Our staff's favorite gadget gifts of yore

CNET's Holiday Gift Guide launched this week, and we thought it would be fun to ask people around the office what were their favorite gadget gifts growing up.

Jason Parker
Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.
Jason Parker
1 of 9 Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Baby G watch

CNET's Holiday Gift Guide launched this week. We thought it would be fun to ask people around the office what their favorite gadget gifts were growing up.

My first and most-beloved tech gift was the OG Smart Watch -- a baby blue Baby G watch. It was a birthday gift in '98 or '99. The watch only had  5 buttons, but a ton of features. You could see different time zones, it had a stop watch and it stored contact information and phone numbers. It also had cool pixelated animations like a skate boarder and running man if I recall correctly. And to top it all off it was also water resistant. I loved that watch.

--Liza Babcock - product manager

2 of 9 Gamespot

Atari 5200

Receiving the Atari 5200 was memorable for me. It was the year the truth about Santa Clause was confirmed for me, and it was my family's first gaming system.

Here's how we figured out the whole Santa Clause thing: My brother and I saw the Atari 5200 stashed under my parent's bed leading up to Christmas, but then it magically was under the Christmas tree with the note card "from Santa."

So maybe it robbed me of the magic of Christmas, but it was still so much fun. The games we played on it were Pole Position, Super Breakout and Montezuma's Revenge. Pole Position was definitely my favorite!

--Wendy Dittamore - senior director, audience development

3 of 9 Gamespot

Sega Dreamcast

My Sega Dreamcast was an amazing gift from some good friends back when it came out. I was obsessed with the game Crazy Taxi (though also pretty terrible at it), and at the time it was only playable in arcades, or so I thought. When I opened the box to find out that not only was I getting this awesome console, but that it was bundled with Crazy Taxi? Yes, please. "Are you ready? Here we go!"

--Jeremy Toeman - vice president, products

4 of 9 Photo by Jon Chaikin/CNET

Northgate Model D 8088 PC

The IBM personal computer had been out for some years but was still uber expensive and, for me, the Amiga, Commodore and others of the ilk didn't seem "real" enough. Enter one of the best XT clones, the Northgate Model D 8088 personal computer. 

To me, this was a "real" PC. It had a "huge" 20MB hard drive, VGA color monitor, could run databases, word processors, Pagemaker (albeit with molasses-like, super slow rendering), and --most importantly -- run AOL and Compuserve via my blazing 1200 Baud modem. At the time, these online services greatly expanded the world from my bedroom chair. 

Mine was a hand-me-down from my brother-in-law who moved onto a 386, which I would fall heir to later. But that Northgate chugged on for many years along with the dot matrix printer clattering out pages of my record and book collection. Northgate finally went belly up, but one item of theirs lives on and is still coveted by touch typists and those in the know. The fabulous Northgate Omnikey keyboard, which I'm using right now to type this up.

--Jon Chaikin - senior manager, direct marketing & merchandising

5 of 9 Gamespot

Nintendo Entertainment System

For my third birthday, my mom got me an NES. Not this new classic version linked here, but the original. I'm sure she really kind of bought it for herself, but it didn't matter. I became fast friends with my console, and the great wide world of video games revealed itself to me.

Mario. Castlevania. Ghosts and Goblins. Maniac Mansion. I remember watching my mom play post-game adventures in Spelunker (where the keys were invisible) with awe -- someday, I promised myself, I'd be as good of a gamer as she was. I was a weird kid, which translated in real life to not having many human friends, so my NES was my BFF for years and years.

It's incredible to think how formative that little box was on me; I've loved games ever since, and I've dedicated huge chunks of my life to enjoying them. But there's nothing quite like the love you feel as a kid, when something or someone transports you away from the frustrating realities of life to a place like the Mushroom Kingdom. Thanks, mom.

--Ashley Esqueda - senior editor

6 of 9 Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Mr. Merlin

Made by Parker Brothers, Mr. Merlin was an electronic toy that let me play such sophisticated games as Tic-Tac-Toe and Blackjack 13. It was perfect to have on long boring car rides with my parents across the state to visit relatives. It also taught me to play piercingly loud beeping versions of such songs as Beethoven's 9th, "Clementine," "Jingle Bells," and "Shenandoah." But the best part of this old-school gadget was something called Music Machine that allowed you to compose and record your own music -- making it one of the earliest, albeit primitive, electronic synthesizers.

--Bonnie Burton - contributing editor

7 of 9 Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

Kindle Paperwhite

It has to be the Kindle Paperwhite. My husband got it for me a few years ago. It has proven to be the perfect companion for a long trip. I can load it at the airport with not one but two or even three of my preferred reading material for long flights: mystery novels. Since the screen can be lit, I can use it even if the people next to me on the plane want to sleep. And yes, I love bringing it to the beach for some relaxing reading (although I would prefer it to be water resistant). 

Also, since it's only good for reading, I don't get distracted with emails, notifications or the internet looming in the background. I am convinced that the convenience with which I can buy e-books from the Kindle store or just grab them at the library has made me read much more than before I had it. I learn new words all the time, tapping on them when I don't know their meaning and waiting for the dictionary definition to appear.

I love it so much that last year when it inexplicably broke on me, I got another one without even thinking about it.

--Patricia Puentes - editor, CNET en Español

8 of 9 Photo by Chris Robertson/CNET

Magnavox D8330 boombox

I got this baby for Christmas when I was 14. It was possibly the best gift my parents ever gave me (other than life of course). It featured high-speed dubbing, continuous play (through both tape decks), left/right volume control, an equalizer and a really lame strap. 

No, I did not carry it everywhere I went Radio Raheem style, blowing everybody out. I was way too shy for that. But I did proceed to dub all of my friends tapes greatly expanding my library of obscure and often unlistenable punk rock and hardcore. You could also hear the chipmunk like versions of the songs using the high speed dubbing which was very entertaining. The five-speaker system was loud as hell. I can't really speak to the audio quality as I was often playing third generation or more dubs that sounded like mud.

--Chris Robertson - director of product

9 of 9 Wikipedia


Intellivision was my first video game console, because it had "better graphics" than the Atari 2600. Just typing that makes me laugh. Maybe they were slightly less blocky, but that's not saying much. Looking up the game Astrosmash on YouTube, I can't believe I would spend hours playing these games. But I was a kid and it was the '80s. I didn't know any better.

Each game came with these cool little overlays you could slide in over the number pad on the controller. So when playing baseball, for example, there was an overlay that had a top-down picture of the field, and you pressed the actual players on the pad to throw them the ball.

I was amazing at that game. My step father would begrudgingly play with me, but he must have known what the outcome would be. A lot of the time, I would just catch his hits with my pitcher and immediately throw him out at first. Thanks for putting up with me, stepdad!

--Jason Parker - senior editor

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