It was Christmas, nineteen sixty ‘cough mumble mumble’ and I was eight years old. I was in kid heaven as I ripped the wrapping paper off a box containing a Major Matt Mason space station. Not only did I not know what was waiting for me in the next box I was about to unwrap, but how it would spark a change in me for the rest of my life. I know, dramatic, right?
The next gift I opened held the first official gadget. The Major Matt Mason Space Crawler.
While it was a simple toy in most respects this thing could climb over anything, including my pet Doberman… if he didn’t keep running off. Not only was it all terrain but it had a winch. My mind reeled with the possibilities. I had a medieval castle with battlements, knights… it was awesome! Now I had an armored machine of arcane design that could storm the castle walls and use the winch to pull down the drawbridge. I could travel back in time and wrangle dinosaurs, and more.
From that day to this I’ve been somewhat obsessed with gadgets. Not just any gadgets, or pointless things, but the ones that are truly clever and useful. About the time I was in high school gadgets took on another dimension from mechanisms to circuit boards as the first digital watches came to being. Granted, the first digital watches didn’t qualify, to me, at a real gadget, but they were the seeds of future things.
As many of you know, including everyone that would even listen to me, I’m a very happy owner of the iPhone. No, don’t go. I promise I won’t launch into the Homer Simpson type lustful drooling that comes over me whenever I start talking about it.
The iPhone represented the first ‘Smart Phone’ that really lived up to the name. It’s flexibility in uses is amazing when you consider that earlier phones made calls, had a calendar, and got emails and texts. That’s it.
Of course what makes the iPhone so wondrous is the programs you can run on it. We know them as Apps. It’s with no small pride that I can say I did not rush out and download every app I could lay hands on. Oh no, not on my magical little device. But there were apps to be had and I got them.
The thing about apps is how handy they can be and some are really clever and useful. In fact they’re like virtual gadgets. But, I wonder if this evolution of smart devices and apps is threatening the gadget.
I’m encouraged that those clever bastards at Victorianox have not thrown in the towel.
There’s also a small, but thriving, community having a love affair with the Arduino. The things people come up with that are built around this run from the painfully pointless to jaw dropping crazy cool.
And for those of you who would rather create your gadgets to walk, talk, and make you coffee in the morning, you can’t go wrong with Legos Mindstorms. It’s come a loooong way from when I was doing this stuff, and frankly, this thing rocks!
I’m all for apps, but lets keep gadgets alive and well.