Science & Technology

Best of 80s: The tech that defined the decade

The 1980s is a decade that is often remembered for its significant contributions in shaping the tech of the future. The release of Nintendo GameBoy and NES, the rise of Sony Walkman and Trinitron TVs, the popularity of Casio calculator watch, and the craze for the Video Home System or VHS define the eventful ten years to a large extent. If you are obsessed with the gadgets of the 80s, this list will be a walk down memory lane for you.

Apple Macintosh

When Steve Jobs first revealed the Macintosh at the Flint Center on De Anza College campus on January 24, 1984, it wasn’t just another computer. It was Apple telling the world how to make a mass-market personal computer. The Macintosh 128K, as it was known back then, was remarkable in every sense. It had a 9-inch monochrome display and came with a keyboard and mouse. Not to forget, this was the first computer to bring graphical user interfaces (GUIs) to the masses. The first Mac also featured two serial ports, and could accommodate one 3.5-inch floppy disc. Initially, sales of the Macintosh were strong and reached 70,000 units in the first year. The original machine was priced at $2,495, roughly $6000 today. It was replaced by the Macintosh 512K with more RAM in September 1984. Jobs’ left no expense to promote the original Mac. Ridley Scott directed the iconic 1984 Super Bowl commercial which cost Apple $1.5 million made the brand a household name.

Apple Macintosh, Macintosh 1984, Nintendo Entertainment System, NES, Nintendo Game Boy, Atari, Sony Walkman, 80s gadgets, best of 1980 gadgets, Sony Trinitron TV, Casio Calculator watch Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

Nintendo Entertainment System

When the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was released in the US in 1985, few would have thought of its impact on the video game industry. Originally released as the Family Computer (Famicom) in Japan, the US version of the Famicom single-handedly saved the home console industry which had almost collapsed back then. Not many know that Nintendo was actually planning to team up with Atari to release the Famicom in the US under the name of the “Nintendo Advanced Video Gaming System” but the deal fell through. The “Famicom” was given a western makeover and the idea of renaming the console worked. The NES made its debut in the US with almost 17 games but the Super Mario Bros wasn’t ready for the US market yet. The NES will always be remembered for Nintendo’s biggest first-party IPs, including The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. In total, NES sold over 60 million consoles and 500 million games worldwide.

Apple Macintosh, Macintosh 1984, Nintendo Entertainment System, NES, Nintendo Game Boy, Atari, Sony Walkman, 80s gadgets, best of 1980 gadgets, Sony Trinitron TV, Casio Calculator watch The original Sony Walkman. (Image credit: Sony Walkman video/screengrab)

Sony Walkman TPS-L2

The iPod of the 80s, Sony’s Walkman, has a glorious history. Introduced on July 1, 1979, the iconic Walkman TPS-L2, a palm-sized mini portable cassette player with silver buttons and two headset jacks, changed how people listen to music forever. Upon its debut in the US, the Walkman soon became one the most successful consumer products ever. Sony has since released various iterations of its Walkman, and although Apple’s iPod replaced Sony’s portable cassette player, it is still considered an icon of modern and popular culture. Sony discontinued the classic cassette-based Walkman line in 2010, but still sells digital walkmans. In fact, the most expensive high-end Sony Walkman costs an astonishing $3199, though aimed at audiophiles. Sony sold more than 400 million Walkman players globally since the debut of the TPS-L2 model.

Apple Macintosh, Macintosh 1984, Nintendo Entertainment System, NES, Nintendo Game Boy, Atari, Sony Walkman, 80s gadgets, best of 1980 gadgets, Sony Trinitron TV, Casio Calculator watch Casio made calculator watches popular in the 80s. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

Casio calculator watch

Remember the watch worn by Marty McFly in Back to the Future? That watch (Casio CA-50) saw a massive craze in the 80s, thanks to the built-in calculator. Casio apparently made one of the most progressive watches one could have on the market in the 80s. One could store names, numbers, contact info, and much more on a tiny watch. The Databank series brought modernity to the watches, something Cupertino is doing now with the Apple Watch. Wearing a calculator on your wrist was something considered out of the box. Casio’s Databank series proved that designers were planning on using the wrist for more things. Even to this date, the Databank still holds a special place among Casio watch lovers. In fact, Casio still sells calculator watches. The CA53W-1, for instance, offers dual time, daily alarm, stopwatch, auto calendar, and 5-year battery. The case has 50 meters of water resistance and the watch is only $25.

The original Game Boy was launched in 1989. (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons(

Nintendo Game Boy

Released in 1989, Nintendo Game Boy shook up the video games market. While it wasn’t the first handheld game console, it was the most popular. Like Nintendo’s current consoles, the original Game Boy was not a technical marvel. The 8-bit handheld console had a chunky physical design, a monochrome display, and supported interchangeable cartridges. However, it promised an amazing 30 hours of battery life. What really worked in favour of Nintendo was its pitch: an NES in your pocket. The Game Boy had a similar layout to the NES controller with four buttons and an eight-way D-pad controller, making it easier to play games. Additionally, the Game Boy allowed for up to 16 people local multiplayer through a special cable. Considering these features and the fact that Nintendo offered Tetris as one of the launch titles as one of the North American launch titles made the Game Boy an instant success. It launched at a price of $90, although it faced stiff competition from Sega, the Game Boy sold over 1 million units alone during the first holiday season. Nintendo sold almost 120 million units of the original Game Boy worldwide over its lifetime. The popular handheld console was succeeded by the Game Boy Color in 1998.

Honorable mentions

Sony Trinitron TVs

In the 80s, Sony enjoyed market dominance in every product category, including televisions. Japanese products were considered superior – and Sony was the biggest brand from Japan. Owning a Trinitron TV was considered prestige in North America and Europe. A stylish TV with a premium price tag and superior CRT technology made Sony’s Trinitron TV a household name in the western markets. In fact, the craze for a Trinitron TV was so high that affluent Indians often fly to Singapore or Hong Kong to buy the TV set. The quality of Trinitron’s picture was so good that Sony started licensing its CRT technology to computer makers, including Apple and Dell. However, in the 90s, CRT technology started to be challenged by flat-screen displays. Sony sold 280 million Trinitrons worldwide since it introduced the TVs in 1965, and in 2008 it decided to stop manufacturing TVs with CRT technology.

VHS player

If you grew up in the ’80s, you might be familiar with the Video Home System or VHS. The videocassette recorder revolutionised home entertainment as it allowed users to capture their favorite shows on tape and watch them at their own pace. It was considered a breakthrough in technology at the time. But when Hollywood stopped releasing movies on VHS, the format started to lose the ground to DVD in the 90s. While people no longer remember VCR, its influence on home entertainment cannot be forgotten. Because of VHS tapes, there was a shift in binge-watching habits and how people consume media content on their televisions.

Atari 2600

This list is incomplete without mentioning Atari, a company where Steve Jobs started his career as a technician after he dropped out of Reed College. The rise and fall of Atari is fascinating. The role played by Atari in video gaming, especially in shaping the home console market in the 70s and 80s, will always be remembered. While Atari rose to fame with arcade hits like Pong, it truly shined with the Atari 2600 and subsequent consoles.

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