Nerd Nostalgia: MakeUseOf Remembers Geeky Gifts From The Past
Technology is generally obsessed with looking forward to the next big thing. Innovation is king, with everything that has gone before dropped as soon as the new shiny shiny is released. While looking forward is ultimately positive, occasionally looking back can also be a good thing.
We all love technology here at MakeUseOf. It’s what binds us together, turning us from a disparate group of individuals into a cohesive team working together to create the best website this side of the Dagobah system. So we are nerds . And it turns out we’re a nostalgic bunch too.
I recently asked my fellow MakeUseOf staffers to think back over their lives in order to remember the best tech-related gift they have ever received. Some ignored my petulant request for them to do my job for me, but others took the opportunity to wax lyrical about a geeky gift they loved at the time and probably still love to this day.
What follows is MakeUseOf remembering geeky gifts from the past. And with people of all ages on staff, the list includes gadgets from as recent as a few years ago to many decades in the dark and distant past. This may well be a little self-indulgent, but we hope it triggers you to remember gadgets long since replaced by newer, shinier alternatives.
Mine was an 8-bit Chinese unnamed gaming console in the shape of a car:) can’t even remember how old I was.. But that was when I first played games like Mario, Dr Mario, ninja turtles, and all that. And that was the first time I started messing around with electronics, like repairing the joysticks, checking what’s inside that magic box and all that.
Mine would have to be my Game Boy Pocket, given to me when I was 4 years old by my parents.
We were driving to the beach on vacation and they wanted something to keep me entertained, so that’s what I ended up getting. The rest is history – video games are my biggest hobby to this day!
My first game with it was Wario Land, which I still love, and I still have the Game Boy. What was meant to be a little distraction ended up becoming a lifelong love for me.
My brother got me a Kindle Touch a few years back and I loved it. I had been wanting one for some time and somehow he knew. I use it every day, especially for sending web articles to it for later reading.
I love how versatile it is. Whether I’m in the mood to read about self-improvement, fiction or a how-to article, I can. And it’s great for trips, camping, etc. because of its fantastic battery life.
The best tech-related gift I ever got was a Nintendo Mickey Mouse game from my sister who was visiting us from the States. Way before computer games and XBoxes. I was probably 8 or 10 then.
Come to think of it, that was my first “digital” interaction of any kind. Today, this game will seem lame even in a browser. But boy, catching eggs was FUN!
Can’t remember how old I was and whether it was birthday or Christmas, but my best tech present was the SoundBlaster Multimedia Upgrade for our 386SX. It had a sound card, CD-ROM, and came with Encarta.
I once submitted a word-for-word copy of the Encarta article on Mozart for a music essay, and got away with it since no one else had Encarta at the time.
The multimedia era was a huge shift in computing generations – before that, every game I played used the crappy beep of the motherboard. Can you imagine the horror? Games took on an entirely new dimension! (I wasn’t allowed to have a video game console, so all my gaming was on DOS)
First ever computer. Was an Amstrad PC on one side, with a little sliding bit on the front to covert it into a Mega Drive on the other side. I was 8/9 at the time and got it for Xmas. Worth £150 now so I read – should’ve kept it…
The original GameBoy.
After having played with a chess computer for years and being very bored and not making progress, I fell in love with the GameBoy when it first came out. It was an unusually expensive gift from my parents and at the time I was unsure whether it was even a good idea to ask for it.
To my surprise and joy, I did receive the GameBoy for Christmas the year it came out in Europe (1990) and soon became an expert Tetris player. I subscribed to the local Nintendo magazine and had my high scores published. Eventually, I got a data cable and competed with friends at school in Tetris tournaments. And of course I saw the big rocket launch after beating level 9 high 5 in Mode B play.
Tetris remained my favorite game for a long time.
Hewlett Packard HP48G graphing calculator, which I got my Freshman year of high school. My buddy and I got it the same year, and we felt boss because we could program in things like the quadratic equation and solve for variables on Algebra tests faster than anyone else.
At the time, the teachers had no clue what the capabilities of these things were. My buddy and I felt so cool…completely unaware that we were really just acting like two of the biggest nerds on the planet.
I’ve got to go with the “gadget” that started it all for me: when I was a kid, everyone wanted a PlayStation. I was the same. And on Christmas morning, that’s exactly what I unwrapped – swiftly followed by three games to start me off. I’ve since abandoned the PS brand, but happy memories of Spyro, Spider-Man, and Speed Freaks will always remain with me.
Of course there have been some amazing tech presents since, yet you can’t ignore that boyish excitement on Christmas Day, etched in the untouchable sepia of my childhood.
Best tech gift was totally the Kindle keyboard. It changed how I read. I always loved books, but the kindle let me go from reading 20 to 30 books a year to 60+. It’s superior to a dead tree in every way!
Actually mine would have to be my MacBook Air, which I have called Scarlett (after Scarlett Johansson, the one woman I would leave Monika for!!).
It’s precious to me because all Apple equipment was too expensive for me. I have never been a rich person, so all Apple products have felt permanently out of my reach. But when my grandparents gave me some money, I bought an iPad and then an iPhone, but the Macbook seemed to be permanently out of my grasp. But then all of a sudden, last year, I got the chance.
Monika and I were about to get a dog, and we were arguing intensely about what name to give it. Suddenly Monika blurted out, “If you let me name the dog, you can have your MacBook.” She had barely finished the sentence as I raided the savings account and barely scraped together the money needed to order from Amazon.
It is my beloved. My precious. It is my Scarlett. And yes, I am insane.
Tough call, but both were Christmas presents.
The first was a 150-in-1 electronics kit I got when I was 7 or 8. With it I could construct alarms, an AM radio, sound effects/waveform generators, etc. It was my first hands-on experience with electronics.
The second was a Commodore 64 which my parents thought would only be used for games, but I started programming on it almost immediately. When attempting to do things with graphics, it was god-awful slow because every location was PEEKed/POKEd to do anything at all, and with an interpreted language you can imagine how long it took. A simple switch to hi-res mode and clearing the screen as a 2 minute endeavor. So, I started using machine language instead until I could afford an assembler. After figuring out how their tokenization and parser worked, I then extended them to add my own commands to CBM BASIC. This was probably the most effective computer-related self-education I have ever had.
This is tricky. I have a lot of tech as gifts, from a hand me down 1970s games console with 8 built in games, two paddles and a light gun to a Ronco microphone and radio. ViewMaster stereoscopes were tech to me as a lad!
Ultimately, it has to be my Commodore 64, which was a present in 1984 from my mum and dad. The opposite of Bruce’s story, I was expected to learn how to program and ended up playing games almost all of the time (until I discovered how to hack character graphics from one game and drop them into another with the Action Replay cartridge…).
I still have my C64.
For me it was very much like Bruce’s experience except I didn’t go THAT far into programming on the C64. There just weren’t any resources around where I lived to learn from. Every once in awhile I would find a C64 magazine and devour it. Even though actual programming seemed beyond my reach, it did encourage a curiosity that I had since seeing War Games and Whiz Kids.
I’ve only just, literally this moment, realized that my dad was a techno-geek. I’m honestly tearing up a little. He did get the 150-in-1 electronics lab from Radio Shack for us and encouraged me to take my transistor radio apart when it died. And warning me that little batteries only hurt a little but the wall socket could kill me. AC DC differentiation was beyond me at age 7.
He also got us the Radio Shack paddle game as well. I think I was maybe 6. It might as well have been magic! I watched my older brother play that in single-player mode for hours. He was a selfish ass-hat, as older siblings can be. Still, it whetted the appetite!
Probably the Commodore Amiga A1200 I received for Christmas when I was… 6? It kick-started both a passion and a time-sink, and I still get a little bit sad when I think that no computer is ever going to really make me feel like that again.
It’s still in my parents attic, and last time I checked it works perfectly.
For me, it was a hand-me-down PC from a techy dad. I was at uni in the mid 90s and this meant I had a more powerful machine than any of the hardcore geeks I knew. My entire household used it in shifts to get through their degrees (and to use IRC from home). One of my flatmates pretty much did his entire computer science degree on my computer while I slept. That gift just kept giving.
Bop It! provided hours of fun as a kid. I might actually hunt one out now as a Christmas present to myself…
The first generation iPhone. Going from feature phones to modern smart phones was a religious awakening for me.
Continue The Conversation
We hope you found this little peek behind the MakeUseOf curtain interesting. If nothing else it should act as a reminder that we’re all geeks at heart , and it doesn’t matter what generation we belong to, a great gadget given as a gift can be life-changing. Especially if it’s a Commodore 64, apparently.
If our nostalgic nerdgasms inspired you to remember gadgets from the past then let us know in the comments below. Just tell us what tech-related gift has stuck in your mind right through to the present day, and a few details surrounding how you came to be in possession of it.
A Debt Of Gratitude
This article sprung from us asking our readers, What’s The Best Tech-Related Gift You Have Received? Unfortunately, only a handful of readers answered the question, which meant turning to the MakeUseOf staff instead. Thankfully, this worked out rather well.
Regardless, we thank each and every one of you who did respond to the previous question, and we hope more people get involved with future editions of We Ask You. The more people who do, the better content we can create from the discussion which ensues.