Business Success with Quirky and Useful Gadgets

The history of gadgets spans as far back as humanity itself -- since hominids began creating tools to make their lives
easier. Humans have always created devices and appliances with specific practical purposes that were initially thought
of as novelties, due to unfamiliarity with and initial unwillingness to accept the technology. Today, industry has
augmented the creation of new gadgets, while certain retailers such as Brookstone specialize in popularizing them.

What famous inventors Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and Leonardo da Vinci, among others, had
in common was foresight. They understood that a lifetime spent playing with what others viewed as toys and senseless
gadgets would eventually result in indispensable technology. From just that small group, the groundwork for
electricity, communications, film, and flight was laid because of their gadgets, which obviously possessed more value
than novelty.

Perhaps one of the earliest, most well known gadgets created is the wheel, many millennia ago. Take a ride in your car
and witness how truly revolutionary such a gadget became and how much we now rely on it for transportation. A more
recent gadget, the Apple iPhone, appears to be the beginning stages of yet another gadget-turned-necessity that will
reshape communications. 

All gadgets were not created equal. In fact most inventions are built on the newest technology. The world of gadgets is
tiered; devices fall into one of four categories: mechanical, electronic, programmable, and application. Mechanical
gadgets include the wheel, as well as later developments such as the pulley, the bicycle, the sail boat, the
thermometer and the sort. Following the advent of electricity, gadgets were taken to a new level as inventors began to
discover different uses for the newly harnessed energy. The television, radio and quartz watch are examples of
electronic gadgets. After electricity, inventors toyed around with electronic information via microprocessor, beginning
an age of programmable devices such as computers, and later, MP3 players and the iPhone. Application gadgets include
iTunes, Microsoft Office and other computer applications that customize our experience with programmable devices.

Richard Thalheimer, founder and former CEO of gadget giant The Sharper Image, understands, maybe better than anyone,
that there's much more to gadgets than novelty.

"Certainly most people enjoy the novelty of a gadget that introduces new convenience to their lifestyle," he says.
"What they forget is that solving these everyday problems is not just entertainment, but some of these devices become
functional necessities. In my personal life, I rely on my iPhone, my garage door opener, my nose hair trimmer, my
electric toothbrush, and other gadgets that were once regarded as novel gadgets."

Both his former brainchild and his current venture sell quirky, useful and fun gadgets of all types, from mechanical to
programmable and application. He has seen some devices, such as the Ionic Breeze air purifier, spur sensational and
lasting trends based on a realization of utility value, while others collected dust on the shelves after their novelty
wore out. Specialty stores like The Sharper Image serve a greater purpose: spread new ideas, and give credit to the
Franklins and Edisons of the world.