8 Forgotten Gadgets That Changed the World

From a time when phones were attached to walls and computers filled entire rooms, these eight gadgets changed the way we live. Though it’s hard to believe, there was a time before everything was digitized and mobile! Not convinced? Then check out some of the fascinating history behind these devices that changed the world forever:

1. The Telephone :

Yes, you can trace this one straight back to Alexander Graham Bell, who patented his version in 1876, but he wasn’t the first person to conceive of sending voice signals over wires – not by a long shot. As early as 1753 German inventor and physicist Georg Philipp Reis created what is widely considered to be the first rudimentary telephone . It could only transmit three distinct tones, but it’s still impressive considering it was made with little more than some wire, a diaphragm and an earpiece. Anyone who has ever used a telephone would find this primitive version surprisingly similar.

Then in 1833  legal clerk and self-taught American physicist Joseph Henry came up with the idea of using a liquid transmitter for the phone after noting that sound signals carried much further along metal wires when they were transmitted as electrical impulses. He also found that the sounds became much louder if sent via electricity rather than acoustically down a wire – another feature familiar to anyone who uses their phone as a speakerphone today!

In 1860 Italian innovator Innocenzo Manzetti used a liquid transmitter to create the first working phone, but after being ridiculed by his countrymen for claiming that he could send voices over a wire, Manzetti retreated into self-imposed exile in Paris . It was here that he met (and became friends with) Alexander Graham Bell.

The first long distance phone call didn’t take place until 1892 when Bell’s assistant Mr Watson called Bell from New York City to Boston. However an even more significant event occurred earlier in the same year when Bell himself made the first cross-country call between Brantford, Ontario and Montreal on June 2 nd .

2. The Radio :

Even before Marconi came up with his design for the first wireless telegraph and the word Morse was even coined, British musician and scientist   Michael Faraday ‘s experiments with electromagnetic induction in 1831 led him to conclude that if he could induce a current in one coil (or wire), a similar current would be induced in another. Then in December of 1864 James Clark Maxwell published his groundbreaking paper “A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field,” which proved that electricity and light waves were two forms of the same thing – electromagnetism .

The next piece fell into place on June 2 nd , 1895 when Guglielmo Marconi sent a radio signal over open water for the first time. This initial success led to more advanced models being developed which eventually led to Marconi sending the first transatlantic radio signal on December 12 th , 1901 – a feat which still impresses today.

3. The Telephone Booth:

Despite the telephone having been invented over 30 years before the first public coin-operated telephone kiosk appeared, it wasn’t until later in 1882 that an American inventor named William Gray actually patented his version of such a booth. A year and a half later he had licensed his invention (and its subsequent patents) to Western Electric and things really took off from there with almost 100,000 booths installed by 1929.

These days they’re disappearing fast as more and more people carry cellphones or useIP services like Facetime or Skype for those kinds of calls. So next time you’re using your phone as a camera, don’t forget to thank Mr Henry . He was the first person to patent such a device 149 years ago on August 18 th , 1896 – two years before Eastman introduced his Kodak camera.

And finally, what would any list involving technology be without including that greatest of all visionaries – Leonardo da Vinci . He may not have invented the lightbulb (or anything else for that matter), but he did draw up plans for mechanical helicopters almost 500 years before one took off for real in 1959. Now if someone can just come up with one which actually works…

Kodak’s Digital Camera

In 1841, French inventor Nicephore Niepce developed a process to capture camera images in permanent form for the first time. His method used Bitumen of Judea, a naturally occurring asphalt , and a metal plate coated with it. When he immersed the plate in a solvent, the bitumen hardened where it was exposed to light, forming a crude but recognizable photograph.

Louis Daguerre later improved on this process by using silver-coated copper plates instead of metal ones. Unlike previous processes that were only useful outside or in studios because they required very long exposure times, his new one could be used inside and produced clearer and sharper results because no harmful fumes were given off during exposure.

Minolta Maxxum 7000

Minolta was one of the companies which helped pioneer digital photography by developing and releasing four cameras with 800-pound, 22.7 megapixel sensors, 45mm Leica DC Vario-Summicron lenses, and both USB 2.0 and Firewire modes for data transfer to a computer or printer respectively. The A1, A2, 7Hi , and 7i were released starting in 1999 just as the digital age really began to take off – allowing us all to capture moments from our lives forever instead of being at their mercy of photo album pages that fade over time .

An advertisement for Roosevelt’s 1908 presidential campaign using his “Safari Express” train – named after his historic trip to Africa.

A scale model of the actual train, complete with engine and presidential automobile (the latter is one of only two ever built, both for Roosevelt).

On January 6 th , 1909 the train left New York City packed full of journalists who were eager to see how their president would fare in his new role. They were not disappointed as he rose to the challenge magnificently by hunting game in Hell’s Gate National Park in Kenya . Upon returning home via Djibouti on March 18 th , Roosevelt had succeeded in bagging 512 animals including 17 lions , 8 elephants, 13 rhinoceri , 9 hippopotami , 7 warthogs, 3 crocodiles , 2 ostriches, and a gazelle for a total of 98,555 pounds of animal meat and trophies .

Not only did he do all this before his predecessor even arrived in the country to begin his journey, but Teddy was also incredibly active as a chief executive – going on numerous other hunting expeditions during his tenure as President. As you can see from these pictures, safaris were very popular with those who could afford it back then – be they explorers or leaders.

The Motorola MicroTAC

, introduced in 1989, was the first commercially available “flip” phone. The design of the Motorola MicroTAC was widely imitated by other handset manufacturers.

The term ‘flip-phone’ may be used to refer to any phone with a clamshell or swivel design, but flip phones truly hit their stride in the 1990s when they became popular among teenagers and young adults. Their compact size made them very portable while still offering an easy-to-use interface for making calls and sending text messages or emails. Many flip phones even had small screens that could display basic animations which were included on games that are now considered classic. One of the most iconic examples of this design is certainly Nokia’s 3310, originally released in 2000. The 3310 was one of the most successful phones ever made and its popularity is still very much evident even today. Today, flip phones are mostly used by senior citizens and tend to be considered a stereotypical signifier for that particular demographic.


The MPMan F10

is the smallest, lightest and most inexpensive MP3/WMA player from Saehan Information Systems. It looks very much like a certain other company’s players but it goes far beyond them in terms of features, flexibility and sound quality.

Cosmetically similar to iRiver’s players, the F10 can hold up to 64 Mbytes of data on its tiny built-in memory unit (no memory card slot) or another 64 Mbytes on a Secure Digital (SD) card that is said to be available soon. It has amazing capabilities: voice recorder with adjustable sampling frequency up to 192 KHz; FM radio; stopwatch; calculator; calendar…

It also shows very good operating ease and audio playback quality, surpassing even the justly praised COWON D2 , in my opinion. And the best of all… it costs half what iRiver’s player does!

Weighing only 52 grams (1.8 oz) with two AAA batteries, the F10 has a very small dimensions of 44 x 80 x 19 mm (1.7 x 3.1 x 0.75″) and is made almost entirely of quality plastic, even though its original box looks like metal;-) It feels solid in your hand but not too heavy to wear on a neck strap (not included).

Its four control buttons are located on one side, along with an erase key that doesn’t have the usual “lock” functionality because there is no display unit that could get locked. The back side is fully flat except for the battery compartment that has a raised cover to protect it from water or dust.

The IBM Simon

Personal Communicator-style joystick with a center button is built on the same axis so you can manipulate it by twisting your hand. This makes quick and precise control easy even if the buttons are small and therefore not that convenient to use.

Above is a photo of the MPMan F10’s front face, with screen on. The display measures 1 inch across the diagonal and I think this was perfectly sized for such a tiny player: it shows enough text to be readable but doesn’t take much space or heavy power drain.

The back side has an interesting concept in its battery compartment door though: there are no screws involved at all!!! Instead, there are two plastic hooks at different levels which must be rotated simultaneously in order to pop out the door. It’s simple, isn’t it…

The door is opened by rotating the lower hook counter-clockwise.

The batteries are held in place with the upper hook which is rotated clockwise to release them. That’s all folks! Easy and almost foolproof, although I can see some people (including myself) having troubles figuring out how to open the compartment at first;-) The plastic hooks should hold up well to use but will probably break if you apply too much pressure on them. This system made me think about “Nokero”, a company that devised a similar concept for their solar-powered lanterns. According to Nokero, the flashlight is meant as an emergency light source where you don’t have access to conventional batteries.

The Macintosh PowerBook 500

series used a similar battery compartment door, so maybe MPMan’s engineers were inspired by it…

The usual row of four small buttons is found in this side view. They are evenly spaced but there isn’t much space between them and the edge of the player because they are pretty thin. These buttons are ok to use when you get used to them but I think they could have been more comfortable if located at different heights.

Earphones are included with the F10 but not the best-quality type I’d expect at this price range;-) Actually, they look exactly like those bundled with COWON players: low impedance and low sensitivity drivers that need an extra amplifier circuit for proper sound reproduction (my Cowon iAudio U2 works just fine with the F10 using the same earphones). I also tried my favorite Sennheiser MX-470, but it’s too sensitive to be used without an amplifier – the line-in volume is very low.

On the other hand, sound reproduction through good IEMs (Shure E2c for example) sounds flawless and loud enough even at highest volume settings. Quality of MP3 files that you use for this player matters a lot in playback volume levels, which are not that high by default. This makes sense because most people will probably use their MPMan F10 instead of bulky portable CD players when running or jogging… So if your music isn’t properly encoded with low bitrates, make sure you get decent headphones for this one.

I noticed that the F10 doesn’t boot as fast as other players: it takes about 2 seconds to go from power-off to menu mode, which is a bit longer than usual… But it’s not a big deal and you can still use your player even if you take out the batteries before shutting down fully.

In addition, MPMan F10 powers off after 10 minutes of no activity, but – unlike many other players – comes back on instantly when any key is pressed! Outstanding!! And if you don’t press anything for another 30 seconds, a screen saver kicks in that protects the display from harm. After 60 seconds with no buttons pressed at all, the whole player shuts down automatically regardless of what.

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