We too are gadget geeks. Next to our Designer vinyl, we can't live without our digital cameras and video iPods. We're as giddy as girls at a bridal shower (for a pregnant lady, so there are baby presents too!) about the long awaited, nearly mythic, Apple iPhone. Can it be that it's finally here? Well as pop-culture buffs, clearly we can scoff in the direction of those who are quick to drop the $600 and think of someone in history that had something better... right? We can say in an uninterested voice, "Wake me when we finally get a..." what is better than an iPhone?
Dick Tracy's Two-Way wrist watch Back in the early days of comics, this was the gadget. This was the 1930's, so portable communication that was both convenient and stylish was more important than knowing how to properly use italics. Wasn't alcohol still illegal at this point? That sucks. [Ed note: well put] Anyway, you can't look at pictures or store MP3s on this thing, so the winner is clearly the iPhone.
Honestly talking into a watch doesn't get any cooler until
K.I.T.T. comm-watch (Knight Rider) It's not that he's talking into a watch that's cool, it's what he's talking to. Michael Knight is talking to a talking car. That's bad ass. The nicest thing about this communication device is that K.I.T.T. was always listening. If the Hoff shouted out "You get that K.I.T.T.?" you'd always hear a "Sure thing Michael." Talk about reliability. Now KITT (I was getting tired of typing all those periods) can search the internet and play songs for you... conceptually over the watch's speaker, so it's got the edge on the iPhone there, but a phone that's always listening to you? Too creepy. Winner: iPhone.
Well if it's all about who you're talking to, let's go straight to the
Arc of the Covenant (Raiders of the Lost Arc) "It's a transmitter, a radio for speaking to God." Ok, Jobs... top that. Wouldn't a radio to speak to Jobs be the next best thing? Anyway, the Arc is nice and shiny and all, but it takes at least two people to carry it, and there's a great chance your face will melt off if you try to use it. Sounds nicer than trying to jump out of my current phone contract to get onto this one. Winner: iPhone.
Talk about phones I'd rather not use, I gotta mention the
Big Brother screens (1984) Apple is no stranger to the Big Brother concept. Their 1984 inspired Mac ad changed the world of advertising. Did you know they only paid to play that commercial once? It's true. Anyway, Big Brother was everywhere, but you paid for it with your freedom. AT&T looks kinda wimpy right now, eh? Seriously though, people were too scared to even try to have sex with Big Brother around, so clearly the winner is iPhone
Eye of Thundera (Thundercats) Not only did this provide sight beyond sight (which we have to assume includes Cheetara naked), it could call all of the Thundercats at once, to come to your aide in battle. Can the iPhone call a whole team at once? No. Can the iPhone provide Cheetara naked? Not unless it's on YouTube... so is this a valid contender? It is until you try to take the Eye of Thundera on an airplane. I do have a question... mid flight... cellphones must be off, but iPods (and other portable electronic devices) are allowed to be on... so there must be a way to just turn off just the phone function right? Anway, just about an entire race of Thundercats had to go extinct before LionO got the Sword. Winner: iPhone.
Videophones (Aliens) They seemed to be pretty easy to use, simply swipe their business card, and voila, you're connected. But as our buddy Iron-Cow points out, "nothing like having one at the foot of Paul Reiser's bed?!? ack." Actually, I sometimes wish we were the type of web site that could feature a picture of the Videophone mishap in the movie Demolition Man... sorry, got off topic Winner: iPhone.
It's nice that the iPhone doubles as a media player. Perhaps Apple got the idea of duality from the
Shoe Phone (Get Smart) Maxwell Smart was the spy's spy when it came to solving the case with relative ease. Where would he be without his gadgets? His most infamous was his shoe phone. He could flip it off in a second and be talking to the Chief. I am now waiting for Apple to update the Cone of Silence. Unfortunately, if the nation all had shoe phones, it would be a much smellier place. Winner: iPhone.
Classic 1960's TV shows lead me to Commissioner Gordon's Batphone (Batman) Only the coolest phone ever. It goes straight to the lair of a millionaire playboy, and it looks handsome on your desk. Speaking of millionaires, who wants to make a million bucks? Make a web service that will call customer's new iPhones every 35 minutes so they can pull it out and look hip. Seriously. But if I have to lift a heavy cake cover all day, I better get me some goddam cake. That's all I'm saying. Winner: iPhone. Make your own working Batphone here!
Other classic TV shows from the 1960's include the
Flip Communicator (Star Trek: The Original Series) The flip device later inspired an entire generation of real-life cell phones. Pretty impressive (where are our projected holograms from Star Wars?) Do you get pictures or MP3s? Hardly. Also, props to Uhura for making the Bluetooth ear piece sporty 40 years in advance. Winner: iPhone.
A super upgrade to the flip communicator was the
Badge Comm (Star Trek: The Next Generation) Simply tap it once (I would love to make a joke here...) and say the name of the person you're requesting (like Ashley Judd, right). Convenient in that you don't need any type of address book or wireless headset to enjoy it while driving. Downside: I believe you have to be active in Starfleet to actually get one. The only thing the Apple-addicts have on this front is that they already have the dorky outfits. Winner: iPhone.
Speaking of TV Shows of the supposed future, it would be awesome if someone modded their iPhone to sound like
Ziggy (Quantum Leap) Good ole' Al. Ziggy was actually a massive super computer that could compute complex probabilities based on actions performed in the past (by Sam). Al communicated with Ziggy through a handheld device that looked like a bag of Gummi Bears left out in the sun. So this had the whole "surf the net from anywhere" capability, but didn't look nearly as "sexy" as the iPhone. Winner: iPhone.
Mork Calling Orson (Mork & Mindy) All Mork had to do was close his eyes and concentrate real hard to communicate with his home planet. It's been a long time... did he have to change into his jumpsuit first, or was that just a visual reminder that Robin Williams was not a human? [Ed note: Who's the marketing wizard that came up with that one?!] I enjoy the ease of use here, but it seems like you couldn't do anything else while answering the phone. Paris Hilton would not approve. Winner: iPhone.
Speaking of calling home planets...
The Communicator (E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial) Made up of a Speak-N-Spell, a coat hanger, a fork, a portable turntable, a sawbladeWhoa, whoa, whoa. I don't care how good the minutes plan is, it has a freaking table saw blade as part of the construction. Also, didn't it have to be tethered to a bunch of trees on a windy night for it to work? So let me get this straight, it can maim you, but it doesn't fit in your pocket? No thank you. Winner: iPhone.
Hedwig (Harry Potter) At first you'd think an iPhone would clearly win over something you have to feed and board, and it poops. But, the reliability here is impressive. Then again, discreetly text messaging a buddy to tell him you're stuck in a meeting is not as easy. Oh, and if I don't stop trying to get in touch with Hermoine, her owl will claw my eyes out. Winner: iPhone.
Crystals of carnal knowledge?
Crystals of Knowledge (Superman) This one is a big stretch because Superman isn't really conversing with anyone, even though it's Marlon Brando's head larger-than-life (is there any other way?), it's just a recording. If anyone out-designs Apple... it's these clear crystal tubes that you drop crystals into. Beautiful, but ultimately not functional enough. I'll also mention Jimmy Olson's watch that he used to reach Superman in the comics, but that was a one-way street. Winner: iPhone.
A really hard contender is the
Turtle Comm (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon) Where they got the resources or technology to pull this one off, I'll never know...but you get a video of the mutant you're speaking with, and it folds up and travels easy. Stylish, yet practical, it even worked underground. So it doesn't do Internet or MP3s, it's pretty helpful. The biggest hang up is getting the FCC to approve something in which 90% of its customer base suffers from a life-altering mutation. Winner: iPhone.
Now I think we can give Apple a run for their money
Circuits of Time (Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure) This is tough, not only is Bill & Ted one of my favorite movies, but this phone could transport you through time. It doesn't have to be "portable" if it's porting you. It appears to have ample power supply, you can fix it with bubble gum and pudding tins, an easy-to-use guide, and, who needs MP3s when you can just witness the artist live in person? With great power comes great responsibility. Bill and Ted were able to improve their lives (and that of civilization) with the booth, but the risk of destroying your very existance (a la Back to the Future) is really freakin' scary. Did you see any of the freaks waiting in line for the iPhone on Friday? I wouldn't let any of them have time travel capability. Winner: iPhone.
So now it seems evident. The Apple iPhone is simply the best form of communication that our society has ever dreamt up. (Let's get that quote on Apple.com eh?) It doesn't make that $600 (plus service contracts, tax, and two year commitment) seem so bad now does it?
In conducting our research, several other communication gadgets came up that were so awful, they didn't even stand a chance against the iPhone.
Candy Gram for Mongo
Tiny phone from "Jeffrey's" SNL skit
Whale-seeking probe from Star Trek IV
If you would like to add to, or debate any of our examples, drop us a line in our message board thread. If you would like more news items about the Apple iPhone, check out the coverage on Gizmodo.com