70s Technology

Published October 16, 2017

My cousin recently got married.  At her wedding reception, one of my (many) uncles paused to chat with me.  He shared that he had read a recent tech article that I had written for the paper, but it was a little over his head.  So he had a request for me:  write about something he could understand.  This struck a chord, since the whole purpose of these articles is to ‘dumb down’ technology.  His comment made it clear that–darn it! –I’m not doing my job.  So, I asked him what suggestions he had for future topics.  He told me to write about something from the 70s.

Hmmm…something from the 70s?  In a tech column?  I wasn’t sure how—or if— the two could mesh.    After some quick research, however, I discovered they could.

To my surprise, there were many electronic inventions in the 70s that are a part of my regular, if not daily, tech routine:

  1. Email—I had no idea that email has been around since the early 70s.  There are differing opinions as to whom to credit with its invention.  Ray Tomlinson is noted by some as creating the first ‘computer to computer’ network email.  His version incorporated the “@” symbol to denote sending messages from one person on one computer to another individual at another computer.  Shiva Ayyadurai is also noted in some materials as the inventor of email, as he wrote code for a program he named “EMAIL” in the 70s.  The program was specifically for internal use at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.   Many argue that the inventor of email depends on how you define it, but varying levels of the technology have been around since the 70s.
  2. Commercial Printers—According to some reports, the first commercial laser printer was produced in 1975 by IBM. The first ink jet printer was created in 1976.  Its creator is not clearly defined, but in many cases appears to be the joint product of several major corporations.
  3. Mobile phone—In 1973, the first mobile phone call was placed on a Motorola phone weighing about 2 pounds that had a maximum 30 minute talk time and took 10 hours to charge. The first call on this 1G (first generation) phone, named the Motorola Dyna-Tec, was made by Dr. Martin Cooper.
  4. Digital Camera—the digital camera was invented in 1975 by 24-year-old Steven Sasson, who worked for Eastman Kodak. For the most part, the project was kept under wraps, as the Kodak company feared the success of the digital camera would cut into the profit margins of film sales.  Years later that fear would come to fruition as in the wake of the digital camera’s success, Kodak filed for bankruptcy.
  5. Ethernet—This computer networking technology is known as “the internet’s plumbing”. It’s the cabling that connects various parts.  It was invented in 1973 when Bob Metcalfe was looking for a way to cable together a computer and printer.

Two other notable inventions of the 70s which impacted daily life at home, were the floppy disk and VCR.  These have since been replaced by other inventions, but were game-changers at the time of their creation.

So there you have it, Uncle Dave.  There’s my tribute to 70s technology.   Some of these items are almost as old as me, and continue to evolve and improve with age.  I only wish I could say the same for myself!