Power playthings

Power playthings

1The iPod: The biggest star of the decade, the mp3 player saved Apple, killed off the music industry, made CD players obsolete and ushered in the download culture, transforming the way we listen to music. Developed in less than a year and rolled out in 2001, it now seems there’s no end to the wonders of this gadget. Besides enabling the playing of video games, mass storage and phone compatibility, it’s now a teaching aide: at Universal High School in Malad, Mumbai, four-year-olds are learning the alphabet on the iPod Touch – apparently the large buttons on the device are child-friendly!

2Digital cameras: While digicams have been around since the nineties, steep prices and nearly-there technology that didn’t really replicate film (until the arrival of the Nikon D1, the first digital SLR in 1999) kept them out of reach of the majority of people until the turn of the century. And this newfound freedom from film meant the last ten years are probably the most documented so far. From baby’s first potty moments to vacations we didn’t enjoy because we were too busy taking pictures, everything we did has been logged, uploaded to Flickr and Facebook and pored over with family and friends. And as mobile phone cameras turned into cameras you can make phone calls on, such as Sony Ericsson’s 12MP Satio, things can only get better — even as the image becomes more important that the experience itself.

3The USB thumb drive: Memory stick, jump drive, pen drive, call it whatever you want, but this small wonder had made transporting mountains of information to school, work and back both effortless and pain free. Cheap as chips and light as a feather with some offering storage of up to 256 GB and 10-year lifespans, these robust little devils can now also make a fashion statement, as Swarovski proved with its line of chunky crystal pendants that revealed flash drives at the twist of a wrist. Other, more premium brands have lost no time in following suit, although the true marriage of technology and style is still awaited.

4The iPhone: In June 2007, Apple fans and iPod converts spent days camping outside technology stores to be among the first to buy the new iPhone, which combined the appeal of the iPod, the flash drive, the internet, the Wii and other gadgets with the sleek appeal of chic phones such as the Motorola Razr. Within 74 days of the phones debuting on June 29, Apple had sold one million of these new babies.

We all soon learned another new word — app — as everything from finding a restaurant to reading books to monitoring your heart rate was centralised on your iPhone. And as we move into another decade, the iPhone seems to provide the clearest idea of where exactly it is we are headed.

5E-readers: The death of the book — or at least the widespread dissemination of the printed word — now looks likely to happen within our lifetimes as Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s Reader change the way we access content, whether fictional or otherwise. The portability, mass storage and long battery life of these devices means we will probably spend many more hours staring at some kind of digital screen than we do now, even as purists insist that nothing can replace the tactility and smell of a physical, old-school book.

6Wii: With the exercise programme that is the Wii Fit alone, this home video game console won the hearts of women everywhere. Motion-based gaming meant they could finally understand the appeal of video games and that their men were no longer likely to lose the battle of the bulge despite vegging out in front of a video game. The Wii is now the highest-selling console around the world, above Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s Playstation 3. As of October, the Wii had sold 56.5 million units since its introduction in 2006. Since then, it has been the most in-demand Christmas console gift.

7Bluetooth earpieces: For years after Jabra’s first talking earpieces hit stores, we were stymied by people walking around town talking to themselves. In the process, though, they have helped avoid millions of traffic accidents and probably saved countless lives. But whether these pieces will continue to be around remains to be seen: New York City has just banned the devices for cabbies in line with a ban on cell phone conversations will driving, with the reasoning that these reduce the ability to concentrate.

8GPS/ Internet mapping: Gone are the days of long sulks in the car because one person couldn’t read a map and another wouldn’t stop for directions. With global positioning systems from the likes of Garmin and internet mapping from the likes of Google, getting places you’ve never been has never been easier — whether by car, on foot or using public transport.

9WiFi: Nothing has driven our new inter-connected society as much as the wireless local area network devices installed in computers, phones, videogame consoles, printers and pretty much everywhere else enhanced personal mobility and allowed everyone to access the internet for free. More than a third of British readers of Stuff magazine agree, voting wireless internet the top innovation of the decade. And it seems WiFi, despite a lack of clarity on how safe it really is for your health, is only going to become more ubiquitous. Car manufacturer Ford has just announced plans to bring WiFi to its vehicles, opening up the road to multiple possibilities.

10Digital Video Recorders: Not yet so much in demand here as they are in the countries where they launched, DVRs truly do change the way you watch TV. With players such as Tata Sky now allowing you to record a week’s worth of programmes for later viewing — or record two shows while watching a third — television on demand will mean more peace in the family room and more stress for advertisers as TV audiences become even more fragmented than before.

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