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 1970 right up to today. What was the favourite when you were born?
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.
The Dot Matrix Printer – 1980
Personal computers were well established by this time, so it suddenly made sense to be able to print out what you were working on. Epson released the MX-80 Dot Matrix printer in 1980 high-precision printing was finally available to the masses. It was noisy, but it worked.
Portable Television – 1981
We take the ability to be able to stream Netflix on our smartphone for granted. But imagine how Earth-shatteringly awesome it was to have a TV in your pocket in a time when there were only a handful of channels available.
In the years before, people usually only had one television per household and even that was black and white. So when British inventor Clive Sinclair announced the Sinclair TV80 – the world’s first handheld portable TV in 1981, we rejoiced. Alas, the Sinclair TV80 was released before its time and was generally a failure, but an awesome product nonetheless.
CD player – 1982
The first commercially available CD player was launched by Sony back in 1982. It cost a small fortune, but this release marked the beginning of the era of the audio CD and the death of cassette tapes.
Motorola DynaTAC 8000X – 1983
The Motorola DynaTAC 8000X was the first cell phone to be offered commercially. This chunky device is fondly remembered as an iconic part of the 1980s.
When it released, it was also considered a symbol of wealth and futurism. Now it looks extremely archaic and almost comical, but this phone heralded the future of the modern smartphone.
The Apple Macintosh Computer – 1984
The age of the home computer was in full swing in the mid-1980s with the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum being the most popular. 1984 was also the year the original Apple Macintosh computer launched. Like all things Apple, it came with a premium price tag that essentially translates to roughly $6,000/£4,000 in today’s money.
The Apple Macintosh was a success and made Apple the second-largest computer manufacturer of that decade.
Microsoft Windows – 1985
A year after the Apple Macintosh came the very first very of Microsoft Windows operating system. It looked fairly different back then and wasn’t nearly as powerful as it is today, but it was a break-through for the time and even came with a game specially designed to teach people how to use a mouse.
Pagers – 1986
In the era before the smartphone, pagers were a way to get hold of people in an emergency or stay in touch when you were out and about. They were originally used by emergency services, but soon became popular with business people and Joe Public.
The pager operated as a way to receive a message, then the recipient would need to find a phone to call the sender. Fairly antiquated by today’s standards, but incredibly popular in 1986.
Sony Discman – 1987
Sony had been so successful with its Walkman that it made sense for the company to gain some ground in the era of the Compact Disc. And so, the equally iconic Sony Discman was born. This portable CD player quickly gained popularity, despite an initially hefty price tag.
VHS Tape – 1988
The late 1980s saw the continued popularity of the VHS cassette tape. Videocassette recorders had made their way into many homes and with the advent of Blockbuster and other rental stores popularity continued exponentially.
Gameboy – 1989
Atari and others had laid the foundations for the video game industry, but it might have been Nintendo that made gaming mainstream. The Nintendo Game Boy was released in 1989 and went on to sell over 118 million units worldwide.
The World Wide Web – 1990
Late in 1990, Tim Berners-Lee and company began to lay the foundations for the Internet that we know and love today. It was early days, but an exciting time lay ahead for the World Wide Web.
The colour scanner – 1991
In 1991 HP’s ScanJet IIC was launched to market. This colour scanner was a breath-through technology capable of scanning colour images at 800-dpi which was a big deal for the time. Like all the new tech of the era, it was incredibly expensive, but popular too.
The laptop – 1992
There is some debate over when the first laptop was invented. Some laptop-like technology was crafted in the 1970s and 1980s but the IBM ThinkPad was the device that pushed laptops into the mainstream. These chunky, cumbersome and heavy devices spelt the future of mobile computing and proved incredibly popular among business users.
PDA – 1993
1993 was the year of the Personal Digital Assistant. These mini handheld devices were an early version of the smartphones we have today. The Apple Newton wasn’t the first, that honour goes to the Psion Organizer (released in 1984) but it did offer a number of novel and exciting features. The Apple Newton was praised for its feature set but sold poorly due to the hefty price tag.
Webcams – 1994
With the web firmly established, the next step was to get your face online. Webcams began gaining popularity in the mid-1990s and soon became a standard feature of modern laptops.
PlayStation – 1995
In a time when Nintendo and Sega dominated the gaming market, everyone was surprised by the launch of the original Sony PlayStation. This new 32-bit games console was a game changer with a CD drive and amazing graphics it blew the competition out of the water.
Flip phones – 1996
The StarTAC was the successor of the MicroTAC, a semi-clamshell phone that had been launched in 1989. The StarTAC was among the first mobile phones to gain widespread consumer adoption with over 60 million people purchasing one.
Tamagotchis – 1997
Tamagotchis represented a digital fad among kids around the world in the late 1990s. The idea of this toy was simply to keep a little digital pet alive. Children can’t be trusted with pets. Many died. It was a tragedy. 76 million Tamagotchis sold though, so it was a popular toy for sure.
DVD Player -1998
It was around this time that the DVD player began making its debut. The Digital Video Disc, like the Compact Disc before it, quickly rose in popularity and soon made the older technology obsolete. The humble DVD player soon spelt the end of the VHS era.
Blackberry – 1999
The very first BlackBerry device was released in 1999. The first version was fairly basic and essentially was a pager with email functionality. The BlackBerry phones that followed though, were incredibly popular amongst businessmen and women around the world. BlackBerry dominance was only broken by the Apple iPhone years later.
GPS – 2000
Where would we be without Global Positioning Systems? Probably still using paper maps to navigate. These little boxes of wonder helped us find our way down unknown roads for years. They also formed the foundation for a future where our phones would do most of the legwork of stopping us getting lost.
MP3 Players – 2001
Another device launches that spells the end of an era and the beginning of another. Various MP3 players and the classic Apple iPod offered wonderful new ways for people to listen to music on the go. Entire music libraries were suddenly available to carry around in your pocket. What a time to be alive.
Internet Explorer – 2002
In 2002 Netscape was lagging behind in the browser wars as Microsoft truly began flexing its muscles with Internet Explorer. Firefox, Chrome and others would follow, but Netscape would soon be a distant memory.
iTunes – 2003
With the increasing popularity of MP3 players and the Apple iPod, it made sense that a digital music store would appear and start to do well. The most well-known and popular (legal) store was iTunes. That service launched in 2003 and soon gained plenty of traction.
Apple iPod – 2004
The Apple iPod was actually first launched in 2001, but the portable music player began blasting into the mainstream in full force in 2004. iTunes went global and so did the iPod.
Myspace – 2005
In 2005, Myspace became the most visited social site on the web. The site was so popular that it was acquired by News Corporation for a cool $580 million and traffic continued to grow for a while – with visits even surpassing those of Google in that same year. The fortune didn’t last though and with the rise of Facebook things started to turn bad for Myspace.
Twitter – 2006
The first ever Tweet was sent out in 2006 and although Twitter wasn’t the most popular of social networks to start with, the platform soon started to gain favour with the masses.
Apple iPhone – 2007
2007 was the year of the original Apple iPhone. A phone that Steve Jobs promised would “reinvent the phone”. Things have certainly changed a lot since then. The original Apple iPhone is certainly obsolete now, but it paved the way for many future devices including plenty of copycats and clones.
HTC Dream/Android – 2008
The HTC Dream and T-Mobile G-1 launched in 2008, representing the beginnings of Android smartphones and Apple’s competition. That same year, coincidentally, Google began surpassing Yahoo! as the most popular search engine on the web.
Facebook – 2009
Facebook becomes the number one social network in the US in 2009, coincidentally the same year the company introduced the like button that’s synonymous with the service.
Apple iPad – 2010
Apple once again makes technological history by launching the Apple iPad in 2010. The first version had a 9.7-inch screen, no camera and a choice of Wi-Fi or 3G connectivity. This would be the first of many iPads launched over the years.
4G networking – 2011
Finally, 4G arrived and began rolling out (slowly) across the Western world. Faster web browsing on the move was a welcome product of 2011.
Instagram – 2012
The popular photo-sharing platform was originally launched on Apple iPhones in 2010, but it wasn’t until 2012 that an Android version arrived. That same year Instagram managed to achieve new levels of users with 80 million sign-ups. That same year, Facebook made a bid to purchase Instagram for $1 billion cementing its success in history.
Google Fiber – 2013
Google began rolling out super fast fiber across the US. Its been a slow roll-out and still isn’t coast-to-coast, but the people love it.
Samsung Galaxy Gear – 2014
2014 was the year of the smartwatch. Samsung released the Galaxy Gear that year – they weren’t the first smartwatches to launch, but they managed to gain a lot of mainstream popularity.
3D Printing – 2015
Interest in 3D printing has been growing over the years and the number of possible applications has been expanding too. 2015 saw a big push of 3D printers in the tech world and falling prices made them more accessible to the masses.
Amazon Echo – 2016
Originally launched in 2014, the Amazon Echo became incredibly popular in the years that followed. In 2016 the intelligent voice assistant powered speaker began launching outside the US with models available in the UK, Germany, Austria and more. Other countries would follow in the next few months.
VR – 2017
Its still early days, but the last couple of years have seen more and more virtual reality devices. The falling price is making them more accessible and the technology is astounding.