Gadgets That Have Changed Our Lives

Greetings. Time magazine has just come out with its list of “The 50 Most Influential Gadgets of All Time” and it is definitely a blast from the past (and present). It is also a really fun way to think about innovations that have shaped our lives and changed the way that we connect, explore, listen, picture, learn, play, make, share, and entertain ourselves.

As you go through the article and the gadgets and their brief histories, try to think about why each of these inventions generated so much interest and what lessons they offer in how you and your colleagues can create even greater interest and value in the products, services, and solutions you offer. Then imagine how some of the most recent gadgets, especially those that deal with connecting and educating people, might be used to enhance your work and build an even stronger bond with your customers, team members, and stakeholders.


But most importantly, have fun taking a stroll through this brief history of every day technology.

And in case you are pressed for time, here are the Top Ten…

10. The Hitachi “Magic Wand” (1968)

Let’s just say that this is the only item on Time’s list that is not always intended for children of all ages.

9. The Apple iPod (2001)

The device that changed the way a new generation consumed music and made Apple and the iTunes Store the world’s biggest music retailer.

8. The Kodak Brownie Camera (1900)

Talk about a revolution, Kodak put photography within everyone’s grasp 116 years ago when it made it possible for the world to capture and share the moments of our lives.

7. The Regency TR-1 Transistor Radio (1954)

It is fun to think back to countless evenings as a child when I fell asleep listening to San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s baseball games with my transistor radio under my pillow. It is also fun to think about how we tell our kids today to put away their slightly more versatile electronic devices and go to sleep.

6. The Victrola Record Player (1906)

While the phonograph was invented in 1877, the Victrola was the first record player to bring classical music and opera to homes around the U.S. and the world.

5. The IBM Model 5150 (1981)

Remember the day when almost everyone had an IBM PC or an “IBM Compatible” computer running the DOS operating system? And to think it wasn’t that long ago!

4. The Sony Walkman (1979)

I fondly recall having my first Walkman at the University of Michigan and delighting in my ability to take my music anywhere, in multiples of twelve songs. All by the same artist. I was literally a party waiting to happen! I also fondly recall trying to explain to our kids who have grown up in the digital age, why this large, limited, and somewhat lame gadget was so cool and revolutionary.

3. The Apple Macintosh (1984)

Bold, brash, intuitive, and launched with much fanfare and symbolism in 1984. While it might not have been what George Orwell intended, the first Mac would begin to reframe our connection to “thinking” machines.

2. The Sony Trinitron (1968)

While it wasn’t the first TV or the first color TV, the Trinitron would raise the state-of-the-art in televisions and establish Sony’s place as a global leader in consumer technology.

And Number One is…

1. The Apple iPhone (2007)

An elegant and user-friendly device that would revolutionize our notion of phones and smart phones, and that today places more apps and more computing power in the palm of our hands than a major university computer center did when I was going to college.

It is an intriguing list and an interesting lesson in modern history. And except for missing the waffle iron, twist top bottle, nose hair trimmer, and Popeil’s “Pocket Fisherman,” I would have to say that the folks at Time are pretty spot on in capturing the gadgets that have shaped our lives.



More Remarkable Gadgets

Greetings.  Thursday's post generated a lot of interest, with subscribers sharing their thoughts on things that were left out of the list of "gadgets that changed the world."  Here are some of my favorites from all of your emails:

  • velcro;
  • the bungee cord;
  • the frisbee;
  • the thermometer
  • the thermos;
  • the lunch box;
  • the Swiss Army knife;
  • the amazing Popeil "Pocket Fisherman";
  • the corkscrew;
  • the invisible fence;
  • earphones;
  • Post-It notes;
  • insect-repellant clothing;
  • the compressed gas duster;
  • the folding chair;
  • the smoke detector;
  • EZ pass;
  • the scale;
  • electric hand dryers;
  • the portable camping towel;
  • inflatable furniture;
  • the portable cooler (six-pack size);
  • the at-home quesadilla maker;
  • the nose-hair trimmer;

And last but not least, the "Super Bass-o-matic '76"–made 'famous' by Dan Aykroyd in the following skit from an old episode of Saturday Night Live…


We win in business and life by finding and filling a real customer need. And, when all else fails, putting things together that don't belong.

Cheers and have a great and inventive start to the week ahead!

The Power of Gadgets

Greetings.  The new issue of Popular Mechanics, presents a fascinating look at "101 Gadgets That Changed the World."  Defining gadgets as "something you could hold in your hands, mechanic or electronic, and a mass-produced personal item," this article presents a history of remarkable innovations that will make you smile, bring back fond memories of your own childhood, cause you to marvel at the pace of technological change, and even spark your imagination about what might come next.

Selected by a distinguished panel of experts, they run the gamut from the mobile smartphone (#1) to duct tape (#101) and include such game-changing ideas as:

  • the portable air conditioner invented in 1939 by Willis Haviland Carrier (#6);
  • the chain-driven safety bicycle invented around 1885 (#12);
  • the vacuum cleaner (#18);
  • the electric guitar invented in 1951 by Leo Fender (#28);
  • the Sony Walkman invented in 1979 (#45);
  • the fire extinguisher invented in 1723 (#46);
  • the lunchbox invented in 1950 (#63);
  • the blender invented in 1949 (#83);

As well as the safety razor, drip coffemaker, stapler, leaf blower, teflon pan, flash drive, zipper, and my personal favorite the amazing ginsu knife–that marvel of modern science and infomercials–that checks in at #87.

Which begs the question:  "How could we ever live without these things?"  And, in fact, we can't or couldn't…because almost all of us have owned the vast majority of these products at one time or another.  Which makes this article a delightful romp through the story of our lives.  So rush to your nearest newstand to grab a copy and use it as the start of a powerful conversation with your colleagues about the next great gadget.  The one your company or organization will create to reinvent your business and the value you deliver to customers!



We win in business and in life when we appreciate the power of great gadgets.  Especially the ones that make life simpler, more productive, and more compelling.