45 years of tech moments: Nintendo Switch, CD player, PlayStation, Apple iPad and more
A Gen Z Marty McFly, time-traveling from 2022 to 1977, would be greeted by an alien landscape where, instead of social media and smartphones, they would find bingo and rotary phones. Over the past 45 years, technology trends have come, gone and disappeared in the heap of gadgets in the sky. CD burners, fax machines, Blackberries, Tamagotchis and Furbys now seem as dated as the Kardashians, but some old technology (vinyl, books, Keith Richards, etc.) remains impervious to the march of time. Here’s a look at some of the great tech moments — many of which have passed, little forgotten — since this magazine’s inception.
Atari 2600 (1977)
The birth of home gaming as we know it, the Atari 2600 saw a generation of kids in double denim with casserole haircuts wasting their lives on Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Frogger: titles iconic arcade machines that are still good for a whirlwind today.
Sony Walkman (1979)
Before the Walkman, the only music you heard on the go was your dad whistling Elvis. The Walkman changed all that. Pop in a cassette, strap the device to your belt, and continue on your merry way until the player inevitably chews your tape to mush. The Walkman was an escape pod for teenagers in the 1980s, so it’s only fitting that he (and Kate Bush) saved Max from an upside-down disaster in the new season of Stranger Things.
CD player (1982)
Early CD releases for Sony’s first commercial player are included Visitors by ABBA and a reissue of Billy Joel’s 52nd street. CDs were slow to take off; tapes took longer to kill; vinyl was biding its time for a 2010s revival.
Motorola DynaTAC 8000X (1983)
When it was released, the first mobile phone was considered a symbol of wealth and futurism. Now that brick-shaped piece of plastic looks like a crime scene exhibit.
Apple Macintosh computer (1984)
The home computing revolution had already begun with the introduction of machines like the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum, but the Apple Mac kicked down (living room) doors and created a generation of bedroom programmers and graphic designers.
Microsoft Windows (1985)
There’s more processing power in a modern car key fob, but the first Windows operating system set the computing blueprint for decades to come. Plus, it was the first time you could have a mouse in your goof without having to call pest control.
World Web (1990)
At the very beginning of the Internet, Tim Berners-Lee built the first web server, web browser, and website. A playground for geek subcultures and niche chatrooms, the WWW and its concept of a global news medium were first mistaken for another fad – fools.
With graphics capabilities that seemed far beyond Nintendo and Sega, the 32-bit PlayStation transformed video games. Titles like grave robber, Annihilateand resident Evil has become as big a part of Gen X life as Nirvana, Prodigy and Radiohead.
DVD Players (1996)
Before DVDs, you had to watch movies on VHS tapes, which had the graphical fidelity of a pond full of frogs. DVDs brought cinematic experiences and box games to farms.
USB sticks (1999)
Floppy disks don’t deserve mention in this article, as those little bastards inevitably broke after three uses, taking entire college dissertations with them. USB drives were faster, more secure, and remain a reliable storage medium to this day.
MP3 Players (2001)
The music industry dropped the ball after the birth of the MP3, viewing it as a threat to its beloved CDs. But MP3 and the release of Apple’s first iPod proved the customer – who wanted to carry entire music libraries in their pockets – right.
When it launched, Twitter was a benign forum where people generally interacted in a pleasant way. These days it’s a colosseum of rage, screams and memes. Hey, that’s progress.
Apple iPhone (2007)
Steve Jobs’ promise to “reinvent the phone” paid off with the iPhone. 15 years later, the bones of its design are still visible in virtually every smartphone on the market.
Apple iPad (2010)
Once again, Steve Jobs rewrote the rulebook with a new device, split between a laptop and a smartphone. With its multi-touch screen and the abandonment of a traditional keyboard, the iPad was the stuff of the future.
Google Chromecast (2013)
With the advent of the streaming revolution, we needed a device that eliminated the need for VGA or HDMI cables. Google provided this solution with the Chromecast. Cheap and easy to install, it created a conduit to transmit media from our devices to our televisions.
Amazon Echo (2014)
Despite the privacy concerns behind voice assistant technologies, the convenience of barking commands at Alexa — playing songs, communicating with friends, and getting beef taco recipes while driving the car — cannot be understated. estimated.
Apple AirPods (2016)
Airpods weren’t the first wireless headphones. However, their design, technology and Bluetooth connections have made them the benchmark for wireless audio.
Nintendo Switch (2017)
Alongside Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo is the third tier of the Big Three of video games. The PS5 and Xbox Series X are still heavy hitters, but the Switch – which could be played handheld or hooked up to a TV – was the most innovative console of the 2010s.
Find out more in our new 45th anniversary issue, available now.