From cocktail pumps to pagers: Ye olde tech gifts of yore

Judging by CBC's archives, gifting electronic consumer goods has long been popular, starting from when people first figured out how to operate a battery-powered motor.

Electronic back scratchers, Palm Pilots and Fingerlings top the list of tech gifts over the years

Fingerlings, Fitbits, wireless headphones: a plethora of choice makes giving the gift of gadgets seem like a no-brainer these days. 

According to the Consumer Technology Association, 68 per cent of adults plan to give tech gifts this holiday season.

But judging by CBC's archives, gifting electronic consumer goods has long been popular, starting from when people first figured out how to operate a battery-powered motor. 

Take this video from 1967, for instance.

That year, the hot gadgets to "pamper your man" included electric cocktail shakers, back scratchers and shoe polishers — all of them battery operated. 

Cocktail shakers, back scratchers and more. 1:52

Moving forward in time to 1985, who could forget that timeless gift — the solar-powered calculator? Slim enough to fit in your shirt pocket, but probably not very useful in a dark restaurant.

Or how about the mind-binding technology of an audio recorder used with a tiny cassette? Or a video recorder that could fit in the palm on your hand?

Gifts for electronic consumers in 1985 included video recorders and calculators. 2:49

By 1996, consumer electronics were taking off. 

Computers the size of a large anvil were now available, with about one tenth the capability of today's smartphones. 

But let's not forget the Palm Pilot, or the beginning of digital cameras. And, of course, portable compact disc players — now (mostly) skip-free.

Gadgets in 1996 include computers, cameras and electronic storage. 4:19

Coming up now to our current millennium, tech gadgets in 2000 start to take on a more familiar look. 

One popular device that year was the Blackberry pager, complete with rudimentary internet access — and a holster.

The device was popular enough for Canada Now tech columnist Tod Maffin to note how many business people were messaging each other during meetings.

"God help us if that's where the world is going in business," he told the now-defunct show's then-host, Ian Hanomansing. 

Hot electronic gifts in 200 included pagers and tiny cellphones. 2:52

This Christmas, some of the top tech gifts include small electronic toys that wrap around your fingers, drones and home assistants like Amazon's Nest. 

Fifty years from now, when we're all projecting movies from devices embedded in our brains, how quaint it will all seem. 

About the Author

Maryse Zeidler


Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at