February 28, 2005


Cupie turned me on to the link to Mobile PC magazine's list of the the top 100 Gadgets of All Time.

And since anything worth linking to is worth stealing, here's a list of what I've either owned or used the from that list:

Stapling technology dates back to the 1700s, when an unknown inventor created a stapler for King Louis XV of France, but staplers came to the everyman with the Swingline magazine stapler, invented in 1938. Of these, the most iconic is Milton's fire-engine red Swingline from the movie Office Space, first manufactured in 2002 due to demand from the film.

Pez isn't the mystery ingredient that makes this candy so tasty; it's an abbreviation for the German for Pfeffermintz (peppermint). Today, Pez comes in lots more flavors, but who cares? We just like the little poppin' head dispensers.

89. RUBIK'S CUBE, 1974
Invented in 1974 by Hungarian Erno Rubik, the Rubik's Cube hit America in 1980 like the avian flu, infecting millions and temporarily treating most ADHD symptoms before petering out in 1983.

87. RADIO SHACK TRS-80 MODEL 100, 1983
Not the first portable computer, nor the most advanced, the Model 100 distinguished itself through simplicity, ruggedness, and portability. For $800 you could outfit yourself with this 6-pound mobile typing machine (a real featherweight compared with the 20-pound Osborne and Kaypro portables). The specs weren't impressive: 8KB of RAM, an eight-line-by-40-character display, no hard drive, a 300-baud modem, and a 2.4MHz Intel CPU. But two AA batteries gave it enough juice to run for 16 hours, and it was tough enough to ward off falls, bumps, spills, and filthy language, making it a perfect choice for newspaper reporters and cops. Radio Shack sold 6 million between 1983 and 1991.

Who knew that all those happy hours spent punching multicolored pins into black paper were actually preparing us for a rewarding career designing web page bullets and desktop icons?

75. LASER POINTER, 1980s
By 1998, laser pointers were so popular that they were not only banned in schools, but laws were passed in many states to levy a $1,000 fine on anyone who pointed the red dot into someone's eye. Although professionals and teachers had used laser pointers for years, it wasn't until they dropped from $100 to less than $30 in the late '90s that kids were able to grab them and terrorize cats and moviegoers alike.

Mattel's first handheld football game was good; this sequel was a classic. Finally, you could throw passes to your little LED teammates, while enjoying the shrill electronic cry of "Charge!"

64. U.S. ARMY P-38 CAN OPENER, 1942
Who says the government can't make good products? This opener let millions of GIs crack their C rations, not to mention the dozens of other uses they found for it in the field, from cleaning their rifles to gutting fish.

It was originally marketed just to police officers and firefighters, but soon everyone had one of these nearly indestructible, adjustable-beam flashlights.

Is this really one of the most important gadgets ever? Signs point to yes.

50. ETCH-A-SKETCH, 1960
Though devoid of circuitry, we think it's safe to say that this was the world's first handheld with a fully graphical user interface.

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.

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.

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.

Posted by Jeff at February 28, 2005 02:37 AM