The 100 Best Gadgets Ever

Clever, cool, classy, crazy: Stuff presents the greatest hits of the technological age

The history of technology is a long and storied one, from the first caveman banging two rocks together to the latest smartphone equipped with 2K screen, fingerprint scanner and a rock-banging app.

So you can imagine that putting together a list of the greatest gadgets of all time would be quite challenging. The Stuff team has shed blood, sweat and tears – our office arguments can be vicious – to put together our list of the best kit, going all the way back to the 19th century, and all the way forward to the present day.

The Engineering Age

In the early days, gadgeteers didn't have touchscreens and octa-core processors to play with.

In the very early days, they didn't even have electricity. But despite that, these gadgets from a time when technology went "clunk" have weathered the ages, and are still in widespread use even today. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And if it is broke, fix it with a wrench.

READ 100 BEST GADGETS: THE ENGINEERING AGE

The TV Age

The period from the late 1950s to late 1970s may not be long in calendar terms, but looking back at it now it seems as if the modern world went through several ages of social and technological upheaval.

It's a time that started with teddy boys and (via hippies and disco bunnies) ended up with punk rockers – not to mention man travelling to the Moon... and noodling on the Moog.

As the period where mechanical gear started to be superseded by electronics, the 1950s to 1970s makes rich pickings for our ultimate gadget rundown.

READ 100 BEST GADGETS EVER: THE TV AGE

The Silicon Age

In one single generation, the invention of the integrated circuit and the silicon microprocessor took computers out of the laboratory and into the home. Computers went from being the tools of science and industry to the playthings of the proto-geek, finding their way into all kinds of tech.

In short, The Silicon Age is where things start getting interesting. Games consoles, video recorders, portable music and personal computers - the modern world as we know it starts here.

READ 100 BEST GADGETS EVER: THE SILICON AGE

We got game

A new crop of more powerful consoles was changing the way we played video games, while a few face-mounted 3D units allowed a glimpse at the future; technology was reshaping the way we listened to music; and Apple was making a really nice desktop computer you couldn't afford.

When you think about it, the 1980s and early '90s were just like today, only with different haircuts.

Our tasting menu of history's greatest inventions continues with a trip through the era of the Game Boy, the MiniDisc and the first Apple Mac.

READ 100 BEST GADGETS EVER: WE GOT GAME

Rise of the WWW

On 12 November 1990, Sir Tim Berners-Lee published a proposal to create a "Hypertext project" called the WorldWideWeb. 24 years later, you're probably reading these very words on a smartphone more powerful than the computer that helped man take its first steps on the moon.

We use the internet to to stalk our friends and laugh at cats. Or sometimes it's the other way round. Either way, we couldn't live without it. 

The era which saw the exponential explosion in the internet's growth also introduced a plethora of era-defining technology, which we look back on with a warm, fuzzy sense of nostalgia.

These are some of the best gadgets of the WWW era. How many of them did you own?

READ 100 BEST GADGETS EVER: RISE OF THE WWW

More after the break...

The Mobile Age

The first iPod, the first BlackBerry, the first digital cameras... yes, in the late '90s and early '00s our gadgets began migrating to our pockets and going with us wherever we went.

It was also the era in which Mark Zuckerberg launched his social networking site Facebook (although we’re sure the Winklevoss brothers would disagree), meaning that you'd pretty soon be able to carry your friends with you every time you got on the bus. And most importantly of all, maybe, it was the era in which the archetypal mobile phone, the Nokia 3210, arrived.

All of which is why we're calling this one The Mobile Age. Read on to find out what's in it.

READ 100 BEST GADGETS EVER: THE MOBILE AGE

The Connected Age

In the middle years of the first decade of this century, the internet got better. A lot, lot better.

It got better mainly because using it got a lot faster, with many more people switching from 56k dial-up to relatively swift broadband. And that extra speed made a lot of things possible: internet video, for instance, and streaming music around the home, and taking virtual trips around distant cities.

Cue the arrival of YouTube, Google Maps, Sonos and much, much more…

READ 100 BEST GADGETS EVER: THE CONNECTED AGE

The Web, Everywhere

In the early days, we could only really access the World Wide Web from two places: home, or work. This all changed with the introduction of a phone from a company named Apple, which is still influencing our technology today.

With many of us largely dependent on our pocket tech nowadays, it was this era that asked the question of not what you could do whilst on the move, but what you couldn’t - and made it possible. Heck, you’re probably reading this on the move. If you are, sit down (or don’t), have a read, and let us know your views on it: #WebEverywhere also saw the introduction of the hashtag. READ 100 BEST GADGETS EVER: THE WEB, EVERYWHERE 

Little Green Robots vs The World

As our rundown drifts into the last years of the noughties and into the beginning of the 21st century's second decade, things are starting to hot up: life-changing apps, laptops thin enough to fit in a manila envelope, drones, the first tablet computer that wasn't a total embarrassment and a smartphone platform capable of competing with Apple's iOS.

From the first great Android phone to the iPad, this three-year period is packed with some of the most iconic gadgets and apps of the modern age.

READ 100 BEST GADGETS EVER: LITTLE GREEN ROBOTS VS THE WORLD

The Future Starts Here

In the early years of the 21st century, a flurry of new gadgets emerged - smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, laptops that weren't made of coal - and in the last few years we've seen these devices outgrow their early, experimental versions to become fast, formidable fulfiments of their early promises.

At the same time, a new crop of emerging technologies has emerged: 3D printing, virtual reality and wearable tech are all at that nascent stage that smartphones were 10 years ago. Our run-down of the greatest gadgets of all time concludes with a look at the last few years.

READ 100 BEST GADGETS EVER: THE FUTURE STARTS HERE

You have to login or register to comment.