In 2015 gadgets are no longer just desirable consumer goods but status symbols.
Thanks largely to Apple and the rise of the iPhone, the hunks of plastic, metal and circuitry we carry in our pockets don't just serve us but places us into tribes, in the way our tastes in music did twenty years ago.
But the long march towards being cool has been difficult for the tech world, and not without its missteps and blunders – as anyone who owned any of the following devices will tell you. Presenting: tech's most embarrassing moments. Keep these in mind, and approach the next bandwagon with caution.
10 | The portable CD player
Not only were portal CD players the most haphephobic pieces of technology in history – meaning you couldn't brush past anyone on the bus without Vanilla's flow being interrupted during 'Ice Ice Baby' – they looked awful. A far more awkward shape than the cassette Walkman they we supposed to replace, you couldn’t carry portable CD players neatly or discreetly on your person, having to loop them onto your belt instead. Thankfully, MP3s were just around the corner.
9 | Oakley Thump Sunglasses
Long before Google Glass, Oakley had a go at pairing eyewear with technology – in this case, turning your shades into an MP3 player. Not a terrible idea on paper, this 2007 device nevertheless failed, not because the audio controls were awful (they were), not because they cost an obscene $495 (they did), not even because they were worn by Dog the Bounty Hunter. They failed because they looked like they should be used to fire lasers at robot dinosaurs in a kids cartoon.
8 | Flip phones
Rumours of a flip phone comeback have been circling this year but let’s consider the consequences of this odd moment in mobile technology histor, namely that back before touchscreens, millions of people ended their calls by bringing their screen and keypad together with an obnoxious snap like they’d just got off the phone to the President of the United States, rather than a mate asking if they fancy popping over for a game of Street Fighter. This 90s favourite may be making a comeback, but remember: so did the Spice Girls.
7 | Twitter peek
One of the most baffling portable devices ever to exist, the Twitter peek was bigger than your phone and only worked for Twitter. Allow the logic of that to sink in for a moment. Widely ridiculed on its release and swiftly consigned to the dustbin of tech history – although an update, Peek 9, added other functions and fared a little better – the only users of the Twitter peek were presumably people who active on Twitter but unwilling to own a smartphone, or people so into Twitter, they didn't have time to do anything else. Piers Morgan, maybe.
6 | Bluetooth earpieces
Forget the giant mobile phone or the superfluous briefcase; no accessory screamed ‘misplaced self-importance’ louder than the Bluetooth earpiece. Just about acceptable when driving (safety first and all that), wearing one anywhere else was supposed to tell the world you field calls all day long, so you must be terribly important. In fact all it told the world was that you ran a struggling double glazing business in Wolverhampton.
5 | Microsoft SPOT smartwatch
Fair play to Mircosoft: they called the smart watch trend early. A decade early, in fact. The SPOT came out in 2004 and was a clunky screen that transmitted useful bits on information to your wrist via FM waves, for a monthly subscription fee. It failed to take off, primarily because it misunderstood that most people want to wear a watch they actually enjoy looking at them. Ahead of its time, but ultimately awful, the SPOT learned the hard lessons the Apple Watch will hope to avoid.
4 | Mobile phone holsters
Beloved by Gareth from The Office and... people like Gareth from The Office, the mobile phone holster should have been a joke, but sadly wasn't. During the 90s there was a trend for keeping your mobile, not in your bag or pocket, but in a special sheath concealed in your jacket to be pulled out like a gun in a Western if you ever got a call. Perhaps we can put this early trend down to an unspoken anxiety about the emergence of mobile technology being 'dangerous'. Fine – as long as they never, ever come back again.
3 | Segway
To be fair, the Segway has almost completed the cycle from embarrassing to ironically cool thanks to popping up in shows like Arrested Development. Even still, you’d be hard pushed to find anyone prepared to actually take to the streets on one. Why? Take your pick from the preposterous wheels to the oddly-creeply lean you do to make it move to the basic fact it is so obscenely lazy. See also: adults on scooters.
2 | Selfie stick
Selfies were cautiously upgraded from bizarre teenage trend to acceptable everyday ‘thing’ on the grounds that they were knowingly vain and deployed off-the-cuff in amusing situations. That was the deal, wasn't it? The problem with the selfie stick is that they dispense of the irony completely, making you look like someone who pre-plans your spontaneous moments of fun. Not a good look – and incidentally, about the most unBritish invention of all time.
1 | Google glass
Google Glass sparked much curiosity in geek circles when it arrived in 2014 – and abject horror in the rest of us. The two basic functions of the device was to pump information into your eyeballs – meaning whoever you're talking to has no idea if you're listening to them or flicking through Facebook – and to record video / take photos of whatever you’re looking at, meaning you’re a fulltime suspected pervert. A classic case of anti-social tech made with no consideration of how real people interact, the cyborgs of our future will look back on the Google glass with pitiful mirth. Most of us do already.