PEOPLE ALL AROUND the world and all nationalities are united in their fascination with gadgets. We’re always looking for the next labor-saving widget, gizmo or doodad. A gadget is a small mechanical or electric device or tool, especially an ingenious or novel one with a practical use.

What would you consider the No. 1 gadget that changed the world? The staff at Popular Mechanics assembled a 20-member panel of renown tech gurus and experts to hash over this question and they put together a list of 101 gadgets. You can watch it on YouTube.

Their results were presented on a program on the History channel. I’m not sure, but this exercise may have been conducted nine years ago so you might wonder if any gadgets invented since then could displace any of the ones in the top 30.

What was the 101st item on the list? Well, it was duct tape. Panelists tried to be objective. Following are the items the panel thought were the top 30 gadgets that changed the world. The sponsors said the panel took their time and were serious about their assignment. There was a spirited debate. Here’s the countdown from No. 30.

30. CD player; 29. Camcorder; 28. Electric guitar; 27. BlackBerry; 26. Crescent wrench; 25. Hi-Fi; 24. Sewing machines; 23. Laptop; 22. VCR; 21. Answering machine;

20. Remote control; 19. Kodak Brownie camera; 18. Vacuum cleaner; 17. GPS technology; 16. Transistors; 15. Modems; 14. Typewriters; 13. Safety matches; 12. Bicycles; 11. Dry-cell batteries, more than 3 billion produced each year;

10. Thomas Edison’s light bulb, introduced in 1879; 9: Alarm clocks; 8. Phonographs; 7. Rotary phones; 6. Portable air conditioners, which are credited with the expansion of the Sun Belt;

5. Personal computers in the late 1970s; 4: Hypodermic needles; 3. TVs; 2. Radios, reaching 240 million people a week. The program’s narrator explained the reason for many of the selections; It’s hard to argue that radio and TV haven’t been instrumental in connecting people with the magic of sound and moving pictures.

What’s No. 1? The smartphone; that handheld device has bundled together more than 15 of the 101 gadgets on the list into one pocket-size unit. What would the world be like today without the amazing computer power of a smartphone? It’s used by billions of people and has become indispensable in so many ways. It’s become addictive and essential.



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AN OLD FRIEND, Arnold DeLuca of Wheaton, Ill., recently sent me a report that said researchers for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority (MTA) found more than 200 dead crows near greater Boston, Mass., and there was concern that they might have died from the avian flu.

A bird pathologist examined the remains of all the crows and to everyone’s relief, confirmed the problem was definitely not avian flu. The cause of death appeared to be vehicular impacts. However, during the detailed analysis it was noted that varying colors of paint appeared on the bird’s beaks and claws.

By analyzing these paint residues it was determined that 98% of the crows had been killed by impact with big trucks while only 2% were killed by car. The MTA then hired an ornithological behaviorist to determine if there was a cause for the disproportionate percentages of truck kills vs. car kills.

She quickly concluded the cause. When crows eat road kill, they always have a lookout crow in a nearby tree to warn of impending danger. They discovered that while all the lookout crows could shout “caw,” not a single one could shout “truck.”

There’s your groaner for the week.