Okay, by whatever supernatural/scientific means you care to contrive, you are about to be sent to the past. You will be sent to a location and period of your choice on Earth within the last 100 years, and will stay there for 24 hours, whereupon you will return to the present day.
You will also be allowed to carry one gadget with you. A “gadget” here is defined as any sort of electrical, mechanical, or other artificially-manufactured thingamaboobit, the size of a breadbox or smaller. You can photograph the natives, blow up a city, dazzle them with thundersticks, whatever.
So, where do you go, what are you bringing with you, and what will you do on your trip?
Hmm, if we’re dealing with a fictional universe, i’d take a replicator that way i’d be able to create other things and still be complying with “bring one future device back”
if we’re dealing with reality, i’d go back to Cupertino in 1983 to meet with The Two Steves, with a Mac 128K and a few choice pieces of Apple hardware (iPod Shuffle, Mini, and Photo, a Mac Mini, 12" PowerBook G4, iMac G4 Flat Panel, and a PowerMac G5), i figure that the smaller devices would have more of a “WOW” factor, after all, most computers in that time period were big, hulking beasts, so another “big” computer in a fancy case wouldn’t have as much impact as one that’s an order of magnitude more powerful (AND in COLOR to boot!) than the best supercomputers of the day, yet can be easily carried around with you
oh, and i’d also tell the Two Steves about a little upstart company called microsoft…
don’t tell 'em anything, don’t let them see anything, do whatever you can to CRUSH them, they want to do the same to you…
since i’d be back in the '80s i’d also try to warn NASA of the Challenger disaster, and warn President Reagan of the assasination attempt, also warn the CIA/NSA/INS/FAA of a little-known terrorist group called “al-qaida” and their leader osama bin-laden, and his attempted terrorist attacks planned in the future, both domestically and abroad…
D’OH! sorry, forgot the “one item” limitation, in that case, i’d take a 12" PowerBook G4 back to the Two Steves (filled with QuickTimes of other Apple stuff of course, as well as the as-yet-unreleased “1984” advert)
the 12" would be the best bet as it’s more powerful than the current hardware at the time, yet is easily transportable
See, now this is not the best way to go. Even with compound interest and a decent interest rate (say 6%), you could turn $1 into $370. Wise investments would get you much further. Leave instructions for hitting all the right stocks at all the right times, you could probably increase your money by a factor of million.
It’s just shy of the 100-year limit, but I’d be so tempted to take a PDA or small-size laptop computer and show it to Patent Commissioner Charles H. Duell (the guy who reportedly announced that “everything that can be invented has been invented.”).
I’d go back and try and prevent my own conception. Either the multiple universe theory is correct, and no event can change the outcome of events elsewhere in the timeline, in which case I’ll have proved something very fundamental about the nature of the universe and quite likely be in line for a Nobel prize, or the resultant paradox will wreak havoc by defying the laws of physics, inverting causality and causing all hell to break loose, which while catastrophic, would also be pretty damned cool.
Screw tradition! I show him the movie, tell him to avoid buying the Dodge plant, and that if he’s got any mob connections, he might want to consider having them “explain” a few things to certain people.