15 Highlights of the ’70s You Probably Don’t Remember

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Every decade has its defining moments, triumphs, and trials, shaping the course of history in ways that are often remembered and celebrated. Yet, amid the significant events and cultural milestones, many intriguing and influential happenings tend to fade into the background, overshadowed by more prominent memories. The 1970s, a decade marked by dramatic social change, technological innovation, and a distinct cultural vibe, is no exception. Here are 15 events from the 70s that deserve a throwback.

First Email Sent (1971)

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Ray Tomlinson, a computer engineer at Bolt Beranek and Newman in Cambridge, Massachusetts, sent the first email in 1971. Tomlinson was using ARPANET, the Advanced Projects Research Agency’s internal network, to send a test message between two Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-10 computers next to each other. The message was likely “test 123” or “QWERTYUIOP.” Tomlinson also introduced the @ symbol to separate the user’s name from their machine’s name in the address.

Watergate Scandal (1972-1974)

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You may have heard President Richard Nixon resigned, but do you know what led to that moment? It began with the burglary at the Watergate office in Washington, D.C., in 1972. Investigations revealed that the Nixon administration had engaged in widespread abuses of power, including bugging the offices of political opponents. The scandal led to Nixon’s resignation on August 8, 1974.

Vietnam War and the Fall of Saigon (1975)

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As part of the Vietnam War, the communist government of North Vietnam fought South Vietnam and its principal ally, the United States, for over four decades. This war ended in 1975 with the Fall of Saigon, marking the defeat of South Vietnam and the unification of Vietnam under communist control. It profoundly impacted U.S. foreign policy and military strategy and left deep scars on American society.

The Oil Crisis (1973)

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Over the Yom Kippur War, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries announced an oil embargo in protest of the United States’ decision to resupply Israel’s military. The embargo led to skyrocketing oil prices, fuel shortages, and a severe energy crisis in the United States and other nations. This crisis highlighted the world’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil and had lasting effects on global energy policies and economies.

The Birth of Personal Computing

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The 1970s saw the dawn of the personal computing revolution. Key highlights included the introduction of the first personal computers, such as the Altair 8800 in 1975 and the Apple I in 1976. These developments paved the way for the widespread adoption of computers in homes and businesses. It was also this decade that Bill Gates and Paul Allen established Microsoft in 1975, which would go on to play a pivotal role in the computing industry to date.

Cultural Revolution: Disco and Punk Music

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Music was not left out of the 1970s history. The era saw the rise of two influential genres: disco and punk rock. Disco music, characterized by its danceable beats and glamorous style, dominated the latter half of the decade with hits like the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive and Donna Summer’s I Feel Love. Meanwhile, punk rock emerged as a counter-culture movement with bands like the Ramones, Sex Pistols, and The Clash, offering a raw, rebellious alternative to the mainstream music scene. Both genres left a lasting impact on music and pop culture.

The Iranian Revolution (1979)

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In what was referred to as a Jihadist move, the Iranian Revolution transformed Iran from a monarchy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to an Islamic Republic under Ayatollah Khomeini. This revolution was driven by widespread discontent with the Shah’s regime, which was seen as oppressive, corrupt, and overly influenced by Western powers. It had profound effects on regional and global geopolitics, including the Iran Hostage Crisis.

The Launch of the Space Shuttle Program (1972)

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NASA initiated the Space Shuttle program in 1972 with the development of the reusable spacecraft, aiming to reduce the cost of space travel and increase access to space. The first shuttle, Enterprise, was used for testing and did not go into space. Although the program’s first operational shuttle flight occurred in 1981 with Columbia, its development and initial testing were significant milestones of the 1970s.

The Rise of Environmentalism

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Following significant adverse effects of industrialization, like the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969, the 1970s saw a significant rise in environmental awareness and activism. April 22, 1970, saw the first-ever Earth Day, which led to the start of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States. Major environmental legislation was passed, including the Clean Air Act (1970), the Clean Water Act (1972), and the Endangered Species Act (1973).

The Introduction of the Sony Walkman (1979)

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In a move that personalized entertainment, the Sony Walkman, introduced in 1979, revolutionized personal music consumption by allowing people to listen to their favorite music on the go. The portable cassette player became a cultural icon and set the stage for future portable music devices, significantly influencing the music and electronics industries. It marked the beginning of the personal audio era, transforming how people experienced music and entertainment.

The British Punk Movement

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Characterized by its raw sound, anti-establishment lyrics, and DIY ethic, punk challenged the status quo of the music industry and British society. A British punk movement, spearheaded by bands like the Sex Pistols and The Clash, exploded in the mid-1970s. Sex Pistols’ notorious 1976 TV interview with Bill Grundy and their controversial single “God Save the Queen” were pivotal moments. Despite its relatively short-lived peak, punk left an indelible mark on music, fashion, and culture.

The Concorde’s First Commercial Flight (1976)

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A supersonic passenger jet called the Concorde, developed jointly by Britain and France, made its first commercial flight in January 1976. Capable of flying at two times the speed of sound, the Concorde cut transatlantic flight times in half, making it a symbol of technological progress and luxury. However, its high operating costs and environmental concerns limited its commercial success. The Concorde remained in service until 2003.

The Launch of Voyager Probes (1977)

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In 1977, NASA launched the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft to study our solar system’s outer planets and edges. Both probes provided groundbreaking data and images of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, greatly enhancing our understanding of these distant worlds. Voyager 1, now the farthest human-made object from Earth, continued to send data back as it traveled through interstellar space.

The Jonestown Massacre (1978)

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Over 900 members of the Peoples Temple,  under the leadership of Jim Jones, died in a mass suicide-murder in Jonestown, Guyana, on November 18, 1978. The tragedy unfolded as a reaction to the investigation of the group’s activities by U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan, who was murdered along with several others as they attempted to leave Jonestown. This event remains one of the largest mass suicides in history and is a stark reminder of the dangers of cults and charismatic leaders.

The Establishment of Atari and the Birth of the Video Game Industry

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Atari, founded in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, launched the arcade game Pong, which became a massive commercial success and is often credited with popularizing video games. In 1977, Atari released the Atari 2600, one of the first-ever home video game consoles. The period marked the beginning of the modern video game industry, leading to the development of countless games and gaming systems that have become integral to global entertainment culture.

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