Be your own Bond: 10 Bond gadgets that have become readily available technology
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1. Portable phones (Live And Let Die, From Russia With Love)
Throughout the films of the James Bond franchise, three things have always made Bond a wish-fulfillment object of envy: his savoir-faire under fire, his ability to instantly woo beautiful women, and his ridiculous array of high-tech gadgetry. But since Bond has been in film for more than 50 years now, real technology has caught up with some of his early gear, to the point where average people now could, if they wanted, acquire or jury-rig some of the gimmicks that seemed like far-fetched fiction in the past. For instance, time has overtaken the big, clunky car phone in From Russia With Love, which at the time seemed revolutionary because Bond could actually receive a call from the road. Even fancier: Live And Let Die’s miniaturized radio-phone, which was sooo tiny, it could be concealed inside an ordinary oversized lint brush. While some of Bond’s gadgets still seem outré today—as far as The A.V. Club knows, no one is currently marketing a rifle disguised as a ski pole, or a perfume-bottle flamethrower—the films where he uses his era’s versions of high-tech future-phones are most likely to make kids today think, “Why can’t James Bond afford a cell phone?”
2. Homing beacons (Goldfinger, Octopussy)
In Goldfinger, Bond tracks his enemy to Switzerland by hiding a homing beacon on his car; later, when captured, he activates a second homing beacon in his shoe. These days, he could just hit up the Internet for any of a number of GPS devices for sale; they’re used for everything from locating hikers in the wilderness, boaters on the water, and divers under the water to letting joggers keep track of how far and how fast they’ve run. For that matter, many cell phones have built-in GPS locators that can be used to locate lost or stolen phones, in the same way a homing beacon tracks the stolen Faberge egg in Octopussy. It’s also notable that his Goldfinger homing beacon registers on a car-dashboard map that looks very much like crude early version of a modern GPS navigation system.
3. Geiger counters (Dr. No)
The average person doesn’t often need to gauge background radiation in an area, but anyone who wants to readily can. Whereas in the Dr. No days, a Geiger counter was a bulky piece of equipment Bond had to request specially from headquarters, these days, they’re the size of calculators, and readily available to anyone with a few hundred bucks to drop.
4-6. Underwater camera / water jet pack / emergency breather (Thunderball)
Thunderball’s climactic underwater battle comes with plenty of specialized equipment that isn’t particularly specialized anymore. As impressive as an underwater camera was back in 1965, they’re readily available today in ranges from cheap disposables up to high-end professional gear; plenty of companies have also marketed watertight cases that turn ordinary cameras into submersibles. The scuba jet pack that zips Bond through the water has become a modern recreational device available in a variety of forms for people who’d rather be pulled through the water by a powerful engine than actually swim. And Bond’s four-minute ultra-emergency air supply seems pretty minor by comparison with updated emergency compressed-air tanks.
7-8. Tiny camera (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Moonraker) / tiny tape recorder (From Russia With Love/Thunderball)
Standard spycraft devices include miniaturized cameras—useful for smuggling into secure areas to take photographs of maps and papers—and concealed tape recorders, for picking up secret conversations on the sly. Junior-grade spies have any number of commercially available options these days in terms of small cameras, to the point where From Russia’s bulky camera—which concealed a wee reel-to-reel tape recorder—would look odd and unlikely in the middle of a conversation-cum-interrogation. Fortunately, would-be Bonds can replace the reel-to-reel with much smaller MP3 recorders capable of picking up days of conversation at a stretch without needing to be replaced.
9. Eavesdropping detector (A View To A Kill, From Russia With Love)
Bug detectors aren’t just for spies anymore; now they’re for everyone who’s curious whether they’re being monitored for some reason. The low-end ones are surprisingly cheap, particularly the camera-detector variety, but maybe that’s because chances are that these days, wherever you go, there’s a security camera or two pointing at you. Possibly some of these devices just have a battery-powered “Yeah, you’re being watched” light that never goes off.
10. Bath-o-sub (Diamonds Are Forever)
Granted, most people aren’t willing to drop thousands of dollars on their own miniature submarines. But then, Blofield in Diamonds Are Forever wasn’t an average citizen either, so maybe wannabe-Bonds and wannabe-supervillains alike can take his example as aspirational rather than typical. And for those who do want to re-create (and hopefully significantly improve on) his bathyscaphe/submarine escape plan in Diamonds Are Forever, there are a number of commercial options in terms of fancy personal submarines. Next step: the personal jet pack—though at least one version is already available for those who don’t mind being connected to a hose, and staying over water. Some Bond technology is too specific or impractical to ever become real (cigarettes that fire mini-rockets, anyone?), but anything fun enough to make money is likely to end up patented and on the market sooner or later.