7 technologies to thank the 1970s for

8th Jan 2010 | 13:00

7 technologies to thank the 1970s for

A decade of big hair, tiny clothes and impressive technology

Microprocessors and videogames

The 1970s were a decade of impressive technological invention and development with the first microprocessors, calculators and video games strutting onto the scene oozing cool.

Here are just seven of the best technologies to emerge in these years.

1. The first microprocessor

When Intel brought out the first microprocessor in 1971, the Intel 4004, it started the evolution of the home computer. Up until this time most computers were in the hands of fans and scientists with few members of the public really paying attention.

Measuring only 1/8th by 1/6th of an inch it was as powerful as the ENIAC built in 1946 and is, according to Intel, one of the smallest microprocessor designs to go into commercial production.

Intel 4004

SMALL WONDER:It's hard to believe that something so small could have started something so big [Image credit: John Pilge]

2. Videogame era dawns

While Tennis for Two, created by William Higinbotham, could be considered the first ever videogame, it was only in the 1970s that video games hit the big time. Pong was released in 1972 by Atari and was the result of a training exercise set by Nolan Bushnell for his protégé Al Alcorn.

Shortly after Pong entered the arcades, the hard work done by Ralph Bauer in the 1960s saw the release of the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972, the very first video game console that allowed you to play several different games from the comfort of your sofa.


TIMEWASTER:Pong is considered to be the first commercially successful video game [Image credit: ProhibitOnions]

3. Liquid Crystal Display

The history of liquid crystals is a long and interesting one starting with their discovery in 1888 by Friedrich Reinitzer when he found them in cholesterol extracted from carrots. Carrots!

However, it was James Fergason who took the research done by Reinitzer and George Heilmeier (in the 1960s) and expanded it, taking out a substantial number of patents in liquid crystal displays.

Seen as the father of the liquid crystal industry, he started the International Liquid Crystal Company (ILIXCO) and produced the first LCD watch in 1972.

First lcd watch

WATCH THIS:The Gruen Teletime LCD Watch - it was quite a looker

Word processor, email, digital camera, calculator

4. The first word processor

This one may well take you by surprise. The first word processor was the Wang 1200 launched in 1971 by An Wang's company, Wang Laboratories.

Designed by Harold Koplow, the Wang 1200 had only four operational modes: record, play, transfer and edit. It was not very powerful and had some persistent issues but it did provide IBM with some much needed competition and made typing documents a thousand times easier than it was before.

Certainly, creatives and typists danced with glee as these became increasingly easier to use than ye olde typewriter.

Harold koplow

WORD UP:"Almost from the beginning I wanted to use microprocessors, one in each device," says Koplow on his site [Image credit: Harold Koplow]

5. Email

Yes, the bane of our modern lives came about as a result of work done by a man known as Ray Tomlinson in 1971. He says on his site, "I sent the first network email in 1971 using a program I wrote called SNDMSG."

While we all would imagine that he can remember exactly what he wrote in that groundbreaking email and what he felt like when he sent it, he's quite open about the fact that he just did it because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Outlook 2010

YOU'VE GOT MAIL:And you would have had mail in 1971, too, if you were Ray Tomlinson

6. The first digital camera

The first working prototype of a digital camera was completed in 1975 by Steven Sasson for Kodak.

It weighed in at eight pounds, captured black and white images on a cassette tape, had a resolution of .01 megapixels and was not exactly the handiest of gadgets to cart about.

It counts as the first ever digital camera although it never went into production and it would be some time before Kodak released its first digital camera commercially.

First digital camera

POINT AND SHOOT:The first digital camera was hardly a neat little thing you could pop into your handbag [Image credit: Burnick/Kodak]

7. The pocket calculator

While it certainly doesn't seem like an enormous invention to us in the 2000s, it was something of a revelation back in the 1970s when the first pocket calculators arrived.

The Sanyo ICC-0081, launched in Japan, was the first of these but it was soon followed by stiff competition from the likes of Canon, Sharp and Texas Instruments.

Initially very expensive they soon became affordable enough for everyone to own and were a welcome relief from their predecessors that were clunky and difficult to use.

Adler 81s

NUMBER CRUNCHER:Launched in the mid 1970s, the Adler 81S weighed 128g without batteries and had a VFD display [Image credit: NJR ZA]


Liked this? Then check out 5 technologies to thank the 1950s for

Sign up for TechRadar's free Weird Week in Tech newsletter
Get the oddest tech stories of the week, plus the most popular news and reviews delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up at http://www.techradar.com/register

Follow TechRadar on Twitter

history s innovation
Share this Article

Most Popular

Edition: UK
TopView classic version