The smartphone is pretty cool, but it’s not the top gadget of all time
I was out of town last week. Since my return, I have been working my way through the cache of programming that my DVR captured in my absence. One of those programs was from the History Channel, which recounted Popular Mechanics’ list of the 101 greatest gadgets of all time. At the very top of the list of devices that “changed the world,” according to the magazine’s editors, was — drum roll, please — the smartphone.
Good grief. What were they thinking? Now, I have become a smartphone convert — to a point — since getting my hands on one of these gadgets a couple of weeks ago. That might be a surprise to some, given the reticence that I expressed about taking the plunge. However, having one sure made my return to the office yesterday a lot easier, because I was able to keep up on e-mail while I was away. This was something that I feared — I was, after all, on vacation — but it turned out to be nowhere near as onerous as I thought it would be.
My smartphone sure came in handy in other ways while I was in Boston last week. At one point, I was trying to decide between several dozen Italian restaurants, all of which looked pretty much the same to me, as did their menus. A quick perusal of restaurant reviews via my Yelp app led me to — voilà! — one of the best meals that I’ve had in a long time. Without my smartphone, I might still be stumbling around the North End.
But the top gadget of all time? I think not. What about the light bulb, which ranked no higher than 10th on the list? Think about how that invention changed the world — for starters, no more knocking over candlesticks and burning down the house. What about the wristwatch? As the program pointed out, the D-Day invasion during World War II, which changed the outcome of the war, would have been impossible to execute without this device, because so many aspects of the assault required troops to be able to synchronize their movements.
My personal take on this is that the TV remote control should rank higher than the smartphone, but I suppose that’s because I buy the baseball package from my cable provider and tend to flip from game to game, virtually pitch by pitch.
In the end, my vote for the No. 1 gadget of all time — smartphone hyperbole notwithstanding — is the blender. Yes, the blender. Not only does it make a first-rate margarita, but Dr. Jonas Salk used a blender to develop his polio vaccine, which first became available in 1955. President Franklin Roosevelt likely is the most famous victim of this devastating viral disease, which has no cure, but millions were afflicted worldwide. In 1952 — the peak year for polio infections in the United States — more than 52,000 Americans were afflicted; of these, more than 3,000 died and more than 21,000 suffered some level of paralysis.
Talk about changing the world.
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