Things You Didn’t Realize Were Invented in the 1970s

Floppy disk, 1971

Before the days of cloud storage, thumb drives and even CDs, floppy disks were the best solution for storing electronic data. Unsurprisingly, IBM was at the forefront of this. A team of engineers began developing this early method of data storage in 1967, but it wasn’t until 1971 that IBM put the floppy disks 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.

Email, 1971, 1978

There’s much controversy about who the inventor of email is. 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 In 1971 by using the “@” symbol to route messages.

Meanwhile, V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai built an electronic messaging platform in 1978 when he was 14 years old, basing it 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.”

However, disputes still remain over who the true inventor of email is.

Mobile phone, 1973

Although it sure didn’t look mobile, the first cell phone was invented in 1973 by Motorola. 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. Worst of all, it didn’t even connect to wifi.

Universal Product Code (UPC), 1974

While sitting on a Miami beach in 1949, 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. However, 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.

Post-It Note, 1974

One of the simplest-yet-most-ingenius invention was actually invented by accident. 3M research scientist Dr. Spencer Silver created a strange adhesive in 1968, which he found different and interesting, but for the most part, useless. However, six years later, another 3M researcher named 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.

Rubik’s Cube, 1974

The Rubik’s Cube, one of the most popular toys of all time, was invented in 1974 by Hungarian architecture professor Erno Rubik. 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.

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