Top ten gadgets of yesteryear

01:59, Nov 25 2009

In the not-so-distant past, gadgets weren't as slick as they are today. Today, I'd like to take some time to look back on the less-fortunate gadgets, which were either replaced or just didn't take off.

Get ready for a trip down memory lane, as we check out Luke's top ten gadgets of the past:

10. The fax machine.

These little beauties were once the staple of many offices, and are still used in some though they're mostly taken over by email. I have fond memories of sending faxes or crudely drawn pictures to other geeky friends in the nineties. They seem to have been used a lot for circulating wanted posters in cheesy 90's cop movies. Maybe these are not truly gone, but they're certainly in their death-throes.

In the not-so-distant past, gadgets weren't as slick as they are today. Today, I'd like to take some time to look back on the less-fortunate gadgets, which were either replaced or just didn't take off.

Get ready for a trip down memory lane, as we check out Luke's top ten gadgets of the past:

10. The fax machine.

These little beauties were once the staple of many offices, and are still used in some though they're mostly taken over by email. I have fond memories of sending faxes or crudely drawn pictures to other geeky friends in the nineties. They seem to have been used a lot for circulating wanted posters in cheesy 90's cop movies. Maybe these are not truly gone, but they're certainly in their death-throes.

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9. The Viewmaster.


When I was a (young) kid, the Viewmaster was the height of cool. As long as you've got teddy, molly, and your Viewmaster, you're set for a night of fun with your Disney pals. OK, maybe this isn't really a gadget, more like a toy, but it did have a satisfying lever-operated mechanism. A special mention here, also, for the Magnadoodle - a close runner-up to the Viewmaster.

8. The boom box.


The shoulder-mounted boom box hit its peak in the 80s with kids on the street jiving to the fresh sounds of Grand Master Flash and early break-beats. These things have seen something of a revival in the past few years, with their retro-cool value on the increase. Possibly the best thing about them is the coloured lights that bounce up and down to the beat. So fresh.

7. The pager.

These things may still be used by some, but have mostly been replaced by mobile phones and internet devices. Television hospital dramas would have me believe they're commonly used by doctors, whose private lives are interrupted at the most unfortunate times. These were a sort of preview to the world of text-messaging, but you couldn't text back.

6. The calculator watch.


For mathematicians on the go, came the truly amazing calculator watch. Before we had phones to work out our share of the power bill, those with calculator watches were considered nerds well-equipped. Normal watches were mere timepieces compared with these things, which were large, square and (I would imagine) uncomfortable to wear. Just because you can combine two gadgets, it doesn't mean you should.

5. The Walkman (and cassettes).

Now, I'm not going to start a riot and start saying cassettes (or vinyl) are dead. Some people still love them, I would imagine for nostalgic reasons. People used to cruise around with these bulky things strapped on, enduring chewed tape and short battery-life. These are, of course, the evolutionary step before the Discman and the mp3 player. I can remember listening to a Walkman on a bus trip from Napier to Wellington once, which chewed through two sets of AA batteries.

4. Virtual reality headsets.


These were supposed to be the next big thing in the late 90s around the time that virtual reality was showing its slow-loading face. VRML worlds allowed you to move around in a virtual space with other geeks, giving out your age, sex and location willy-nilly and loving it. Unfortunately, the people watching you in real life thought you looked like a dork. A few games came on board with the headset, including one of my old favourites, Descent. Player feedback on the experience included cases of motion sickness and vomiting.

3. The 8-track.


These beasts of the audio world were designed in the 60s and were used right up until the 90s by some, until the digital audio world forced its way on to the scene. Ahh, nothing cooler than cruising down the highway, listening to your Lynyrd Skynyrd 8-track with the wind rushing through your long, unruly hair. At least that's how I imagine it was, anyway. Fly on, freebird.

2. The Flowbee.


Is your hair getting out of control? Need a haircut, but not willing to shell out for someone who actually knows what they are doing? Well then, the Flowbee was for you. It's basically a vacuum cleaner combined with hair clippers. As you sucked your hair into the vacuum pipe, it would be clipped to a certain length, no mess, no hair in the eyes, no style. I never had the honour of a Flowbee haircut, to my discredit.

1. The brick phone.


Before the days of small phones were... well... large phones. A mobile phone used to involve two parts - the handset and the rest of it, which was carried as a fashionable man-bag or purse (which weighed several kgs). Anyone who was anyone in the business world had a mobile phone. These things would have added a whole new dimension to the intrusive and annoying mobile phone conversation on the bus, in the elevator or in the foyer. On the plus side, they could be used as a weapon to defend yourself in case of bandits.

So that concludes my list, what do you think? Were you the proud owner of any of these gadgets? Do you still use them? Did I miss anything here?

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