What James Bond did for Gadgets

Love the gadgets James Bond has?

Our Guest Blogger Candice Leigh Helfand is a recent graduate of Rutgers University, with a degree in journalism & Media Studies and is a serious movie buff.

In addition to writing for American Inventor Spot, she also writes for the website of the Contemporary A cappella Society of America. In her free time, Candice enjoy singing, performing in community theater and writing on her blog (http://www.xanga.com/jersey_shocker).

Here's her article discussing James Bond's gadgets for readers of AmericanInventorSpot.com. * * * * *

James BondJames Bond Almost everyone knows what the number 007 represents. That would be James Bond's spy identification number, for those who may not know. Even if you don't know much about the International Man of Mystery, most can at least acknowledge the existence of the many movies based on said character.

And those spawned films were filled with gadgets and gizmos that would become the wish and dream of every male (and to be honest, most females) ever to see the films. (See Wikipedia.)

As time marches on, some of these inventions are becoming more than just dreams. If you look closely enough at some of the inventions the phone companies, computer corporations, and even the military are churning out, you can see that James Bond's loyal inventor, Q, was thinking them up first.

Now, not all of these items fall under the heading of "Originally Inspired by Bond"; there are several ways in which Bond technology has influenced our technology.

In some cases, the inventions in question could merely be considered "James Bond-esque" (a term that could be defined simply as a stealth-enabling and, well, "cool" item to have around). Take, for example, this Columbia News Service article about inventions for the troops that could have possibly been featured in the movies. The article tells of inventions that "actually were inspired by Hollywood science fiction, such as the so-called exoskeleton, which aims to allow soldiers to move three times faster while carrying more than double their current loads."

Others still could be viewed as merely upgrades or modifications on pre-existing inventions. For example, Bond's dagger shoe (first shown in Dr. No) could be interpreted as a very dangerous, upgraded penny loafer. Also, the pocket snap trap in Diamonds Are Forever is, in essence, a hidden joy buzzer used by children to mildly shock each other mid-handshake.

Bond's ToysBond's Toys But the most exciting of all are the inventions from James Bond movies that have become actual facets in our lives. Four examples in particular stand out in this light; previously unheard-of innovations that have since become a normal, and even outdated, at this point in our society.

The least impressive of these inventions would have to be the espresso machine in Live and Let Die. What is quite literally a coffee machine was meant to do more, but wound up only being able to make caffeinated drinks for all. This is what happens when Q is absent from a Bond film. Still, coffee machines are a staple in most any office setting, so they have proven to be quite useful, even if they aren't directly used for crime-fighting and mystery-solving.

But chronologically speaking, luminous watches were the first in this line, seen in Dr. No. Essentially, it was a watch with a glowing face, so that it can be read at night, or in dimly lit areas. A watch with a light-up face is a very common (and as a result, not very exciting) thing nowadays, especially in digital watches. At this point, in "light" of all of our technological advances, these watches would even be considered old hat.

An even more blatant and prevalent example in our society would be the usage of pagers and car phones (seen first in From Russia With Love). These are literal inventions that have since not only been used in our actual society, but again have been surpassed by real-life technological advances; pagers are mainly used by doctors at this point, and car phones have become all but eradicated by the onset of cellular phones.

Wet BikeWet BikeBut the wet bike, seen in The Spy Who Loved Me - also known as a personal watercraft - is the most exciting in this category of Bond inventions. This is because it is the first time anyone had heard or seen the notion of what we know today as a Jet Ski. This is the best example of James Bond's writers inspiring an actual invention that did not exist previous to its movie counterpart.

And there are, of course, ideas that have been taken into actual usage. One great example of this is the miniature hidden cameras in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, called a Minox B 8x11 Camera. We see hidden cameras everywhere; used by news reporters in pens and notebooks, and even dispensed to the general public in the form of camera cell phones.

To deal with Bond originals more specifically, in Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond is equipped with a flip-open remote control for operating his BMW 750iL. The remote included a directional steering pad, LCD monitor for the front and rear view, and controls to fire rocket launcher.

Bond Inspired "SmartPhone"Bond Inspired "SmartPhone"The notable part of this invention is that it was a concept phone designed by Ericsson. Much of the look of this phone, most recognizably the flip-open feature, was incorporated a few years after the film into Ericsson's R380 "SmartPhone". This "SmartPhone" combined a fully functional mobile phone, PDA-like tools and WAP services.

And of course, given the speed of technological advances in recent years, a bit of product placement has occurred in the most recent Bond films (since actual inventions are now, well, "cool" enough to make it in as a Bond gadget). A combination mobile phone/camera/PDA used to I.D. the elusive James Bond is, in actuality, a Sony Ericsson P800.

One could also note that the James Bond movies themselves inspired countless comedy skits and parody films, such as the Austin Powers trilogy. But that would qualify as more of a creative inspiration than a step forward in technology. So we'll just leave that be.

But who knows? Perhaps as the James Bond franchise continues through time, our military (and even our everyday lives) will continue to be affected by the innovations and inventions the writers dream up for the famous 007 to use in his latest adventure.

So when the military begins to implement jetpacks into standard issue military equipment, don't be surprised.

Candice Leigh Hefland

Aug 2, 2006
by Anonymous Krazy Kritic (AKA "Free Lance") (not verified)

I Have To Disagree, In Part!

I'm quite shaken--but don't want everyone to get stirred--over this. Although you call it "Bondesque", Bond-Age is a very old term and stealth practice that often involved quite inventive actions and amazing props. Instead of "luminous watches", there used to be lunatic watchers who didn't have cameras or wet bikes, but their parts nonetheless ended up wet and dripping. Even before the Industrial Revolution, the Lords had Pagers which served them well and quickly sent their messages--highly advanced capabilities even by today's standards.

In regards to the Espresso machine, few people realize that it DOES, in fact, have crime-fighting capabilities: It is used to secretly identify and nab caf-fiends.

(NOTE: "Free Lance" is now "Krazy Kritic" since "freelance" was used to describe some of the new writers.)

Sep 18, 2007
by E. Ray (not verified)

Candice Leigh Helfand's blog on James Bond gadgets

Ooops, The Wet Bike was being manufactured and marketed by Arctic Sports Products Inc. (Arctic Cat Snowmobiles) in 1975 (I had an employee demo unit) and was NOT the by-product of the 1977 Bond flick, The Spy Who Loved Me as the article suggests.  However, it's appearance in the movie certainly had a positive impact on sales of the Wet Bike and likely on the PWC industry which was pretty much non-existant at the time.  But in this case the egg came before the chicken.  Still, this was an enjoyable blog to read.