The Ten Best Electronic Inventions of the 1970s

When we think back to the 1970s, some may want to forget things like baggy pants and thick sideburns. But one of the great things that we never want to forget about the 70’s was some of the innovations. Let’s take a look back at the 10 best electronic inventions of the 1970s that made us feel like the future was now.

1. Atari’s Pong

  • Manufacturer: Atari
  • Inventor: Allan Alcorn
  • Year: 1972

Coin-operated games had been around for a while, but Pong took the video arcade game to another level, pun intended. Pong was not intended to be a commercialised gaming phenomenon; its original purpose was to be used as a teaching tool for its inventor, Allan Alcorn, to learn how to develop a video game. But once this electronic version of table tennis was released to the public, game fans around the world were hooked. Gaming companies took notice as well, creating a boom in arcade games in the 1970s that still resonates today. Pong was the first time electronic gaming and sports came together, which ultimately was the beginning of what has become the lucrative esports industry. 

2. ARPANET email system

  • Inventor: Ray Tomlinson
  • Year: 1971

When most people remember the first time they used email, they might remember the deafening dial-up sounds and AOL’s “You’ve got mail” sound bite, but email had been invented a few decades earlier. Ray Tomlinson is widely regarded as the inventor of email, citing his messages sent from one computer to another through the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET). 

Before Tomlinson’s discovery, messages could only be sent to other users on the same mainframe. Tomlinson solved this messaging conundrum by separating the messages between computers, using the “@” sign to separate the username from the computer they were using. By shifting computer messaging from single computer use to multiple computer use, Tomlinson laid the foundation for what would become a revolutionary form of communication. 

3. A floppy disc

  • Manufacturer: IBM
  • Warren L. Dalziel is the primary inventor.
  • Year: 1972

Our modern storage options are literally endless, so it’s hard to imagine a time when state-of-the-art storage was the 80 kilobyte floppy disk. Nevertheless, the floppy disc was the primary mode of data storage from its invention through most of the 1990s. The task of creating this storage device was given to David L. Noble and his team of engineers in the late 1960s while they were working at IBM. Several team members tested and contributed to the project. In 1972, the floppy disk was sold worldwide and was the standardized data storage device for more than 20 years after its invention.

4. mobile phone

  • Manufacturer: Motorola
  • Creator: Martin Cooper
  • Year: 1973

Anyone who’s been around long enough to remember the history of the cell phone may remember the first commercial cell phone in 1983, weighing 2.5 pounds and aptly called “the brick.” But what many don’t know is that ten years earlier, in 1973, Martin Cooper made the first successful cell phone call using a prototype. Many telecommunications companies attempted but failed to make calls using a wireless mobile device.Cooper accomplished what they couldn’t by calling on a prototype cell phone. Not only did he successfully make the first cell phone call, he joked about his match with Dr. Joel S. Engel of AT & T (Motorola’s competitor) while standing on a sidewalk in Manhattan. 

5.Philips is a VCR manufacturer.

  • Inventors: Several Engineers
  • Year: 1972

The invention of the home video recorder and cassette put 240 minutes of recording time in the hands of consumers. Before the 1970s, watching a movie was all about taking your friends, SO, or the whole family to the theatre to watch the latest blockbuster. When the Philips VCR became available in 1972, the definition of “home entertainment” changed forever. For fans of the small screen, this also meant no more missing TV shows when you had to leave the house for an event. 

The VCR came with its share of competition in what would come to be known as the “videotape-format wars”, especially the Sony Betamax, a tape with higher quality and a higher price. Initially, Sony lobbied Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) to make Betamax the standard format, which would allow them to license the technology. However, JVC has created a VHS open standard with no licence fees, making the VHS the right choice for distributors. Sony Betamax was eventually discontinued due to its higher cost and shorter run time of Betamax. 

“The VCR came up with its share of competition in what would come to be known as the “wars in the videotape format,” specifically the Sony Betamax, a higher video quality tape with a higher price tag.”

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6. digital camera

  • Manufacturer: Cromemco
  • Inventors: Terry Walker, Harry Garland, Roger Melen
  • Year: 1975

Photo giants Kodak and Fujifilm led the film photography industry when hobbyists Terry Walker, Harry Garland, and Roger Melen invented the first commercial digital camera: the Cromemco Cyclops. This innovation from Cromemco, a company founded less than a year before the invention, incorporated an image sensor, which was simply a modified MOS memory chip, and developed digital images of up to 32 by 32 pixels. The camera is designed as a peripheral for the microcomputer; an old advertisement for the Cromemco and the Altair in Popular Electronics has been archived for viewing. 

7. The microcomputer

  • Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) is the manufacturer.
  • Year: 1975

The microcomputer came about thanks to the efforts of an established technology company and two college students (who would soon drop out at the chance to get an edge in business technology). First came the Altair 8800, a computer kit designed by Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS). Gates and Allen realised that the Altair 8800 was the first of many computers priced low enough for consumers, who would also need software. 

They wrote a BASIC interpreter, which MITS wanted to distribute, and it became Microsoft’s first product. The Altair microcomputer could also accept expansion cards, expanding the capabilities of the consumer-friendly computer. Those extensions allowed for the addition of peripherals such as a screen, a keyboard, and even a digital camera (see above). The Altair expansion bus, the S-100, became the standard for early home computers until it was superseded by the IBM PC ISA bus in the early 1980s.

8.The Apple Computer

  • Steve Wozniak, Apple’s inventor
  • Year: 1976

We can’t name one great computer innovation without another, so it would be inappropriate to list just the Altair microcomputer when Apple’s first computer followed a year later. The Altair and other competing computers required expansion cards for video output and keyboard input. However, the Apple I naturally supported these features, giving them a competitive advantage over other computing competitors. Wozniak, a former Hewlett-Packard employee, designed and built the prototype for the Apple 1 computer to show his employees at the Homebrew Computer Club. 

He didn’t build the first Apple computer to become a household name in technology; he just wanted to prove that it was possible to build a computer that was affordable for both the builder and the buyer. Steve Jobs, a close friend of Wozniak’s, convinced him to market and sell the Apple-1, and it became the first product made by Apple Inc. Of the 200 models with limited stock, 175 were sold; not bad for an item that wasn’t intended to hit the market in the first place.

“[Wozniak] didn’t build the first Apple computer that became a household name in technology; he just wanted to prove that it was possible to build a computer that was affordable for both the builder and the buyer.”

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  • Manufacturer: United States Department of Defense
  • US Navy is the inventor.
  • Year: 1978

First came the USSR’s Sputnik and then came America’s moon landing-the Space Race of the 1960s left Americans and Russians eagerly awaiting the next space venture. One company, in particular, was the Global Positioning System (GPS). After nearly a decade of experimentation and testing by the US Navy, GPS made its official debut in 1978 with the NAVSTAR satellite. 

Over the next 20 years, the world would see more satellites of its kind launched, and people would later experience this once-private, exclusive [DM1] technology that was eventually allowed into the hands of citizens around the world. Today, multiple NAVSTAR satellites are in operation, orbiting the Earth as a network, allowing us to track the locations of nearby restaurants, our beloved pets, and even people nearby.

10.Music Player on the Go

  • Manufacturer: Sony
  • Inventors: Several Engineers
  • Year: 1979

In the 1970s, consumer technology became more and more compact. It seems that the pinnacle of portable entertainment at the time was the invention of the Sony Walkman. With the release of the first-generation Walkman (the Walkman TPS-L2), music lovers could enjoy cassette tapes wherever they wanted. For the first time, people didn’t have to stay at home or in their cars to listen to their music.

It was so popular that, like ChapStick is for lip balm and Kleenex is for tissues, the eponym for portable music devices was the Walkman. This year, Sony Walkman celebrates its 40th anniversary.

We hope you enjoyed our look back at electronic inventions from the 1970s. Did we miss something? Comment on Twitter and let us know!

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