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Best & Worst Gadgets of the Decade

Celebrating the successes and mourning the failures of the last ten years.


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by LAPTOP Staff on December 9, 2009

bwgd_sh.jpgAs the 90s came to a close, we lugged around monochrome PDAs, used MapQuest printouts to get from point A to point B, and plugged our laptops into Ethernet connections to get high-speed Internet access. Fast forward ten years. Today that PDA is built into our smart phone—along with a camera, GPS, music player, and dozens of apps. And we can get online anywhere with three-pound netbooks that support integrated Wi-Fi or 3G connections. We don’t use floppies to store data, either. Instead, we’ve got tiny USB drives—or even smaller memory cards—and increasingly, we rely on the cloud.

Back then, e-mail was the way to communicate. Today we use instant messaging, texts, video calls, and social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter to let hundreds—or thousands—of friends and followers know what we’re doing or thinking at any given moment. And GPS isn’t simply used for directions anymore; location-based services tell us where to eat and drink, and we learn more about the world around us in real time thanks to augmented reality apps.

But fast forwarding to 2009 is cheating. There was a steady progression of technology that led us to the point where we can now take the above scenarios for granted, which is why we should appreciate the products that got us here. The gadgets that made our Best of the Decade list transformed the way we worked and played in the 2000s, from the first USB drive and Centrino notebooks to a certain smart phone that would transform an entire industry.

At the same time, we’ve reviewed a fair number of products over the past ten years that attempted to innovate but ultimately fell flat. Ironically, many of the ideas that gave rise to these gadgets resulted in better tech for all after that company—or a competitor—got it right.

So here’s to a decade of remarkably great (and egregious) mobile tech—the wireless decade.

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