Time published its list of The 50 Most Influential Gadgets of All Time, and Apple snagged 10 percent of the list with five devices: iPhone (#1), Macintosh (#3), iPod (#9), iPad (#25), and iBook (!!) (#38). That's the original clamshell iBook, rather than Apple's ebook platform, iBooks.
iPhone 1st Generation
I've included the write-ups for each of Apple's devices below, but I think there are a couple of things worth mentioning. One, is the original PowerBook, a device that was far more influential in redefining mobile computing than the iBooks.
Also, the Apple ][ was overlooked. The IBM PC is there at #5, but would IBM have been compelled to enter this space if it hadn't been for Steve Wozniak's Apple ][? Maybe, but probably not.
Another interesting inclusion on this list is the Victrola Record Player, at #6. Part of me says it might warrant an even higher position—do we ever get to the transistor radio (#7), the Sony Walkman (#4), or the iPod (#9) without the Victrola (and later, what RCA did with it)? Of course, the reality is that all of the devices at the top of this list are intermingled and any separation of which is most influential is somewhat subjective.
Kodak's Brownie was listed at #8, and I'm delighted to see it get its due. In addition to its remarkable influence on photography, I posit that it influenced the very idea of individuals being empowered to create and express themselves. If that's the case, you have to stick it in the line with transistor radios, Walkmans, and iPods, and that's an interesting concept to me.
The list as a whole is thought-provoking, and I encourage you to go and check it out. For those only interested in Apple's utter dominance of the list:
1. Apple iPhone
Apple was the first company to put a truly powerful computer in the pockets of millions when it launched the iPhone in 2007. Smartphones had technically existed for years, but none came together as accessibly and beautifully as the iPhone. Apple’s device ushered in a new era of flat, touchscreen phones with buttons that appeared on screen as you needed them, replacing the chunkier phones with slide-out keyboards and static buttons. What really made the iPhone so remarkable, however, was its software and mobile app store, introduced later. The iPhone popularized the mobile app, forever changing how we communicate, play games, shop, work, and complete many everyday tasks.
The iPhone is a family of very successful products. But, more than that, it fundamentally changed our relationship to computing and information—a change likely to have repercussions for decades to come.
3. Apple Macintosh
"Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?" That’s how Steve Jobs introduced the ad heralding the arrival of the Macintosh. With its graphical user interface, easy-to-use mouse and overall friendly appearance, the Macintosh was Apple’s best hope to take on IBM. High costs and Microsoft’s successful Windows software conspired to keep the Mac a perennial runner-up. But it forever set the standard for the way human beings interact with computers.
9. Apple iPod
There were MP3 players before the iPod, sure, but it was Apple’s blockbuster device that convinced music fans to upgrade from their CD players en masse. The iPod simultaneously made piracy more appealing, by letting people carry their thousand-song libraries in their pockets, while also providing a lifeline to the flailing music industry with the iTunes Store, which eventually became the world’s biggest music retailer. The iPod’s importance extends far beyond music. It was an entire generation’s introduction to Apple’s easy-to-use products and slick marketing. These people would go on to buy MacBooks, iPhones and iPads in droves, helping to make Apple the most valuable technology company in the world.
25. Apple iPad
The iPad’s 2010 launch spurred a slew of headlines questioning whether or not the tablet would replace the laptop as the most important personal computer. Apple’s iPad wasn’t the first tablet, but it was radically different from what came before. Earlier devices, like the GriDPad and Palm Pilot, had smaller touchscreens users had to operate with a stylus. Microsoft unveiled a tablet that ran Windows XP in 2002. The problem, however, was that these devices didn’t have interfaces that were well-suited for touch, and they were often clunkier and larger than the iPad. Apple sold 300,000 iPads on its first day in stores, roughly matching the iPhone’s day-one numbers, and has gone on to dominate the market.
38. Apple iBook
The iBook’s brightly-colored, plastic trim may look dated now, but it was the first laptop to offer wireless networking. Apple’s consumer-oriented portable—for its cool-factor as well as its technology—grew into a serious business. The product’s reveal was a classic example of Steve Jobs’ showmanship at its best. While loading a webpage and showing off the computer’s display at 1999’s MacWorld conference, the Apple co-founder lifted the computer off its table and walked across the stage. The crowd roared in approval. In a gesture, he showed that Wi-Fi was here to stay.