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100 Best Gadgets Ever: The Mobile Age

The dawn of the noughties saw our media making its way into our pockets, with the advent of the iPod, Napster and Facebook

It’s difficult to imagine a time when you could go anywhere and not see someone sporting Apple’s signature white headphones, but before 2001, it was an everyday occurrence.

Yes, this was the era that saw Apple introduce the first iPod. Along with the first (successful) peer-to-peer downloading service, the noughties were the era when digital music came of age.

Mark Zuckerberg also launched his social networking site Facebook (although we’re sure the Winklevoss brothers would disagree), so if you can tear your eyes away from your News Feed, strap in and learn when it all began.



Sony AIBO (1999)


With AIBO, Sony demonstrated that the ideal pet of the future might well be an intelligent hunk of metal and plastic – after all, there’s no need to housetrain a robot. While cute, AIBO was in fact a deceptively advanced robot packed with sensors allowing him to ‘see’ and recognise speech commands – but tragically for techno-pet lovers, a cost-cutting Sony put him permanently out to pasture in 2006.

Napster (1999)


Nokia 3210 (1999)

Nokia 3210

It’s a tough call between the 3210 and its slightly smaller offspring the 3310, but the chances are you owned one of them. For most people the memory of a 3210 doesn’t go much further than Snake, but there was more to the phone than that. It was one of the first to squeeze the aerial inside making it instantly more pocketable. Plus it came with T9 predictive text, use of which became a vital skill for much of the next 10 years. Aside from calls and texts it didn’t do all that much, but what it did do, it did better than pretty much anything else.

Creative DAP Jukebox (2000)

Creative DAP Jukebox

Inexplicably shaped like an overweight portable CD player despite the 6GB hard drive nestled inside, the DAP arrived a full year before Apple’s Ive-designed iPod – although, given that you’re not reading this on a Creative tablet while listening to music on your Creative smartphone, it doesn’t take a genius to work out which one took off. Still, props for getting there first, Creative.

Sony Playstation 2 (2000)

Sony Playstation 2

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Apple iPod (2001)

Apple iPod

Apple has a reputation for making existing technology work where others have failed. Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player, but the iPod made it massive. That didn’t happen immediately, though: it was Mac-only to begin with and used Firewire rather than USB. However, the click wheel is a design landmark and the signature white headphones, while hardly the best in the world, became iconic. The iPhone effectively killed it in its ‘Classic’ form, with more touchscreen tech giving birth to the iPod Touch. Eventually the iPod was so successful it had all but eradicated the competition, despite a U2 special edition. And that’s the sign of something truly unbeatable.

Sky+ (2001)


Remember adverts? They were the annoying things between TV programmes that we had to watch before Sky+ came along and allowed us to fast-forward through them. The original had just 40GB storage but these days there’s up to 2TB on offer, plus mobile apps for remote recording and built-in Wi-Fi. Series Link, one of its original features, is now standard in all PVRs.

Blackberry 5820 (2002)

Blackberry 5820

With the state BlackBerry’s in now it’s hard to believe there was ever a time when full QWERTY workhorses such as the 5820 often had to be surgically removed from the hands of helpless email addicts. A few devotees remain, but with all smartphones now offering instant email access and better on-screen keyboards the BlackBerry has become almost as antiquated as the Filofax or Rolodex.

Pentax Optio S (2003)

Pentax Optio S

In the early noughties, the world was teetering upon a precipice. The heights were built upon the glory days of film photography and a billion disposable cameras, while below was a new digital landscape of pixel-papping snappers. A hero emerged, its visage hewn from aluminium, and persuaded us to jump into its world of convenience and a decent digital image quality. And we’ve never looked back.

Facebook (2004)


Fundamentally changing the way we remember birthdays and discover our old classmates are not-so-closet racists, Facebook has done more for social interaction than the invention of the ‘Blah Blah Blah I Can’t Hear You’ earmuffs. If it were a country it would now be the second-largest in the world by population, while its purchase of Oculus Rift means our online friendships could soon become even more virtual.

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