The history of gizmos and gadgets. How it all started.

The history of gizmos and gadgets is almost as old as the history of humanity. Since the dawn of time, humans have utilized gadgets and gizmos to make our everyday lives that little bit easier.

In fact, you are reading this article right now on a gadget whether it is your laptop, smartphone, tablet, or any other device that is connected to the web.

Little boy on tablet


Gadgets influence our lives in so many ways. Some gizmos we take for granted such as a microwave to heat our meals or television with the convenience of a remote control to change channels without getting up from our comfortable chairs.

Other gizmos are luxury items designed to astound and amaze as well as serving a function such as the exciting gadgets found here at The Gizmo Gift Shop.

The history of gadgets, and how we arrived at the point we are at today where gizmos perform essential functions in our lives, is a fascinating tale.

The word “gadget” traces back to the 19th Century and is believed to have been coined upon the creation of the Statue of Liberty when the company made a small version of the monument and named it after their firm.

Another source cites the creation of the word gadget as being derived from the French word “Gâchette” which relates to a small tool or accessory. Although we associate the words gadget or gizmo with technology today, a gadget can be much simpler.

Let’s begin our journey by traveling back in time to when the human race roamed in tribes as hunter-gatherers.

The Beginning

The need for gadgets has been ever present since the first human footprint left its mark on the Earth’s surface. Far before phones, computers, cars, and other technological advances, the daily life of people consisted of gathering berries, plant roots, vegetables, and fruits.

Perhaps considered a trendy vegan diet in today’s society, our ancestors were not concerned about bragging on Facebook or Twitter and quickly became bored of a meatless diet. The Earth was full of wild game and finding a way to capture and kill the delicious bounty was at the forefront of their minds.

Without the power of Google for hints and tips, our ancestors tried many methods in capturing the fast game such as throwing rock or sticks, but to no avail.

Then, the very first inventor produced the very first gadget – a simple bow. By tying some thin weed to the top and bottom of a flexible stick a bow was created. It is easy to laugh at the thought of a bow being an essential gadget in today’s world.

However, this invention would have been the biggest news of the era. If they had Instagram, there would have been men posting pictures to see who has the biggest bow, women in bikinis surrounded by bows, and in all likelihood a competition to see who could be first to get the latest Bow 7S.

The invention of the bow changed the lives of people. It allowed the easy capture of food and also provided protection from other tribes. So, the next time you send a tweet from your iPhone, remember that it all began with a simple bow.

The Wheel

As we mentioned earlier, gizmos are essentially about making life easier for ourselves. They serve a purpose, and that purpose is to serve us. Although our ancestors could not Netflix and Chill in their spare time, they still strived to make life as easy as possible for themselves.

The news of the invention of the bow had spread around the world and humans began to look for other ways they could improve their lives by making it easier. One major backache (literally) was the issue of moving heavy items from one place to another.

The Agricultural Revolution brought with it the idea of settling down in one area instead of constantly following the seasons to find food. Remember they had no Click & Grow Indoor Garden yet at that time.

With the idea of settling in a zone came the want for comforts such as homes, decorations, and places of worship. Humans wanted the ability to move large, seemingly unmovable objects from one location to another and one day the greatest gadget ever invented made it possible.

The invention of the wheel is sometimes underestimated. However, it is without a doubt the most important gizmo of all time.


As a result of the wheel, we have the ability to travel from one area to another inn our cars and to travel from one country to another in an airplane. Wheels help us tell the time by making the gears work in watches.

In fact, the majority of mechanical devices today have some form of a wheel to help it function. Even agriculture relies heavily on the wheel. Plows, tractors, and other gadgets to help with farming all rely heavily on the wheel.

The wheel revolutionized the power of humans, allowing them to move huge and heavy items easily from one place to another.

The very first computer – the abacus – utilized wheels to help make calculations, meaning that without the wheel you would not have the ability to show millions of strangers what you are having for dinner on social media!

The Evolution of Gadgets

From the moment the wheel was invented, humans were hooked on gadgets. They started out simple, but quickly became more and more complex, serving more functions and making our lives easier than ever before. Some of an essential items in today’s society evolved from gizmos which were first created thousands of years ago.
Let’s explore the evolution of some of our favorite gizmos:

Evolution of Cameras

It is phenomenal to think about how accessible cameras are to us today. Walk into any restaurant, and there is likely to be some Japanese tourists taking photos of their food, stroll past any important or famous monument and there are people taking pictures, or even just sit on a bus, and you will see girls taking selfies to post on their social media accounts.

The Kodak camera is perhaps the most recognizable and longest brand of the corporate camera on the market. Kodak founder, George Eastman, patented the film and camera in 1888.

If you cast your minds back to the 1880s, it is almost unimaginable that an amateur could take photos without proper training. However, today the camera is used by everyone. Almost every minor occasion in people’s lives is captured by a camera and documented online.

It is incredible to think that just over 100 years ago having a picture taken was a special occasion and something that happened very rarely.

Today’s cameras compete for portability, highest megapixels, best zoom lenses, and other features designed to make taking pictures as simple as possible for anyone.

This, coincidentally, is relevant to the slogan Eastman came up with when patenting his idea – “You press the button, we do the rest.”

Evolution of Computers

The essence of a computer is in its ability to make complicated calculations in lightning fast times. For this reason, many agree that the first computer was invented 4,000 years ago with the advent of the abacus.

Designed to help humans calculate, the abacus was the main computer in society for an astonishing period.

In fact, it was not until 1951 that the first modern computer was invented. The Harwell computer or WITCH (Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing from Harwell) could store data and perform some basic arithmetic.


The next step in the evolution of computing occurred in 1976 when Steve Wozniak created the Apple I, which was quickly followed by the Apple II in 1977.

These were among the first commercially available computers, although their functionality would be unrecognizable in comparison to today’s fancy Macs.

In 1981, IBM entered the computer market with the IBM PC. This became the prototype for the design and specification of many PCs that followed.

In 1990, Windows created its 3.0 version which formed the basis for subsequent Windows versions and in 1999 the release of the iMac led to Apple becoming one of the most fashionable brands in the world.

From this moment onwards, computers became slimmer, faster, and with better capacity, leading to the plethora of laptops, PCs, and Macs on the market today.

 

Evolution of the Cell Phone

Cell phones are almost as essential to the modern human as air, food, and water. In all probability, you are reading this article from your cell phone right now. We may take this amazing function or granted today, but only 15 years ago the ability to access the internet on your cell phone was considered futuristic and almost unimaginable.

Just watch an old episode of Friends or Seinfeld to see how things were not so long ago. Cell phones have evolved so quickly it is difficult at times to keep up.

The first cell phones that were commercially available appeared on the scene in the 1970s. These “brick” phones were incredibly futuristic at the time. Ask anyone over the age of 50, and they will recount to you the time when they first saw or heard of a cell phone and how incredible it was.


Today, however, cell phones can perform multiple tasks. If you went to school before the year 2000, you might remember your mathematics teacher telling you to show how you worked out sums on your paper as you “won’t have access to a calculator everywhere you go.”

Well, you can now call that maths teacher on your cell phone and work out any equation while on the phone with them, then tweet the answer to thousands of people while listening to your favorite song and taking a video of your cat falling over.

The point is cell phones are an amazing example of rapid advances in gizmos. The future of cell phones is undeniably exciting, and in 30 years’ time, we are likely to see smaller and smaller cell phones with even more functionality.

A Short Timeline of History’s Greatest Gadgets

Beyond the simple bow and the invention of the wheel, there have been dates throughout history which have changed the course of human development.

Many of these occasions are associated with the invention of a gadget. Below is a timeline of some of the most important and wonderful gadgets from the archives of history:

1st Century BC – Antikythera Computer. It took almost a century to discover the mysteries of the mechanisms in Antikythera. However, the 1900 discovery is now known to be the remains of a fully functional computer. It was most likely invented by the ancient Rhodes as a way to sail from Alexandria to Athens.

250 AD – The Baghdad Battery. Discovered in Baghdad in the 1930s, these galvanic cells are crafted from terracotta with copper and iron sticking out the top. An acidic agent inside sparks a chemical reaction to produce electricity. Although it would have produced only a feeble current, this is the world’s first known battery.

9th CenturyPot Still. The Alembic was invented around the 8th century and directly led to the modern derivative, the pot still. Ideal for deployment in the distillation of whiskey, brandy, or moonshine, it was originally used by alchemists in an attempt to perform miracles.

1450 – The Pocket watch. The first modern-era tech toy, the pocket watch advanced on early measures of time such as the shadow of a sundial, the melt of a candle, or the tempo of a water clock’s drip.

The complex mechanisms within the pocket watch made it one of mankind’s greatest technical achievements.

First pocket watch


1630 – The Seamless Globe. One of the earliest examples of precision engineering, the Seamless Globe represents a model of the universe. These static globes were created for the Mughal Emperors between the 16th and 19th Centuries.

1770 and 1912 – The Turk and El Ajedrecista. The Turk was a chess player who was concealed within a table stuffed with gears and clogs. The idea was to give the impression of a chess playing machine personified by an articulated automaton making the moves.

One of the greatest hoaxes of all time, The Turk was an astonishing gizmo of the time. Later, El Ajedrecista was the first chess machine that could make its moves.

So, what can we learn from the history of gizmos and gadgets? Perhaps we can learn to change our perspective on the essential nature of these advances which are so closely intertwined with human development.

When someone mentions the latest cool gadget on the market or says they must have the hottest gizmo around we generally consider these items as frivolous purchases.

However, if humankind never had the imagination and drive to create gizmos we would still be wandering the earth eating berries and scraps of food.

While the modern interpretation of gizmos sees them as luxury items, the fact is these gadgets are so much more. They are responsible for the shape of our societies, the comfort of our lifestyles, our ability to live longer and more fulfilled lives, and the health of our families.

So the next time you cook dinner in an oven, or send out a funny tweet, or use a key to open the lock on your door, remember, every single gadget represents another evolution in the development of humankind.

We are in the Golden Age of Gizmos and Gadgets – it’s time we appreciated and embraced it!