10 Things You Didn't Realize Were Invented in the 1970s

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From the first mobile phone to the Rubik's Cube, check out some of the most impactful inventions from the decade of disco.

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1. Floppy disk, 1971

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2. Email, 1971, 1978

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3. Mobile phone, 1973

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4. Universal Product Code (UPC), 1974

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5. Post-It Note, 1974

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6. Rubik’s Cube, 1974

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7. Push-through can tops, 1975

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8. Digital camera, 1975

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9. MRI machine, 1977

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10. Sony Walkman, 1979

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In the 1970s, the world made huge strides towards developing some of the most useful and impactful inventions of all time, ultimately setting the stage for some of the most advanced products today.

In 1971, IBM reshaped the way people thought about data storage when it released one of the earliest and most convenient mediums: the floppy disk. And if it weren’t for Motorola’s 1973 invention of the first mobile phone, you might not have that smartphone sitting in your hand right now. Or think about life without email. Without computer engineer Ray Tomlinson and then-14-year-old genius Shiva Ayyadurai, the world may be a different place -- that is, a place without email.

Related: The Hard Truth About How Much Your Invention is Really Worth

From the first mobile phone to the Rubik’s Cube to barcodes, some of the world’s greatest inventions emerged during the '70s. Check out these 10 things you probably didn’t realize were invented then.

Before the days of cloud storage, thumb drives and even CDs, floppy disks were the best solution for storing electronic data. And no surprise, IBM was at the forefront of this. In 1967, a team of engineers began developing this early method of data storage, but it wasn’t until 1971 that IBM put them on the market, and 1972 when it received patents for the floppy disk and the drive. In 1977, Apple released its first mass-produced computer, the Apple II, which came with two floppy disk drives.

There’s much controversy over who the founder of email is. In 1971, Ray Tomlinson, a computer programmer at research and design company Bolt Beranek and Newman (today BBN Technologies), created text-based messaging between company computers through the network ARPANET using the “@” symbol to route messages.

The other story belongs to V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai. In 1978, 14-year-old Ayyadurai built an electronic messaging platform that he based off the internal communication system at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark, N.J., where he was a research fellow. In 1982, Ayyadurai was awarded the copyright for “EMAIL.”

Today, disputes remain over who the true father of email is.

Although it sure didn’t look mobile, the first cell phone was invented in 1973 by Motorola. So how exactly was this day marked? Martin Cooper, a senior engineer at the company, called rival telecommunications company Bell Laboratories to tell them he was speaking through a mobile phone. The phone, which was a prototype of the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x, is nothing like the smartphone you own today. It weighed nearly two and a half pounds, was over a foot in length, offered 30 minutes of talk-time and took 10 hours to charge.

In 1949, while sitting on a beach in Miami, a spurt of inspiration hit inventor Norman Joseph Woodland. He drew in the sand an outline of what would today become one of the most effective retail inventions of all time -- the UPC, otherwise known as the barcode. Inspired by Morse Code, which he learned in the Boy Scouts, Woodland patented his idea in 1952.

After numerous designs, awareness of Woodland’s idea grew and eventually the retail and tech industries got involved in trying to create a successful UPC. Yet it wasn’t until decades later that Woodland’s idea finally came to fruition. On the night of June 25, 1974, a team from the National Cash Register installed new scanners and computers at the Marsh Supermarket in the small town of Troy, Ohio. Finally, at 8 a.m. on June 26, 1974, the first item with a UPC was scanned -- a pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum, which is now preserved at the Smithsonian Museum.

Related: The 10 Must-Have Ingredients for a Successful Invention

One of the simplest yet genius products, the Post-It Note was invented in 1974 -- by accident. In 1968, 3M research scientist Dr. Spencer Silver created a strange adhesive, which he found different and interesting, but for the most part, useless. In 1974, another 3M researcher, Arthur Fry, tried using the adhesive material to hold his papers together after he got frustrated when the bookmarks in his hymn book started flying around.
One of the most popular toys of all time, the Rubik’s Cube was invented  in 1974 by Erno Rubik, a professor of architecture from Hungary. Rubik used the Cube to present information about spatial relationships to his students in a more interesting and compelling way. Never had he intended for the object to become a top-selling toy. He saw it as a piece of art “that symbolized stark contrasts of the human condition … simplicity and complexity … order and chaos.” The Cube eventually became a children’s toy in 1979 and today, more than 350 million have been sold.

If you weren't around before the 70s, then this issue probably never came to mind. From pollution to injuries, the pull-tab from aluminum beverage cans were hazardous, enough so that it caused much discussion in the science community, beverage industry and media. “Aluminum pull-tabs are now common elements of our environment and inevitable offenders as foreign bodies in the esophagus,” a 1970s article from the Journal of Pediatrics noted.

Luckily, an engineer for Reynolds Metals, Daniel F. Cudzik, came up with the “Sta-Tab” -- which today are the push-through pop-tops we see on cans. Cudzik patented his idea in 1975 and by 1976, a majority of beverage companies adapted the new can design.

The first digital camera was created by Kodak engineer Steven Sasson in December 1975. Although it wasn’t the type of camera you’d take to document a family vacation -- at eight pounds, the camera took 0.01 megapixel black and white photographs that were recorded onto a cassette tape. One image took nearly 23 seconds to take, and could only be seen when the camera was connected to a television set.

Related: Is Your Product Idea Right for Licensing? How to Tell.

Often referred to as “one of the greatest medical breakthroughs of the 20th century,” the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) was created by Dr. Raymond Damadian. Damadian -- who attended the Juilliard School of Music at age 15, earned a mathematics degree at the University of Wisconsin, a medical degree at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and completed graduate work in biophysics at Harvard -- worked as a professor at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, until he founded a company to manufacture MRI scanners in 1977. Earlier, in the 1970s, he came up with the idea while using nuclear magnetic resonance, and later published his findings in a Science article. In 1977, he completed the first MRI on a human body, which he performed on his assistant’s chest.
Before your smartphone, the Sony Walkman was the most popular personal music device on the market. On July 1, 1979, Sony introduced the Walkman TPS-L2, a blue and silver, 14-ounce cassette player that ran off two AA batteries. Initially released in Japan, the company predicted only 5,000 would sell. Instead, its popularity skyrocketed and within the first two months Sony sold more than 50,000 Walkmans.

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