Popular gadgets from the past century

Technology has been changing at a break-neck speed and developments over the last few decades have really been incredible. But what was popular on your birthday?

We’ve put together a list of the most interesting, popular and powerful pieces of technology released over the years. From the 1960s right up to today. What was the favourite when you were born?

Philips portable radio – 1966

Philips invented the cassette tape in 1962 an pushed the new audio medium throughout that decade. So it made sense that in 1966 the company would release its first portable radio.

This was the first combination of portable radio and cassette recorder and proved incredibly popular with the masses.

Sony portable radio – 1967

In 1967, Sony released a tiny little portable radio that people loved. The ICR-100 was the company’s first integrated circuit (IC) radio and featured a rechargeable battery that could last for up to six hours. Alas, it did take 14 hours to recharge.

This matchbook-sized radio came with a keychain strap and a two-tone colour scheme that really made it pop.

Sony Trinitron TV – 1968

In 1968, Sony launched the Trinitron range of televisions that represented a significant improvement over other TVs from the years previous. Bright colours and better pictures soon saw these new sets becoming increasingly popular, despite the hefty price tag. So much so that they’d go on to sell over 100 million units worldwide.

Motorola HT220 – The Walkie Talkie – 1969

Walkie Talkies (portable radios) became a developing technology during WWII. Armies required the ability to communicate with troops as well as between divisions – calling in tank, air and artillery support from afar.

Motorola’s Handie-Talkie was the main piece of kit at that time, but as technology developed it was in 1969 that the company made a name for itself in the civilian market. The HT220 became synonymous with Walkie Talkie and the device proved incredibly popular and a lot more portable than its predecessors too.

Pocket Calculators – 1970

Students and offices workers would rejoice in the years following the release of the first pocket calculators. The Canon Pocketronic Calculator first released in 1970 for the princely sum of $345/£247. The massive price tag might have been off-putting to many, but the ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide with a digital box of tricks was a technological marvel at the time.

In the years that followed, prices would drop and calculators would become a common sight in schools, colleges and office buildings across the land.

Portable Cassette decks – 1971

Cassette tapes themselves wouldn’t gain mainstream popularity until the 1980s but it was in 1971 that the first portable cassette deck was released. Audio and video cassette tapes would become the main format for the years that followed.

Pong – 1972

Pong is likely the grandfather of the modern video game. Originally released in 1972, this simple table tennis style arcade game proved incredibly popular. It soon became a commercial success and helped establish the foundations of video game industry.

Digital wristwatches – 1973

“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.” Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

1973 was the year that the love for digital watches began. Not much changed until smartwatches came onto the scene decades later.

Video Cassette Recorder – 1974

The original video cassette recorders were still seen as a luxury item but popularity was starting to grow in 1974 as prices were beginning to fall. The launch of Betamax and VHS really pushed home video recording devices into the mainstream and into homes around the globe.

The home computer – 1975

The Altair 8800 might look like something out of a 1970s Sci-Fi flick or an antiquated box with a bunch of buttons and LEDs but it was so much more. This machine was seen by many as the first home computer. It captured the public imagination and gave everyone a taste of things to come.

Microsoft was established that same year with the Apple 1 computer launching the following year, marking a new era in computing for the masses.

The microwave oven – 1976

In the mid-1970s, the microwave oven finally became more affordable and more desirable. Sales began to pick up and popularity quickly grew in the Western world. Technology has shrunk and improved, but this is one piece of tech that’s stuck around.

The Atari 2600 – 1977

If Pong was the granddaddy of video games, then the Atari 2600 is the daddy. 8-bit graphics might have been blocky and unimpressive by today’s standards, but in 1977 it was a modern marvel. Space Invaders, Pac Man and more would ensure the ever-growing popularity of video games and bring consoles like this into every home around the globe.

CB Radio – 1978

CB radio, also known as Citizens Band radio became massively popular in the US and UK in 1978. These little boxes enabled people to easily chat with other users near or far. For many years, use of a CB radio was technically illegal in the UK but that didn’t stop people doing what they loved.

Sony Walkman – 1979

The iconic Sony Walkman first released in 1979 and had kids everywhere bugging their parents to buy one. The ability to listen to cassette tapes on the move with something that could fit in your pocket or on your waistband was a thrilling concept.

Sony went on to sell over 200 million of these little magical marvels in the years that followed.