If you had to pick your top 10 gadgets from human history, what would they be? Stephen Fry went a step further by listing his 100 greatest gadgets on Channel 4 last night. But some of his picks might confuse…
If you tuned into Stephen Fry’s 100 Greatest Gadgets on Channel 4 last night, you would have seen that his number one pick was the… lighter.
Why the lighter? Fry explains:
‘It’s not the order in which things are invented that makes them the most impressive, it’s the importance they have to humanity. So my number one is this: fire with a flick of the fingers.’
I agree, fire at your fingertips is a wonderful human creation, but didn’t we achieve that with the humble match? I don’t smoke, so a lighter is pretty useless to me. Not many of us get stranded on an island with the need to light a fire for our dinner – so is an item that’s basically confined to the pockets of smokers really mankind’s best invention? Plus, for me, there’s much more satisfaction in striking a match.
What’s a gadget?
Of course, you wouldn’t get away with calling matches a “gadget” – though many of Fry’s personal list was stretching the term. The corkscrew? The razor? The baby buggy? The… bra?
Fry decided to step away from the dictionary definition, or “gadgets as a mechanical device”, as he explains on his blog:
‘We didn’t want to get all ontological on your arse and never made an attempt to define or limit the meaning of the word. A gadget, for our purposes, was more or less what I decided it was.’
Perhaps his most eyebrow-raising pick was in at number nine – the apple peeler. But surprisingly, I’m a big saddo like Fry with this one. It’s magical – peeling apples while also coring and slicing them with just the turn of a handle. What more could you want? (*cough* I haven’t used my apple peeler since I bought it.)
Apple makes its mark
Anyway, back to the more traditional gadgets. Fry’s top 10 featured Apple favourites, the iPad and iPod – you wouldn’t expect less from the self-confessed Apple fanboy Stephen Fry. Though it seemed a bit unfair to single out the iPad, rather than tablets in general.
The rest of the top 10 was made up by the wristwatch, television, typewriter, laptop, home phone and ballpoint pen.
Personally, I think mobile phones and smartphones were a little too low down on the list – at 24 and 13 respectively. And rather than popping laptops into the top 10, I would have replaced them with computers in general, which appeared at number 16.
It was good to see a whole host of products that have changed the world in their own little ways – like Chip and Pin, cameras, radios, microscopes, thermometers and compasses. But if we’re talking about revolutionary products, where’s the one invention that lets us see most of these products? The light bulb!
What do you think of Stephen Fry’s 100 greatest gadgets? You can find the full list here – do his choices ring true, or do you have reservations with his “gadget” favourites like me?