As we highlighted last month, IEEE Spectrum has launched a Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame to celebrate some of the greatest gadgets of the last 50 years. IEEE members could also win prizes, such as drones or smart watches, by sharing their memories of their favorite gadget. Here are some selections from the winning entries as of press time (selections have been edited and condensed for clarity).
“It is the device that at the age of 8 made me decide to become an engineer. I wanted to be a part of the computer revolution. The graphics, sound, game play, and ease of use was extraordinary. There is nothing I have owned since that I have the same passion toward or fond memories of. If it was not for that device, I most probably would not have become an engineer!” —Sasha Nikolic
In 1975, “I acquired a rare item, the Hewlett-Packard HP-25, which was a scientific calculator! Such things were not available in Iceland, but one of my uncles knew a sailor that was on a freighter sailing to Boston. He undertook to find a store that sold the HP-25. I paid just over US $300 for it.” —Edvard Gudnason
“In 1966, I was in the eighth grade in junior high school in California. The Los Angeles Dodgers had made it to the World Series against Baltimore. I was working at a neighborhood store after school and had saved my money to buy the smallest transistor radio I had ever seen [the Sony 1R-81]. It was small enough to fit inside your pants pocket to sneak into school to listen to the game during lunch. Back then the sign of a quality radio was the number of transistors it used—the more the better. Cheap radios were four to five transistors, but the Sony had eight! I think the Dodgers lost the series that year, but I still have my Sony radio!” —Daniel Kikuta
“The first personal computer I owned was an Epson HX-20, complete with 300-baud acoustic-coupled telephone modem and a microcassette drive to store and retrieve programs and data. The main attraction for me was that you could jump into the monitor program from BASIC and work in 6301 machine code directly. I learned how to write structured assembly-language code on this machine. I was very proud of the fact that I wrote an entire spreadsheet program in BASIC with assembly-language fixed-point math. It took me a week to write and almost a month to debug.” —Sam Felton
“It is amazing how an electronic gadget can impact a little girl’s life. It goes from looking cool to getting an interest into technology. First off, I am from Bolivia, where [the latest] technology would arrive so late and in expensive prices. Thus, for a small girl to have a [radio-equipped] Walkman was such an honor. I could stand out among my friends and show it off. I also enjoyed listening to radio. Tuning in a station was a challenge! I had to move the tuner [very carefully] in order to get as little noise as possible. This drove me to wonder how radio transmission works and how I could make it easier to tune. Those ideas aroused my curiosity and were my first steps to becoming a telecommunications engineer. All I can say to my Walkman is, ‘Thank you for letting me discover nice music, be the popular child, and become a telecommunications engineer.’ ” —Gabriela Caspa Huayhua
This article appears in the February 2019 print issue as “Your Favorite Gadgets.”