It’s amazing how the most remarkable, transformative ideas came in really small packages, and how they impacted our lives. And even now, their descendants still play a huge role in our daily lives. Here are some pathbreaking inventions that are considered milestones in technological and entertainment history.
Life changing invention 1: JVC HR-3300
JVC’s hefty videocassette recorder, weighing in at 30 pounds, was one of the earliest to work with VHS tapes. Movie moguls initially fought against the spread of taped movies, as they expected home viewing would negatively impact box office receipts. This didn’t happen. And a whole new market opened up in home entertainment profits for Hollywood, lighting the way for DVDs, movie and TV downloads.
Footnote: According to Wiki: “In 2008, the HR-3300 became the first VCR to be registered with the National Museum of Nature and Science, based in Tokyo, Japan. It was noted as one of the 85 most disruptive ideas by Business Week in 2014.”
Life changing invention 2: 1977: ATARI 2600
It started as far back as 1977! The gaming fever…with the Atari 2600. The first gaming system with plug-in cartridges that set gaming aficionados hyperventilating over the sure-fire proliferation of video games. Over 40 manufacturers created over 200 games for the system, including future classics like Pac-Man and Asteroids. And, we all know what these games did to the gaming firmament! Sad to say, Atari neglected game developers and many went over to rival game companies. Eventually, Nintendo carried the baton when Atari left off.
Footnote: Ian Bogost, associate professor in the School of Literature, Communication and Culture, author of Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System, says that “Atari is the grandfather of video game consoles and arcade games as we know them today.” In short, no Atari, no video games!
Life changing invention 3: 1979: SONY WALKMAN
The Walkman’s true breakthrough was its lightweight headphones that made it easy to carry around. Making it the first very personal music system. Originally known as the “Soundabout” in the U.S., “Freestyle” in Australia and “Stowaway” in England, Sony has sold 186 million of these tape players. The Walkman was such a hit, and so ubiquitous, that the Oxford English Dictionary included it as an entry in 1986. It has become an integral part of the human lexicon.
Footnote: According to The Science of Rock and Roll, “The Radical Effect of the Sony Walkman. Like the transistor radio in the 50s and 60s, the Sony Walkman and its competitors…defined the portable music market.” The Walkman also coincided with the fitness craze that swept the 1980s, by making working out more entertaining.
Life changing invention 4: 1982 ZX Spectrum
The Spectrum was among the first mainstream-audience home computers in the UK – an 8-bit personal home computer released in 1982 by Sinclair Research. It was launched as the ZX Spectrum by Sinclair to highlight the machine’s colour display, compared with the black and white of its predecessor, the ZX81. The Spectrum was released as eight different models, with the top end ZX Spectrum +3 offering 128 KB RAM and a built in floppy disk drive in 1987; all together they sold over 5 million units worldwide.
Footnote: The introduction of the ZX Spectrum led to an exponential growth in companies producing software and hardware for the machine, the after-effects of which are still seen today.
Life changing invention 5: 1984: APPLE MACINTOSH
The world has never been the same since then. Starting with its iconic TV commercial, “1984” which launched this, shall we say ‘immortal’ machine, the Apple has taken over our lives. Steve Jobs was totally confident that the Mac would revolutionize the way we worked and played – and he was right! He touted the Mac as being “for the rest of us. In many ways, the Mac lived up to the hype.
Footnote: The Mac influenced the competition, with most of its competitors trying to clone its user-friendly language, hardware and software. Its intuitive software, graphics and icons are now universal in personal computing. The Mac was also one of the first mainstream computers to include a mouse, as a pointing device.
Life changing invention 6: 1999: BLACKBERRY
There was a period when everyone one who counted, and even some who didn’t, had their thumbs clicking busily all over the Blackberry keyboard. No corporate worth his or her salt could afford to be seen without one! Research in Motion’s Blackberry was so popular that heavy users complained of finger injuries from endless hours of thumb typing. Blackberries were the first handheld devices that made it easier for mobile professionals to communicate on-the-go with quick e-mails. They become ubiquitous in government, technology and financial circles.
Footnote: Today the BlackBerry is almost a generic term for any handheld mobile device with a host of functions. To call the BlackBerry just a phone would be a gross understatement. It is important to add that the BlackBerry was the first device to make communication really mobile. Its technology is such that it allows to people to communicate with each other -wherever in the world they are.
Life changing invention 7: 2001: APPLE iPOD
This little music player changed our listening habits and changed the world of music. There were MP3 players before the iPod. They left a lot to be desired. Most MP3 devices stored about eight songs and that was it! Then along came Steve Jobs, offering 1,000 songs in a clean, white box the size of a deck of cards. Though it was a game changer, the iPod didn’t quite spread like a wildfire until the third-generation model boosted the storage capacity and refined the interface. Since then Apple hasn’t looked back: by 2005, more than eight out of 10 digital music players sold at retail were iPods.
Footnote: According to Mashable.com, “The genius of the iPod was (and still is, with the iPhone) that, while the music industry actually believed that it had found a good (i.e., closed and controlled) way to extract money from otherwise freeloading consumers, the iTunes/iPod/iPhone ecosystem became the dominant hardware solution for the consumption of free music.”
Life changing invention 8: 2007: APPLE iPHONE
There is really no debate about it: The iPhone is a mobile device that everyone, yes everyone, wants to be holding on to. If it wasn’t for the fact that the iPhone is somewhat more expensive than most other mobile devices, the world would be flooded with the many variants of this iconic phone. The first device to integrate a video iPod with a cell phone and a Web browser, it garnered more hype before its public release than any of Apple’s previous product launches. Operated completely by touch — with no external keyboard or stylus — the iPhone drew a steady drumbeat of publicity in the five-month interval between Steve Jobs’ announcement of the phone and its June debut, with Apple hoping that this phone would make history. And, as we all know, it did.
Footnote: According to Time Magazine, “Apple is already the most valuable company on the planet by market capitalization, and on track to become the world’s first trillion dollar one. Looking back over the last 10 years, the hype before the launch of the iPhone if anything underestimated its impact on global industries and individuals.” – June 2017.