Gadgets have been around from the time of the sundial. It’s just that in the post-R2D2 era, they have acquired new meaning. Here are the Top 10 favourite gadgets I’ve picked up over the last 10 years. Some of them are predictable, but many of them surprises. Many of these didn’t make life any better—but they did help me understand the shape of things to come. Over the last few years, for example, the devices I own have begun to focus on a low impact on the environment.
So, yes, the list, forthwith:
Nokia Bluetooth hands-free car set
Easy to talk: The Nokia Bluetooth hands-free car kit.
Very convenient gadget to have in the car to take calls. It is invisible, except for the small call button on the dash. I can even play the music I have on my phone though this system. No need to plug in messy wires or attach unwieldy small-footprint FM transmitters to listen to your favourite music.
Freeplay solar-and hand-powered radio
It weighed in at 1kg and felt sturdy as a rock. It probably was carved out of one. No batteries required, just crank it and listen to your favourite station. Loved its environment-friendly technology. The radio was, a few months ago, joined by a Geonaute hand-powered torch and an Ikea solar-powered reading light that operate on super-efficient LED lamps. All in the name of using low-impact technologies. If you haven’t seen Freeplay stuff, head to www.freeplayenergy.com/without wasting time.
Alaska Bread Machine
This must be among the clumsiest gadgets around the house, but also the most useful. Imagine the lovely aroma of fresh-baked bread every morning filling up your home. Painlessly turns out my favourite sweet chilli pepper loaf. Just bung in the ingredients the previous night, hit the right program and next morning, your favourite bread is ready.
Fan in a cap
That’s one complicated name for a gadget, but it defies description. It’s a baseball cap with a solar panel on top that is wired to a tiny fan stuck in the visor. It blows perfectly cool air on to your face when worn in sunshine. Gyro Gearloose would vote this as Gadget of the Decade. It looks strange, but works, well, like a breeze.
A simple compass with a flashing emergency LED light that can stay powered for hours and a magnifying glass. Comes with a clock and a small scale
(for maps). Perfect for long and serious walks across hills, when a GPS is overkill. Came as Diwali gift from Google. Not available in stores.
The Wi-Fi detector T-shirt
The display on the chest shows the Wi-Fi signal strength. It’s pretty cool, but try washing it. You have to deconstruct the T-shirt before it goes into the washing machine. And putting back the electronics is a nightmare. Besides, for most places in India, it shows dead zones. The most painful gadget so far. I bought it because I once had a “scratch-n-smell” T-shirt—you just scratch the banana on the front and the tee smelt of bananas. I know it sounds, well, bananas as a reason to buy a gadget, but…
Oregon scientific radio-controlled weather station
It's pretty good at predicting the weather and I love its geeky side—it transmits the weather from various parts of your home and garden to let you know exactly how warm or cold it is under the gulmohur tree and in the attic. Bonus feature: It projects the time and temperature on to any surface using a tiny red laser projector. Ideal when you want to take an early morning flight and want to look up the time from bed without hunting for a clock or hurting your eyes with bright LCD displays. This clock projects the time and temperature straight on to your ceiling. Yeah!
The pocket electronic mosquito repellent
I can’t seem to decide if it works or not, but I use it when outdoors. Just switch it on and it emits an ultrasonic sound inaudible to the human ear that keeps the mosquitoes away. Just to reinforce the effect, the electronic repellent has been joined by mosquito repellent citronella patches that I attach to the bottom of my trousers (these work like magic).
Are you surprised? I got an iPhone in 2007, a couple of months after it was released. Well, how can you not if you are into gadgets? Loved the third-party applications that made the phone come alive. Unfortunately, my son took the phone within weeks of arrival and refused to return it.
A USB battery charger
What can be more convenient than this when you are attending an offsite conference and need to recharge the batteries of your camera for group pictures? But more seriously, it has non-trivial applications too, primary among which is to make you look seriously wired when you plug in your external hard drive, the Bluetooth mouse and the data card into your laptop.
Arun Katiyar is a Bangalore-based content and communications consultant. His love of gadgets began after he picked up the Philips Velo laptop in 1998. It is now an efficient paperweight
Photographs by Hemant Mishra / Mint