December 24, 2005


I read the first two pages and was vaguely thinking "Holy crap, they actually got it right for once!"

A good majority of the devices listed do belong there.

But plenty of entries were mostly crap. The Motorola RAZR? Heh. Whores. Yeah, it's a small phone, but it's not the smallest, and it's not even that much smaller than an old Star Tac.

Leatherman definately needs to be added. Portable mapping GPS devices, too. As do FRS/GPRS radios. Consumer-available NiMH and Li-Ion batteries should probably be on there as well.

And they've got the Roomba on there but no Segway? Playstation 2, but not PS 1? Not Nintendo 64? OK, Atari VCS, but not the Atari 400 or 800 series? Those things were cool.

They list the TRS-80 100, 101 or 102 but not the TRS-80 Pocket Computer? (I wanted one of those pocket ones so bad when I was a wee kid it hurt like bone cancer. Then I found one for two bucks at the swap meet over a decade later. Yes, I still have it, and it works. It's great for meeting hot geek babes. "Hey, let me get your number. Oh, this? It's an old TRS-80 Pocket! Yeah, I'm entering your number in a simple database I programmed in less than 1k of BASIC. Oh, crap. She swooned and fainted dead away. That's really getting kind of annoying, maybe I should just get an old Palm or something...")
posted by loquacious at 12:36 PM on December 24, 2005


This is a pretty shoddy list. They're missing the CD burner. Remember thinking "Holy crap I can make a CD at home?" Moving files less than 650 megs was suddenly cake. Its as much a "gadget" as the zip drive.

I have no idea why the Altair 8800 is even on there. I wouldnt call a hobbyist's DIY computer that sold in the low-thousands a popular gadget.
posted by skallas at 12:40 PM on December 24, 2005


Moving files less than 650 megs was suddenly cake.

My definition of "cake" must be different than yours. All I remember about the 1x drives was waiting a goddamn hour for something to burn - and usually coming back to a coaster.

doesn't mean I disagree with your point. just your definition of cake.
posted by flaterik at 1:53 PM on December 24, 2005


This is a pretty shoddy list. They're missing the CD burner. Remember thinking "Holy crap I can make a CD at home?" Moving files less than 650 megs was suddenly cake. Its as much a "gadget" as the zip drive.

I'm in complete agreement. Didn't matter that it took an hour to do so -- I could back up everything on my hard drives in an evening if I wanted to. It was a quantum leap up from the zip drive.

Now I can burn a 4.7 GB DVD in ten minutes. In a couple of years, we'll be able to burn 50 GB Blu-Ray discs. I can't begin to tell you how I'm looking forward to reducing my thousand-odd burned CD-ROMs to about a dozen discs.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:54 PM on December 24, 2005


"All I remember about the 1x drives was waiting a goddamn hour for something to burn - and usually coming back to a coaster"

A pretty prismatic coaster though, you have to admit.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:59 PM on December 24, 2005


The pocket calculator really should be top 5, arguably even first.
posted by Rumple at 2:16 PM on December 24, 2005


HP-41C. In almost 30 years, it still hasn't been surpassed as a programmable calculator (in my opinion).
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:43 PM on December 24, 2005


ever since i got the razr, i have nothing but bad things to say about it. not the least of which is the fact that after a few weeks, it develops this faint "buzzing" noise when turned on and placed near the ear. im otherwise a a huge motorola fan. but after the top 10 this list got many guffaws out of me.
posted by phaedon at 3:01 PM on December 24, 2005


The TI calculator should not be on the list. The calculator that started it all (the HP-35) should be.

And, what about RJ-11 connectors? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Registered_jack

,dave
posted by davebarnes at 3:17 PM on December 24, 2005


no NES? For shame...
posted by cell divide at 3:29 PM on December 24, 2005


TV remote should be in the top 10 for sure.
posted by Dag Maggot at 3:50 PM on December 24, 2005


dvd players?
posted by Citizen Premier at 4:07 PM on December 24, 2005


What the fuck are you all babbling about? Seriously.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:29 PM on December 24, 2005


Atari but no NES? Betamax but no VHS? Video iPod but no DVD? What about the modem? The dictaphone? Most unforgivably, the indispensible Bic lighter, introduced 1973?
posted by kjh at 5:23 PM on December 24, 2005


Well, as a recent Roomba owner (a lucky Christmas gift), I must say they are, to the best of my knowledge, about the only useful, affordable household robots I've seen, not to mention a good bridge to consumer home robotics acceptance.

As far as the Segways go, as I mentioned above, Roombas actually do something useful.
posted by Samizdata at 5:42 PM on December 24, 2005


A gadget is allowed to be useful, or at least seems like it will be useful.

So alarm clocks that also play cassette tapes.

The first Sony portable CD player.

Pasta makers. the green machine. Merlin. Electro-man. Vic-20. Colecovision hadn contrloorer.

Yahh!
posted by jeremias at 7:34 PM on December 24, 2005


The qestion is how do you define gadget. I'm inclined to think of one as something that you can hold in your hands and carry around. But yeah, I'm with Rumple-- the pocket calculator is the most conspicuously missing top-10 gadget there.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:56 PM on December 24, 2005


It was nice to see zip drives included, but where are the non-digital camcorders?
posted by amberglow at 9:01 PM on December 24, 2005


I agree with amberglow; the camcorder used to videotape the Rodney King beatings should be there somewhere.

And I know we've all got our personal gripes, but I can't believe they didn't include the cheap audio mixers used to bridge two turntables together. That's an instrument for cultural change right there.
posted by samh23 at 9:46 PM on December 24, 2005


The TI calculator should not be on the list. The calculator that started it all (the HP-35) should be.

A better candidate from the TI camp would be the TI-30, the first affordable scientfic calculator with algebraic input (rather than RPN). That calculator changed the way math is taught.
posted by kindall at 10:13 PM on December 24, 2005


Where's the breadmaker, the LoJack anti-theft devise, the remote medical alert (which actually does save lives), the cable modem, the digital camera, the laser pointer, and the battery-operated vibrator?
posted by PlanoTX at 11:34 PM on December 24, 2005


Leatherman, GPS, vibrator - yes, certainly. Breadmaker, pastamaker, Segway? Not even close.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:35 AM on December 25, 2005


Remote controls, TV's, DVD's, VCR's, hell my wife's car stereo has a remote. Where would we be with out em.
posted by wtfchuck at 7:14 PM on December 25, 2005


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