The 80s was a unique decade, with fashion, technology, and music having some ground-breaking turning points. It’s no surprise that many people are all too eager to capture the same spirit that defined that decade, at least the way it’s usually remembered in the United States.
To this end, folks may throw 80s-themed parties, buy decor that reminds them of that time, or rewatch their favorite shows made in the 80s. The tech gadgets of the 80s are an especially important aspect, as they paved the way for many devices that we use in our everyday lives today.
Whether you want to delve into some 80s nostalgia or are interested in retro tech gadgets, the best gadgets of the 80s will probably pique your interest. Here are a few of them now:
1. Apple Macintosh 128K (1983)
The Apple Macintosh personal computer was an iconic offering. It sold for the high price of $2,495, which evens out to around $6,100 now. While the fast-paced Apple technology of today was still not even imaginable to most people, this gadget was still popular enough to sell more than 70,000 units in only four months.
There was a great amount of fanfare when this computer was released in 1984. Ridley Scott, the director of the 1979 horror flick ‘Alien’, created the advertisement for it. The ad was broadcasted during the 1984 Super Bowl, and is still an iconic yet somewhat infamous part of advertising history to date.
The Macintosh model we’re talking about here is the 128K, so named because it used 128K RAM. The CRT monitor measured 9 inches, while the floppy disk drive was single sided. There was a handle on top of the computer which made it easy to carry from one place to another.
Apple faced many competitors back in the day. The best home computers of the 80s included several other models, each with varying levels of speed and popularity.
2. Casio Calculator Watch (1983)
Long before there were smartwatches from Apple and its competitors, this was the smartest watch on the 80s market. This offering from Casio dutifully told the time, but the real charm was an inbuilt calculator which let the wearer do basic arithmetic no matter where they were. It also boasted a calendar, a stopwatch, and an alarm function to help us stay organized and productive.
3. The Clapper (1984)
The Clapper had a fun and useful function, but it did have its limitations. Today, if we get a smart home system like Amazon Echo or Alexa, it’s possible to get the lights turned on and off with just a voice command. The same goes for turning on music, the televisions, or controlling many other devices.
In the 80s, the precursor to such technology was found in The Clapper. Basically, you plugged this gadget into an outlet, and then plugged in any device that you need to control. Most people would use this to turn the lights on and off as needed. This might have been convenient when they were already in bed, about to fall asleep, and not wanting to get up to turn off the lights.
The reasoning behind this gadget was logical enough, but unfortunately the thinking might not have gone far enough. The Clapper turned out to be prone to issues, activating itself whenever there were any loud noises like the barking of a dog or even loud sounds from a television. Obviously, having the lights turn on and off due to external sounds would have been quite irritating. While The Clapper might have been a nifty gadget that even got showcased in movies and TV shows, it eventually fell out of popular use.
4. Audio-Technica Sound Burger (1983)
The Sony Walkman made it possible for 80s teens to listen to their music on the go. The Sound burger has a similar function for those who want to listen to vinyl records. This was a portable type of turntable, which allowed people to listen to their favorite records even when they were on the go.
While the idea of such turntables was nice, there wasn’t much protection for the LPs with this gadget. It was powered by batteries, with a manual arm, stereo L/R RCA audio outputs, and even a headphone jack so you didn’t disturb other people. We can still see and use this technology in the more modern turntables available now.
5. Simon (1980)
This was a kind of ‘Simon Says’ game, where you get a tune that’s matched with a color panel. There will be new additions at each level, and players had to touch the panels in the same pattern as shown.
Players in the 80s could try this game by themselves as well as in groups. Some would say that it was a good exercise for building up memory skills. If someone is on the search for 80s toys that are still available today, this game might be one of them. However, it might be easier to find an app that presents similar challenges.
While the gameplay of Simon was fairly simple, it was still a major engineering feat when it was released. Technically, it became available in 1978, but its pop culture icon status was established in the 1980s.
6. Nintendo Games and their Accessories
The 80s decade was huge for the video game industry, though the most iconic option then was the Nintendo NES. Its arcade games and amazing accessories took gaming to a whole new level, with a lot of ranges and varieties on offer.
80s gamers of all skill levels, tastes, and ages would spend hours playing games like Super Mario, Excitebike, The Legend of Zelda, and Duck Hunt. Even decades later, many gaming enthusiasts still enjoy these games and play them both for the nostrils and pure fun. Just a few examples of the most iconic accessories include the NES Zapper, the R.O.B (Robotic Operating Buddy), and the Power Glove.
7. Sony Walkman (1979)
We probably can’t talk about the best gadgets of the 80s without mentioning the Sony Walkman in some detail. The iPod might have conquered the portable music market now, but the Sony Walkman in the 80s was the must-have cool gadget for every teenager.
Portable radio players were also around back them, but the Walkman was unique in allowing people to select their listening experience. This was the era of making mixed tapes, creating customized playlists on cassette tapes, and buying cassette albums of your favorite artists. All you had to do was pop in the desired music, plus in your headphones and start playing. There was also the option to listen without headphones, or tune in to FM or AM radio channels.
The Walkman originally came from Japan was technically became available late in the 1970s decade. However, it became really prominent in the 80s and 90s. In fact, the term ‘Walkman’ became used for any compact portable cassette player even if it wasn’t released by Sony. In 1986, the word was officially listed in the English dictionary, with a picture of the WM-77 model.
8. The Polaroid Sun 660 Camera (1981)
Released early in the 1980s, this instant camera was one of the precursors of modern camera technology. It was among the first options that majorly cut down the time we had to spend in waiting for all our photos to get developed. Not only this, but this gadget was a lot of fun as well. You pointed and clicked; the photograph will come out of the camera and develop before your eyes.
This Sun 660 model featured an inbuilt flash and a sonar-powered autofocus feature to boot. It would also detect when subjects were in low-light areas and tried to boost lighting accordingly. As a result, it was more likely to turn out a bright and clear picture almost every time.
The most endearing features of this camera, however, were its relatively small size and ability to enhance images. The technology might seem very basic now, but was probably an important step on the way to the high-resolution cameras most phones have now.
Today, we can see that Polaroid cameras have gone through resurgence. This is partly due to the One Stop Plus digital model, which has a classic design much like the Sun 660.
The tech gadgets of the 80s might have led to a lot of fascinating devices in the 21st century. Some of these options might even be available today, though some others were discontinued with good reason. If the examples above sound intriguing, check out these top science discoveries and inventions from the 90s.