The history of wearable technology

wearable-tech-infographic c ropYou can’t ignore the recent surge of wearable tech. Even though some of it is no more secure than regular ol’ analogue timepieces, the fact of the matter is that wearable computers are here for the long term. How did we ever do without wearable tech?

You may be surprised to discover that it has been with us for a lot longer than you might realise.

We have watched Google Glass try to gain traction but be treated with, let say, healthy sceptism. But, way before Google Glass (and the ‘Glasshole’) there was the eyeglass, one of the first wearables designed to enhance a person’s experience of the world, allowing for clarity and enhanced perception.

It may be difficult to believe but throughout much of their history glasses have been stigmatised, with wearers historically being viewed as pious, bookish, and even weak. This stereotype comes from their widespread mediaeval use amongst monks and the clergy; at the time, one of the only groups who could read. Now you get, speaking as a spectacle wearer for over 30 years, annoying hipsters wearing frames with plain lenses in an attempt to rock the geek chic. Let me swap their 20/20 vision for my acute shortsightedness any day!

But I digress.

It’s not only the look of some wearable tech that might put some early adopters off. It’s also that the first iteration isn’t always the sleekest. Remember the digital watches of the 70s? Howabout the first mobile phones? How about one the first portable timekeeping devices, the Nuremburg egg? A far cry from today’s discrete and highly accurate watches, Nuremburg Eggs were large, worn around the neck, and were fairly inaccurate. However, rather than being simply utilitarian pieces, they were status symbols, being incredibly expensive to make and purchase. For this reason, they were worn only by the rich, powerful, and influential.

This has been much the case with most wearable tech throughout history. With many new gadgets being expensive to produce and limited in supply, only the most well off and influential will have had any chance of acquiring them. Whilst this is still true to an extent – simply look at the £8000 solid gold Apple Watch – in more recent years wearable tech has become increasingly more accessible. Whilst the “internet of things” might be a little way off, just about anyone can purchase and put a fitness tracker to good use.

Take a look at this rather swanky infographic produced by the folks over at Stay Sourced to see what could have been, and what might be.