This holiday season, let’s talk about the gadgets that are no longer with us anymore — not because they were bad or became obsolete or were the victims of an upgrade offer too good to refuse, but because they met their demise in a delightfully destructive way.
We broke these gadgets without meaning to. (Probably. Helen is sus.)
This started out as a fun conversation in The The Hamden Journal’s private Slack, and now we’re bringing a more polished version to you. Also, feel free to share your own tales in the comments below this story!
Canon EOS Rebel T5
I have a sassy cat named Pablo. As a very large boy, he’s quite particular about when he gets fed. Actually, sometimes he yowls at 4AM because he doesn’t like eating alone, making us sit with him as he chows down on kibble. A few months ago, our vet told us Pablo is “too young to be this fat,” and so, like a fool, I tried to put him on a diet.
In retaliation, Pablo began a crusade of knocking things off high places. Several house plants were harmed, the dirt from their pots spilling like blood on our floor. We lost some good mugs. But the thing that hurt most was my camera, which I used to take product shots for my job. You know, the thing that helps me pay for Pablo’s food.
That day, Pablo was hangry about his new diet. I told him to wait. I was shooting a smartwatch and needed a bathroom break. He was displeased. I naively left it on a counter, thinking my lazy cat wouldn’t leap up just to spite me. But he did. I heard the crash from the bathroom, and when I came out, he was sitting there, smug, probably playing Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” in his little cat brain. Below was my camera, destroyed. I now feed him when he wants. —Victoria Song
Until 2014, I would have gladly and smugly told anyone I have never broken a phone. Then I broke the same phone twice. I don’t remember how I first broke my iPhone 5. I think I dropped it at work. I vaguely remember people wincing and me trying to play off the shattering like it was no big deal (it was a very big deal).
I finally got the money together to repair the phone — just in time for my mom to visit. The second day of her visit, we went to Ikea to look at furniture I could not really afford to buy. My mom kept saying I looked tired and frazzled. As we left the store, I took my phone out of my pocket and then… it just flew. Somehow, my dumb ass was too tired to actually hold onto the pricey device I’d just pulled from my pocket. The phone soared through the air and proceeded to land on the pavement, the crunch so audible a family walking by reflexively winced and looked on with sympathy.
My phone was busted less than 12 hours after I had just had it repaired. My mom patted me on the shoulder and said I needed a nap. —Alex Cranz
I lent The The Hamden Journal’s original HTC Vive headset to the Panorama music festival in the summer of 2016, back when virtual reality systems had months-long waiting lists. This is how I learned that VR screens get sunspots.
And I didn’t even get to see The Arcade Fire. —Adi Robertson
I still have a working Handspring Visor, and one regret — other than my inability to obtain the cellular modem backpack add-on — is that it isn’t the original device. Mine was replaced at an Ohio Best Buy thanks to the company’s perhaps overly generous early 2000s extended warranty plan.
Why did I need another Handspring Visor? The PalmOS-powered devices were incredibly durable, as evidenced by the fact that mine is still running 20 years later. However, my original device couldn’t survive being in my back pocket when I got body slammed into a table on a Saturday night. The exact details around the incident are hazy, and anyone who has ever visited Court St. in Athens can understand why. —Richard Lawler
Logitech Bluetooth Multi-Device Keyboard K480
To say I’m terrified of spiders would be an understatement. I once literally spent an entire night standing outside in the cold in my pajamas in an unsafe neighborhood because I found one on my pillow. I am not really certain why my brain registered a spider as more of a threat to my life than potential murderers lurking around, but there you go.
So, naturally, all rationality flew out the window when one day, a spider decided to crawl on my hands as I typed on my Logitech keyboard. I wailed like a banshee and threw my keyboard at the wall, then ran out of my room. When I eventually summoned the strength to walk back into my room one day later, I then not only sprayed everything — including my keyboard — with Raid, I also added some WD-40, hair spray, and perfume to cover the other awful scents. My keyboard, naturally, died, and it was all for nothing, really. I later found the spider near my bed and stopped sleeping in my room for nearly a month after that. —Sheena Vasani
In the winter of 2010/2011, my MacBook’s hard drive died for the second time in less than four years. And with the laptop no longer under warranty, it made the most sense for me to replace the drive myself. A friend who lived down the street happened to have the fancy screwdriver needed to remove the drive’s housing. So one night, after I got the new drive in the mail, I put on a coat, grabbed my laptop, and walked a block through the snowy streets of Pittsburgh to get to his house around the corner.
The fix was easy: remove the battery, unscrew the housing, swap the new unit in, and put everything back in place. Soon enough, I was walking the block back home with a fixed laptop in hand. I remember crossing the street and hopping up onto the curb about halfway between our houses.
It was while falling sideways that I realized I had landed directly on a patch of black ice.
The laptop landed on its back right corner, exploding the plastic open, a thick silver bar of metal now jutting out between its body and screen. The screen hung off the body at an odd angle, attached only at the left and center portions of the hinge.
Somehow, it still worked. It felt like the laptop could have broken in two every time I opened it. But it managed to survive my final semester of college. When Apple finally refreshed the MacBook Air that July, I bought one the very first day. —Jacob Kastrenakes
Work-issued Blackberry, circa 2012
When I started writing about consumer technology, the world was new, iPhones were still on the rise, and companies still issued Blackberry phones to their employees. I worked for such a company, so for a while in my 20s, I lived a two-phone lifestyle, carrying around my personal flip phone to text my friends and my work phone for work email. And you know, things my flip phone couldn’t do, like checking Facebook and Googling stuff. All very work-related, of course.
As an aside, you haven’t really lived until you’ve sobbed openly at the McCarran baggage claim, typing out apology emails on your phone’s physical QWERTY keyboard for accidentally breaking an embargo. That’s another story, though.
Anyway, like I said, I was in my early 20s, and as such, I had a lot of feelings. I could also leave home after 8PM on a weeknight, get drunk at the neighborhood karaoke night, and somehow function just fine at work the next morning. I came home from such a night feeling particularly emotional about something I don’t remember at all now. But at the time, it was very upsetting, and it felt necessary to take off my coat and throw it dramatically on the floor. My Blackberry was in the pocket.
This would have been fine if I’d lived somewhere with carpeting. I did not; in fact, I lived in a former can factory converted into apartments with cement floors. My coat hit the floor just right, and I went from being just sad and drunk to being sad and drunk with a broken phone. I told work that my Blackberry “broke,” and if I remember correctly, they just sent me a new one without asking any questions. I learned nothing from this experience. –Allison Johnson
Pixel 3, 3a, and 3a XL
I never needed a case for my phone. The early bombproof plastic phones simply wouldn’t break, and I kept a firm enough grip on modern glass handsets that I rarely worried about it. But the family and I went for a beautiful island vacation in Maui, and I decided to try slapping a case on my new Pixel 3.
As Google’s first IP68-rated phone, I knew I could take it with me into the crystal-clear Lahaina waters, and I was glad when I turned around to see this gorgeous rainbow overhead, dipping nearly all the way to shore. But after I waded back to land and started walking to the car, I realized my phone’s case was probably hurting more than it was helping, trapping water against the phone instead of drying out. I yanked it out… and fumbled. SMACK — my phone hit the pavement screen-side down.
Yep, my most protected phone yet, the one I was most concerned about protecting, was the one that broke. At least I didn’t pay full price — I got it half-off. —Sean Hollister
I’ve got another Pixel 3 breakage story, I’m afraid. I happily used one as my personal phone for 22 months before it died on me after a particularly lengthy smartphone briefing. Although I can’t say for sure, I’m almost certain it overheated thanks to running its useful auto-transcription software continuously for almost two hours while sitting in a case and wirelessly charging. It wasn’t particularly dramatic, but it was a useful reminder that there are limits to what a smartphone can do before it’ll give up the ghost. —Jon Porter
I also broke a Pixel 3 (XL). I ordered it right after launch, around Black Friday. I, too, was the type to keep phones bare or maybe use an adhesive skin to add grip and a pop of color, but the Pixel 3 was around the time phones started getting quite pricey, so I was persuaded by my wife (then, girlfriend) to protect it with a case. I used a thick clear-silicone case to start but later swapped it for one of Google’s fabric cases.
Fast forward to the summer of 2020: I’m now working from home, I get up from my desk, slide the phone into my back pocket, and WHAM — it drops straight onto my hardwood floor, my partner right beside me — so we both get to witness the ensuing heartbreak. I pick it up to find a nice hairline crack across the full width of the screen.
I had accidentally dropped my phone plenty of times before, seemingly much worse than this one, but this short drop hit it just right. I tried covering up the crack with one of those glass screen protectors that use a liquid adhesive, but it was never the same. I keep it as a reminder and occasionally to take group selfies with its super-wide front-facing camera. —Antonio G. Di Benedetto
It started innocently enough. My eight-year-old nephew wanted to give me a surprise present, so I tucked my Pixel 3a XL hurriedly under my armpit to look for him. Rather than take an extra second to put on a hoodie with a pocket for my phone, I dismissed my gut instinct with a casual “nah.”
When my sweet nephew handed me his favorite stuffed dog and told me to bring it to New York, I lost all common sense. I couldn’t help but receive this adorable present with two outstretched arms. It was at that moment that I heard a loud “clunk” and saw my Purplish 3a XL on the marble floor. I picked my phone up as nonchalantly as I could and shooed him away while I frantically hit the power button and swore under my breath.
It was a fatal drop for my beloved Pixel. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in Canada long enough to get the screen repaired, nor did the cost of a replacement screen ($200) make sense for a budget phone. My US phone was incompatible with my newly activated Canadian SIM card and cellular service. Don’t make the same mistake as me, kids: get a case, always travel with more than one phone, and use a damn pocket. —Gloria Sin
PlayStation (PSX) console
This is an incidental breakage, not an accidental one. Nevertheless, it was devastating. In the two years after I received the PlayStation as a Christmas gift back in 1999 (sorry, Mom, I saw it in the closet a few months before, though I was still plenty excited), I played so many video games that the circular CD-ROM holder in my PlayStation broke. Legend of Dragoon, Dino Crisis 2, Tenchu 1 and 2, Um Jammer Lammy, and the Spyro trilogy in particular all clearly got a little too much playtime.
I remember that archaic mechanism fondly. It was circular and housed a few small ball bearings that kept the disc in place. Flipped over, it had an orange rubber band that wedged inside of the plastic, likely to reduce vibrations.
I super-glued all of the fragile plastic pieces together countless times, as the concept of it being a cheap, easy-to-replace part existed outside of my nine-year-old brain. I really thought I’d have to get an all-new console, bless my heart. But one day, I was playing a game, and it broke apart into several pieces while the console was running. That was the end of my PSX days. —Cameron Faulkner
My first iPad was a “baby gift” from my husband to celebrate the birth of our daughter in 2011. In a convoluted way, it was the start of my journey into the smart home (my beat here at The The Hamden Journal) and the best gift you could give a person who spent six hours of every day glued to a couch feeding a baby. Then, just two years later, whilst navigating the cavernous aisles of Costco with a two-year-old and a five-year-old in tow, I made the mistake of lending it to my son. I desperately needed a distraction for him so I could focus on my shopping list, and he promised he would be good.
Not more than five minutes later, I heard the chill-inducing sound of glass meeting concrete as my iPad landed face down on the warehouse floor. I hadn’t owned an iPad since (and neither has my son) until I finally gifted myself a new iPad Mini just last month. It’s good to be back. —Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
When Hurricane Hermine hit Tallahassee in 2016, I had parked my car at the top of a hill next to a water drain — to keep it, and all the stuff I had inside of it, safe. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out, and the back seat ended up flooded with a few inches of swampy water. It was just enough to submerge the brand new Nikon D500 DSLR I had bought less than two months earlier.
Despite the D500 being built like a tank and including “weather sealing,” it understandably didn’t survive the night. I mean, the car didn’t either — apparently, the car’s underseat computer can’t get wet? — but as a film student, I was way more bent out of shape about losing my camera than my transportation.
Thankfully, Nikon was willing to repair the camera for around $400, which (if I remember correctly) meant replacing pretty much all of the internal components. I’m happy to report that, although I continued to endanger my camera and car by taking pictures in pools and off-roading through ponds, both survived long enough to make their way to new, hopefully more careful owners. —Mitchell Clark
Huawei Mate 10 Pro
One of my favorite foods is lobster, and one of my favorite places to find lobster is a place called Abbott’s, a few miles south of Mystic, Conn. You place your order at a window, wait until they call your name, and then carry your tray full of lobster, corn-on-the-cob, and whatever else you ordered to a picnic table out on the lawn.
This particular day, we had just parked after a long drive and started walking toward the restaurant when I took it into my head to make sure I hadn’t left my phone in the car. So I started searching through my backpack. I’d actually put it in an unzipped external pocket in that backpack; as I searched, it slipped out and crashed screen-down onto the ground. And since the ground was made up of loose gravel, the case I had around my phone was of no use whatsoever. When I picked it up, I saw that the top area of my screen was beautifully decorated by a spiderweb of cracks. I did not enjoy my lobster that evening.
If you have a phone that is neither an iPhone nor a Samsung, it can be nearly impossible to get the screen replaced. But since the phone still worked fine, I couldn’t justify buying another. So I spent a year using screen protectors to keep that display from getting worse until I finally broke down and bought a replacement. —Barbara Krasnoff
I have hated my Pixel 4 since almost the first month I bought it. I should have heeded Dieter’s review, which pointed out the horrible battery life and huge top bezel. Instead, I traded in my beloved Pixel 2 — replacing my fingerprint sensor with face unlock just in time to mask up for a global pandemic. An 8-digit passcode is not fun to repeatedly enter when trying to grocery shop.
I have been complaining about my Pixel 4 so much that when I accidentally ran it over with my dad’s car this week, my partner accused me of doing it deliberately. So unjust! The screen is now splinters and random pixels, and I am rid of the Pixel 4 once and for all. At least the SIM card survived. As of today, I am using my dad’s old iPhone 6S until I can buy the iPhone 13 Pro — I do plan to take Dieter’s advice this time. —Helen Havlak
Nissan Leaf SL (2015)
I think it’s safe to say that electric cars are now just devices that take you places. I made my first jump into driving pure EV with a used base model 2013 Nissan Leaf S. After delving nose-first into the addictive world of combatting range anxiety and getting my wife addicted to skipping gas stations, I decided to trade that in for a fully loaded 2015 Nissan Leaf SL. It came with an app to locate where it’s parked, remote A/C starting features, Bose sound, and premium materials.
After only six months of driving this beauty (only a Leaf owner can say that), it met its demise — a vehicle entering my lane from a construction site didn’t yield and stomped on its brakes. I could not brake in time, so it became my fault. Thankfully, I can say my Nissan Leaf leaves behind two loving owners and a properly restrained dog. —Umar Shakir
That’s all we have for you today, but we’re eager to hear some of your stories as well in the comments below. And if you like this sort of thing, we have a feeling you’d get a kick out of our biggest tech flops of the decade, our staff’s favorite gadgets of the past 10 years, and the worst devices we’ve ever touched.