Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at purging junk when things start to pile up too much. Except when it comes to gadgets, that is! Some bring back memories of a certain time of my life, some are oddities that were hot for 5 minutes before vanishing from the market (anyone remember the MiniDisc?), some made an impact on my life in some way…and some I just really enjoyed using. I also think it’s fun to look back at old gadgets and see what made them popular, and what’s replaced them since. It’s a mixture of things, but overall they just appeal to my geek side and I’m not quite ready to get rid of them, even if they’re just sitting in a box in the garage. (Some of them I did get rid of, which I now regret — see “Gone but not forgotten” at the bottom.)
Not my actual gadget pile.
Does this mean I have a gadget hoarding problem? Maaaaaybe.
Anyway, a few years ago I decided to round up all the old gadgets that were sitting in various junk boxes and see what I ended up with, and here’s the more interesting stuff I found. I’ll present them in roughly the order I had/used them, just to be all organized and stuff.
Pro-43 police scanner (with naughty modification)
Here’s a special Radio Shack relic from the 90’s. This is special because it was the last model they sold which would allow you to clip a certain diode that basically unblocked the entire cellphone frequency range. A friend of mine (a local preacher, no less) made the snip for me and suddenly I was able to listen to random cellphone calls all over my hometown, and eventually all over Phoenix. Of course this was before everything went digital for cellphones, and technically it was illegal and a massive privacy issue, but…my roommate and I were single and bored, and we found endless entertainment with this thing. It even has my list of frequencies still taped to the back.
DX-390 Shortwave Radio
Here’s another Radio Shack relic. It was one of the best shortwave radios you could buy back in the day — in the early 90’s I used to drive out into the desert, sit on the car hood, and spend hours spinning up and down the frequencies listening to strange stuff from all over the world. However, I recently discovered that there aren’t many shortwave stations still around these days. That’s kind of a bummer.
Garmin eMap GPS
This is what navigated me from Phoenix to Seattle back in 1999, and to this day I’m still kind of shocked that it worked so well with its little monochrome LCD screen. It was considered state-of-the-art at the time, being so compact and having an internal antenna. You had to buy the maps on CD, then transfer them to the unit with a USB cable via really clunky software. Such a slow process, but it’s what ya had to do at the time! Now we just have it in our phones and watches. Sheesh.
Sharp Mini Disc
Now this is something that completely blew me away in the early 2000’s: the MiniDisc. I was a kid of the 70’s and grew up with recording on cassette tapes, but here was a gadget that let you record digital audio onto little compact discs! You could make “mixtapes” with zero hiss and instant jumps to the next song. Or even hook up a microphone and record live digital audio, like I did at several Nina Hagen shows. Alas, it didn’t really catch on with anyone but recording nerds like me.
Motorola Razr v3
Ahhh, Razr v3 on Cingular Wireless. This was my first internet-connected phone, bought back in 2005. It doesn’t hold a charge, but it works when you plug it in! Well, by “works” I mean the screens come on and show you some stuff, but with no SIM you can’t do anything. It was a cute phone, and it reminds me of why foldable phones are starting to become a thing again.
Here we have a classic iPod, not the oldest model but still pre-touchscreen. After the iPod Touch was released a few years later, I opened this guy up and replaced the HD with a much larger (and faster!) Compact Flash card. Just for shits & giggles.
Nintendo DS & DS Lite
I have many fond memories of playing with this chonky old DS. I think “Animal Crossing” is what left the longest-lasting impression on me… The music from that one is still some of my favorite from any other game, ever. The DS Lite was a welcome improvement, though: better screens, better battery, and overall it’s thinner and less bulgy. Side note: the original DS was also one of the first things my boyfriend (and future husband) and I bought together when we were dating in 2005. We were at Fry’s Electronics, and when I said I was gonna get one, he said “Well, then I want one too!” So we each dropped $120 and that was that. Awww, gaming nerds in love! And naturally we both upgraded to the Lite when it came out, because duh.
iPod Touch (32GB)
Awww, it’s so cute! And it was an amazing gadget at the time, eventually leading to the first iPhone.
AT&T Tilt phone
When everyone was dumping their flip phones for iPhones, I had my eye on this baby: the AT&T Tilt. It ran on Windows Mobile 6 (or 7?) and had a touchscreen, an itty-bitty stylus (I know–how quaint) and a slide-out keyboard. Something about this really appealed to me over touchscreen apps like on the iPhone. If course it was a chore to use because you had to tap that little screen with a baby-sized stylus, but I just love miniature versions of things and this was like Windows Mini. It wasn’t long before I admitted it was too tedious to use for just about anything, and I had to accept that the iPhone’s format was the future of mobile phones.
Ye Olde iPhone 3Gs. So small compared to today’s versions, and in some way that’s appealing. I even still have the box!
The iPhone 4 came next, naturally. Remember the antenna bands controversy? People said the phone’s reception dropped dramatically if your fingers covered the bands on the side. And oh, did they squawk about it for months. I don’t recall having that problem, but I also didn’t make a lot of calls (and still don’t).
Creative ZEN Vision W
I bought the ZEN Vision W in 2007 so we could watch movies during our long flights, back when we were traveling to Europe every year. The screen was 4″ x 3″, and videos had to be sized and encoded just right for it to play them correctly. It had 30GB of storage so you could cram quite a few movies and shows onto it. It was a great little device for watching videos, three years before the iPad or any other tablet was available.
We watched a lot of movies, shows, and other videos (mostly pirated) and all I wanted was something to play them all on. It needed to be able to play any format and codec I threw at it: AVI, MOV, MP4, whatever. And after going through many gadgets, the Boxee Box actually did the trick. It also had a neat design, looking like a cube that had partially sunk into your table. Even the remote was awesome, with a full keyboard on the backside. But alas, in less than two years the Boxee was dumped by its dev team in favor of a new cloud-based DVR gadget…which also died a quick death. What a waste of potential. So the Boxee community was basically left with a $200 paperweight. Thanks, guys. The last few years I’ve been using the NVidia Shield as my living room media player, and it’s hands-down the best thing ever.
Nvidia 3D Vision Glasses
This is something I was really sorry to see dropped by NVidia: their 3D Vision kit. For gaming it was a revelation: actual 3D graphics coming right at you via LCD glasses! No clunky VR headsets needed, just these glasses and the little transmitter. Of course it wasn’t without its limitations — games had to add support for it (and not all games did it very well), and your graphics card had to feature it. But when a game’s developers committed to supporting it, the results were fantastic. There are still games out there that will work with these, but Nvidia has long since abandoned it.
OUYA game console
The OUYA was a neat idea: a small, affordable Android-based game console. It came with a single (weird-looking) joystick, though you could buy an extra. It also had its own app store which tried to woo small & independent game developers. It was a valiant effort but ended up dying a slow death over several years — it still has a dedicated community, though.
A plethora of LG G-series phones
In 2013 I dumped the iPhone forever — I just couldn’t put up with Apple’s bullshit any longer. The first non-iPhone phone I bought was the LG G2. I skipped the G3, then moved to the G4, G5, G6, and G7. The G5 was cool because it was modular — you could swap out the battery for a fresh one anytime you wanted. I loved that, but I was apparently the only one so they dumped that idea with the G6. Meh. Also, why am I holding onto these? I have no good reason. Maybe I have a problem…
Haze Dual v2 vaporizer
I probably don’t need to include this, but what the hell. After buying several “portable” vaporizers that ended up being utter crap, this one was the bomb…for a while, anyway. Pros: 1) Super compact! 2) Two(!) chambers for your leaf, thus doubling times between reloading! 3) Giant swappable & rechargeable batteries! 4) A slide-out glass mouthpiece! 5) Quick heating times! Con: 1) Sometimes one of the chambers didn’t do anything. 2) Like anything having to do with loose leaf, it quickly got sticky and messy, requiring constant cleaning. And with cartridge-based oil vaporizers getting smaller and cheaper, it wasn’t long before we gave up on this guy. I didn’t even realize I still had it until recently, so it should probably just be tossed.
Gone but not forgotten!
1) I bought the Qualcomm QCP 860 “thin phone” in 2000 just after arriving in Seattle. It was a great phone, but the earpiece got super hot. 2) In between the above Motorola Razr and AT&T Tilt, I had the BlackBerry Pearl which was fantastic — that little trackball changed everything for this kind of “candy bar” phones. 3) I wanted a Palm Pilot so badly, but I didn’t want to pay that premium price, so when the Handspring Visor Deluxe came out I grabbed the green version. That would have made a great addition to the Gadget Graveyard, but I have no idea where it is now. 4) Casio WQV-1 camera watch, which took photos with a resolution of 176×144 (soooo tiny). I still have a bunch of photos taken with that thing. 5) Sony CD Walkman that played MP3 files on CD. This was a marvel at the time because it meant you could cram dozens of songs on a single disc! The struggle was real, folks. (This came out soon after the iPod was launched, but I was a latecomer to the iPod thing.)
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. I don’t really know what the point of this post is, but it was fun trip down gadget memory lane for me, so whatever! There are more I haven’t included, so maybe I’ll do a Part 2 someday. I really should get rid of some of this stuff, geez…