39 gadgets that changed the world
Sinclair ZX81 The ZX81 started the home computing boom in the UK, but that’s not all. Along with later Sinclair computers, it was almost wholly responsible for the wealth of programming (particularly games) talent in this country, as hordes of antisocial spotty kids discovered they could change the world without leaving their bedrooms. The ZX81 turned the dream of having a computer in your home into a distinct, if still expensive, possibility and dangled the carrot of ‘free’ entertainment rather than feeding an endless stream of 10p coins into a Space Invaders machine in some seedy arcade.
Influenced by... Atari VCS/2600, 1978 Home gaming started with the VCS, but games were pricey and not customisable.
Influence on... ZX Spectrum, 1982 The ZX81’s successor was even more popular, putting a PC in 5 million homes.
ME AND My ZX81 Nick Veitch Christmas Day, 1981: instead of the table-tennis table I was expecting, I got a ZX81 computer. I switched off the Queen’s Speech, plugged it into the TV and made my first attempts at programming: ‘> Play Chess’ (it always worked in the movies…), followed by much head-scratching. A week later, my family were still trying to prise me off the TV. The ZX81 promised so much - it could turn black and white blocks into a dinosaur-infested 3D maze. The real world never got a look-in again.
Nokia 9000 Communicator PDAs and phones were always going to converge. And when Nokia produced the 9000, the combination was highly effective. It may have been a bit of a brick, but the hinged front opened to reveal a 640x200 display and a QWERTY keypad, which guaranteed that in the future, phones would rarely be used for actually speaking to people.
Influenced by... IBM Simon, 1993 IBM’s touchscreen device has a strong claim to the ‘first smartphone’ title.
Influence on… Apple iPhone, 2007 Apple reinvented the smartphone, but only because the 9000 led the way.
Sonos Wireless Music System Sonos brought multi-room music to the masses. There were Wi-Fi music streamers before, but thanks to its proprietary wireless network and iPod-like CR100 controller, Sonos made setting up and controlling digital music from any room easier than a GCSE in Media Studies. What’s more, it looked and sounded fantastic.
Influenced by… SliMP3, 2001 The ancestor of the Squeezebox made multi-room possible, if a little fiddly.
Influence on… Apple AirPlay, 2010 The key to multiroom success is ease of use, and AirPlay is a cinch to set up.
52 / www.stuff.tv 39 gadgets that changed the world
Nintendo Wii The Wii showed the world that gaming could be fun for anyone. It educated us that the future of gaming didn’t have to consist solely of blokes swearing into headsets while shooting other blokes. A collection of happy, simple, party-friendly games were included with the machine, which meant everyone had the same shared experience of playing Wii Sports. The motion control wasn’t always precise, and controlling the cursor could be a pain, but it was fun. Cheap, silly and fun. It turns out that’s all a whole lot of people want from a games console.
Influenced by... EyeToy, 2003 Sony’s PS2 can claim to have invented today’s motion gaming trend years before the Wii.
Influence on... Kinect, 2010 An entirely webcam-based movement play system, featuring equally silly novelty games.
me and MY wii Lucy Hedges I’d pretty much accepted that gaming meant playing GTA: Vice City on my PS2 into the small hours, when the Wii came along. Gaming was no longer a solitary affair, it was suddenly a sociable thing to do. Friends who had no interest in gaming wanted to have a go, and it even forced us to peel our lazy backsides off the sofa to interact with it. It wasn’t flawless, but it was so jaw-droppingly impressive at the time, it didn’t matter. Sure, it felt daft, but vigorous armflailing is all part of the fun.
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