Culture

Year in review: Toys for big kids

The once high-flying world of consumer gadgets went into a tailspin this year as the economy tanked. But that doesn't mean that 2001 was without its share of must-haves and hype.

 



Toys for
big kids

This year's hottest gadgets and biggest flops
The once high-flying world of consumer gadgets went into a tailspin this year as the economy tanked. But that doesn't mean that 2001 was without its share of must-haves and hype.

At the start of the year, a curiosity code-named Ginger sparked the imagination of techies. Inventor Dean Kamen had supposedly created a machine that would change the world. Ginger was finally unveiled in early December. It is what so many had predicted: a scooter. But that doesn't mean it isn't a kick.

Meanwhile, game fanatics had their share of excitement this year as they waited for Microsoft's Xbox to make its debut in November. Holiday sales are still heavily favoring the year-old Sony PlayStation 2, which means the success of Microsoft's first major attempt at consumer hardware is still a big question mark.

Flat-panel monitors, digital cameras and digital-audio players were among the devices that consumers decided were worth a try this year.

By contrast, the high-octane growth of handhelds sputtered. The resulting inventory glut led to a brutal price war that stung both Palm and Handspring. Meanwhile, Microsoft continued its attempts to elbow its way into the handheld market by launching the Pocket PC 2002 operating system.

The sob story of the year belongs to Web-surfing appliances. The dumbed-down PC-like devices never found their niche, and their makers failed to coax consumers into buying a Net appliance when they could get a PC for a few more bucks.

Last but not least, DVD recording began capturing the imagination of home-movie makers. But warring factions in the market ensure that it will be some time before one format becomes the standard.



Click here to Play
 See "Ginger" go
Melissa Francis, correspondent, CNET
December 3, 2001

 Apple's little iPod packs a big punch
James Hilliard, CNET Radio


Not your ordinary scooter
Code-named Ginger, the "revolutionary" device from inventor Dean Kamen turns out to be a super scooter. Will the Segway Human Transporter really change the world?
December 20, 2001
With Xbox, Microsoft plays for keeps
Gaming fanatics spent the year wondering how Microsoft's Xbox would match up to Sony's PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Game Cube. They finally got their chance to find out firsthand in November.
November 15 ,2001
Apple's iPod: Only time will tell
Digital-audio players were strong sellers this year. Among the most hyped was Apple Computer's iPod, a sleek device that can hold 1,000 songs but costs half as much as some iMac's.
October 23, 2001
Making a mark on flash
Flash memory is one of the behind-the-scenes costs for digital cameras and digital-audio players. But flash prices dipped this year and new competitors, such as Secure Digital, elbowed their way onto the scene.
July 13, 2001
Flat-panel iMacs on the way?
As component prices drop, flat-panel displays grew in popularity as the hippest way to save desk space. Late in the year, it surfaced that Apple may transform its entire iMac line by going flat.
December 4, 2001
Handheld makers try to end nosedive
Sales of handheld computers stunk in 2001. Market leader Palm's sales and fortunes went south, forcing the company to cut prices so many times it was hard to keep up.
August 20, 2001
Pocket PC 2002 debuts
While Palm tried to scrape itself off the floor, Microsoft continued its attempts to scratch its way into the market for handheld operating systems.
October 4, 2001
Tablet PCs, handhelds ready to rumble?
The promise that tablet PCs--full-fledged computers built into devices that look like an Etch-A-Sketch--will be the next big thing failed to come to fruition.
November 16, 2001
Death of yet another Net appliance
This year spelled R.I.P. for Net appliances. Gateway followed Netpliance, 3Com and Sony in dumping the low-cost machines dedicated solely to surfing the Net.
October 24, 2001
A bounty of DVD-recording PCs
DVD recorders were the hottest addition to high-end computers this year. But without one set format, will consumers end up with this decade's VHS or Beta?
November 26, 2001
 

• Hackers, programmers "improve" Xbox
• Nintendo readies console counterpunch
• Cars roll into digital future
• Compaq debuts flash-free audio players
• Handspring unveils wireless triplets
 
• Handheld demand not black and white
• Digital cameras zoom in on accessories
• Digital-camera makers change focus
• TiVo: Bound to be bundled?
• Titanium: A test of Apple's mettle