Greatest Gadgets Ever: 100-1
8th Feb 2012 | 00:00
“Children can stuff their heads into this if they want to,” says James Dyson on the safety benefits of his miraculously blade-less fans.
This was the first BlackBerry handset to work as a phone without needing an external headset, which also packed a backlit LED keyboard and a thumb operated scroll wheel.
The mini version of the classic torch throws more light and drains less power than its bulb-using forbears.
Crazy expensive, wall-hung iPod dock that looks like a pair of hubcaps nailed to a plank. In a good way.
Just as Walkman allowed you to listen to tapes on the move, Discman made CD portable. There was very little buffering, so in fact it didn’t make it that portable, but audio quality was astonishing for its era.
The original handy hand vac is still produced, over 30 years after launch. It also shipped with those attachable tools that help get to those hard to reach areas.
T3’s 2011 Camera of the Year matches the build and image quality of a high-end SLR with a size that could, at a push, be called compact.
A trusty companion on many a T3 trip, Flip’s dirt-cheap, portable camcorder spawned a legion of copycats and helped fuel YouTube’s growth.
An amazing-looking turntable (Caliburn) with unique tonearm (Cobra), on a vibration-proof stand (Castellon). A snip at a piffling £80K.
Classic 70s British hi-fi speaker of the type that would have Tommy Saxondale salivating. You’ll see them second hand on eBay for £500 and up.
The android vacuum that sadly failed to usher in a bright new dawn of having all your chores done by robot slaves.
“This is an astronaut pen. It writes upside down. They use this in space” – Jack Klompus, Seinfeld.
“Palm Pilot? Sounds like a wanking machine!” So said Brian Blessed, but Palm’s “your life in a little box” PDA was actually even better than that.
The slimline phone that quite literally every man in Britain owned by 2006 is a genuine icon, revived this year.
“You’ll never need to take your actual wallet with you again” – T3, September 2011. We’ll get back to you on precisely when this will happen in the UK.
It may have lost the battle against VHS, but everyone knows Sony’s format was superior, and had a cooler name – can you even remember what VHS stood for? A modified version of the tech was used in professional camcorders for decades to follow.
Quite simply a memory card with Wi-Fi. Et voila: instant photo uploads from any cam.
The camera that sparked the resurgence in sexy, slimmed down, interchangeable lens cameras.
HTC’s flagship blower was among the first real iPhone challengers. It still looks good and works more than adequately today.
“The success and benefits of CD and analogue compact cassette led to a new need, a need based on satisfaction with CD’s wonderful sound, durability and quick random access, and a need based on the portability, recordability and shock resistance of the analogue cassette. It is a need for MiniDisc” – Sony President Noria Ohga. He was correct, at least until MP3 took off. Many of Sony’s portable MD players were quite superb.
Meaning “pal” in Japanese, AIBO was the robot dog with a cute personality and crazy price tag. It learned as it went, spoke, and took pics it uploaded to its own blog. Sadly, AIBO was put down in 2006.
A toaster with a window for seeing how your bread is scorching. So simple, yet so effective.
This 18-meg DSLR delivers superb stills and an amazing 1080p HD video mode. Many have used this as their leap up from compacts…
Organised everything from birthday reminders to the UK benefits agency and could survive nuclear attack.
The world’s first digital watch required you to press a button to activate the red LEDs that showed the time, and cost the equivalent of £7,000 in today’s money. It raised eyebrows when Roger Moore wore one in his first outing as Bond, in 1973’s Live and Let Die. High praise indeed.
Continuing the high-brow film theme, Apple’s cult PDA featured in Steven Seagal’s “classic” Under Siege 2, no less.
There's headphones aplenty in the T3 office, but these are simply the best in-ear headphones (quite a lot of ) money can buy.
This iDock looked amazing, sounded better, and duly won every award going.Hats off to this find iPod dock offering.
Festival sites were left littered with these a few years back as they proved considerably more difficult to put away than to erect. Especially after three days of strong cider and no sleep.
The axe of choice for Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, The Edge, and a million more would-be rock stars.
“I’ve used numbers... Numbers to create BOOBIES” – Marcus Brigstocke.
These noise-cancelling cans became a frequent-flyers’ phenomenon thanks to superb comfort, great sound and Bose’s insistent and heavily Sunday supplement-based marketing.
The Game Boy’s poor relation, thanks to its three-minute battery life, was nonetheless the best colour portable console you could buy. It was as powerful as the Sega Master System, yet fitted in a pocket.
Even more so than the Olympus PEN, the mix of achingly stylish retro looks and cutting-edge digital tech here is irresistible.
One of a slew of high-quality Motos to be released since its embrace of Android, this was a heavyweight, credible rival to the iPad.
The world’s first OLED TV. Okay, it was only 11 inches across and had a mammoth price tag, but still…
Helped kids pronounce and spell words by reading them out as they were typed. It was redesigned numerous times until the final version in 1992, and Bill Cosby advertised it. Later, its harsh, robotic tones turned up on innumerable electro records, notably LFO’s LFO, where you can probably guess what it did.
Fitness gained a cutting, techy edge with this iPod-syncing step counter, that meant hordes of runners could not leave the house without tracking their performance.
The portable PlayStation has sold over 71 million units worldwide.So the PS Vita has some act to follow.
Well screw you, PSP: Nintendo's portable console has sold more than 149 million globally.
A turntable that others are still measured against nearly 40 years from its launch. A true Brit hi-fi classic.
What’s that you say? It’s up to 50 inches across, delivers awesome picture quality in both 2D and 3D and is the best plasma screen less than £2,000 can buy? Don’t mind if we do…
Another world first for Sony, with the delivery of compact disc as a consumer force. Dire Straits’ accountant offered a silent prayer of thanks on its arrival.
Monstrous analogue synth, both more portable and reliable than what had come before. Used by Kraftwerk.
“It’s an iPhone without the phone,” everyone crowed upon its release. But the Touch has proved to be much more. With the App Store’s massive growth in popularity, it’s rapidly becoming the games console of choice for commuters, and a real threat to Sony and Nintendo.
Fought the ZX Spectrum in the eight bit home computer wars of the 80s.
The first Japanese transistor radio, this slab of mass-produced retro chic freed teens from the tyranny of the family radio and drove the rock ’n’ roll revolution.
Deservedly the 2010 T3 Gadget of the Year, the Hero was the first truly desirable Android handset on the market combining svelte looks and great performance.
Shortly after deriding netbooks, Apple went and released one. The most recent Air is superb: plenty of power, barely any more bulk than a tablet, yet superb rigidity and an excellent keyboard and trackpad.
Advertised as "the closest thing to the real thing" by US sports writer George Plimpton, the Intellivision was Mattel's response to the Atari 2600's huge success, and T3 Feature editor Rob Temple's “first love.”
The best Honeycomb tablet to date is made special by the bundled, dockable keyboard, giving the option of tablet portability or laptop practicality.
The first phone with a colour screen. A colour screen that flaunted no fewer than four colours. Imagine that.
A set-top box worthy of Virgin Media’s impressive buffet of live and catch-up programming, this three-tuner PVR learns your tastes and suggests shows you might like.
Premium keyboard, large screen, BlackBerry email. This should be every inveterate texter and emailer’s weapon of choice.
The laptop that set the standard for Apples to come. Later PowerBooks turned up in Mission: Impossible films with alarming frequency.
You may well recognise this from a thousand 50s noir movies. Fahgedaboutit – dat dame’s for da boids! Oh brother! Ahem.
Technically superior to the NES, this lost out due to a less stellar selection of games – although Alex Kidd was built in to certain models.
The console that brought online gaming to the masses. Overshadowed by the PS2 but awesome nonetheless.
“This new technology will add a whole new dimension to the game” – Andre Agassi. Damn right it did. Cricket has also benefitted massively from HawkEye’s ball-pinpointing skills. Could football be next?
“The Amazon Kindle Fire is powerful, sexy, and, unlike Apple products, refreshingly cheap.” T3, November 2011.
It’s like a laptop that’s been in the SAS (but doesn’t like to talk about it).
Once upon a time, digital cameras didn’t have screens. Then came the QV-10. Its LCD was 1.8 inches, which may sound small but was more than adequate for the 250-kilopixel pics taken by Casio’s cutting-edge cam. It was reasonably priced for the time, as well. A true trailblazer.
The first (relatively) easy-to-carry ’corder, as used by Marty McFly.
The first HD console out of the blocks and still the choice of the online-gaming hardcore.
Forget the iPod Shuffle; this is the most wearable MP3 player around.
The SPV (Sound, Pictures, Video) was the first phone to make a major factor of putting digital media on the handset.
Supreme design, majestic LED-lit 2D and 3D pictures and one of the most comprehensive ranges of web features make this a landmark telly.
Edgier than the SNES, thanks to the presence of a “sassier” mascot in Sonic and the fact that Mortal Kombat didn’t have all the gore taken out. Scores bonus points for Sega’s hilarious attempts to extend its life with bollocks such as the Mega CD and 32X.
Set the standard for all e-inkers that followed, despite iffy software.
The computer that saved Apple. Jonathan Ive’s friendly, colourful casings appealed to those turned off by uniform, beige PC towers.
Almost a foot tall, weighing seven stone, and costing £15,000, this is the mother of all hi-fi amps.
Kick-started the HD revolution thanks to the inclusion of a Blu-ray drive. Also plays video games pretty effectively.
Functionality seems a trifle limited today – a torch, Snake 2 and an inbox with space for 50 texts about covers it – but you can’t argue with stats, and this is the biggest seller of all time: 250 million units sold.
With this laptop, Apple introduced the trackpad – previous machines had used a trackball or nipple controller (a small joystick).
This range offered greatly improved image quality to what had gone before, in attractive units, at a low price. A massive player in Japan’s rise to electronic domination.
If a console’s only as good as its games, then the SNES has to be one of the best of all time. The number of childhoods lost to this…
Took the Wii’s motion control and pumped it full of steroids.
The other consoles on this page and elsewhere may be far more sophisticated, but none were as groundbreaking as this wood-panelled wonder.
“Samsung is seriously challenging HTC for the Android crown” – T3, December 2011. You can add “and Apple for the smartphone crown” to that now, too…
R.O.B., Power Glove, Zapper… Not only did the NES have a thousand great games, it also had some seriously outlandish peripherals.
A large iPhone? The computer of the future? Or simply an enjoyable way to consume T3? Time will tell…
So named because it boasted the ability to output graphics in colour, Sir Clive Sinclair’s rubberkeyed wonder sold in the millions. Facilitated many a youngster’s first steps into life-long tech-love.
Made by HTC, this was quickly superseded by the same company’s Desire. However, that was more down to Google’s ineptitude at selling and providing support for the phone. It remains a stellar handset.
“TomTom’s wallet-sized, wallet-friendly satnav solution is a watershed moment for in-car mapping tech” – T3, 2005. From this point on, nobody would ever get lost again. Although a few coaches did get stuck down narrow country roads designed for a pony and trap.
Motion controls made this the first console with truly mass appeal. Sony and Microsoft’s Move and Kinect eventually paid homage…
So successful was this gaming behemoth, it forced Sega out of the hardware biz and remained on sale for a decade.
Featuring a foldout keyboard, this laptop is now in the New York Museum of Modern Art.
The very first VHS recorder, and the beginning of the end for Betamax. Introduced the concept of timeshifting, and a huge leap forward for watching movies at home.
10: Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera (1972)
The high water mark of Polaroid’s illustrious, pre-digital existence, this was the first instant SLR. Long before anyone knew what a megapixel was, it got millions hooked on the buzz of instantly seeing the results of their photography, be it of family, landscapes or, inevitably, naked bodies. With their heavy white borders, and astounding colour palette, Polaroids never looked like real life; they looked much better.
9: Nintendo Game Boy (1989)
This brick of a console didn’t begin and end with Alexey Pajitnov’s Tetris, but the game did sum it up perfectly. The falling bricks were rendered utterly hypnotic by the relentless, tinny music issuing from the Game Boy’s speaker and the strange, vapour-trailing, Etch-A-Sketch effect of all that greyscale liquid crystal. Before you knew it, hours were gone and another pack of AAs was needed.
8: Motorola Startac (1996)
The first clamshell, and the first mobile to be truly desirable. Motorola’s phone was lighter and better looking than any phone had been before. Moto was able to charge a premium for it because it was so damn sexy – Apple no doubt took note. So perfect was the StarTAC’s design, they were still turning up in X Files and numerous other American TV shows and films half a decade later. The design just refused to date. It still hasn’t.
7: Apple iPod (2001)
When Steve Jobs introduced the iPod he called it “a quantum leap,” because it could hold 1,000 songs – “for most people… their entire music library.” Well, no. But what the iPod popularised – self-selecting and user-generated playlists, shuffle play, browsing by genre et al – changed the music biz forever. And that’s before we even get on to the illicit ways that people came to have all this music on their computers in the first place…
6: Sony Walkman TPS L2 (1979)
Above the iPod for the same reason the Polaroid tops any digital camera despite being vastly less sophisticated. It brought about the Big Leap Forward. Before the Walkman you had portable radios, but no easy means of hearing your music wherever and whenever. Now, you could rock on the bus, on the street, in the gym… You could choose a soundtrack to the movie of your life.
5: Pioneer Kuro 9G Plasma (2008)
Life’s just not fair. Pioneer produced the best telly of its generation; the best telly ever according to men who habitually wear t-shirts from AV trade shows. It was big, sexy, had awesome contrast, vivid but lifelike colours and images that were, to use a cliché, “truly cinematic”. And it was such a resounding success, Pioneer had to pull out of making TVs. Yup… not fair.
4: PS2 (2000)
This is the most successful console of all time. Over 150 million have sold worldwide. 1.5 billion games sold. It undoubtedly helped popularise DVD – it was many people’s first player. The list of classics released for it, from massive hits like the Grand Theft Autos to works of art such as Shadow of the Colossus just goes on and on. It was released in 2000AD and you can still buy it now. The console of our lives.
3: Sky+ HD (2008)
This one is our top ten’s concession to patriotism. Sky+ HD won’t mean much to anyone outside of the UK, but it has equivalents in all developed countries: the PVR that sucks in broadcast content from broadcasters and then lets you pause, rewind and watch it whenever you want, on your beloved big screen. Sky+ had already changed the viewing landscape, but the HD version added mind-blowing detail.
2: Amazon Kindle (2007)
Kindle looks great, and the screen is perfect, but its real strength is as a portal. It lets you buy books anywhere, easily – there’s assistance from reviews and recommendations if required – and have them on your device in seconds. A lazy book lover’s dream, in short. With ever more content becoming available and the Fire adding movies, music and more, the Kindle brand looks unstoppable.
1: Apple iPhone (2007)
The most perfectly realised device of T3’s lifetime, Apple’s masterpiece revolutionised mobile phones, turning them into tactile, ultra-usable devices that did everything, sucking other classes of gadget into a whirling black hole of convergence. The interface was crucial. The ability to instantly zoom in and out of screens made web and image browsing and GPS navigation on phones seamless and fun. The seemingly telepathic autocorrect made entering text without an actual keyboard simple. There was an entire bloody iPod – till then, Apple’s most jealously guarded product – just tossed in there. By the time of the 3G there was also high-speed connectivity and the App Store, offering near-unlimited versatility.The iPhone made your mobile not just something you made calls on – in fact, if truth be told, it’s never been that great at that – but a handheld computer, able to entertain you, to document your life and to share it with others.
The vacuum that runs on a ball rather than wheels, letting you change direction with the flick of a wrist. Also features dual cyclone action and all the usual.
The original netbook may look dated now, but at the time of its launch, being able to get something recognisably laptop-like for a few hundred quid was little short of mind-blowing.