Six of the Best: Tech landmarks

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Apple announced record $18.4bn quarterly profits but also warned its income may soon fall, prompting some to say the company needs to find ‘the next big thing’. Neil Hudson takes a look at technology which changed the world.

PONG VIDEO GAME

It seems rather fitting that the cornerstone of the video games industry consisted of just two moveable vertical white lines on black screen. This was, in essence, table-tennis for your television and a real earthquake moment in terms of home entertainment.

It cost around £100 and had only one game mode... there is very little else to say about it, except that it was hugely (phenomenally would be a better word) addictive, selling 75,000 units in its first Christmas season.

Remarkably, it still sells today, although only through second hand retailers.

SONY WALKMAN PERSONAL STEREO

Before the Sony Walkman came on the scene, if you wanted to listen to music on the go, then everything else also had to, plus you had to walk around looking like a builder carrying a set of ladders on your shoulders, because stereo systems (as they were quaintly called back in the day) were the size of your average suitcase and about as heavy, meaning you had to keep swapping shoulders.

Sony pulled the rug out from everyone by coming up with the world’s first mobile entertainment system. Shame it didn’t also make phone calls...

SINCLAIR C5 ELECTRIC CAR

How far ahead of his time was Sir Clive Sinclair? Way back in 1985 when programmes like CHiPs and T J Hooker were filling up the TV schedules, Sinclair came up with the single-seater, battery powered C5, retailing at £399. Technically speaking though, this was an ‘electrically assisted pedal cycle’. Only 14,000 were ever made and of those only 5,000 sold. Despite Sinclair’s company going into receivership later the same year, today the C5 is a cult classic and some have even modified them with monster truck wheels and jet engines.

NOKIA 6110 MOBILE PHONE

Mobile phones go back further than you think - all the way to 1973, in fact. However, back then they were the size of a small refrigerator. But then, in 1997 came the Nokia 6110, which marked the beginning of the current mobile phone phenomenon. Yes, at that time Apple were still making home computers. Nokia introduced the world to ‘texting’ (the phone could hold up to 10 messages) and the battery lasted about a week. Unlike today’s mobiles, you could pretty much do what you wanted to the Nokia, including throw it at a wall and drop it in the sink... and it still worked.

VHS/BETAMAX TELEVISION

For those of a certain age, the era of VHS and even Betamax will not seem that long ago. Time was people used to consider this the height of technology and granted, it changed the way people viewed TV, meaning we no longer had to be in when our favourite programme aired. Instead, we could go out for a 1970s meal in a restaurant which had carpets (probably) and attempt to watch said recording later. This was no mean feat and involved ‘tracking’ the picture. VHS emerged as the dominant format. Later models included ‘long play’, with eight hours of recording.

CITIZEN’S BAND RADIO

CB radio was invented in the late 1940s but only became popular in the 1960s in America, primarily because big rig drivers found themselves hampered by a new national 55mph speed limit. So, they used the system to organise convoys and to avoid speed traps. CB spawned a whole social movement and was further popularised by films such as Convoy and Smokey and the Bandit. In the UK, the Government only legalised CB radio in 1981, even though thousands already used it. It is still in use today and has been ‘de-licensed’, meaning people no long have to pay to own a set.

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