Electronic Gadgets

"Gadget" is a catch-all word these days for nifty devices. We've covered the basics, such as clocks & watches, plus delved into the world of present-day and future high-tech gadgets, such as digital jewelry and restaurant pagers.

Topics to Explore


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How PDAs Work

Before the iPhone and other smartphones, there were PDAs such as the Palm Pilot. Learn about the PDA technology that paved the way to big-time computing power on the go.

How Fax Machines Work

Learn all about fax machines and how they transmit information. Choose which desktop fax is best for you with additional reviews and buying guides.

How Facial Recognition Systems Work

How unique is your face? Learn how facial recognition systems can pick a face out of a crowd, extract it from the rest of the scene and compare it to a database of stored images.

How Stun Guns Work

Like the usual setting on the phasers used by Kirk and Spock, stun guns fall into the category of non-lethal weaponry. See how they incapacitate without causing permanent damage.

How Digital Picture Frames Work

A digital picture frame is the perfect gadget for sharing digital photos with the computerless. Learn how these Internet appliances keep the technophobe in the loop.

How Metal Detectors Work

Metal detectors can do more than just detect metal -- they can tell you the kind of metal it is and even how deep it's buried. Learn how these units pinpoint and identify their target.

How Night Vision Works

Most of us instinctively think of darkness as a cloak, a way to hide. So, how can you see someone standing more than 200 yards away on a pitch-black night?

How Digital Jewelry Will Work

In the next wave of mobile computing devices, our jewelry might double as our cell phones, PDAs and GPS receivers. Get a look at these new microdevices.

How Universal Translators Will Work

A wearable device that will translate English into a dozen languages will be introduced later this year. See how it will work!

How Surge Protectors Work

When you put together a computer system, one piece of standard equipment you'll probably use is a surge protector. They safeguard your computer and electronic devices from power surges in your electrical system.

How Holographic Environments Will Work

Holographic environments make the virtual world truly tangible. Find out about the development of real-life, interactive "holodecks"!

How Breathalyzers Work

Drivers who can pass roadside sobriety tests -- by touching their noses or walking a straight line -- may still be over the legal limit for blood alcohol and be a hazard on the road. Breathalyzers help police find out who's really driving drunk.

How Electronic Ink Works

Electronic ink promises to be an amazing, breakthrough technology that we will all be using in five years -- it will completely change books and newspapers. Learn all about it.

How do radio-controlled clocks set themselves to the atomic clock in Colorado?

Many radio-controlled clocks automatically sync their time with the atomic clock in Boulder, Colorado. How do they do it?

What causes that howling sound in PA systems?

We all know it, and it always makes us cringe -- it's that terrible howling of a PA system. Everyone calls it feedback -- what's "feedback"?

How does a self-winding watch work?

Curious about how a self-winding watch works? Take a look at the mechanics inside a self-winding watch.

How does an Indiglo watch work?

Indiglo watches convert electricity directly into light through the very efficient process of electroluminescence. Find out how it works!

10 Types of Microphones

Like most other electronics, microphones have evolved over time. The most modern versions convert waves of air pressure into electric signals, but different models do it in very different ways.

How UPC Bar Codes Work

Nearly every item that you purchase from a grocery store, department store or mass merchandiser has a UPC bar code on it somewhere. Ever wondered why?

How Tape Recorders Work

Magnetic recording is the backbone of the electronics revolution. Learn how this analog technology lets you store and erase data!

How Pendulum Clocks Work

Have you ever looked inside a grandfather clock or a small mechanical alarm clock? Pendulum clocks are fairly complicated, but they rely on simple forces. Find out how pendulum clocks keep accurate time.

How Digital Clocks Work

When you need to know the time, there's about a 50-50 chance you'll turn to some LEDs to find out. Have you ever wondered what goes on inside a digital clock or watch?

Inside a Wind-up Alarm Clock

Wind-up alarm clocks have been around a long time, but they are still fun to explore. See what's inside this classic ticker!

How Quartz Watches Work

Quartz watches actually use quartz crystals to keep time. How can they be so accurate? Find out why quartz makes such a great time keeper.