BACK TO THE FUTURE
THIS ISSUE IS SPECIAL TO me. I mean, they all are, but 14 years ago, Best of What’s New was my whole job—my first real one in magazines. In November 2003, an unsolicited email from then editor-in-chief Scott Mowbray beeped into my inbox. Subject: “Job at Popular Science.”
At the time, I was a freelance writer, which actually meant a Tuesday graveyard shift at US Weekly—spent not writing—and other evenings slinging triplefried everything at a fancy Chinese restaurant. The PopSci post scooped me up and dropped into the mix with the most innovative people on the planet.
A decade and a half later, everything is different: the internet, the players in the space race—even the edges of our countries are altered, shaped by the changes that we humans seem to exhale like a gas. That the way we use technology differs so greatly from back then seems almost unimportant. But it’s not. In 2003, we gave an award to the Samsung SPH-i500, a small flip phone that packed a stylus you could use on a stamp-size scratchpad. Derp. In 2017, nobody’s hawking a compact cellphone—they’re getting huger!—and most people’s favorite stylus grows out of their hands.
Some things, though, are remarkably similar to Mowbray’s era: Best of What’s New still recognizes, as my one-time boss put it so well, “whizbang design and visionary engineering.”
One transformation you can’t miss is the magazine itself. We curated this 30th-anniversary edition to be a cultural artifact from 2017. It’s full of advancements from the past 12 months, sure, but you’ll also find plenty of meditation about this year’s spot on the continuum of innovation. So peel back a page. As you read about the products and discoveries, remember that we created this magazine with the knowledge that it could actually change someone’s life.