10 Great Inventions That Didn't Exist In The 1980s

Many of the things you take for granted weren’t around 30 years ago. In fact, many of them are probably a lot younger than you think they are. That thing called internet? Not really available to the general public until well into the 90s.

Wonder what else wasn’t around in the 80s? Continue reading to find out.

10 GPS

If you’re one of those people – and there are millions of them -- who can’t make it to the next town over without getting lost, a GPS can be a lifesaver.

Too bad folks in the 1980s had to rely on paper maps and, you know, just asking for directions, to get where they needed to go.

Technically, the first GPS (Global Positioning System) was released to the public in 1989. It was the Magellan NAV 1000 and it sold for close to $3000 – a little out of reach for most people. Plus, the system wasn’t exactly accurate, and it could only put you within 300 meters of your destination. It would be several years before GPS actually became affordable, and not until the 2000s for the military-use signal restrictions to be lifted – which brought accuracy down to 20 meters.

9 MP3s

You know all those catchy songs you listen to in your Smartphone while running or just trying to tune out the world? Those are all mp3 tracks – an audio format that wasn’t available to the public until the late 1990s. In fact, the first portable mp3 player – produced by a Korean company -- wasn’t released in the US until 1998.

So how did you listen to music before mp3s came around? Well, brace for it: CDs and mini-discs were “the” big thing then. And before that, of course, there were things called cassettes and LPs.

8 Sony PlayStation

The original PlayStation was invented and released in December 1994 in – where else? – Japan. It took until September of the following year before the console was available for sale in US stores.

The original PlayStation could also play CDs – a major thing since CD players were still rather expensive at the time. The biggest PlayStation game sellers of 1995? Myst and Battle Arena Tosshinden – both featuring pretty impressive graphics for a 32-bit video game console.

7 Google

Here’s the scoop: Google was developed by two Ph.D. students at Stanford University in 1998. That’s right, 1998. Before then, the internet was a dark pit of knowledge where finding anything was part luck and part massive headache.

Well, sort of. Before Google, AOL was the number one way people used to access the Internet and find stuff. All those pages of suggested pages you get with Google? Yeah, not there before 1998. Definitely not there in the 1980s either, when computer were still on their infancy.

6 Cell Phones

Technically, the first portable phone dates back to 1981, thanks to the introduction of the NMT network in Sweden and Norway. They made it to the US a year later. Those were analog cellular systems that were unscripted. That meant anybody with a radio scanner could listen to your conversations. They were also very expensive: the early Motorola DynaTAC 8000X sold for $4,000.

It wasn’t until 1991 that the first digital cellular networks were invented. Known as 'second generation' mobile phone systems  these phones used a separate frequency to scanners. The result? Conversations that could no longer be intercepted by every radio aficionado in your neighborhood.

Back in the 80s? Then, most people still used paid phones to make calls “on the go.”

5 Digital Cameras

Film might be all but gone now, but digital camera were the stuff of science fiction back in the 1980s. Some of the technology used in digital cameras did exist back then, but it was reserved for the military and some medical research.

In 1986, the Canon RC-701 reached the market. It was an analog camera that sold for $20,000 – yes, you read that right – and was mainly used by a number of news media outlets to take pictures overseas and send them back quickly via telephone lines.

Nobody in the “real world” saw a digital camera until November 1990, when the Dycam Model 1 came out – and that was a camera that took low-resolution black and white pictures and sold for the equivalent of $2000 in today’s money. Color pictures? Not for a few more years.

4 Viagra

All through the 80s and until 1998, men of the world had one less reason to rejoice. Viagra (or sildenafil citrate, as the chemical compound is called) was originally studied as a treatment for chest pain and hypertension. During clinical trials, researchers found that the drug did very little to help with those two conditions – but was very effective in other, more interesting ways.

Turned out to be a lucky discovery, though. In 2013, Viagra generated over $1.2 million in sales.

3 DVD Players

The first VHS-based VCR went for sale in the US in 1977 – but it was so expensive, really nobody could own one. Through the 80s, however VHS became a new revolutionary option for movie watching: no need to pay for a movie theater ticket or wait until something came up on TV.

VHS continued to hold the winning title until the first DVD players and discs became available to the world in 1997 (Japan had them one year earlier). In the year 2000, when PlayStation 2 came out, things got even more interesting, since the console could play not only games but also DVDs. Suddenly, a whole lot of people could afford DVDs. By 2003, the rent of DVDs was outnumbering VHS rentals.

2 Crocs

Whether you love them or hate them – there’s really no middle ground there – Crocs are here to stay. Fortunately (or not, depending on which side of the love/hate line you are), folks of the 80s didn’t have to deal with the holy foamy shoes in their everyday lives.

In fact, neither did people from the 1990s. The first Crocs didn’t hit the market until 2002, when their creators set up a stand in the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show and sold out of the 200 pairs they had brought along.

Since then, Crocs have become more than just shoes. They have been recognized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the U.S. Ergonomics company, and the Pediatric Medical Association as ideal choices to help people with foot and leg problems avoid pain and walk more comfortably.

1 eBay

In the 1980s, your only option for used clothing and second-hand miscellaneous items was the local thrift store. If you were lucky, maybe a garage sale during the summer season. EBay changed the way people shop by allowing you to find stuff anywhere, at any time, regardless of weather, time or distance.

EBay had its golden era during the dot-com bubble (between 1997 and 2000). The online auction site has been around since 1995, however, and originally focused mainly on travel tickets and travel products. When collectibles were introduced as a category a couple of years later, the website exploded.

By 2008, eBay revenues were up to almost $7.7 billion worldwide.

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