The ’70s gave rise to some of the coolest things of all time. The decade created the modern blockbuster with Jaws And Star Wars and the latter franchise is still going. The slasher hit from the decade, Halloween, also just wrapped up its saga. But not all creations of the groovy 10 years are as long-lived.
There were plenty of pieces of technology that were big hits then that have since disappeared. While not as famous for gadgets as the 1980s, the computer revolution had still already begun. These vintage creations might be unknown to most younger eyes, but they’re still interesting to reflect on and they paved the way for other related gadgets since.
Pong Home Console
Today, the phrase “video game console” can mean “home media center.” Plenty of game consoles also act as Smart TVs, also allowing users to connect to storefronts, watch streaming services, and even browse the internet. Back in the ’70s, though, the earliest consoles couldn’t even play video games. They could play video game, singular.
In 1975, a console with two dials that let the player play Pong and only Pong was released. The game had been a hit in arcades by that time, but this was the first way to play the Atari game at home. All it offered was the basic tablet-tennis mode, but it still sold very well. In fact, future gaming juggernaut, Nintendo, would release its own copycat, Color TV Game 15, as a bootleg.
Popeil Pocket Fisherman
Perhaps no company was more synonymous with gadgets in the ’70s than Ronco. Also known as Popeil, this company was infamous for its “As Seen On TV” gadgets. They’re most known today for their popularization of the “O-Matic” suffix. One of their most famous early gadgets was the Popeil Pocket Fisherman.
Allegedly designed by the father of Ronco’s founder, this fishing pole was much more compact than most models. It could be carried around in one’s pocket with ease. This made it a lot easier to store, as well. Most fishermen prefer longer poles, but this fishing pole did change the game for some.
Long before the age of modern football video games, gadgets and toys were used to simulate the sport. In 1977, Mattel Electronic Football debuted, allowing players to simulate the game in handheld form. While most modern football games are spoiled with options, this one only had two modes.
Perhaps “modes” is a generous term, as both have similar gameplay. The player must move their LED football player from one end of the screen to the other without being tackled by the opposing team. The two modes merely change the configuration of the opposing team. While limited by today’s standards, it was a mind-blowing piece of equipment in its day.
When one thinks of the first personal computers, one chiefly thinks of the Apple II. But the Apple II was merely one of three computers of that era collectively referred to as the “1977 trinity.” The Commodore PET should not go overlooked, as it was still pretty unique.
The earliest models of the computer contained a cassette deck, but most came with ROM and a microprocessor, which wasn’t standard for the time. Unfortunately, by the time the PET hit the market, the Apple II was already shipping due to a delay. Still, for a lot of consumers, this Commodore product was as reliable a PET as they could get.
This computer system was the final of the earlier-mentioned “1977 trilogy.” It’s perhaps the most forgotten in the modern day, though one might remember its creators, which are highlighted in its full name “Tandy Radio Shack.” The TRS-80 was revolutionary as one of the first commercially available microcomputers. The original 80 is also called the Model I due to other models being created later.
These days it’s hard to imagine computers without QWERTY keyboards, but the included QWERTY was a big selling point of this model. Also important was its four drives for floppy discs, another technology Gen Z may not know. This thing was the biggest seller of the trinity, at first, but was eventually made obscure by Apple II’s success.
Centronics 101 Dot Matrix Printer
Printers, in general, are falling out of fashion. What was once a staple of household electronics has been made partially obsolete by portable, handheld computers. That being said, the most popular printers of the ’90s and aughts were Inkjet, and they had a predecessor. The Dot Matrix printer was very popular, and the Centronics 101 was one of the most popular printers of that variety
It was introduced at the start of the decade in 1970. It could print an impressive one hundred and 65 characters a second and weighed over 150 pounds. It also sold at a low price, making it the go-to printer for office environments. As a result, the offices of the era are synonymous with the printer’s trademark “preeow” sound effect.
In 1972, the first commercial video game console was released after five years of heavy development. The Magnavox Odyssey was a major innovation, able to display up to three dots on a screen and a vertical line. Using these awesome graphics, the system could play over twenty unique games.
The system entirely lacked sound and the controller looks more like a TV remote. Players would put an overlay on the controller with some vague theming to the game they were playing. The most popular of the games offered was a version of Table Tennis. This would go on to inspire Pong, which got its own console, leading to a lawsuit between Magnavox and Atari.
The Format Wars were one of the most important battles in media history, and they began with the introduction of the Philips N1500. The 1972 original VCR was the standard for commercial recording and playback equipment. It standardized the “piano keys”-like design that would become popular on most media appliances. It also allowed the user to sync up their television remote to it.
It featured a tuner that allowed users to make their own recordings, as well. The built-in clock used a timer that allowed people to record even when they weren’t there. All of these features caused VCR to win the Format Wars. Unfortunately, it did not win the war with time, and most kids probably can’t recognize this old classic.
Pocket Instamatic 110
Nowadays, kids walk around with a camera in their pocket that’s also a phone and a computer. They can’t really appreciate what a big deal gadgets like Kodak’s Pocket Instamatic 110 were. This was the cheapest of Kodak’s line of Instamatic cameras. Despite them having “insta” in the name, they didn’t actually instantly develop film. The name referred to them being snapshot cameras that could take photos quickly.
Its small size made it easy to carry around, but it came with a major flaw. The magicube used to create the flash was too powerful for the camera. Photos it took would often have heavy red-eye and glare effects. While these are technically flaws, so many photos were taken with the now obscure Instamatic cameras that the whole decade now feels as if it had these imperfections.
The Sony Walkman is one of the most famous inventions in the history of listening. It might not initially seem like a “forgotten invention” that kids won’t recognize. However, it’s mostly associated with the ’80s, rather than the ’70s. A lot of people forget that this classic early media player actually debuted in the late ’70s.
After a stellar launch, Sony would bring the device to other regions. These would have a bunch of alternate names, such as Stowaway, Freestyle, and Sound-About. These alternate names could be a big reason why many don’t consider the Walkman a ’70s icon, as it was more famous under a different name. It absolutely is, though, and remains an iconic piece of tech from the decade, despite being forgotten.