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Slashdot Asks: What Do You Think Is The Most Influential Gadget Of All Time? ( 397

TIME has published a list ranking the 50 most influential gadgets of all time, from cameras and TVs to music players, smartphones, and drones. Can you guess what was the number one most influential gadget on the list? That's right, the Apple iPhone. "Apple was the first company to put a truly powerful computer in the pockets of millions when it launched the iPhone in 2007," according to TIME. "The iPhone popularized the mobile app, forever changing how we communicate, play games, shop, work, and complete many everyday tasks."

There's a lot of interesting gadgets on the list that have had a profound impact on mankind in some form or another, for better or worse. Do you agree with TIME's number one choice? What do you think is the most influential gadget of all time?
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Slashdot Asks: What Do You Think Is The Most Influential Gadget Of All Time?

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  • the gun (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    the gun

    • The printing press (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @07:03PM (#52039925) Journal

      the gun

      Seems to me that the printing press has probably brought down more governments and effected more change that the gun. Indeed if it had not been for the gun it would probably have done this with fewer people dying.

      • by quenda ( 644621 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @07:41PM (#52040237)

        But no gadget has brought as many click-throughs to a dying publisher as the iPhone.

      • Indeed if it had not been for the gun it would probably have done this with fewer people dying.

        The question is, what is the most influential, not the most beneficial.

        I vote for the flint firestarter over the iPhone.

        • by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @08:55PM (#52040783) Journal

          The question is, what is the most influential, not the most beneficial.

          ...and I would still argue that this is the printing press. Part of the reason I would say that it is far more influential than the iPhone is that it has been around for longer which has given it more of a chance to influence society.

        • Even their reasoning for choosing the iPhone is faulty.

          Before the iPhone there was the Palm. While Palm OS was a bit funky, some of the later (still pre-iPhone) devices like the Tungsten were definitely full-blown pocket computers. You could get apps for them, read and write MS Office documents, spreadsheets, and databases, and even play Bejeweled 2 in high-res. full color with good sound. And browse the Internet.

          Before the Palm was the HP programmable calculator. The HP 28S was definitely a general-p
          • by nukenerd ( 172703 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2016 @04:58AM (#52042825)
            People voting the iPhone in this reminds me of a similar poll for the worst film of all time. They came up with ones like "The War of the Worlds" (Tom Cruise version), "Terminator", "Forest Gump" etc. In other words they voted for films they had seen recently and did not happen to like themselves. They showed their complete ignorance of just how bad films can really be, such as "Plan 9 from Outer Space", "Manos, the Hands of Fate", and "The attack of the 50 foot Woman". These iFans have got their noses too close to their little screens.
            • by KGIII ( 973947 )

              > These iFans have got their noses too close to their little screens.

              They're looking to see if they can still pick out individual pixels.

          • I understand them liking the iPhone, but it was nowhere near the first viable pocket computer. Not even the first good one.

            Their rationale was that it was the first successful pocket computer (i.e. in the pockets of millions), but even that is somewhat debatable. A lot of the success of the iPhone came from launching it just at the time when the technology was ready. Capacitive touch screens made a huge difference to the UI (being able to use your fingers and not just a stylus). Screens big enough and processors fast enough that you could run a real web browser (not WAP crap) and have it actually be useful made a big differe

          • The original Palm Pilot did make the list, though not at #1. It was influential, but ultimately was a device and a category of devices that wasn't quite good enough to achieve the kind of mass acceptance that the smartphone has.

            And no, the iPhone is not the first smartphone. Various Palm and Windows-based devices, the BlackBerry, and Nokia's Symbian phones preceded it. But it was the first one to be accepted by more people and used as a smartphone by more than just a small tech-oriented elite. Lots of Symbi

        • Indeed if it had not been for the gun it would probably have done this with fewer people dying.

          The question is, what is the most influential, not the most beneficial.

          Pointing a gun at someone can be very influential.

      • by kenj123 ( 658721 )
        I agree with printing press. I think the modern era began with the printing press. it was the basis of both the Reformation and Scientific revolution. Before the printing press, ideas circulated so slowly it was looked a more as reference material. After the printing press ideas spread so quickly that ideas became a collaborative effort, almost a conversation between people that never met.
    • by xevioso ( 598654 )

      The gun is a tool, not a gadget. It's like a hammer.

      Also, this list is a list of specific gadgets. So if you really wanted to make a point, you would have said something like a Spencer Repeater, a Colt 45, or a Winchester Model 1873 "The Gun that Won the West". Not just "a gun."

      • You need to look up the definition of gadget:

        a small mechanical device or tool, especially an ingenious or novel one.

        Both the gun and (my first choice) hammer qualify.

        The knife beats both. Self-defense and attack, killing and skinning and cutting supper into bite-size chunks, It would later be lengthened into short swords and incorporated into rifles (bayonet). The needle is right up there, allowing for piercing animal skins so they could be laced or sewn together, allowing humans to spread much further than would have been possible with just loose animal furs, and making the

  • Thanks! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @06:55PM (#52039855)

    A Refrigerator. Next crap question.

    • Re:Thanks! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @06:58PM (#52039885)
      Refrigeration in general, which includes both refrigerators and air conditioning.
      • Well, refrigeration is nice, both in its ability to preserve food and its impact on our comfort.


        Food has been dried, smoked, and salted to preserve it's lifespan as nourishment for humans as long as humans have been the dominant life on the blue planet. Refrigeration extends the life of the most perishable items, but in turn, affords us dietary alternatives to the staple foods our metabolisms are best at burning for fuel.

        Sleeping in the comfort of controlled temperature and humidity makes every man a

      • Yup - I heard that article too. Amazing invention, up there with the telegram.
      • Sorry, but refrigeration would be impossible without that little rotating electric thingy called an electric motor.

        • Re:Thanks! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by TWX ( 665546 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @08:22PM (#52040581)
          The electric motor is not strictly necessary. Automotive air conditioners rely on power taken from the crankshaft to turn the compressor.

          It probably has never been built, but it should be possible to build pneumatic-start into a mechanical-injected diesel truck, with a full-time, clutchless, belt-driven AC compressor, and with a belt and shaft-driven cabin fan, with a belt-driven compressor to recharge the compressed-air tank to drive the starter.

          Obviously there isn't a benefit in doing this, electrical technology is ubiquitous enough to where we generally can get away without having to go nuts to avoid it, but we could if we really, really wanted to.
      • by TWX ( 665546 )
        Refrigeration technology also allows us to produce heat from electricity more efficiently and more safely than simply heating-up wires by passing current through them. Such allows us to further reduce dependence on chemical-reaction combustion, if we take the initiative to build power plants that don't chemically-burn fuel to make electricity.
    • Re:Thanks! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by xevioso ( 598654 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @07:19PM (#52040065)

      A refrigerator is not a "gadget" in the traditionally understood use of the term. it's an appliance. if we allow appliances, then we must allow the air conditioner, which is could easily be argued as more important. A TV is also an appliance, which is why I don't understand #2 on this list.

      • A refrigerator is not a "gadget" in the traditionally understood use of the term. it's an appliance.

        A quick check of the definition of "gadget" includes the usual list of synonyms. Oddly, "appliance" is a synonym for "gadget".

  • Zune. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @06:56PM (#52039869)


  • Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @06:58PM (#52039881)
    Air conditioning. Made possible the industrialization of the south, and the popularity of Arizona for retirees, so basically A/C has triggered mass migrations of people to hotter climates, with an accompanying huge energy cost. Also made possible modern architecture, which is basically huge glass greenhouses with no opening windows -- try working in something like that without A/C!!!
  • The wheel (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The wheel would have to be the most influential gadget of all time. Certainly more influential than some phone.

    • Yes, the wheel. Or maybe the pointy stick.

      • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

        Yes, the wheel. Or maybe the pointy stick.

        I never did find out how to defend myself from a pointy stick.

        Whoa!! Look out for that pineapple.

    • Re:The wheel (Score:5, Insightful)

      by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @07:04PM (#52039941)

      Agreed. The 4 most influential gadgets have been:

      * Wheel
      * Gun
      * Printing Press
      * Computer

      How would one even begin to quantify "how much" influence they have had though??

      • Re:The wheel (Score:5, Interesting)

        by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @07:31PM (#52040141)

        Agreed. The 4 most influential gadgets have been:

        * Wheel
        * Gun
        * Printing Press
        * Computer

        I'd like to note the irony of a magazine not mentioning the printing press anywhere on their list.

        They would look far less stupid if they had simply limited the list to the last 50 years (which is where almost all their items come from).

      • Mobile phone beats the computer. The advances of communications achieved in the poorest areas of the world is nothing short of amazing. Computers still need to achieve that kind of impact.

        I am talking about personal computers of course.

        I fully realize that a cell phone is a type of a computer, but if we start considering it, it will become a category of gadgets, not a gadget.

      • * Wheel

        I'd replace that with the second wheel [].

      • Re:The wheel (Score:5, Informative)

        by narcc ( 412956 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2016 @01:52AM (#52042309) Journal

        Rather than go with "most influential" and to avoid a lot of bickering over "gadget" (by conforming to the most cited criteria here) I'll offer a few items more influential than the iPhone, in no particular order:

        • The walkman
        • The transistor radio
        • The pocket watch
        • The slide rule
        • The pocket calculator
        • The mobile phone
        • The consumer GPS receiver
        • The microwave oven

        I could easily go on. The point, of course, is that the iPhone (or any specific smartphone) shouldn't even make the top 10.

    • by xevioso ( 598654 )

      I don't think the wheel counts as a gadget. There's a fine line between a gadget and a tool, and the wheel is the latter, just like a hammer.

      This list is one of SPECIFIC versions of objects that had already existed, but which were the best examples of their class; the Walkman and the iPhone were just very good examples of gadgets that had existed in one form or another already.

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) []

        Personally, I'd exclude the Simple Machines from the category of "gadget". They may have been more influential, but aren't "gadgets". The list given seems slanted towards "electronic gadget".
        • The digital clock, which led to the digital watch, which Douglas Adams recognized as the pinnacle of human achievement.
        • by Nethead ( 1563 )

          The indoor toilet would be my choice. It even takes care of some of the issues of not having refrigeration. I think you could call John Crapper's invention a gadget.

          Plumbing (sanitation) and refrigeration are my two main things I'm thankful for having been born in this era. To think it took the earth 4.5Gy to come up with hot showers and cold beer. Add electricity into the mix and we're golden-age.

    • Re:The wheel (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @08:01PM (#52040427) Journal
      Flint, that started fire. Best gadget ever. Also the fire starting kit made of a couple of sticks and piece of string.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @07:00PM (#52039903)

    Hey Slashdotters!

    Which is the most influential letter in the alphabet of all time? Not just the one that's had the most impact through the years, but the letter whose combination of style, utility, and inspiration will take us through the early part of the 21st century and beyond!

    My pick? You might think it's going to be a vowel, but I'm going to surprise "u" and go with... "C". A little "controversial", maybe, but hey, I think it's a "classy" "choice"!

    Well, now you know my pick. What's yours?!! And don't forget to tell us "y"!

  • by FrankSchwab ( 675585 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @07:02PM (#52039919) Journal

    As much as I admire the quality and intentions of the iPhone, I don't see it as being that important. People were texting, calling, and (gasp!) yes, even browsing the web before an iPhone ever showed up. The locked-in experience of the time was vastly inferior to what the iPhone brought to the game, which is of course the main reason that it did so well. But, without the iPhone, the smartphone market would still have developed, and people still would be carrying tiny but powerful little computers in their pockets.

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2016 @01:14AM (#52042165)
      I had a PDA back in those days. It was obvious to most everyone (except Microsoft, who completely missed the boat) that PDAs and phones were going to converge. The only question was if PDAs were going to pick up phone capability, or if phones were going to pick up PDA capability. Microsoft was in a position to make the former happen - they had vanquished Palm and controlled most of the PDA market with Windows CE/Mobile/their name of the year. But even when HP tried to make a WinCE PDA which could also make phone calls, Microsoft didn't lift a finger to help them.

      Blackberry ended up taking the first step to adding general-purpose computing to a phone. Once they opened that floodgate, it was a race to see who could make their phone the most general general-purpose computer (except Microsoft, even though that was exactly what they were trying to do with PDAs - trying to port the Windows API to PDAs).

      The only real contributions of the iPhone was lack of a physical keyboard - everyone else (except LG) was using a Blackberry-style keyboard, or a sliding keyboard, or a Palm Graffiti-style writing space. That was a huge bet by Apple, and the iPhone served as the proof of concept which green-lighted everyone else's touch-only on-screen keyboards most of them were already playing with in R&D. (The app ecosystem - instead of a handful of apps baked into the phone by the manufacturer - came later). A lot of the form and functionality people attribute to the iPhone actually came out first in the LG Prada [], indicating the industry was already moving in that direction even when the iPhone hadn't yet seen the light of day.
  • by ChunderDownunder ( 709234 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @07:04PM (#52039937)

    Although in terms of influence, Penny and her pet dog did most of the work.

  • The two most influential inventions that affected more people (for the positive), by far, would be indoor plumbing, and vaccines. Could argue either way which one's first.

    Don't know if those are "gadgets"...

  • by mi ( 197448 ) <> on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @07:07PM (#52039969) Homepage Journal

    Firearms have forever changed both warfare and personal security. You can say, bow and arrow had a similarly dramatic effect — Spartans captured by Athenians 2500 years ago complained bitterly, that reed (from which arrows were made) does not distinguish between the brave and the cowards. But arrows weren't useful against fortifications and bow was not a good short-range weapon.

    Now, refrigerators [] have dramatically altered the way we buy and prepare food... I'd nominate them if only because they tend to be underappreciated these days.

    Railroads, airlines, personal cars — not sure, if you can call them "gadgets". Telegraph and telephone — sure!

    And then cellular phone, followed by "smart" phone. But I think, telephones were more revolutionary than these next stages.

  • The pointy stick. Longest record of use by humanity and its predecessors (Myrs). Useful as both weapon and tool. Sharp sticks and the intelligence to use them (and later, fire) are, to a first approximation, the reason we are even a thing on this rock.

    But, yeah, iPhones and drones though....
  • She said it's the Vibrator...

  • by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @07:12PM (#52040021)

    I feel like my brain just got dumber reading that list. The Wii? Fit bit? Oculus rift? Nest Thermostat? Roku Netflixs?

    None of those things should even make the top 10,000 let alone the top 50. Initially I thought they were limiting it to post 1970s stuff and then they throw in an 1850s record player.

  • by krkhan ( 1071096 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @07:12PM (#52040023) Homepage
    This is pointless click-bait, made even more obvious by putting iPhone on the top. Why isn't the QWERTY keyboard the most influential gadget of all time? The beloved iPhones still use QWERTY, no? Why isn't telephone itself at the top? That's what connected the world, no? How about telegram, the precursor to both internet and telephone? "Gadget" and "most influential" are both loosely defined terms. The sole purpose of this article was to somehow get iPhone to the top.
    • Remarkably, no airplane made the list. If there's one thing that's made the world smaller and influenced everyone's life, it's been cheap air travel.
      I'm guessing they put this list together in 45 minutes one day after drinking at lunch.

  • and other non-electric writing devices. These enabled records and information to be reliably kept for many years and sent great distances.

    In too many surveys like this people only think about what is new/revolutionary in their lifetime and completely forget about what came before. Myopic!

  • **piff** (Score:5, Funny)

    by transami ( 202700 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @07:19PM (#52040061) Homepage

    Everybody knows it's the TOWEL.

  • Everything else starts here.
  • I can forgive ignoring the lighter, the bread slicer, the zipper, and the soldiering iron, but no duck tape?

  • by Rollgunner ( 630808 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @07:30PM (#52040135)
    My grandmother, who before passing away not too long ago at the age of 99, felt that despite seeing automobiles, computers and television all come of age, the microwave oven was the thing that made the largest impact in her life as a housewife. Her husband was a doctor, and with his irregular hours, it was nearly impossible to have a hot dinner ready for him when he got home, but the microwave changed that completely. It was a revolution in the production of hot meals, which is something most of us take for granted.
  • The iPhone ... forever changing how we ... complete many everyday tasks.

    Like what? Seriously.

  • During the Manhattan project, the bomb was referred to as a gadget [].

    You can easily debate the influence, since it only covers the mid-20th century onward; but it was actually called a "gadget".

  • Ok, technically this isn't a pocket gadget, but it is still a gadget.

    Everything is modern life is supported by electricity. iPhones, AirConditioners, Mass Transportation, Warehouse Distribution Systems, New York City, Modern Factories, and yes even the financial sector.

    Electricity is supported by the steam engine (and lot's of copper wire).

    Whether it be coal fired, natural gas fired, oil fired, or a nuclear powered electric plant these are nothing more than giant steam engines. We boil water with coal, ga

    • Ok, technically this isn't a pocket gadget, but it is still a gadget.

      Everything is modern life is supported by electricity. iPhones, AirConditioners, Mass Transportation, Warehouse Distribution Systems, New York City, Modern Factories, and yes even the financial sector.

      The Steam engine's first use was providing fresh (and cooler) air in mine shafts, from there to the train which populated the US for one.

      The Train would of been my answer, but does require steam, and as u mentioned the electricity we've become custom to using.

  • Well, I can't say I'm surprised that they omitted "the red pen" from their list.

  • The iPhone was a total joke when it came out. It was pretty and different, but there were no applications for it other than what it came with (!), you couldn't even download files or copy and paste text. It was a few years before it got within reach of the capability of the Treo 650 I had at the time, which was my second smartphone more capable than the original iPhone and not even the best smartphone available at the time. Even then, the iPhone was and remains a toy to enable consumption, not a real computer. A real computer puts you in control of what it can do, allowing you to write and run your own programs on the device and download and run applications at will.

    The iPhone's success damaged computing itself more than any device or event in history by popularizing curated computing in place of general-purpose computing.

  • Wouldn't that be the wheel? Or if it has to be something that is used standalone, one of the other simple machines invented in ancient times: the inclined plane (including screws) or the lever (mostly construction and cargo cranes in modern times).

  • The plough was a lot more influential than the wheel. Without the plough we would never have progressed far enough to need the wheel. It provided the surplus which all over advances depend on.

    In the last 100 years the most influential gadget is the washing machine. It released women from the home into the workplace, transforming society. The computer probably ranks second in importance in last 100 years but if the computer/internet combo had done as much good as one would hope then we would be a lot smarter

    • Oh .. I forgot to mention the most important gadget of last 60 years is probably the shipping container. This has had an extraordinary effect on our lives by (a) drowning us in cheap goods and (b) decimating local manufacturing.

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @08:04PM (#52040459)
    Plough, spear, cooking pot, shoe, clothing, stirrup, wheel, compass, boat, sail, steam engine, sextant, knife, lightbulb, refrigeration, fishing hook, vacuum cleaner, broom, roof, walls, toothbrush, doors, scissors, calculator, windows, saw, axe, lathe, printing press, telescope, telegraph, slide rule, mirrors, drill, screw, radio, TV, to name a few.

    I was reading for example that the bicycle literally changed the DNA of England in a measurable way when people could now find mates a few villages over. The train would have had a similar type impact but might not qualify as a gadget.

    As for the iPhone (which I have one of) they will be something quaint we find in yard sales in 10 years. Basically like having a kickass VCR in 1982.

    I would say that the iPhone mostly just shook up the complacency of the telcos more than anything else. The iPhone was one of these technological developments that was inevitable. Just like ever improving battery technology makes the electric car inevitable. Tesla may very well move things along a bit more quickly but the electric car pretty much completely depends upon modern processors, batteries, and brushless motors.
  • Raspberry Pi, Perl, or the Apple ][ ?

              Computing logic to the masses !

              The number "zero" was pretty big too....

  • by Daniel Matthews ( 4112743 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @08:14PM (#52040517)
    Do I really need to explain why?
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @08:22PM (#52040579) Homepage

    #1 Gadget that changed the world.


    90% of everything you use today depends on that first radio invention that was a gadget and curiosity.

  • It keeps hot things hot and cold things cold.

    But, how does it know?

  • I agree with most of the posters here that things like refrigeration and air-conditioning are among the most influential "gadgets" of all time - or, at least for the period of post World War II. The modern world would bit a lot different without them.

    However, using the original article's limited sense of reference I would consider the (original) iPod [] to be far more influential than the iPhone (you could swap them around in Time's rankings); looking back, the original iPod's release [] really did start a small

  • The battery powered vibrator. Apply anywhere to enjoy it's soothing relaxations.

    At Spencers gift stores everywhere.

  • The first lamps were a candle or something. These days, electric with LED lights or whatever, but either way: light when you want it, not just when the sun is up? Light where you want it... for example, in a cave, or in a building? Pretty huge.

    Does "lamp" qualify as a gadget? From TFS:

    Rather than rank technologies—writing, electricity, and so on—we chose to rank gadgets, the devices by with consumers let the future creep into their present.

    Huh, all their choices were brand name items and all

  • by dsgrntlxmply ( 610492 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2016 @09:22PM (#52040919)

    Without low cost paper of consistent quality, none of the other gadgets could have been designed.

    My first choice would have been the pencil, but I thought again and realized that pencils are not very useful without good paper.

  • by BrendaEM ( 871664 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2016 @07:25AM (#52043273) Homepage

    The Knife and Sword
    A House
    The Bed
    The Refrigerator
    Hammer, Anvil, and Chisle
    The Saw, Hewn, Chisel, and Plane
    Bow and Arrow
    Matches and Lighter
    Spinning Wheel
    Button and Zipper
    Toothbrush, Toothpaste, and Floss
    Cotton Gin
    The Grain Mill
    The Compass
    The Pen, Paper, and Pencil
    The Boat and Ship
    Steam Engine and Locomotive
    Electric Light Bulb
    The Microwave Oven
    Gas and Diesel Engines
    The Umbrella
    The Washing-machine and Dryer
    The Internet
    Record Player
    The Personal Computer
    The Motorcycle and Automobile
    The Airplane
    The Rocket
    The Neodymium Magnet
    The Space Shuttle
    The Integrated Circuit
    The Transistor, Capacitor, Inductor, Wire, and Printed Circuit Boards
    The Light Emitting Diode
    The Cellphone
    The Amplifier and Speaker

    Gadgets by definition are supposed to be things we don't need.
    To state that there's an important gadget is a contradiction.

UNIX is many things to many people, but it's never been everything to anybody.