Modern technology has propelled us forward to create smaller and smaller gadgets especially since the microchip appeared. Sure phones are growing in screen size now but you’ll be amazed how they are still smaller than their historical counterparts. And how much many other gadgets have shrunk too.
The last leap forward in technology downsizing was the invention of the microchip which became available in 1961, initially for military customers. Now we stand on the precipice of another such leap thanks to nanotechnology except our future will likely see devices shrink beyond that which the human eye can detect as nanomachines inevitably become used inside humans.
But for now, while the difference in size can be viewed with non-enhanced human eyes, we’ve collected up some of the best gadgets to shrink down. Computers have come on leaps and bounds over the years, now a slither of material that can fit in an envelope were once as big as an entire room and had less power than a basic digital watch.
Mobile phones have seen a huge drop in size as screen technology improves, batteries enhance and chips become smaller and more efficient. But then so too has audio with speakers now smaller than ever but offering even better sound than before and with wireless connectivity and rechargeable battery-powered portability.
Check out our gallery to see just how the gadget world has changed.
Hard drives (1979)
This gargantuan thing was what a 250MB hard drive looked like back in 1979.
By today’s standards, that’s not only a paltry amount of storage space, but also an enormous drive that wouldn’t be terribly convenient to have in the home.
Compact NVMe SSDs (now)
Technology has not only got smaller over the years, it’s also much improved too.
The old giant platter hard drives of yonder years are now considerably smaller and able to hold a lot more data as well. Now we have all sorts of tiny storage devices from nifty MicroSD cards in our phones to blazingly fast NVMe drives in our gaming PCs.
Portable speakers (1985)
Boomboxes were certainly a technology from a different era. Magnificent music machines that people carried about with them in the urban streets to blast out some tunes.
Of course, they needed a mass of batteries to power them and weren’t universally popular, but they were something special.
Bluetooth speakers (now)
Portable speakers have shrunk a lot over the years and are now even more capable.
Better batteries mean they last longer, plus with Bluetooth capabilities and music streaming services like Spotify and Amazon Prime Music, there’s now access to many more tunes, wherever you are.
Video cameras (1980s)
In the olden days, you needed a full videotape to record and a shoulder of iron to hold the camera steady.
Camcorders were massive, expensive and unwieldy. The quality of the footage wasn’t amazing back then either and it wasn’t until the year 2000 that high-definition would appear as an option.
Action cameras (now)
Video cameras are now available in all shapes and sizes, from powerful video-capable DSLRs, to pocket-sized action cameras.
Pop a GoPro on yourself and you can record anything, anywhere without even noticing. Video quality is now much more impressive and cameras are more affordable too. If you can’t afford one, then there’s always the option of recording with your smartphone instead.
Mobile phones (1973)
The first mobile phone would have looked cool when it arrived in 1973 but now it looks like an antiquated chunk of plastic with very little functionality compared with modern devices. Look at how far we’ve come now.
Mobile phones (now)
Smartphones are minuscule in size, strong and cram in the entire internet as well as camera and music player.
Mobile technology has come a long way over the years, thinner, smaller, lighter and more capable too. We’ve got touchscreens, fingerprint readers and even foldable screens. We really are lucky to live in the modern age. What does the future hold?
Computer RAM (1946)
This was a Williams Tube which was what early versions of computers used as RAM of sorts back in 1946.
Like the other original computer parts, it was enormous. Luckily computing technology has shrunk in size and increased incredibly in processing power over the years.
Computer RAM (now)
Memory modules are now smaller, more powerful and even packed with RGB lighting too.
Modern PCs can hold up to 128GB of RAM and upwards and even modern smartphones now have several GBs to help power them. Modern computing power is insane and would blow the minds of the original creators.
Television has been around for decades now, but the original television sets were huge. They were also more technology and housing than they actually were screen. Black and white images and only a handful of channels to watch, it’s amazing it even caught on.
TVs now are not only 4K (and more) in resolution, they also cram in apps to stream over the internet and consume little power but are also thin enough to almost vanish when side-on.
Modern televisions are ultra-thin and feature incredible screen tech like Micro LEDs that mean they can be gargantuan and stunning too. So TVs might be the one piece of technology here that’s actually got bigger rather than smaller, but in a good way.
When laptops first hit the market in the 90s, they were essentially not much more than fancy word processors. Chunky, heavy beasts that had minimal processing power but were no doubt a feat of engineering for the era.
Laptops like this Apple PowerBook would be the forerunner to the modern notebook and would pave the way for convenient, portable computing of the future.
It seems like modern brands are constantly competing to see who can craft the thinnest, lightest and most compact laptops while also using high-end specs to give you plenty of processing power.
You can do plenty with these laptops too, from gaming to photo editing, video processing and more, all on the go. Some even come with hours and hours of battery life. A far cry from the days of old.
Portable music players (1980s)
Mobile music was a big thing in the eighties if you had spare batteries and tapes.
The Sony Walkman was the audio gadget of the era, a portable and pocketable marvel for carrying your own tunes with you wherever you went. Though if your tape got chewed up it was a nightmare.
Portable music (2020)
Technology has come so far that dedicated portable music players are essentially obsolete unless you’re an audiophile of course.
Now you can carry your music on your phone and stream it over the web with ease. It’s never been easier to access tunes wherever you are in the world. Plus there’s no more fuss from chewed-up tapes or trying to fit chunky music players in your jeans.
The first computers (1946)
This was the first computer, EDSAC, made in England in 1946 when it did a basic calculation that took it until 1949. The original computers helped fight the Nazi war machine and also bring in the new era. Computing technology quickly progressed and shrunk as time went on.
Modern computers (now)
Computers are now in almost every home, they’re more powerful than all of NASA a few decades ago and are capable of all sorts of computing magic too. Add in some RGB lighting and snazzy designs and you’ve got something incredibly useful that can sit on your desk too.
This is the ELKA 22 calculator from 1965 with digital display. It might not seem like much now, but the original calculators were a modern marvel of the time. Certainly made life easier for people all over the world anyway.
If you want a calculator separate from the free one built into your phone you could go for a super slim see-through model like this. They’re considerably more compact and portable too.
Computer monitors (1970s)
Old CRT monitors were heavy and prone to problems. Like the original televisions, the first computer monitors were more bezel and technology than they were screen. The pixel count was low and they weren’t likely to blow your socks off.
Monitors have come a long way. Like televisions, monitors have got thinner, lighter and more visually capable. Modern monitors also come in all shapes, sizes and setups.
You can get stunning 8K panels, ultrawide dream screens or high-refresh monitors for serious gaming prowess. There are plenty of options and none of them are the chunky monsters of the past.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (1900s)
The concept of unmanned aerial vehicles actually originates back to 1849. With the idea of UAVs being heavily invested in during the early years of the 1900s onwards.
Now it’s fairly standard for gargantuan remotely controlled craft of all shapes and sizes to fill the sky providing aerial intel and firepower to military forces on operations in a particular country.
Miniature drones (now)
The advances in military UAV and drone technology eventually lead to ever-shrinking controllable air-bound craft. That then saw not only drones becoming more readily available but saw them move into commercial and consumer markets.
Eventually, tiny drones like the DJI Mavic Mini began appearing and elsewhere researchers were working on minuscule chips allowing tiny drones to fly autonomously. We can only wonder what sort of tech the military is working with on this kind of scale.