The top gadget the year you were born

The tech everyone coveted in your birth year The desire to get our hands on the latest must-have gadget has been going on for decades. Click or scroll through the tech that was top of the wish list the year you were born. Microsoft may earn an […]


The desire to get our hands on the latest must-have gadget has been going on for decades. Click or scroll through the tech that was top of the wish list the year you were born.



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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article


They might be considered a domestic necessity nowadays, but in 1946 owning a fridge was still a pipe dream for most UK families, who were in the midst of postwar austerity: only around 2% of lucky householders could afford one. Over in the US ownership was more common, with around 85% of homes serving up perfectly chilled groceries.



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Amateur photography was revolutionised in 1947 when the world’s first instant camera was unveiled by inventor Edwin H. Land in Massachusetts. The Polaroid Model 95 Land Camera went on to sell for around $90, around $1,000 (£805) in today’s money. The original was to become the prototype for all Polaroid Land cameras produced over the next 15 years.



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Petroleum-powered lawnmowers were all the rage in the late 1940s as the suburbs expanded and a perfectly manicured front lawn became a potent status symbol. Leading brands included Pincor and Goodall, and a decent model cost around $120, a hefty $1,240 (£1k) in today’s money. By the end of the decade, over a million labour-saving power mowers were manufactured in the US.



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Marketed as a ‘travelling secretary’, an electric dictation machine was top of every self-respecting professional’s Christmas wish list back in 1949. The Dictaphone company, which was founded by inventor Alexander Graham Bell in the late 19th century, was the market leader, and offered its very own recording medium called Dictabelt.



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Pulling out your plastic to pay is commonplace nowadays, but the credit card was a game-changer when it was first introduced. In 1950, the Diners Club issued the first ‘general purpose’ credit card, which allowed customers to charge the cost of their restaurant bills. It was first used in February that year at Major’s Cabin Grill in New York, and soon caught on.



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A pioneer of home moviemaking, Kodak introduced its Brownie 8mm Movie Camera in 1951. The gadget was relatively compact, lightweight and had a capacity for 15 minutes’ viewing, making it the most desirable gadget for amateur filmmakers that year.



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In 1952, Chicago metal worker George Stephen Sr. began marketing his clever grilling invention: a round barbecue with a dome-shaped lid that he’d fashioned from a metal buoy, and the rest is history. What would later become known as the Weber Kettle Grill was a resounding success from the get-go and went on to sell in the millions.



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In 1950, just 9% of American households owned a TV. By the end of 1953, that figure had jumped to nearly 50% as affordable black and white console sets abounded. Across the pond, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the first event of its kind to be televised, led to a surge in sales of TV sets and heralded the television age in the UK.



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Measuring just a few square centimetres, the Regency TR-1 was the world’s first commercial pocket transistor radio. The battery-powered radio was small enough to hold with one hand and came in a range of colours including green, pearlescent blue, lavender, white and red. Following its launch in 1954, it quickly became a holiday essential.



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While washing machines had been around since the 1940s and were prevalent in the US, it was only after World War II that they became commonplace in UK homes. The Parkinson model, pictured here, would wash the clothes but they still needed to be wrung out using the mangle on top. Front-loading models with a spin cycle wouldn’t be affordable until the 1960s.



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Watching television got that bit easier in 1956 with the development of the first wireless remote control, the Zenith Space Command. It worked mechanically; pushing one of the buttons caused a hammer inside it to hit an aluminium rod, which made an ultrasonic sound. The TV was able to interpret the clicks and respond to change the channel, the volume or to switch it on and off.



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Launched the previous year, the Udico electric can opener sold by the truckload in 1957. The brainchild of father-and-daughter inventor duo Walter and Elizabeth Brodie, the innovative contraption, which could also sharpen knives, fitted neatly on a countertop and was available in a variety of pastel hues.



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During the 1950s, only a privileged minority of households had the luxury of central heating and it wasn’t uncommon for people to wake up on a winter’s morning to frost on the inside of their bedroom window. Many people battled the chill by investing in an electric blanket or a mains-powered bedwarmer gizmo.



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The original electric toothbrush was invented by Philippe-Guy Woog, a Swiss dentist, in 1954. Mass production started in 1959 when the technology was brought to the US by E.R. Squibb and Sons Pharmaceuticals. A cordless model was introduced shortly afterwards by General Electric, while many companies including Panasonic went on to launch their own.



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The first automatic electric kettle, the K1 was launched in 1956 and used a controlled jet of steam from the boiling water to knock the switch and turn it off. It enjoyed huge success and in 1960 the K2 was launched, with its distinctive red ‘on’ switch. It went on to become the top-selling kettle in the UK for the next two decades.



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Jamming manual typewriters became a thing of the past with the advent of IBM’s electric Selectric Typewriter. Instead of individual typebars that swung up to strike a ribbon and page, the Selectric had a ‘typing element’, known as a ‘golf ball’, which also allowed users to change the typeface. It went on to dominate 75% of the American market.



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The wonder gadget of the year, the Sunbeam Mixmaster was the kitchen device to own in North America, Australia and New Zealand. In the UK, the Kenwood Chef was the preferred model. The versatile stand mixer featured on many a wedding list and didn’t come cheap, retailing for the equivalent of a fortnight’s wages.



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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article


The DIY craze really took off in the 1960s, no doubt buoyed on by the ever-increasing availability of affordable power tools. The electric drill was invented in 1916 by Black + Decker and developed for home use in the 1940s, but it wasn’t until the launch of the world’s first cordless drill in the early 1960s that the technology hit the mainstream.



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Though it tended only to get an outing once or twice a year to carve the Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey, the newfangled electric knife was the must-have kitchen gadget of 1965. General Electric’s version was the number one seller, shifting over five million units in 1965 and 1966. It retailed for around $30, which is $240 (£190) in today’s money.



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Although the origins of remote control cars can be traced back to the 1940s, the first miniature solid radio control systems were introduced in the latter half of the 1960s. A range of cars were commercially available by 1966, including the 1:12 Ferrari 250 LM, and quickly became coveted by kids and adults alike.



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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article


With colour TV sales skyrocketing, Sony released its Trinitron model in 1968 and scored a major hit. The first truly modern mass-market colour TV set, it outclassed the competition in everything from picture quality to value for money. More than 100 million units were sold before Sony ditched the model in 2008.



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Seiko changed the watchmaking industry forever when it launched the world’s first quartz watch, the Astron, in 1969. The trailblazing gold timepiece retailed for $1,250, a substantial $8,500 (£6,850) in today’s money, but prices for quartz watches fell dramatically during the 1970s, allowing the technology to conquer the mainstream.



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When it was launched in 1970, the Canon Pocketronic Calculator sold for a whopping $345, around $2,220 (£1,790) in today’s money. It let users add, subtract, multiply and divide. Over the next five years the size reduced, as did manufacturing costs, to make it a more affordable $20.



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In 1971, PhoneMate introduced the Model 400, the world’s first widely-used commercial answering machine. Seeming like a near-miracle at the time, the device allowed users to hold 20 messages on a reel-to-reel tape, and featured an earphone to listen to messages privately.



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After getting the quartz treatment, watches went digital in the early 1970s when the Hamilton Company developed Pulsar, which had lights instead of hands. The only catch? The much sought-after timepiece cost as much as a small car. Thankfully, by the late 1970s, digital watches had plummeted in price.



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Developed by French catering boss Pierre Verdun, the Magimix food processor was launched in the US in 1973 as the Cuisinart food processor, and debuted in the UK the following year. A multitasking marvel, it became a must for home chefs and flew off the shelves throughout the decade.



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Though still a luxury item, the videocassette recorder began to flirt with the mainstream in 1974. At this time, prices for the devices were starting to fall, but the technology really came into its own with the launch of the Betamax format in 1976, and VHS the following year.



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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article


Despite the technology and the very first huge ovens being developed during the the mid-1940s, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the microwave became a must-have domestic appliance. In the UK, USA, Canada and Japan, sales exploded thanks to big budget advertising campaigns and ever-affordable models with new features, such as the touchscreen buttons on the Samsung example pictured here.



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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article


A massive craze during the 1970s, Citizens Band (CB) radio was ridiculously popular in the US and even the UK, where it was deemed illegal until 1981. Users had to buy a base station and license, and choose a nickname, to use the service, which enabled them to chat with other users near and far.



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People could listen to music on the move for the first time when Sony’s portable cassette tape player, the iconic Walkman, hit the stores in July 1979. It went on to become one of Sony’s most successful brands with more than 200 million Walkmans sold, and paved the way for the portable CD player and iPod.



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At the end of 1979 and during the first few months of 1980, Epson released the MX-80, a fully-fledged printer for use with personal computers. The dot matrix device provided high-precision printing that didn’t cost the earth, giving it enormous appeal to both business and home users.



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British inventor Clive Sinclair unveiled one of the world’s first handheld portable TVs in 1981, the Flat Screen Pocket TV, aka the Sinclair TV80. When it eventually hit the market in 1983, the device was priced at $125, around $425 (£345) in today’s money.



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Sony released the very first commercial CD player in 1982. The system retailed for about $730, which is equivalent to $1,890 (£1,520) in today’s money, and was only available in Japan that year. The technology was rolled out globally in 1983, and took the world by storm.



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It didn’t exactly fit in your pocket like today’s mobile phones but Motorola’s DynaTAC 8000X was at the cutting edge when it launched in 1983. Though a full charge took roughly 10 hours and the device only offered 30 minutes of talktime, it was priced at a jaw-dropping $3,995, around $10,000 (£8k) in today’s money.



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More expensive than the popular Commodore 64, the first Apple Macintosh computer wooed the premium market with its nine-inch screen and $2,500 price tag, approximately $6,000 (£4.8k) in today’s money. Despite its expense, the device made Apple the second-largest PC manufacturer of the decade.



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In the days before mobile phones, pagers were the way to stay in touch when people were out and about. Early models allowed users to send coded messages to each other; the person receiving the message would call the sender by telephone. The Bravo Flex, introduced in 1986, went on to become the bestselling pager on the planet.



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A logical progression from its famous Walkman, Sony released the first portable CD player in 1984. By 1987, the company’s Discman device and its many imitations were hankered after by audiophiles far and wide, and had well and truly entered the mainstream, despite costing $350 or so, around $770 (£620) in today’s money.



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Leaving the noisy dot matrix printers trailing in its wake, the HP DeskJet was the first massmarket inkjet printer. It allowed computer users to print graphics and text more quietly, at a much quicker rate and with superior quality. While it wasn’t the first of its kind to be released, the device was cheaper than competing models, which boosted its popularity hugely.



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The Game Boy was the handheld games console to have following its release in 1989. As a measure of its popularity, the entire shipment of one million units to the US sold out within a few weeks. The Game Boy and Game Boy Color eventually sold over 118 million units around the world.



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The world’s first commercially-available digital camera, the Dycam Model 1 went on sale in 1990. One for amateur photographers with bags of money, the camera retailed for $995, around $1,900 (£1.5k) in today’s money, and could only produce black and white images with a maximum resolution of 0.09 megapixels.



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The hottest piece of tech to launch in 1991, HP’s ScanJet IIC could produce relatively hi-res color images at up to 800-dpi, which was a big breakthrough. It didn’t come cheap though. At $1,995, which is $3,650 (£2.9k) in today’s money, the device was prohibitively expensive for many people.



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It might not have been the first laptop, but the IBM ThinkPad was one of the most iconic of the 1990s, despite early versions weighing a cumbersome 6kg. One of the first models, the ThinkPad 700, had a 10.4-inch colour touchscreen and a meaty microprocessor, both groundbreaking features at the time.



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One of the first personal digital assistants, the Apple Newton was a precursor to the iPhone and offered a number of novel features, including handwriting recognition. The gadget was lauded for its innovation, but didn’t sell that well on account of its extortionate cost – $700, which is around $1,300 (£1k) in today’s money.



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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article


The world’s first flip phone, Motorola’s StarTAC was launched to a fanfare in 1996. Despite the rather steep price tag of $1,000, the handset was snapped up by over 60 million people, making it one of the first mass-market mobile phones.



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article


58/58 SLIDES

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