Coming in dead last is the expensive hunk of plastic that every 2010s-era college freshman had to purchase to help track attendance and let students interact in a lecture without any hand-raising. The iClicker was invented at the University of Illinois in 2000 before spreading to the rest of the country like an invasive bug after Macmillan bought it five years later. The device cost anywhere from $40–$60, and while there were probably other uses for this gadget, it was mainly a tool for Intro to Geology professors to confirm you attended their 400-person lecture.
9. Hoodies with earbuds in them
Finally, a way to listen to Seether during AP US History. Nothing looked more natural or felt more comfortable than having your hoodie strings shoved into your ears. These sweatshirts were usually sold at Kohl’s, and always seemed to be grandma’s favorite gift.
The first interactive whiteboard was introduced in 1991 by a Canadian company called SMART Technologies. For years, it dominated the digital whiteboard market and raised $660 million for an IPO in July 2010. But it struggled through a number of legal and managerial fumbles—as well as Google and Microsoft introducing their own high-tech boards—and in 2016 it was bought by Tawainese tech company Foxconn for $200 million. The main reason we’re ranking these so low? They are $2,500–$7,000 boards that can be absolutely destroyed by an Expo marker.
7. Electric pencil sharpener
The Minneapolis company Farnham Printing & Stationery Co. first manufactured the commercial electric pencil sharpener 1917, but they weren’t super common until the 1940s. And while a hand crank sharpener attached to your classroom’s wall might give off a hip, retro vibe, you could hit class clown status immediately by playing the national anthem on the electric sharpener.
6. Mechanical pencil
Two British inventors, Sampson Mordan and John Isaac Hawkins, with the dream of a writing utensil you never had to dip or sharpen, filed the first patent for a refillable mechanical pencil in 1822. This invention changed the game for anyone who loves to write in pencil but is craving the added danger of handling extremely fragile graphite sticks.
5. The Oregon Trail
A lot of games graced elementary school computer labs, but only one could give you dysentery. The Oregon Trail has sold over 65 million copies and was a ~pioneer~ in the educational video game industry. It was dreamed up in 1971 by three student teachers in Minnesota who wanted to get kids hyped about mid-19th century Western expansion. After creating a graphicless, bare-bones computer game on their school’s monitorless teletype, they shared the source code with other schools and companies, where it eventually got updated into the iconic game it is today.
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None of the original three creators made any money from the blockbuster, but ringleader Don Rawitsch told Slate last year, “[To get] rich off this would have been nice, but not as important as having donated something to the world of education.”
The original program, called Presenter, was created by Robert Gaskins and Dennis Austin for the software company Forethought. While PowerPoint was first released in 1987 for the Apple Macintosh computer, it didn’t last long in Silicon Valley because later that year Microsoft scooped it up for $14 million. Now, its power users are high school sophomores who abuse its spinning slide transitions for presentations about the Cold War.
There wasn’t a better computer to play Super DX Ball we. The iMac G3 launched in 1998 in Bondi blue. The big-butted guys were also a huge deal for Apple, as they represented the first big launch after Steve Jobs returned to the company (after briefly getting booted from the CEO role from 1985–1997), and heralded the sweeping innovations and eye- grabbing designs Apple is known for today.
2. TI-89 graphing calculator
There was nothing funnier than typing inappropriate words on these. Don’t really know what else they were used for, tbh.
And after four decades of ruling classrooms, 3M’s hulking machines were sadly dethroned by more high-tech projectors in the mid-2000s. Nothing can match the elaborate production these required: the fine-tip wet erase markers, the transparencies, and of course, the giant “On” and “Off” button your teacher would accidentally hit with their elbow while working through a math problem.