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20 Products That Have Changed Our Lives

The pace of technological change is dizzying. New products and technologies are constantly being introduced which impact our lives, while making yesterday’s technology seem well, so yesterday. Today’s Struming looks at those products and services that have been significant life changers during the past 50 years. It’s interesting to look back at which ones were amazing at their time, yet are now passé or even no longer relevant. Nonetheless, each one of these had a major impact, and many still do.

Here are the top 20 technological changes and products, in chronological order from the 60s until current day, that have made a major impact in our lives.

1. FM Radio

FM radio was a big deal in the 60s. WABC (770AM) was the primary vehicle for music in the New York area for me as a kid, but FM stations 95.5 (WABC-FM), 98.7 (WOR-FM) and powerhouse, 102.7 (WNEW-FM) changed the New York radio landscape back in the 60s. It expanded my musical taste (not too much Grateful Dead played on AM radio), and was my first media love: see Why I Love Radio.

2. Cable TV

In 1974 I got cable TV in my apartment in Elizabeth, NJ for the first time. There were two cable channels– HBO and MSG. Yet I thought I died and gone to heaven. Heretofore cable TV was merely a delivery system for broadcast TV stations in outlying C&D counties where broadcast TV was hard, if not impossible, to get. But now cable was delivering programming that I wanted. Movies on HBO (they played Gone with the Wind often then) and the Knicks and Rangers on cable. In the later 70s, the early days of ESPN were life changing. I still remember watching a lot of Australian Rules Football. Sports news programs a few times a day. Incredible stuff, or so it seemed.

3. The Remote Control

Changing the TV without getting up was such a pleasure. This was a big deal (Still is).

4. The Microwave Oven

Nuking hot dogs and leftovers in seconds. What a life changer.

5. The ATM

You mean I don’t have to go into a bank Monday-Friday from 9am to 3pm to withdraw money. Very convenient.

6. VCRs

You could actually record a TV show for later playback and watch recorded movies/videos. Should I get a Betmax or a VHS, I wondered? What will they think of next!

7. Express Mail

Federal Express was brilliant. Overnight delivery of letters and packages started to change the pace of business.

8. CDs

What will become of vinyl, I thought? I remember as a DJ on WDHA in the early 80s announcing a song when I played it on CD. I recall actually promoting the technology….”Here’s Dire Straits, Money for Nothing….on CD”

9. PCs

So you can type stuff and print it out. Yes, that’s a lot easier than a typewriter.

10. Internet/AOL dial up

Will this internet stuff catch on? You can look up stuff and I guess the internet is like a big encyclopedia, I thought. Moreover, you could access this stuff easily through the phone lines with this new AOL thing. It only takes 30 seconds to connect. Who thought of the scratchy connecting audio? And you can send and receive email. Don’t you remember the words “You’ve Got Mail”. Obviously broadband blew away dial up a few years later.

11. Cell phones

Portable telephones. That’s convenient. But are they really necessary, I thought? Will people use them? Guess so.

12. Texting & Cameras

Texting felt a little intrusive at first. I guess it’s OK I thought. Certainly convenient. Kind of like email, just more immediate. And taking photos from a phone. Damn convenient.

13. iPods

Changed the music industry, but killed the “album”. Who needs the whole collection of songs? An individual song or two will surely do.

14. Early smart phones

Now I could have the phone numbers in the cell phone device and get emails on this thing too. My Palm phone was very cool 10 years ago. Never had a “Crackberry” but many business people did.

15. DVRs

The promise of “time shifting”  made easy. No tapes necessary like those VCRs needed. .

16. Social Media

I was interested in My Space, then Facebook early. I love social media.  I never had privacy concerns (probably should have) or techno fear. I just jumped in and learned. Many of my generation avoided this “kids stuff” (or so they thought) at first. Most have since come around.

17. iPhones/Droids

Now the phone is really the least important part of the device. It’s a pocket computer. Yet people still call them cell phones. More than 50% of Americans have smartphones and the % is growing daily.

18. Navigation Systems

I avoided them at first. I drove around the country (summer of 1999) without one. Who needs them, I thought foolishly? We all do, I found out. But I find the Nav through my smart phone is better than any built in system in a car. It’ll tell me traffic and real time to get to destination.

19. Tablets

A hybrid laptop/bigger “phone”.  Very cool.

20. E Commerce

Buying stuff online. How great is that? If you know what you want, why is a store visit necessary? One click and you are done. Is there anything easier? And I don’t need to sit at my PC to do so either.

There is one constant in all these innovations. Products and services which bring enjoyment, save time, save cost and make life easier are always welcomed. In technology, change is the status quo.

Do you agree with this list? Which ones did I miss? And most importantly, what’s around the corner?




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4 Comments

  1. T Swider says:

    Thanks Lonny ! Always refreshing and on the mark. Tom

  2. Michael Elkisch says:

    Lonny,

    Good blog post, but I think you overlooked the copier machine and the fax. With both of us having worked at NH&S how could you forget one of our cherished clients, Xerox. The fax has been superseded by e-mail, but for a period in the ’80’s it was essential for business communications.

    Michael

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Yes I do recall the fax machine at Needham Harper & Steers which I recall we called a “dex” machine at that time. It was a big deal in 1977. Hope all is well.

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