Mobile PC names Apple PowerBook 100 the “Number One Gadget of All Time”

“Whether they’re strapped to our belts, sitting on our desks, or jammed in an overstuffed closet, we absolutely love our gadgets,” Mobile PC writes in the introduction to their list of “The Top 100 Gadgets of All Time.”

So it wasn’t exactly easy coming up with the definitive list of the 100 best gadgets ever unleashed. In the weeks we spent debating the entries, tempers were flared, fingers were pointed, chairs were smashed over heads, and feelings were hurt. But we emerged, like Moses from the mountain, with the world’s most authoritative ranking of the best gadgets of all time.

But let’s lay some ground rules before we get started. What defines a “gadget” anyway?
• It has to have electronic and/or moving parts of some kind. Scissors count, but the knife does not.
• It has to be a self-contained apparatus that can be used on its own, not a subset of another device. The flashlight counts; the light bulb does not. The notebook counts, but the hard drive doesn’t.
• It has to be smaller than the proverbial bread box. This is the most flexible of the categories, since gadgets have gotten inexorably smaller over time. But in general we included only items that were potentially mobile: The Dustbuster counts; the vacuum cleaner doesn’t.

In the end, we tried to get to the heart of what really makes a gadget a gadget.

Mobile PC named Apple’s PowerBook 100 (1991) as the number one “gadget” of all time. Apple’s PowerBook 100 beat out some very interesting competition on Mobile PC’s eclectic list, including:
• (99) SWINGLINE 747 STAPLER, 2002 (“…but then, they switched from the Swingline to the Boston stapler, but I kept my Swingline stapler because it didn’t bind up as much, and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and it’s not okay because if they take my stapler then I’ll set the building on fire…”)
• (80) FISHER SPACE PEN, 1967
• (70) ATARI PONG C-100, 1976
• (60) ABACUS, 190 A.D.
• (23) TELEPHONE, 1876
• (20) SWISS ARMY KNIFE, 1891
• (9) ATARI 2600, 1977

There are many other interesting gadgets on the full list – it’s worth checking out (link below).

“Gadgets” that made the list from Apple:
• 39. APPLE NEWTON MESSAGEPAD 120, 1994: “Nobody’s disputing that the Palm changed mobility forever. But two years before the Pilot 1000 blazed onto store shelves, Apple dropped its own handheld on the world. The Newton MessagePad 120 did everything the Palm Pilot did, except sell.”
MacDailyNews Note: In our opinion, the last Newton, the MessagePad 2100, is still the best handheld computer ever made. More info here.
• 22. APPLE POWERBOOK 500, 1994: “The PowerBook 500 wowed the notebook market with a long string of firsts: The first touch pad; the first stereo speakers (with 16-bit sound); the first expansion bay — and the first PC Card slot; the first “intelligent” nickel metal hydride battery, with a processor that communicated battery status to the operating system; and, last but not least, the first curvaceous case, with gratuitously swooped edges and corners instead of the boxy angles of previous notebooks. Make no mistake, this notebook set the agenda for the following 10 years of portable computer design.”
• 12. APPLE IPOD, 2001: It wasn’t the first hard-drive audio player, it was expensive, and it worked only with Macintosh computers. But the original iPod cracked the portable audio market wide open with its ease of use and to-die-for aesthetics. Some estimates peg Apple as now claiming an astounding 92 percent of the mobile audio market.
• 1. APPLE POWERBOOK 100, 1991: Never mind the Apple versus PC debate: Until Apple unveiled this 5.1-pound machine, most “portable” computers were curiosities for technophiles with superior upper-body strength. But the PowerBook 100’s greatest and most lasting innovation was to move the keyboard toward the screen, leaving natural wrist rests up front, as well as providing an obvious place for a trackball. It seems like the natural layout now, but that’s because the entire industry aped Apple within months. The first PowerBooks captured an astounding 40 percent of the market, but more important, they turned notebook computers into mainstream products and ushered in the era of mobile computing that we’re still living in today.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We could argue forever over the ordering of the list – how can the Diamond Rio 300 have topped the iPod for 8th on the list and can the PowerBook 100 really top the abacus and the telephone? And that’s the beauty of these types of lists and this one’s particularly interesting. Did they leave anything off the list of the top 100 that springs to mind? You know, like maybe the Commodore 64, the Apple II, or, say, the original Macintosh personal computer?! They were certainly “potentially mobile” enough to make our list (especially since the Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100, 1983, graces Mobile PC’s list at #87)!

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Newsweek: Steve Jobs’ Macintosh changed personal computers forever – March 02, 2003


  1. What about the bicycle. I know, it’s biger than a bread box, unless you have a lot of bread, but it’s the first mechanical device most humans learn to use. It sure changed my 10 year old life.

  2. As I recall, Apple introduced three PowerBooks at the same time. (And introduced the name “PowerBook”)
    The PowerBook 100 was the bottom line of the three with an (e-gad) original 68000 processor and a B&W (no gray scale) screen. Ever try scanning in and transmitting color PhotoShop photos on deadline using only a B&W screen? I have.
    Also as I remember, was built and co-designed by Sony. The only PowerBook Sony was involved in.
    I agree 100% about their comments on the keyboard and trackball layout.

  3. Good thought Al, the bicycle should have a solid spot on the list. But not higher that the computers because if you add up all of the ours I have spent on all of the 5 bicycles I’ve owned then compare it to all of the hours I’ve spent with any of the 23 computers that I’ve owned, the computers kick the bicycles’ collective butts.

  4. As an owner of both PCs and Macs, I am clearly qualified to objectively comment on this topic. Based on that, I would say rate the Dell Dimension 2400 higher than the PowerBook 100 in its overall impact on the computing world.

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