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Gateway Gadgets

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We all had that one device that led us into the world of true gadget loving. It’s that one device that you obsessed over, read about, joined forums to discuss…once it starts it’s an addiction. Since it’s the holidays, I thought it might be a good time to head down memory lane and see what gadget was our first geek love…

Carly Z

For me, it was the Palm M100. I remember buying it my junior year of college, and thinking it would help me stay on top of my assignments. By senior year I was taking all my notes on it with an external keyboard, wrote a decent chunk of my senior thesis in Wordsmith, and knew all sorts of tricks and hacks for it. This was all followed by a parade of PDAs, from the Zire 71 to the Palm TX.

The next thing I knew, I had a Treo 650, followed by an iPhone, a Samsung Epix, an E71x, a Samsung Propel Pro and back to the iPhone. Somewhere in there, I discovered Macs, and before I knew it I was a full-fledged geek!

Doug Moran

Well, it depends on your definition. The “gadget” that I first obsessed over—at least the first one I remember—was a Commodore PET. I taught myself BASIC because I wanted to write programs for it so bad. I stayed after school (in High School!) to fiddle with it. I hacked so much that by the time there were official classes in my Senior year, I earned credits by being the TA for the class.

Of course, I was a nerd from way back. I loved my Dad’s Zeiss camera and 35MM cameras in general. I bought a used, hand-wound 8MM film camera and fiddled with it to get it working. I was fascinated by my Dad’s slide rule, although I never learned how to jockey one. Anything brass and gadget-like drew me—sextants, anti-interference compasses, etc.

With regard to “gadgets,” it was the Palm Pilot 1000. As soon as I saw one, I knew I had to have it. Once I got it, I played with it obsessively. It was pathetic. I don’t early-adopt technology as a rule, but with PDAs/Smart Phones, I’ve been on the edge for a long time. It’s my thing.

Travis Ehrlich

I remember learning some basic coding on the Apple IIe and the TRS-80 in elementary school. I would sit and try different lines to make names run across and change color or flash. My masterpiece was a sports quiz game I worked on at a Radio Shack my best friend’s family owned. It was very cheesy, but I was super proud of it. I would sit at the computers for hours in the store just exploring. Everything I learned, was learned on my own.

I did not have much growing up so I spent more time taking apart radios and broken gadgets than I did having ones that worked. In my adult life, I was able to get a Handspring Visor. I carried that enormous thing around in my pocket! I loved finding applications for it and pushing it to its limits. My five-year-old son is easily on his way to follow in my footsteps of being a geek and loving gadgets. He often asks me if we have an app for that!

Amy Zunk

Well, my first exposure to geekdom was using an Atari computer to learn the European states and capitals when I was in 6th grade. I learned BASIC on it and used to make pretty pictures with plotting graph points. Yes, I built it pixel by pixel. Ouch.

For me, it was a combination of my grandfathers Pentax 35mm camera and my own Palm III. The camera because I loved watching him wind the film and play with the lenses. My palm II, because I finally had something other than my Franklin Covey planner or a piece of paper to take notes and keep my schedule. And when I found the and Handango websites— I downloaded tons of apps and games. I have been hooked ever since.

Perry Reed

I also started my computing life on Commodore PET computers that the high school had. I wrote more useless BASIC programs on those little computers… Eventually, my parents bought us an Atari 800 computer, which I absolutely loved. I still have it, in fact, and to this day, my all-time favorite video game is Star Raiders on that old Atari.

I’m trying to remember what gadget may have been my first. I had the old Mattel football and baseball handheld games, and those were very very fun. I picked up the remade versions a couple of years back and given that the display is just some red LEDs, they’re still very fun.

From a productivity standpoint, I had a digital watch that had a calculator and keypad built in, and even a really rudimentary (but very fun) version of Space Invaders (again, all red LEDs, but surprisingly entertaining).

My first PDA was an HP100LX which I carried everywhere with me and had all kinds of DOS programs loaded on it. From there, I’ve owned several up to my current Windows Phone.

Judie Lipsett

My general gateway gadget was the oft-mentioned robot that my brother got for Christmas from my paternal grandparents – I think this was in 1972 or so, and I remember thinking that he was much too young for such a cool toy. It ran on batteries – probably C or D cells, it had lights that would flash when you pressed certain buttons, and there was an animated battle scene that would light up on it’s “belly” … and that’s about all I remember, other than the absolute envy that I felt, because I had received a doll, and I really wanted that robot. Convincing Mark that he would rather have the doll took some smooth talking, but my dad later made me give it back. 🙁

My first handheld game was in 4th or 5th grade (around 1976 or 1977) – a Texas Instruments Little Professor math training toy, and I used it so often I went through several of them. I thought the red LED display was amazingly futuristic — it looked like the prohibitively expensive red digital watches that I lusted after but didn’t think I would ever own. Sometime around late 1991, I discovered a device that would ignite my future passion — the HP 95LX, which was eventually replaced with a Tandy Z-PDA, or Zoomer, in 1993. In no time at all my entire life was contained on these devices, it didn’t take long before I had fatally scratched the Zoomer’s screen from repeatedly playing Pyramid, the included card game.

I really wanted one of the later Apple Newtons, but just couldn’t afford its cost at the time; if I remember correctly, the one I wanted was almost $1000, and I didn’t want to “settle” for the $700 one. My next major PDA purchase was the Palm Pilot Professional in 1997, and the rest is history. 🙂

Your Stories

So what was your first “gateway gadget”? Have you set your friends on the path of technolust with your enthusiasm? Share your stories below!

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