The travel gadgets which changed the way you travel forever…

by Jules on November 6, 2013

The Top 100 gadgets from the last century have just been revealed, and the list includes travel gadgets which have shaped the way we travel: from the invention of the modern jet engine in 1930, through to the emergence of the World Wide Web in 1989, it’s time to take a trip along memory lane…

1930: Invention of the Jet engine

It’s curious to think that that just 80 years ago, the most popular way to see the world was by boat. Cue the invention of the very first modern jet engine by British pilot and engineer Sir Frank Whittle and German airplane designer Dr. Hans von Ohain, who were both independently working on a jet-engine. Whittle was first to register his patent in 1930, although von Ohain’s jet was the first to take to the skies in 1939, with Whittle’s following two years later.

What is undeniable is the way that this invention has shaped mass tourist travel. The British de Havilland Comet was the very first purpose-built jet airliner and entered service in 1952. Two years previously had seen a post-war holiday boom in the UK with over a million Brit travelling abroad, many for the first time. In 1954, the Convention on International Civil Aviation was amended which paved the way for the development of mass tourism via charter flights. And in 1957 British European Airways established the London to Valencia flight, marking the first very package holidays to the newly ‘invented’ Costa Blanca. The rest, as they say, is history!

1949: Invention of the Photo-Pac disposable camera

We were just as obsessed with capturing local sights on camera as we are today – although the term ‘selfie’ was still a long way off! Cue the Photo-Pac, invented by A D Weir, which was the very first disposable camera, meaning that travellers could simply buy the small gadget; take photos then wait for the printed photographs to be delivered. Indeed capturing photos via 35mm film stuck around for years, with many fondly remembering the anticipation of waiting for the postman for the physical prints. This was followed in 1961 by the invention of the Kodak Instamatic camera, paving the way for the first Kodak digital camera in 1975. 1967 saw the introduction of the Polaroid camera.

1953: Invention of the ‘Black Box’ flight data recorder

It’s thought that the Wright Brothers first created a device to record propeller rotations. The earliest flight data recorders however date back to 1939 where photographs were taken to record altitude and speed. In 1953, Australian scientist David Warren pioneered the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, allowing its mainstream use.  The ‘Black Box’ system has revolutionised air travel and improved flight safety.

1980: Introduction of the Sony Walkman

Our passion for music was heightened in the very late 1970s as the very first portable audio cassette players began to hit the market. What self-respecting teenager or indeed adult of the 1980s didn’t own a Sony Walkman?! It was originally known as the ‘Soundabout’ in the USA and the ‘Stowaway’ in the UK. The then Sony chairman apparently hated the name ‘Walkman’ but it’s a gadget that’s still around today. It made its mark on the travel industry in the 80s much the same way as the iPod does decades later. The only downside was carting caseloads of cassettes and spare batteries around!

Two years later the Sony Watchman CD player hit the markets, although CDs weren’t predicted to catch on. And in 1986 parents breathed a huge sigh of relief as Bose noise cancelling headphones came onto the market!

1987: Sony super VHS camcorder

Cameras took the next step in 1987 when the first camcorder came to market – cue rich travellers videotaping the hotel buffet (for some curious reason!) The first camcorders were huge by today’s standards and came with a whole gamut of gear, from the tripod, cases, spare films etc. The first versions ran off Betamax cassettes (ask your parents) but thankful technology quickly ensured that compact and film-free versions came to market.

1989: Invention of the World Wide Web

The biggest travel ‘gadget’ of our generation has to be the invention of the World Wide Web by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee. Together with the 1969 invention of the internet, it’s no exaggeration to say that modern life has changed irrevocably. I remember the first time I went ‘online’ – it was mind-blowing: waiting for the dial tone (and annoying everyone who spent hours trying to telephone me) and browsing reams and reams of information. Then of course came online shopping, including browsing and booking holidays. Indeed, the very idea of PureTravel was born in the mid-nineties as a way to connect adventure-thirty travellers with far flung destinations!

It has however lead to the demise of the family favourite postcard and the near-extinction of the weighty travel brochure! Then in 1993, the WWW technology was donated to the world by CERN.

1990: Introduction of the Nintendo Game Boy

Millions of kids breathed a huge sigh of relief 23 years ago when the first Game Boy hit the shops – making tedious car journeys a thing of the past.

1996: Introduction of the Audio Highway

And in 1996 the world’s first MP3 player came to market with the Audio Highway’s Listen Up Player. It was created by American Nathan M. Schulhof.

2001: Introduction of the Apple iPod

It’s hard to remember a time before the ubiquitous Apple iPod. The portable media players have become ingrained in modern life thanks in large to the vision of former CEO Steve Jobs.

2004: Launch of Facebook

Social media has been around for decades, indeed the first ever email was delivered in 1971 and hobbyists were using bulletin board systems (BBS) way back in 1978. But in 1994 the dawn of social media was imminent with the invention of the (now defunct) Geocities in 1994. By 1997 there were more than one million sites on the web, blogging was underway and AOL Instant Messenger was born. In 1998 Google launched and just a year later the first social network site was launched – Friends Reunited in the UK connected old school friends.

On 4 February 2004 the social landscape altered forever with the launch of Facebook, which now has around 1.15 billion users. It’s strange to think that 2014 is Facebook’s 10th anniversary!

Other social media sites have come (and some have gone): MySpace, Bebo, Pinterest, Digg, Reddit etc. The only site to get close to Facebook in terms of traffic (in terms of English-language sites) is Twitter which launched in 2006. It was designed for social networking and micro blogging and today has around 200 million users.

There’s no doubt that the rise of social media has influenced travel: from researching destinations, browsing reviews, posting travel journals, adding video, posting photos… the list goes on.

How have these (and the many other) travel gadgets impacted on the way you travel? Feel free to leave your comments below…

Related Posts:

Leave a Comment