The Strangest Electronic Gadgets & Gizmos

When an electrical installer sets up, modifies or repairs the wiring in the home, there is always the wonder of what the homeowner is going to plug in first.

Whilst there are some typical gadgets and electronics that are part of nearly every home, such as televisions, mobile phone chargers, ovens, washing machines and so on, there are other tools, electronic devices and gadgets that were far more unique and esoteric.

Here are some of the more unusual examples and what happened to them.

The Ottoman PC

At the peak of the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, a lot of companies saw the then-cumbersome and bulky personal computers of the era and tried to fit them in the strangest form factors possible.

Alongside the corner computer for L-shaped desks, the infamous 
Barbie and Hot Wheels computers and the computer shaped like a bright yellow pyramid, there was also a computer that was designed to be sat on.

Intel Ottoman PC was a fully functional footrest complete with various exceedingly “Y2K” padding designs that could be opened up to reveal a keyboard, trackpad and screen.

Designed as a “furniture PC”, the idea was that people could use their computer throughout the house rather than just in their computer room or study, and it came complete with a DVD drive, video camera and wireless keyboard.

However, there were a few problems with the design. First of all, once you flipped the seat up it could no longer function as an ottoman, but most importantly, whilst it had a wireless keyboard, it did not support the then-cutting edge technology of wireless internet.

Given that the main use for a computer in the living room would be the same reason you have a smartphone or laptop on the side of an armchair, not being able to access the internet without plugging it into a modem makes the machine an impressive piece of technology lacking a purpose.

Honeywell Kitchen Computer

In the 2020s, almost everyone uses a computer in the kitchen, whether it is just a smartphone or a dedicated home hub, as it helps make it easier to check recipes and put on music whilst waiting for food to cook.

In 1969, however, long before the expectation that a computer would even have a screen, the prospect of a computer in the kitchen was far stranger. Regardless, the Honeywell Kitchen Computer was the first computer ever offered for sale to home customers rather than businesses.

It was marketed at housewives with exceptionally patronising marketing, yet it cost nearly £60,000 adjusted for inflation, required a two-week course to learn how to program the machine and never provided any clarity as to what made it better than a pen-and-paper meal planner and a chopping board.

Nintendo R.O.B.

The Robotic Operating Buddy was designed to be an interactive toy that would detect signals coming from a television running a compatible video game and perform actions alongside it.

It was infamously bulky, slow, only worked with two games (Gyromite and Stack Up), and outside of being an in-joke has largely been forgotten.

However, this gadget was very useful for Nintendo, as after the video game industry was brought to its knees in 1983, Nintendo sold its NES game system as a toy with R.O.B. as the selling point, with a separate cheaper version of the console sold separately.

In reality, the expectation was that children would play with R.O.B. a little but then instead play Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt, two games included with the system, and enjoy them instead.

To say it worked was an understatement.