Gadgets Then & Now

When asked which gadgets they use most frequently, most people’s lists look fairly similar: cell phone, laptop, stereo. With innovations in product design and technology happening almost daily, it is easy to forget the humble beginnings of these common place electronics.

Cell Phones

Martin Cooper with an old cell phone


In 1973, Martin Cooper – Motorola’s head of research and development – placed a call to rival at Bell Labs Joel Engel. At that time, the cell phone boasted a half hour of cordless talking time. The drawbacks? Carrying around the two pound brick and the nearly $4,000 price tag.

Concept Window Phone by Seunghan Song

... and the phone of the future by designer Seunghan Song

Fast forward 38 years later – the modern world is obsessed with super thin silhouettes and lightning fast 4G speeds. Smartphones allow you to check e-mail, surf the web, and watch cats climb into progressively smaller boxes on YouTube all with the slide of a finger. Conceptual cellphone designs such as those listed in this Huffington post slideshow hint at a future of increasingly interactive user interface and greener, environmentally friendly designs.

Laptop Computers

Osborne 1 Laptop


The first laptop computer, Osborne 1, weighed roughly 25 pounds and came with a carrying case, battery pack, and a set of floppy disks. Though the Osborne became and overnight success – selling 11,000 units in the first month – the Osborne computer company ultimately went bankrupt just two years after it released the Osborne 1.

Laptop manufacturers quickly began making slimmer, more elegant units. Apple started making their iBook in the early 90s with their colorful clamshell designs, and now makes one of the thinnest laptops on the market, the MacBook Pro. For the future, designers are working on creations that fit into smaller spaces – whether they fold up or roll up, like the design featured in the video.

Digital Audio Player

Audio Highway's early mp3 player


The first mp3 player, Kane Kramer’s IVI, could handle 3.5 minutes of playback. Though his design earned him a job with Apple, the device never made it to the shelves. The first mp3 player available for sale was Audio Highway’s Listen Up player released in 1996. The Listen Up spawned numerous imitators and innovators, including the first generation iPod.

Dinard Da Mata mp3 player

... and the future of mp3 players.

While all-in-one smart phones are threatening to make digital audio players a thing of the past, companies like Creative Labs continue designing products for audiophiles to drool over. The bracelet above was visualized by Brazillian designer Dinard da Mata in an attempt to make the mp3 player more stylish, and less cluttered by tangle-prone wires.

What innovations in frequently used gadget technology are you excited about? Let us know about it in the comments.

More cool conceptual artwork:
The Design Blog’s Uber-cool mp3 Player Concepts for Audiophiles
Listphobia’s 10 Futuristic Concept Laptop Designs
Web Designer Depot’s 100 Amazing Futuristic Design Concepts We Wish Were Real