mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The top fidy gadgets...

My older brother was the first person to point me to the 50 greatest gadgets of all time list from PCWorld.

There are some really good choices on the list. I think the Tivo/RePlay, the iPod and Diamond Rio (representing the best mp3 player and the first widely available mp3 player), the BlackBerry, the Palm Pilot, and the first remote control are all huge technological innovations.

There were a couple on there I'm not so sure about. Sure, the Zip Drive had it burst of popularity, but it was really just a big floppy, and died out pretty quickly. I'm not convinced that the "Jacks TV Games" - those game-system-in-a-joystick - was much of a technological innovation. And the Motorola Razor, while a nifty looking phone, was more a blend of good packaging than a triumph of new technology.

But even more than the quibbles, there seem to me to be a few obvious omissions:

The Apex AD-3201 - in less than 10 years, DVD's have gone from a brand-new format to the standard way of viewing movies. Much of this is due to the rapid price declines in DVD players - and the Apex was the first cheap DVD player available. It also helped that the Apex played pretty much anything you threw at it (mp3 discs, vcd, ect) and could be made region-free with a couple keystrokes on the remote.

Apple Macintosh Classic - the first consumer-oriented PC with a graphical interface. It basically paved the way for the PC's, Macs, and other machines we have today. Leaving it off the list seems like a serious ommission.

IBM PC- it paved the way for the Microsoft/Intel platform that is the standard for most of us. If it wasn't for this, we probably wouldn't have the cheap, easy to use, affordable, open-standard machines we do today.

Early CD and DVD burners - not sure what the first one was. The first CD burner I owned was an HP CDWriter 7200 internal in 1998. It cost about $300 and wrote at 2x. I was one of the first people in college to have a burner, which made me really popular. Being able to burn CD's has changed the way people back up data, share files, and listen to music. I would argue that being able to burn CD's was instrumental in people's use of P2P services like Napster and Kazzaa - MP3's on your computer are nice, but being able to play them in your car or burn a mix for your friend is really useful. DVD burners have made the amount that you can fit on a disc way bigger.

Early hard drives - not very glamourous, but could you imagine trying to compute without being able to run programs from your hard drive or save data? The fact that they are so cheap and fast has made computing so much easier. My first computer, in 1998, had a 6 gig hard drive. My current machine has 600 gigs of hard drive space available, thanks to two homebuilt external USB drives. And I still find myself having to shift files around so that one of my 4 drives doesn't run out of space.

I will grant that coming up with a list like this is hard, and that people will always quibble. But I think it's hard to deny that the items I identified didn't have a big impact on technology today...


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