If you thought the 1970s were all about disco, bell bottoms, and Farrah Fawcett, well … you’re not WRONG exactly, but you probably need to take your head out of the pop culture sand for a few minutes. Because, the truth is, the grooviest decade was home to some amazing innovations that changed the world forever. Which of these 1970s inventions was YOUR favorite?
Yep, believe it or not, email has been around since 1971, when computer science researcher Ray Tomlinson figured out how to send messages between computers on the ARPANET.
And, truth be told, email in some form had been around since the 1960s, when researchers were first able to send messages to each other, but only on the same computer.
It was with Tomlinson’s invention, though, that email helped light the way for today’s Internet, descendant of ARPANET.
Although mobile communications devices had been available for decades in the form of field phones, car phones, and other versions that generally featured some form of cord, it wasn’t until Motorola began selling its first portable cellular phone, the DynaTAC 8000x in 1983 that people could actually carry their phones with them.
But cell phone technology made its debut ten years earlier, when Motorola’s own Martin Cooper demonstrated the company’s first prototype in 1973, a unit which weighed more than four pounds!
The modern microcomputer was invented in 1973 when researchers at the h Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique in France built the Micral N, an 18-bit mini computer they used to help take and record hygrometry measurements for agriculture.
From that point, the race was on for smaller, cheaper, better computers that could be used for a range of purposes.
Steve Jobs began developing the Apple I computer while he was still in high school, and it made its debut in 1976.
It had a retail price of $666.66, but only about 200 units were ever sold during this time period because each one took so much work to produce – they were hand-built by Steve’s friend and co-founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak.
In 1978, the improved and more widely available Apple II was released at a retail price of $1298 (over ten times less than an original 1970s computer). It had color graphics capabilities and could be bought with up to 48kb of RAM – quite an improvement over its predecessor. The Apple II was the first personal computer to come with a built-in keyboard and monitor.
It is estimated that over six million Apple IIs were sold during its lifetime, making it one of the best-selling 1970s computers ever made – but it certainly wasn’t alone in revolutionizing 1970s computing!
The 1970s saw the dawn of home gaming with the release of “Pong” in 1972. The game was created by an engineer named Allan Alcorn, who had been hired at Atari after his success designing a touch-sensitive chess computer for them. After seeing how successful video games were in Japan (where they were introduced), Alcorn and Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell decided to make their own. They created “Pong” – a game in which players had to control paddles on the left and right sides of the screen, using them to hit a ball back at their opponent.
The 1970s saw the rise of floppy disks, which were invented in 1971 by IBM engineer Reynold Johnson. Floppy disks are now largely obsolete as they have been replaced by USB flash drives and CDs or DVDs, but during their heyday these magnetic storage devices provided a way to store data that could be accessed rapidly from any computer with a disk drive.
Conceived by Xerox engineer Gary Starkweather in 1969, the laser printer became commercially available in 1976 when IBM introduced their 3800 model. The device works by using a laser to create images on special paper, and while the technology was initially expensive it has now become more affordable and is used throughout offices around the world.