As the year winds down, everyone’s coming down with the lists – newspapers, news radio, news wires, TV news will all give you, on or before Dec. 31, their interpretation of the most important events of the year. PCWorld.com took the annual ritual a step further and introduced the 50 greatest gadgets, a list they call their “official (and entirely idiosyncratic) list of the top tech gadgets of the last half century.” (As an aside, do you realize the words in the parenthesis are outnumbered by the syllables? I love that.)
According to the article, the top 50 had to be small, covered by the magazine, and rated by “usefulness, design, degree of innovation, and influence on subsequent gadgets, as well as the ineffable quality we called the ‘cool factor.'” Their pick for No. 1 is the Sony Walkman, the gadget of 1979 (a year after I was born, the year my husband was born, teehee):
Portable music players are so cheap and ubiquitous today that it’s hard to remember when they were luxury items, widely coveted and often stolen. But when the blue and silver Walkman debuted in 1979, no one had ever seen anything quite like it. The $200 player virtually invented the concept of “personal electronics.” The first Walkman (also branded as the Stowaway, the Soundabout, and the Freestyle before the current name stuck) featured a cassette player and the world’s first lightweight headphones. Apparently fearful that consumers would consider the Walkman too antisocial, Sony built the first units with two headphone jacks so you could share music with a friend. The company later dropped this feature. Now, more than 25 years and some 330 million units later, nobody wonders why you’re walking down the street with headphones on.
Other items (and their corresponding years) that make the list and that sound familiar to my generation would include the iPod (2001), Tivo (1999), PalmPilot (1996), Motorola StarTac (1996), Sony Playstation 2 (2000), Motorola Razr (2004), Nintendo Game Boy (1989), Iomega Zip Drive (1995) and the Commodore 64 (1982), which I think we all remember simply because of the jokes that we make when we are referring to old computers.
I don’t know about anyone else, but man, that list makes me feel old.