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New age gadgets: Thin, sleek and ugly!

The quest to go smaller, thinner, sleeker and lighter has given birth to some radical devices. Mobile phones are now down to a razor blade thinness of 5.9 mm), fully functional notebook computers weigh in at...

india Updated: Aug 28, 2010 17:47 IST
Rajiv Makhni
Rajiv Makhni
Hindustan Times

It weighs in at around 1 kg, is 3.5 inches thick, has a battery the size of a small country and boasts of one full hour of talk time. Priced at $3,995, it comes with a 6 inch aerial protruding from the top – The Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, the first mobile phone, 1983.

The Osy has a giant 5 inch screen, is an easily luggable 11 kg, can be folded and stowed away, has a full floppy disk drive and clocks in at a price of $1,795 – The Osborne 1, the first portable laptop, 1981.

The Gpad runs on a 10MHz processor, has a CGA 640x400 display, text entry by a tethered pen and a cable-attached keyboard and costs US $3,000 without software. The GRIDpad, the first tablet computer, 1989.


Things have changed a bit since then. The quest to go smaller, thinner, sleeker and lighter has given birth to some radical devices. Mobile phones are now down to a razor blade thinness of 5.9mm (Samsung u100), fully functional notebook computers weigh in at 700 grams (Sony X series) and tablet devices are down to 10mm in thickness and weigh in at around 200 grams (Dell Streak).

It’s a beautiful world of the shiny, bright and new. New age materials like carbon fibre, high gloss piano lacquer finishes, aluminium, chrome and even ceramics deliver products that are breathtaking and stunning beyond imagination. Design, form factors, stylisation and aesthetics are at an all-time high.

Gadget design teams are pushing the boundaries of both technology and ergonomics in coming out with pieces of art. And yet this is the ugliest chapter in the world of devices. Let me say that more emphatically – there has never been a time in history when gadgets were clunkier, more repulsive and frightfully revolting than now. And it’s us, the consumers – the users – who are to blame.

In our quest for trying to protect our gadgets, in making sure that they look and work in unblemished conditions and in falling for the deception and con games of the add-on accessories industry, we’ve turned the most stunning devices into ugly, fat monstrosities.

Why do we buy the thinnest phone only to strap a thick leather cover on it that makes it five times thicker; why does our brand new pure white shiny laptop have an appalling, ugly rubber skin on it; what, in heaven’s name, compels us to take the crystal clear screen of an iPad and put a ghastly bubbly plastic screen cover on it

I’ve seen phones that have rubber covers, silicon screen protectors, leather holsters and nylon cases to carry them! What does the original phone look like? Well, nobody knows – they’ve never seen it. In our quest to customise, protect and also fall for all the conspiracy theories of the extra frill extension industry, we’ve forgotten the most important part.

Gadgets today are stronger, tougher and more resilient than ever before. Gorilla scratch proof glass, stronger than steel carbon fibre, industrial strength plastics, unbreakable ceramics, super resistive metals – all these are ten times more robust and rugged than anything we used five years back. And five years back we weren’t buying covers and screens and skins and bumpers.

With a few simple basic rules, you can bid goodbye to all the useless add ons. Make sure your phone holds well in your hand and don’t put it into a pocket or handbag that has keys and other sharp metal objects; keep your notebook on a straight, solid surface when working; keep the screen of a touch phone clean as it is dust and your fingertips gliding and jabbing on it that give it those tiny scratches; at the time of charging your device make sure you leave it on a non-slippery surface; when moving around be aware to keep a firm grip on it; and when travelling, wrap your little tech piece of heaven in a soft cloth to avoid the bumps and grinds of your laptop case.

That’s it. You’re done – enjoy the amazing design and great technology and use it like it was intended for. Give your little tech piece of heaven the freedom it deserves. Unshackle it from its ugly rubber and silicon bondage – and let it breathe thin and sleek free.

First Published: Aug 27, 2010 14:05 IST