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April 30, 2008updated 19 Aug 2016 10:07am

The 20 most useless British gadgets of all time?

A new survey has identified "Britain's Most Useless Gadgets", and there are a fair few surprises -- not least that some of the entries aren't British, or, to my mind, useless.Anyway, how can it be a definitive list if it doesn't include Sir Clive

By Jason Stamper Blog

A new survey has identified “Britain’s Most Useless Gadgets”, and there are a fair few surprises — not least that some of the entries aren’t British, or, to my mind, useless.

Anyway, how can it be a definitive list if it doesn’t include Sir Clive Sinclair’s electric vehicle of the 80s, the C5? The C5 had a range between charges as low as six miles, and you had to pedal to get it to go up hills. Little wonder Sinclair Vehicles ended up bankrupt.

Maybe an electric vehicle is not considered a gadget though? How are you defining gadget? Wikipedia says, “A gadget is a device that has a useful specific practical purpose and function. Gadgets tend to be more unusual or cleverly designed than normal technology. In some circles the distinction between a gadget and a gizmo is that a gizmo has moving parts, whereas a gadget need not have them.” Ah, so the C5 is more a gizmo than a gadget.

Surprisingly, there weren’t many products that are technology or IT-related. The highest ranking techno-gadget, indeed, is the Sony MiniDisc player, ranked as the fourteenth most useless gadget. I must say I was a bit thrown by that one, too.

First off, it’s not a British product yet the survey says it sought to find “Britain’s Most Useless Gadgets”, and secondly, I can’t quite see why it is such a useless product.

It may not be easy to buy the latest albums on MiniDisc, it’s true, and you could argue the technology has been made obsolete by the iPod and its ilk. But the fourteenth most useless gadget? More useless, according to the survey, than egg slicers, electric tin openers and towel warmers?

I might have to start a MiniDisc supporters club in protest, although I would feel something of a fraud as I confess I have never been the proud owner of a MiniDisc (though if I had, I would have been very, very proud, and not kept thinking what a useless gadget it was, honest).

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Besides, a MiniDisc player has moving parts, so doesn’t that make it a gizmo, and not a gadget?

Anyway, what was the most useless gadget according to the survey?…

…The survey of 4,500 Brits commissioned by product review site, found the electric nail file is the most pointless gadget of all time. Having never actually seen an electric nail file myself, this seemed quite an obscure choice. I can empathise: an electric nail file does sound pretty unnecessary. But hey, if it saves you time filing your nails, and increases your carbon footprint all at the same time, what’s not to like?

Other surprises on the list include the SodaStream. OK, so I agree that the stuff that comes out of a SodaStream (yes, I did once own one, or rather, I occupied a residence in which a SodaStream was owned) rarely tasted like the ‘soda’ it was meant to mimic. It didn’t matter whether you were aiming for cola, lemonade or soda water, what you get is sugary water that bubbles slightly for approximately 17 seconds and looks like rust. Then it goes flat, leaving you with flat sugary rust-coloured water.

But, on the other hand, anything invented in 1903 (by Guy Gilbey, according to Wikipedia) that is still being bought today (visit if you don’t believe me) can’t be all that bad.

Anyway, why should you outsource your fizzy drinks manufacture to Coca Cola or Pepsi when you can make them yourself at home? In fact, come to think of it, why not make your own clothes too, and fashion your own furniture from old crates instead of going to Ikea? Think of how much time you would save, no longer having to decipher those flat-pack-assembly instructions!

I digress. Here’s the rest of the gadgets on the list.


1. Electric nail files

2. Laser guided scissors

3. Electric candles

4. Soda stream

5. Foot spas

6. Fondue set

7. Hair crimpers

8. Egg boiler

9. Electric fluff remover

10. Electric carving knife

11. Trouser press

12. Face steamers

13. Teas made

14. Mini disk [not my spelling] player

15. Facial tanners

16. Egg slicer

17. Electric tin openers

18. Yoghurt makers

19. Towel warmer

20. Back scratcher

But what’s this? A quote on the press release from Chris Winstanley, spokesman for “Some gadgets are really useful but this poll proves that many of them end up being a waste of money. Reading genuine reviews can tell you if a gadget or gizmo is likely to be the best thing you ever bought or something that gets stuck in a cupboard and forgotten about within a week.”

Ha! “Gadget or gizmo”! Which is it Chris? Moving parts, or no moving parts? 20 most pointless gadgets, or 20 most pointless gadgets/gizmos?

I reckon I can come up with a far more pointless list myself, including both gadgets and gizmos, and being up-front about the gizmo inclusion, too. While I’m working on it, drop me a comment below if you can think of a pointless gadget or gizmo I should put on my list. And before you suggest it, my blog is neither a gadget nor a gizmo.

UPDATE: Chris got in touch (luckily he has a sense of humour) to say the survey was intended to find the most useless gadgets according to Brits, not the most useless British gadgets. So the MiniDisc is valid, even if it’s pretty useless (according to the survey). Thanks Chris.

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