Tech Touch

Here’s a list of the most path breaking gadgets that changed our lives forever

Tech Touch
Life-altering tech... Graham Bell’s telephone, the IBM PC, Apple Lisa’s graphical user interface… potent, polarising, pioneering, path-breakers that caused paradigm changes in our lives. As we plunge into the new year, let's take a bow to iconic gadgets that changed our world.

Mouse and keyboard

The mouse started life as a “X-Y position indicator for a display system” in 1967. Invented by Douglas C Engelbart, it was made of two wheels fitted into a square wooden shell and first used on a hulking mainframe computer. The first commercial model — a three-button Mechanical Mouse 4-101 from Computer Displays — came five years later. And that altered forever the course of man-machine interaction with a single roar.

The origins of the humble Qwerty computer keyboard that we are constantly pounding today are even older. It was patented by Christopher Latham Sholes in 1868 and brought to the mass market by the Remington Company for typewriters in 1877. And look are where it has brought us.

Sony Walkman TPS-L2

This is what made music personal. And the whole tale of “individual” electronics and mobile music began. The first portable music player to ever trill, the Walkman was a cassette player and it also boasted of sprouting the world's first lightweight earphones. This brainchild of Sony founders Masaru Ibuka, Akio Morita, and Norio Ohga was more coveted (and initially quite a luxury at $200) than the now ubiquitous iPod in its time.

Motorola DynaTAC

A prototype in 1973, Motorola DynaTAC 8000X became the first commercial portable cellular telephone on March 6, 1983. DynaTAC being an abbreviation of Dynamic Adaptive Total Area Coverage. A hefty 793 grammes and 10 inches tall, the phone had a talk time of 60 minutes with a recharge time of 10 hours, a limited LED display, and a 30-number memory. Price: $3,995! Then in 1989 came the Motorola MicroTAC. Styled as a clamshell, this was first truly pocketable mobile handset that offered user friendly form along with function. The true predecessor of the modern cell phone.

Casio QV-10

The Casio QV-10 delighted shutter bugs across the world by becoming the first consumer digital compact camera in 1966. Offering a 1/5-inch, 460x280-pixel CCD, the QV-10 could store up to 96 images on 2 mb of its semiconductor. The device offered a 1.8 inches LCD screen to preview your pictures — pictures that you need not necessarily print as you could view them on your PC your 486 or TV as well. Even though it dangled a tag of $995, this Casio was instrumental in re-inventing forever how we undertake photography today.

USB pen drive

Many among today’s computing populace have never seen — or possibly not even have heard — of a storage medium called the floppy disc. That’s because of the overwhelming dominance of the USB pen drive. Invented as the DisOnKey by IBM in 2000, it offered in its diminutive dimensions (and considered capacious at the time) 8 megabytes of portable storage space. Size, reliability, and pricing advantages soon made the USB pen drive the easiest way of transporting and backing up data.

Apple iPod

Yes, the Sony Walkman made music personal and mobile for us. Yes, the Diamond Multimedia Rio 300 was first portable flash MP3 player. But it was the phenomenal success of the Apple iPod that made not just the term synonymous with music but also handheld gaming and apps accessible to everyone over the air in a jiffy. Little wonder then that this best selling gadget is greatly responsible in making iTunes the world’s biggest music retailer and the App Store a runaway hit.

BlackBerry and iPhone

Launched in 2002, the first BlackBerry smart phone was both a path-breaker and a trendsetter. It introduced an era of instant mail even when you were on the move. For the first time you could send and receive e-mail messages in an instant, open attachments, chat over BBM instant messaging, surf the web and make calls on an stylish and elegant yet unpretentious full Qwerty keyboard device.

And then the Apple iPhone happened. Apple outsmarted seasoned veterans with its touch-based phone by not only altering the way we interact with phones but impacting the entire cell phone industry. It’s incredibly usable and throughly delightful interface plus a humongous database of apps reworked the telephonic-device paradigm into a do-it-all pocket computer. Achieving cult status, the GodPhone has create a eco-system for itself and become an benchmark on many fronts that the competition is still trying hard to match itself against.

Apple iPad

Detractors scoffed at it as a larger iPod Touch and an unnecessary gadget. Yet, in less than two years the iPad has not only changed our reading and browsing habits but also reduced our dependence on PCs and laptops, re-invented personal publishing, and forced PC makers to re-think their market strategies. Acknowledged as the fastest selling gizmo of all time, the success of the tablet has helped open up a whole new form factor in computing and spurred a spate of me-toos to enter the market.

(The author is a personal tech writer)

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