A brief history of gadgets

Toy story: a brief history of gadgets

Christian Broughton


On 26 January, John Logie Baird gives the first demonstration of the television. Two years later he follows that up with a colour transmission.


The first hand-held calculator, the Sharp EL-8 (above), which weighs 1lb, goes on sale for $395.


On 4 April 1972, Pulsar launches the first digital watch, which features a red LED display. Until LCD displays were introduced, most LED watches required the wearer to press a button to light up the screen, as LEDs drew too much power to have them lit up all the time.


Video games become the Christmas must-have gift for the very first time as people queue outside the 1975 Sears department store in New York awaiting shipments of Pong (bottom).


JVC launches the VHS video recorder . Technically, it’s not as 1989 good as other formats, but that doesn’t stop it seeing off its rival, Betamax (above), to become the global standard for anyone watching a film at home for decades to come.


The Apple II (below) becomes the first popular home computer, becoming standard issue in 1977 American schools. By the end of its production in 1993, two million Apple II units have been sold.


The Sony Walkman (below left) is launched. The innovation started as a 1979 pet project of the company’s co-founder, Akio Morita, who wanted to listen to opera on his frequent flights to and from the US. Suddenly, everyone wants to be wired for sound.


The first CDs herald 1982 the era of digital music. The disk is the product of a joint venture between Philips and Sony. Originally planned to hold an hour of music, the maximum capacity is increased to 74 minutes because Sony’s vice-president, Norio Ohga, suggests that it should accommodate a complete performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.


On 1 January, Britain’s first mobile phone call (above right) is made across the Vodafone 1985 network… by Ernie Wise, a friend of the telecoms firm’s chairman.


The term “laptop” is coined by the makers of the Gavilan SC personal computer 1985(below left), which is equipped with a floppy disk drive, 5MHZ Intel processor and a 48kb memory, and a modem.


– On 21 April, Nintendo launches the Game Boy ( below left), packaged with Tetris, a game so is popular that its own background music achieves massive chart success. The original design sells 70 million units worldwide, the Game Boy colour sells 49 million and the compact Game Boy Advance more than 75 million.


The webcam is born as the computer-science department of 1991 Cambridge University installs a video camera showing the filter coffee machine in the library’s Trojan Room, to avoid people the disappointment of making the journey only to find the pot empty. The web-cam is finally switched off on 22 August 2001.


On 6 August, the first ever 1991website is created by Tim Berners- Lee at CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, outside Geneva), explaining what the World Wide Web is. Berners-Lee forgoes any patent, insisting that it must be free for all. (You can see a copy of the web page at http://www.w3.org/History/19921103- hypertext/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html)


The UK’s first commercial SMS message is sent in December from a 1992 computer to a Vodafone employee. The message: Merry Christmas.

Copyright 2007 Independent Newspapers UK Limited

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