If you know us at all then you know we kneel at the shrine of gadgetry, so we were absolutely delighted when Time Magazine put together a list of the 50 most influential gadgets of all time. Thankfully they meant “gadget” in the big, historical sense so expect some truly innovative products that really changed the shape of western civilization. We’ll countdown the top 20 in brief detail and then list out the remaining 30 so you can relish in mankind’s ongoing progress as much as we do.
20. Motorola Droid
The Motorola Droid rocketed into the consumer stratosphere in 2009 and has stayed there ever since. To swear allegiance to this smartphone is of course to look upon the iPhone with contempt, which is probably what Google intended when they created the Android platform in the first place.
Release year: 2009
Known for: touchscreen; actual physical keyboard; 3G network
Original price: $300
19. JVC VideoMovie Camcorder
Before smartphones, digital cameras and goPros, there were clunky camcorders making grainy sex tapes and terrible home movies across the globe. The JVC VideoMovie became the camcorder of choice thanks to heavy promotion in the smash hit Back to the Future. If you still use one, however, you’re probably over forty and living in your parents’ basement.
Release year: 1984
Known for: first all-in-one VHS camcorder
18. Motorola Bravo Pager
In its own small way, the pager was the first signifier of a mobile future for the masses, making anyone who owned one feel instantly important and a little more connected. The Motorola Bravo Flex led the charge after debuting in 1986, quickly becoming the world’s best seller. Those crappy brick-sized 80s cell phones had nothing on this tiny, sleek device.
Release year: 1986
17. IBM Selectric Typewriter
Don’t let nostalgic old people fool you — typewriters were basically a nightmare until the IBM Selectric appeared. This electric typewriter maximized speed and efficiency with the utmost precision and — thanks to an ability to store data by 1964 — paved the way for a handy device called the personal computer.
Release year: 1961
Known for: changeable typefaces; “personal computer”
16. Nintendo Game Boy
It might not look like much today, but man was the Nintendo Game Boy awesome when it hit the scene in 1989. All the mobile games we enjoy now have their roots in this revolutionary gadget.
Release year: 1989
Known for: handheld gaming console
15. Nintendo Entertainment System
Just when it looked like game systems might go the way of Betamax, the Nintendo premiered in 1983 and introduced young boys everywhere to an amiable hero named Mario. Decades later we still have no idea why it was up to an overweight plumber to save the princess from a fire-breathing dragon, and we still don’t care. Nothing was the same after NES hit the world stage.
Release year: 1983
Known for: video gaming home console
14. US Robotics Sportster 56K Modem
There will come a time where elders will tell their grandchildren that it used to take minutes to connect to the Internet and doing so made a distinct, horrible screeching sound. The US Robotics Sportster was one of the most popular modems back when dialing up was the only way for folks to surf those Internet waves.
13. Atari 2600
Atari was a genuine trailblazer by bringing those enormous video arcade machines into the comfort of your own home. And while it was an expensive device with only a few popular games, credit must nevertheless be given where it’s due.
Release year: 1977
Known for: first gaming box
Original price: $199
12. Philips N1500 VCR
The year was 1972 and if there were two amazing TV shows on at the same time then you had to get all Sophie’s Choice by picking just one of them. The Philips N1500 changed that by allowing home recording, though the privilege was enjoyed strictly by the wealthy for most of the decade.
Release year: 1972
Known for: tuner, timer; allows television recording
Original price: £440
11. Canon Pocketronic Calculator
To think that one day the ability to perform math on a small machine was considered a luxury! And by “luxury” we mean you had to drop $345 (which was a lot in 1970) for this baby.
Release year: 1970
Known for: iconic adding machine (calculator that adds, subtracts, multiplies and divides)
Original price: $345
10. Magic Wand
Among the many great revolutions of the last century is of course the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Hitachi’s Magic Wand has been a premier, iconic female stimulator since that very same era. You know what they say: when it ain’t broke…
Release year: 1968
9. Apple iPod
Sometimes it just takes a little nudge to steer people in the right direction, however the iPod was more like an all-out shove toward the MP3 format. To this day CDs are still wondering what the hell happened.
Release year: 2001
Known for: portable media player; monochrome LCD (liquid-crystal display) screen; 5GB hard drive (1,000 songs)
Original price: $399
8. Kodak Brownie Camera
This small, handheld camera goes all the way back to 1900 when it inadvertently took photography to a whole new level of widespread personal use (it was originally intended as a plaything for kids). According to legend, it wasn’t until years later that some narcissist took the first selfie.
Release year: 1990
Original price: $1
7. Regency TR-1 Transistor Radio
The Regency marks the beginning of a new era in communication by putting big technology in a relatively small gadget. It also gave birth to the modern day tech nerd.
Release year: 1954
Known for: first commercially manufactured transistor radio
Original price: $49.95
6. Victrola Record Player
With the vinyl comeback in full swing it seems only fitting to pay respect to this landmark product, which brought audio playing into everyone’s homes. We wonder how those deep bass lines on our hip-hop records might sound rolling through that giant vintage amplifier horn.
Release year: 1901
5. IBM Model 5150
Simply put, the debut of the 5150 is the point where the scales tipped and personal computing really became a thing. The porn quality sucked, though.
Release year: 1981
Known for: known as the IBM PC
Original price: $1,565
4. Sony Walkman
Until the Sony Walkman emerged, young men would have to actually listen to whatever garbage their parents were playing on the car stereo. Suddenly you could pop in a cassette tape of your favorite band, throw on headphones, and turn your lame parents and their awful music into mere background noise. Personal space was practically invented with this product.
3. Apple Macintosh
Nowadays, the GUI (aka Graphic User Interface) is a cornerstone of personal computing, but at one time in history such a concept was a bold, risky vision from two guys named Steve (and of course a bunch of other people at Apple). The Macintosh is nothing if not a testament to the power of stubbornness and innovation in the face of adversity.
2. Sony Trinitron
The Sony Trinitron became the benchmark television set during a transitional era that saw black and white turn to glorious color in most homes. A zillion dead brain cells later, TV lives on, though Trinitron isn’t exactly a household name these days.
Release year: 1968
1. Apple iPhone
Thanks to the iPhone, we could finally answer the question “is that a computer in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” with “that’s a computer in my pocket, bitch.” And what a computer it was. With a colorful touch screen and eventually a mobile app store, the iPhone was just one of those gadgets that kind of changed the world overnight. While all the inventions on this list helped pave the way toward the future of now, it was the iPhone that really stood up and kicked the door off its hinges, for better or worse.
Release year: 2007
Original price: $499 (4GB) / $599 (8GB)
Check out our Tech category for more of the world’s greatest gadgets and gear.
The Remaining 30 Influential Gadgets:
21. IBM Thinkpad 700C
22. TomTom GPS
23. Phonemate 400 Answering Machine
24. Blackberry 6210
25. Apple iPad
26. Commodore 64
27. Polaroid Camera
28. Amazon Kindle
30. Toshiba DVD Player
31. Sony Playstation
33. Jerrold Cable Box
34. Nokia 3210
35. HP Deskjet
36. Palm Pilot
37. Motorola Dynatac 8000x
38. Apple iBook
39. Oculus Rift
40. Sony Discman D-50
41. Roku Netflix Player
43. Osborne 1
44. Nest Thermostat
45. Raspberry Pi
46. DJI Phantom
47. Yamaha Clavinova Digital Piano
49. Makerbot Replicator
50. Google Glass