New technologies come to market every day. Smartphones in the early 2000s forever altered how we approach our personal and professional lives, leaving us always on and always connected to the people and things we care about most. Today, much technology finds itself within the home: routers for high speed internet, streaming media players, grocery deliveries, smart thermostats, and lighting systems. If we have a need or want, a smart device exists for it (or soon will).
But those technologies arose from a time and place—they didn’t spring to the market fully formed and functional. No, technology claims a vibrant and longstanding relationship with iteration. The technologies of today and tomorrow build upon the technologies of yesterday. Sometimes a trip down memory lane helps you better appreciate the incredible technology we enjoy today and understand its intricate roots. If you’re curious what tech was big the decade you were born, read on for a timeline of technology from the ’50s to now.
Innovative Technologies Through the Decades
The 1950s ushered in a number of technologies related to entertainment. Besides sci-fi cinema, this era boasts the popularity of electric guitars, disc jockeys, videotape recorders, and color televisions. If you’ve ever played an electric guitar, danced to a DJ, or recorded your outdoor adventures on a GoPro, you have the 1950s’ technology to thank.
While the 1950s gave us color TV and video recordings, the 1960s gave us major audio technologies. FM radio came to the fore in 1951—prior to this year, everyone listened to the AM frequency. The 1960s also featured audiocassettes, push-button telephones, and several developments in computing technology. Hard disks were developed in the 1950s, but the 1960s showcased “mini-computers,” a more-than-generous term for computers that no longer took up an entire room. This was the magic decade that the computers we’ve all become accustomed to using in our day-to-day routines were born.
If you play video games or wear a digital wristwatch, look to the 1970s for the initial breakthrough technologies. Video games became a phenomenon in 1972—with Pong leading the entertainment in arcades. Wristwatches and LED calculators hit the shelves in 1973. So, if you were ever grateful for that calculator during a math test, thank the ’70s.
The 1970s also marked the beginning of the ongoing feud between Microsoft and Apple, which were both brand new companies. Most likely, you’re reading this article using something created by one of these two companies. Computers continued to develop and improve at a rapid pace as technology moved into the ’80s.
The first cell phone was released in 1979, but you wouldn’t have wanted to cart the thing around with you. The 1980s brought improvements to the technology; the first commercial cellphone released for almost $4,000; however, the first truly affordable cell phone wouldn’t arise until the 1990s. It’s crazy to think that the technology we’ve become most dependent upon today was once an unaffordable item for most of us.
During the 1980s, companies focused on enhancing other existing technologies with personal computers, the Windows operating system, and digital cassette tapes. CDs came out this decade, too, and would go on to overtake cassette tapes as the digital future of music—for a little over a decade, anyway. Remember the famous, 1984 –inspired commercial for Apple’s personal computer? This was the decade when it aired for millions of Superbowl viewers as an introduction to the future of not just computing, but the workforce as well.
Ah, the 1990s, the era of parachute pants, MC Hammer, and Saved by the Bell. The decade also claims technology rights of the World Wide Web in 1990. The world as people knew it ended that year. We could now access information at the click of a button. The process might have taken a while and involved the screeching sound of dial-up, but it transformed information and technology forever.
Other highlights of the ’90s included MP3s, flip phones, and DVDs. Everything was getting smaller and thinner—and denim was all the rage.
The 2000s brought the beginning of today’s tech obsessions. The early years, pre-2010, featured iTunes, Napster, and, yes, the first social network, MySpace. In 2006, people began tweeting for the first time via Twitter. In 2007, the public received the iPhone, followed by a wave of innovation in products and services. Post-2010, 3D printing became something you could do in your own home and virtual reality let you travel the sea, space, or desert without leaving your couch.
Technology has changed drastically in just the last sixty years, and it’s set up to change even more with self-driving cars, smart home automation, and other technologies growing quickly in the near future.
Curious about what technology came out the year you were born or simply want to follow technology’s interesting and eventful history? Check what was popular when you were born.
You might also like “Are You a Technology Zombie?“
About The Author
Cosette is a tech and lifestyle writer who lives in Salt Lake City, UT. She is currently a staff writer at HighSpeedInternet.com and a freelance writer for several well-known publications. In her free time, Cosette enjoys lots of awesome outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and paddle boarding.