100 Greatest Gadgets

Tonight on Channel 4, that Stephen Fry will be presenting his 100 greatest gadgets. In a recent blog post I did think that we would see a couple of Apple items in the top ten, but if this recent tweet from that Stephen Fry is anything to go by, his number one won’t be an Apple product.

Ha! All those who are convinced it’ll be an Apple product might just be a bit shocked *tightlipped*.

Stephen’s blog post about the programme makes for interesting reading. It looks like the programme will not be covering just recent gadgets, but will be looking back over the last thirty years or even longer.

There are some gadgets that I have used and have always liked and would be in my list if Channel 4 ever asked me to create a list (like that’s ever going to happen). In my list would be the first HP PhotoSmart digital camera, this 0.3MP camera used proprietary memory cards, didn’t have a LCD on the back, went through batteries real fast and as for picture quality, well it left a lot to be desired, though outside shots weren’t too bad!

I always loved the concept of the HP CapShare, a portable document scanner that didn’t need a computer and stored the scans in them, you could then transfer them to your PC by infra-red where they could be OCRd. It could also be used to scan flipcharts.

I always liked my Compaq iPAQ that I had in a previous job. Even without internet connectivity and relying on syncing for e-mail and calendars it was a revelation to be able to have access to my diary and respond to e-mails on the move. After I added a card reader in a slide on jacket, I was able to use the iPAQ to watch videos on a IBM 1GB Microdrive. Always took hours to encode videos for using on it though.

Using a MacBook Air now made me reflect that Sony use to make some fantastic (if expensive) small laptops (well they still do). I once had a VAIO SRX41P which had a 10″ screen, a useful keyboard, wifi, Bluetooth and a built in memory card stick reader. With an extended battery it would last quite a few hours compared to other laptops of its time. Though the memory stick was only used by Sony as I had a Sony digital camera, that meant it was really quick and easy to move images from the camera onto the camera and online.

The Sony Cybershot Camera was a superb camera, yes it was only 3MP, but the Carl Zeiss lens certainly made for some great digital images. I remember printing one as A2 on the office printer to put on the wall.

I bought my wife a Sony digital camera recently and I don’t feel that it was as good as the old Cybershot I had.

Another gadget that was a real eyeopener at the time for me, was a 3COM wireless 802.11b access point. To be able to go into the office, open up the laptop and connect to the network and the internet without plugging in cables was like “wow” and really (well at the time) amazing. Of course I did need to plug in a wifi PCMCIA card into the laptop, but generally I left that in there. Wifi was really useful in the office, so much so that in the end I bought an Airport base station for home, though we didn’t have broadband, the Airport base station at the time came with a built in 56K modem, which was really useful as ADSL wasn’t available in our area for what seemed years. ADSL in itself, can you call that a gadget, was fantastic, now though I have BT Infinity FTTC , this is so different from the old 56K connection I use to have to work with.

I think the one other gadget that made a real difference to me was a Vodafone 3G Datacard.

To be able to have internet access on the move, at conferences and events, made a huge difference to the way that I use to work .

Of course today I could talk about the iPad, the iPhone and the MacBook Air, but sometimes it is nice to reflect on what we use to use and to see how lucky we are now on what kit is available and what it is capable of.

So what would be in your list of gadgets?

6 Replies to “100 Greatest Gadgets”

  1. Great list, James, I’m looking forward to watching the programme too. The blog post did hint that his choices would be wide ranging and he has always been so far ahead of the curve, it will be interesting to see his perspective on things. I’m willing to bet his top gadget may not even be electrically powered, knowing the thought he puts into such things.

    A gadget I adored was my Handspring Visor Edge PDA which you can still buy on amazon. It replaced by beloved filofax but did so much more, with repeated alerts and a lovely little expenses program. I could write really quickly using the grafiti text input with the stylus. I had the documents to go on a memory card and could read word and excel docs whilst travelling. It was beautiful, light, thin. functional, well designed and very useful.

  2. I loved my Palm Pilot. It transformed my life but in the end, I was carrying around too many gadgets – phone plus camera plus Palm.

    Not electric but the last thing I’d give up in the kitchen is my pressure cooker.

  3. Hi James – my favourite gadget is a close call between my first two .. I can’t remember which I got first – ZX81 or my Sony Walkman. While they pale into insignificance compared to the iPhone or iPad or SatNav or whatever else I’ve bought since, these were the first gadgets to truly influence my way of thinking and future ‘self’.

    Thanks for the memories.

    All the best, David

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