What counted as a gadget at different moments in time and why?
Names the means or technique of solving a problem rather than the tool employed. Can also be a non-material idea or concept, or a material demonstration of a scientific concept.
"I have found Americans out. They are gadget-minded. If they see a thing that needs to be done, they rig up a device, mechanical or mental, and make the thing do itself with no further bother. As a result, they have created a touch-the-button civilization, and I for one admire it. Why go on doing a thing in the same old way, over and over again, if we can make a robot do it for us, and do it better? My hat is of to the gadget mind."
–Joseph Newton, Living Every Day (1937)
An add-on, modification, accessory, or component to an existing tool, vehicle, or activity like photography or fishing. Especially a gauge that displays system status.
"Imagine sitting outside a Dreadnought and trying to stabilise it with external gadgets, in the shape of water-ailerons worked by a lever from the bridge and a series of relay mechanisms! Incidentally, “automatically” stable machines, consisting of aeroplanes of the present type stabilised by means of gadgets such as gyroscopes, pendula, and so forth, do not seem very promising."
–Aeroplane and Commercial Aviation News, 1914
A fully engineered, self-contained device or multitool, typically small, compact, utilitarian, and more often than not, inexpensive. Hand-powered and mechanical.
"To beat the torrid summer heat and utilize every available short-cut to better homemaking, the up-to-date housewife is keeping the simple, inexpensive gadgets shown on these pages high on the 'buying list.'"
–Jet, July 28, 1955
A miniature object with no apparent or particular function. Also, a fashionable accessory, such as a lapel pin, or a bag.
"Carole Lombard will have nary a jewel, never a wisp of ostrich, fringe or such clutter in her next film . . . you can’t miss allure if you follow Joan Crawford and sew all kinds and colors of silky hat flowers to a yard and a half of taffeta, and drape it over the shoulder to ward off sneezes when you step out to see how the moon is coming along . . . Smart gadget is Grace Moore’s cravat, a straight band of dress material, an inch and a half wide, tied in a flat knot, and used on both evening and sport things."
–Hollywood, July 1935