A gadget is simply any ingenious little thing or sometimes even a complex electronic device. Gadgets can be called gizmos too. Today’s world is full of gadgets: cellular phones, refrigerator/freezer, personal digital assistants, lap tops, wristwatches, cameras, stereos and so on. Not all gizmos are equal, though, and some have built-in features that you may not need.
The term “gadget” first appeared in the late 19th century as the term “microscope.” It describes a very small tool that has become a part of many people’s daily lives. A modern gadget often thought of as nothing more than an incredibly tiny and complicated tool is the camera.
The first known use of the word “gadget” dates back to the time of Leonardo da Vinci, who is said to have created a gadget of glue which he was able to use to draw beautiful pictures. The term gadget is probably related to the Greek term “gadha” (glue), possibly meaning a small pointed instrument whose use was to stick or glue something together. The first recorded use of the term in this sense appears in an Egyptian papyrus dated around twenty five hundred years B.C. It states that one may use a pin to stick a sprig of wheat through a hole.
A more likely source for the word gadget comes from the Italian verb “glando” which means “to work.” This would make sense if you consider that a typical gizmo today is often times described in terms of its ability to perform a function, rather than the simple act of sticking things together. Gadgets can be used to record audio or video, to play music, or to do a variety of other activities. The history of the term can be traced back to the days of the Roman and Greek empires when engineers, architects and scientists used new technology to revolutionize society. For example, the Greek’s developed the first alphabet which was used in written communication. The Romans also developed language software which allowed them to write down things they had seen, while the Greeks built the world’s largest city.
Gizmos came into their own during the Middle Ages when the term “gadget” began to refer to any new piece of equipment that could be used to create something new. At that time, most items that were considered to be gadgets were produced by manufacturers as tools to help people. Gadgets included clocks, scales, compasses, and even shoes. Some of these items are still popular today, such as the ubiquitous calculator. Other examples of pre-modern gadgets include sewing machines, drills, pencils, and even barbed wire.
Gizmos, especially those that function by using electronics, did not originate in the Western hemisphere. There is evidence that certain cultures from Asia, India, and Africa had gadget terminology hundreds of years before the first modern gadget was ever designed. The Chinese had been creating tools for thousands of years, and they routinely placed gemstones in their food in an attempt to improve digestion. One legend claims that the Chinese invented the first gadget, but it is more likely that their words for tool and gadget were based on the same concepts that lead to the invention of the hammer, pliers, and screwdriver. Regardless of who invented the first gadget, it can be said that most of today’s modern gadgets would have been born out of an idea somewhere, and the impact of these new innovations is profound.