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When we started out there was no such thing as a touchscreen phone, electric vehicles were most commonly thought of as bumper-cars and tablets were something you took with water before a meal. Ten years is a long time in technology at the beginning of the 21st Century and looking back over our scribblings brings home just how fast (and in some cases slow, as flying car fans would agree) technology is moving.
So to mark our 10th birthday milestone we're taking a stroll through the archives to revisit some of the biggest hits and most popular themes in our history.
A long time in technology
A quick comparison of the key specs of bleeding-edge products now and back when Gizmag was in its infancy makes interesting reading, and brings home just how far technology - especially on the consumer electronics front - has progressed.
Here's a few examples:
- In March 2002 we were blown away by Sony's first five megapixel camera - the F707. This was also our first in-house camera and what a weapon it was (and still is incidentally - though it's been retired from Gizmag duties). The F707 came with a 16 MB memory stick, 5X optical zoom, an LED screen for viewing results immediately and shot 320 x 240 movies. Fast forward to March 2012 and Sony's α57 spits out 16.1 megapixel images with continuous shooting at 12 fps (with full-time continuous autofocus), shoots full 1980 x 1080 high definition and features a tilting 3-inch, 921,600 dot resolution TruBlack LCD display ... and as for memory, we're talking 128 GB these days.
- The Gold Pockey external hard drive impressed us with its 60 GB storage capacity back in 2003, now you can pick up a 6 TB offering, and the wheels are in motion to hit 60 TB in the not too distant future.
- In 2005, Nokia's flagship N90 mobile phone boasted a 2 megapixel camera. In 2012 Nokia announced the 808 PureView - a smartphone with an astounding 41-megapixel image sensor.
- The global internet audience sat just above 800 million in 2003 (with a large chunk being dial-up connections), reached 1 billion in December 2008 and now sits in the 2 billion range.
- Apple's first 17-inch laptop boasted a 1 GHz processor ... now you'll likely find one in your mobile phone.
- LG was pushing the envelope with the unveiling of this 76-inch plasma screen back in 2003 and now things are really getting out of hand, as evidenced by this 152-inch, 4K2K, 3D monster from Panasonic.
The Freedom Ship
This is the introduction from our very first story back in March 2002: It's named the Freedom Ship, and should this most ambitious of projects ever come to fruition, it will no doubt become one of the most famous and intriguing places on earth.
It is more than a massive ship, though at close to a mile long, with a full scale airstrip on the roof and 50,000 people aboard, the sheer magnitude of the exercise is difficult to comprehend. The Freedom Ship is so large, that it will contain over 200 acres of open area set aside for recreation and relaxation.
There's a bit of irony at work here. In subsequent years we've covered some massive sea going vessels including the world's largest container ships and the new giant among cruise liners - the 16 deck, 225,282 ton Oasis of the Seas, which can carry an incredible 5,400 guests. The Freedom Ship, however, has still not materialized, with the developers still seeking joint venture inquiries "to facilitate the construction phase of the First Mobile City at Sea."
From iPod to iPad and everything in between
Another notable story from the very early days of Gizmag has evolved on a totally different trajectory. The article looked at the impressive capabilities and intuitive dial control interface of Apple's shiny new iPOD MP3 System.
While the iPod Classic is no longer with us in its original form, it was one of the starting points for the convergence of MP3 player, mobile phone and PDA (an abbreviation which is almost as obsolete as physical buttons) into what we now call the smartphone.
While convergence is certainly an accurate description of this phenomenon, the startling array of smartphones, tablets and somewhere-in-between hardware that's now available also represents a divergence of sorts. We used to have lots of different mobile devices for different tasks, now we have lots of mobile devices for almost every task ... and this proliferation of choice and enhanced functionality on the mobile device front isn't showing any signs of abating.
While we're on the subject of tablets ... a teenager in 2012 could be forgiven for thinking that Apple invented the "tablet" given the runaway success of the iPad. Interestingly (and in the face of my "tablet" quip above), one of our earliest articles discusses "the most significant new product for 2002" the Tablet PC from Microsoft.
Even in the Apple camp, some wheels are a little slow to turn though. Mike Hanlon's 10 year old article on the iPod pointed out one deficiency "if there's something to complain about, it's that the earpods which come standard are unworthy of the task; the iPOD deserves better." That's a statement which still has quite a ring to it.
Soaring to new heights
Flying machines of all shapes and sizes have always attracted the interest of Gizmag readers, from Solar-powered planes and high-speed helicopters to aircraft designed to stay aloft for five years and an almost unimaginable array of UAV's inspired by everything from the goshawk to the pterodactyl.
But it's not often that an entirely new genre of aircraft arrives. That's exactly what D-Dalus represents - this aircraft uses four, mechanically-linked, contra-rotating cylindrical turbines for its propulsion to produce an extremely maneuverable platform that moves in 360 degrees around any of the three axes. Unearthed by Gizmag at the Paris Airshow in 2011, this one was a true blockbuster.
So where's my flying car?
It's the inevitable question. With all of this exponential growth in technology, why is it that most of us still travel on terra firma? One of our very early stories looked at the ambitious Moller Skycar, and while this and more recent forays into the field like the Hoverbike aren't yet parked on everyone's front lawn, there has been progress - notably the Terrafugia Transition, a street legal airplane (which is more plane than car) that's now very close to production.
... and my Jetpack?
While on the subject of personal flying machines (and perennial questions), what about my jetpack? Well, we're almost there with this one. While we haven't yet seen any ion-propelled personal flight systems overhead yet, the Martin Jetpack (which like the Springtail and other exoskeletal flying vehicles we've seen over the years, uses shrouded rotors rather than jets), is very much a reality. The price is expected to be around US$100,000 when the Jetpack goes on sale, but this hasn't happened yet ... further test flights are scheduled for 2012 before it reaches full commercialization.
... and my space holiday
We've also tracked the development of another fledgling industry that has emerged from the annals of science fiction in the 21st century - space tourism. Denis Tito paid a sizable fortune to become the first private space traveler back in 2001, but since then Richard Branson's push towards commercial space travel using Burt Rutan's X-Prize winning SpaceShipOne has meant that the spectacle of the Earth's curvature will very soon be within reach for, well, a much less-sizable fortune - around US$200,000.
The third wheel
We've covered plenty of vehicles of the one, two, four and even six-wheel variety over the years, but three wheeled conveyances definitely seem to have hit a soft spot with Gizmag readers. With the exception of the unique Spira and some oddities (TOTO's Toilet Trike is a case in point), most of the three-wheelers we've encountered in the last decade have stuck with the stability of the two-at-the-front, one-at-the-back layout and combine elements of car and motorcycle to varying degrees.
Stand-out favorites with our readers include Campagna Motors' T-Rex, Trirod's F3 Adrenaline and the very space-age Aptera 2e, which unfortunately didn't make it to 2012. In terms of those that have definitely made it, both the Can-Am Spyder and the Piaggio MP3 passed our road test with flying colors.
Big ideas in small packages
While we are always up for a bit of fun, any innovation that stands to have a profound effect on the quality of life of a large proportion of the world's population is something that really gets us excited. The LifeStraw personal water purification device certainly ranks amongst this group with its potential to bring improved water quality to hundreds of millions people in the world.
In a similar vein, we've seen some outstanding ideas in this area, such as the ingenious Solarball and, a personal favorite of mine, the Aquaduct Mobile Filtration Vehicle - a tricycle that uses pedal power to both transport and filter clean drinking water.
Ideas that aim to improve quality of life on a huge scale are of course not limited to purifying water. Inventions that create a healthier domestic environment in developing nations like the Eco Fire Pot Stove, reduce dependence on kerosene like the solar Pebble and the LuminAID lantern, plus initiatives like the OLPC project, breakthroughs in the development of microfluidic devices for on-site detection of diseases like HIV, centrifuges made from salad spinners and mobile phones that charge using power from microbes in the soil are just some of the potentially world changing ideas that have graced our pages over the past 10 years.
One last mention on this topic goes to wind-up energy. Amazingly, it's only in the past decade that this idea has fully matured. When Gizmag was in its infancy we wrote an article entitled "All of a sudden, old fashioned wind-up energy makes sense" - now hand-cranked torches and radios are ubiquitous and you can even charge your mobile phone with a little physical exertion.
We are proud of our coverage of these ideas and proud that these articles generate such a level of interest and genuine discussion amongst our readers.
No topic in Gizmag's wide ranging catalog has attracted quite as much debate as alternative energy and the last decade provided us with no shortage of discussion points as the world turned its attention to reining in greenhouse gas emissions and reducing our reliance on oil.
This period has been marked by huge leaps in solar energy research that has seen efficiency records broken again and again (though many promising advances have not yet made it out of the lab), advances in wind and wave power, totally new approaches to large scale energy production, gasoline alternatives and of course, the meteoric rise of hybrid and electric cars.
We can't wait to see how some of these ideas play out over the next decade!
The Soundracer V8 - gadget of the decade?
We could argue about the definition of the word "gadget" all day long, but in our office at least, a gadget suggests a dose of novelty and fun while all the serious business is left to "devices." If that's our definition then the Soundracer V8 would have to be one of the top gadgets we've played with. This hilarious piece of hardware was set upon by Gizmag's Loz Blain in what became one of our most popular ever video reviews.
The most reliable cars
While our pages are full of coverage of new cars, concepts and the latest in automotive technology, one of the most popular auto-related stories in our history - and one that has generated much discussion - is The 100 most reliable cars of the last decade. The debate continues on this one.
During the last 10 years we've been lucky enough to get our hands-on some of the latest gear going around - we've pushed buttons, swiped screens and turned throttles in many parts of the globe. Our all-time most popular head-to-head reviews include Tim Hanlon's Guitar Hero World Tour vs Rock Band 2, HTC Desire vs Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 and Sennheiser HD 800 vs beyerdynamic T1 audiophile headphones. Also on the musical front, we combined one of the world's weirdest looking guitars with one of the world's premiere classical guitarists for this review of Paul Kinny's Stereo Acoustic Guitar- the result was a feast for the ears.
Out on the road we've tested some monster bikes from Aprilia BMW and Ducati, pushed electric power to its limit on the Zero S, headed into the wild in the Toyota Landcruiser and experienced close encounters with futuristic concept cars like SAIC's Yez.
Dead in the water or it just hasn't happened yet?
A great idea is one thing, but the task of making new technology stick in the real world takes dedication, copious funding and in many cases a healthy dose of luck. So finally, here's a shortlist some of the potentially ground-breaking innovations we've seen that, for one reason or another haven't yet made their mark (and in some cases have disappeared without a trace).
The virtual keyboard
While many of us moan about the mashing the tiny touchscreen keyboards on modern smartphones, the idea of the virtual keyboard hasn't quite taken off. We're holding out hope on this one.
The airless tire
This is an idea we've revisited several times over the years, beginning with Michelin's TWEEL in 2005 and most recently, Bridgestone's Airless Tire. We may still be riding on air in 2012, but we think this is one idea whose time will come.
First conceived by Russian inventor Viktor Gordeyev in 1974, we covered the Saigak Power Boots in the early days of Gizmag and revisited the topic in 2007 to find out what happened to them. The answer: apparently the 22 mph petrol-burning seven league boots were too unsafe in the wrong hands and the company went out of business in 2006. We still think it's a pity.
The Air Car
A car that runs on air. It sounds like a cracker of an idea but while alternatives to gas powered vehicles have enjoyed a boom period, the Air Car seems largely to have vanished into its proposed propellant.
The internet refrigerator
You could argue that this one never had legs, but that hasn't stopped several attempts at dragging the humble fridge into the online world. LG's early attempt was backed up a decade later with the unveiling of its Smart fridge and who knows, perhaps this will be seen as a pioneering piece of hardware when we are all immersed in the Internet of Things.
Still making your own breakfast? Us too, but the steady stream of innovations in the domestic robot arena that we've covered over the years put this one firmly in the "just a matter of when" camp.
The idea of digital paper has been on the boil for quite some time, and although it hasn't yet become commonplace, many recent developments in flexible electronics research point to a not-too-distant future where our digital interfaces are, err, less rigid.
This is of course, just a small taste of the huge array of smartware, go-fast-gear and scientific breakthroughs we've covered since we launched from a small back-room office 10 years ago. We sincerely hope you've enjoyed reading Gizmag as much as we have enjoyed creating it, and we aim to keep you up to date with technology's exponential curve for many more years to come.
Thanks again to all our readers and to all those past and present who have contributed to Gizmag.
Happy 10th birthday Gizmag!