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The Top 100 Gadgets of All Time


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Here is the top 20. The rest of the list can be read here: http://www.mobilepcmag.com/features/2005_0...100gadgets.html

20. SWISS ARMY KNIFE, 1891

Karl Elsener's first knife, which was distributed to Swiss enlisted men, featured a blade, a screwdriver, a can opener, and a punch. Today, the company Elsener founded, Victorinox, and its competitor, Wenger, offer dozens of knives featuring up to 33 different tools. Meanwhile, the name has passed into cliche as an apt description of the knife's versatility.

 

19. IBM THINKPAD 701C, 1995

Never mind the specs, the crazy "butterfly" keyboard cemented IBM on top of the universe of notebook design. Closed, the machine looks like any notebook with a 10.4-inch screen from its era. Flip it open, and the keyboard expands to full size, making typing a breeze. This clever rig earned the 701C a place in the permanent collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art.

 

18. MOTOROLA DYNATAC 8000X, 1983

Ten years after Motorola researcher Martin Cooper placed the world's first cellular call, the rest of the world got its shot. The Motorola DynaTAC 8000X brought mobile calling to the masses (or about 300,000 very wealthy people) for just $3,995 plus outrageously high usage fees. Fortunately, the 8000X offered only one hour of talk time, so it was difficult to rack up stratospheric bills.

 

17. TOSHIBA SD-3000 DVD PLAYER, 1996

Toshiba was part of the consortium that invented the blessed DVD format, freeing us from the tyranny of analog forever. Its SD-3000 was the first consumer player on the market. As for the first DVD, four IMAX movies were released on March 19, 1997, including Africa: the Serengeti.

 

16. ACOUSTIC DATA COUPLER 300 MODEM, 1968

You kids today with your broadband connections. You make us sick. In our day, getting online meant loud, screechy modems like this 300-baud wooden monstrosity, which you hooked up to your old Bell handset to connect to other computers via telephone lines. But don't judge it by its looks alone; the ADC 300 made the dream of long-distance hacking a reality for the common geek.

 

15. HP-35 POCKET ELECTRONIC SCIENTIFIC CALCULATOR, 1972

It may not look like much, but the HP-35 scientific calculator was a tech trailblazer on two counts. Not only was it the first handheld scientific calculator, it was also the first device to use both integrated circuits and LEDs. Your Pocket PC would never have seen the light of day had it not been for this little number cruncher, which is still widely used today. If you're younger than 40, you can thank HP for the fact that you've never had to use a slide rule.

 

14. SONY CDP-101 CD PLAYER, 1983

Who can forget the crystalline, hiss-free blast of Madonna's "Like a Virgin" emanating from their first CD player? Let classical-music snobs debate the virtues of analog versus digital: CD players were practically made for the thumping bass and inescapable synthesizers of '80s pop music. Sony's CDP-101 was the first to hit the market, at $1,000, but cheaper models and the portable Discman followed the next year.

 

13. SONY TR-63 TRANSISTOR RADIO, 1957

Japanese entrepreneurs Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita and were among the first to grasp the true potential of transistor technology, which had been invented at Bell Labs in the late 1940s. Step one: Secure a license from Bell Labs. Step two: Start cranking out cheap transistor radios. The TR-63 was their first big success, turning their company, Sony, into a global audio powerhouse. And why not? Prior to the TR-63, radios were big vacuum-tube-laden affairs. Now you could carry one in a jacket pocket and listen to it all day. Fun fact: The red dots on the dial show where American Civilian Defense broadcasts could be found, in case of a nuclear attack.

 

12. APPLE IPOD, 2001

It wasn't the first hard-drive audio player, it was expensive, and it worked only with Macintosh computers. But the original iPod cracked the portable audio market wide open with its ease of use and to-die-for aesthetics. Some estimates peg Apple as now claiming an astounding 92 percent of the mobile audio market.

 

11. POLAROID LAND CAMERA, 1948

Edwin Land's first Polaroid camera introduced the United States to the delights of instant gratification. Of course, we had to put up with noxious chemical smells and bulky film cartridges, but that was a small price to pay for living on the cutting edge. Sadly, Land's company didn't stay on that edge; it milked its signature technology for decades while failing to come up with another big hit, and went into bankruptcy in 2001.

 

10. TIVO SERIES1, 1999

Like FedEx, Velcro, and Google, TiVo has joined that rare echelon of companies with names that have become synonymous with their industry. Today, we "tivo" instead of "tape," and 2 million TiVo enthusiasts have forgotten what TV commercials look like. Early TiVo units -- manufactured by Philips, Sony, and others -- were exorbitantly expensive (10 hours of recording cost $500), but competition with fellow upstart ReplayTV has steadily driven prices down. Now imagine what the world might be like had the product gone with its original name: "Teleworld."

 

9. ATARI 2600, 1977

We've got two words to describe the majesty of this device: Yar's Revenge.

 

8. DIAMOND MULTIMEDIA RIO 300, 1998

It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was just 1998 when Diamond Multimedia released the first portable flash MP3 player, prompting a lawsuit from the record industry claiming that any MP3 player facilitated piracy. It might have sported a paltry 32MB of memory, but the Rio 300 was the first shot in the digital music revolution.

 

7. U.S. ROBOTICS PILOT 1000, 1996

A string of companies tried to create handheld, pen-centric computers throughout the early 1990s, mostly to no avail. (Remember Zoomer? Neither does anyone else.) The Pilot 1000 was the first one to hit the sweet spot, and in so doing, it showed how successful simplicity and reliability could be. Despite successive name changes, many people still call their handhelds "Pilots" -- a testament to the power a single product had to create an entire industry.

 

6. CASIO QV-10 DIGITAL CAMERA, 1996

Milestones in the digital camera world are astonishingly difficult to nail down. In the early 1990s, major camera manufacturers began tinkering with digital for the professional market. The first amateur digicams were notoriously bad, and it wasn't until Casio's QV-10 that consumers really thought they could give this digital business a go. The QV-10 could store up to 96 images with a resolution of up to 76,800 pixels on its 2MB of flash RAM, and offered a wacky newfangled LCD screen so that you could preview your pictures, which you could output to either your 486 or TV. All this for just $995! Pricey, but the QV-10 looked cool, worked reasonably well, and didn't have to be sent back to Casio for servicing that often. Digicams would be plagued with bugs and high prices for years to come, but the QV-10 really opened the door for digital cameras as a whole.

 

5. CDI MECHANICAL MOUSE MODEL 4-101, 1970

Though the mouse was invented by Douglas Engelbart in 1965, it took a good five years for the idea to catch on. Computer Displays made the mouse marketable with its three-button Mechanical Mouse 4-101.

 

4. MOTOROLA STARTAC, 1996

Before the StarTAC, cell phones had become fashionable with teenagers and the belt-clip set, but it wasn't until this 3.1-ounce flip phone that people started to see the promise of a handset that could genuinely fit into your pocket. Far smaller than any phone that preceded it, the StarTAC was the ultimate status symbol of the late '90s and perhaps the best example of "geek chic" ever to exist. But most important, the StarTAC ushered in the wave of miniaturized phones, one that's still rolling today.

 

3. SONY WALKMAN, 1979

We're not saying the iPod isn't one of the coolest devices ever made, but Apple's little music monster would never have been possible without Sony's groundbreaking Walkman. The brainchild of Sony cofounders Masaru Ibuka, Akio Morita, and Norio Ohga, this portable cassette tape player made the dream of a mobile music collection a generation-changing reality and put Sony in the technological catbird seat.

 

2. ZENITH SPACE COMMAND TV REMOTE CONTROL, 1956

Remember having to get up off the couch to change the channel on the TV by hand? Of course you don't, thanks to Robert Adler's stunning breakthrough, the wireless remote control. Zenith had been meddling with remotes since 1950; its Lazy Bones remote (no, seriously, that's what it was called) simply ran to the TV with a wire. The first wireless remote came in 1955: The Flash-matic was basically a flashlight you shined at one of the TV's four corners, depending on whether you wanted to change the channel up or down. The problem: On sunny days, the TV would change channels by itself. In 1956, Adler had a better idea: Use ultrasonic sound to control the TV. His Space Command remote had four buttons that, when pressed, struck an aluminum rod located inside the unit. A receiver in the TV detected the sound, and depending on the pitch, changed channels or muted the volume. No batteries required. Various forms of ultrasonic technology were the standard all the way until the 1980s, when infrared took over.

 

1. APPLE POWERBOOK 100, 1991

Never mind the Apple versus PC debate: Until Apple unveiled this 5.1-pound machine, most "portable" computers were curiosities for technophiles with superior upper-body strength. But the PowerBook 100's greatest and most lasting innovation was to move the keyboard toward the screen, leaving natural wrist rests up front, as well as providing an obvious place for a trackball. It seems like the natural layout now, but that's because the entire industry aped Apple within months. The first PowerBooks captured an astounding 40 percent of the market, but more important, they turned notebook computers into mainstream products and ushered in the era of mobile computing that we're still living in today.

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